There Are No Metaphors in Halloween Hell

Oh, hai there.

I’m medicated again.

It’s a sad truth in modern America that sometimes you try to go without your meds in order to pay other bills. Blood pressure pills seem pretty necessary, but we can probably go without this statin that’s seemed to have no effect for five years, we can probably tough it out without the mood elevator.

Until a week ago when I realized that I temporarily had a little extra money and likely the best thing I could do was get the refill on the mood elevator I had put off for two or three months. And I have to say that waking up the next morning without thinking of suicide was quite refreshing. (My doctor says it takes two or three days for the pill to take effect, but I’ve not found that to be the case. Maybe my serotonin imbalance was minor enough that it only needed a nudge in the right direction. In any event, one less dragon to fight)

While my writing has been the most visible casualty of the crushing mantle of despair, I haven’t exactly been slacking. Still watching Prestige TV With A Capital P, though Real Life work has put a crimp on the time allowable for that. Having finished the current seasons of Legion and The Expanse, my sense of symmetry told me I needed to find two other series to accompany the second season of Westworld, so it was time to start Sense8 and the first season of Luke Cage. I’d been putting Cage off to watch the Netflix Marvel series in order, but hit my usual getting-sick-of-Netflix-series-around-episode-8 wall with the first season of Daredevil. Really enjoying these series so far, although I’m only two episodes in of each.

DON’T DO IT DON’T DO IT DON’T YOU DO IT

Noted Canadian war criminal Doug Tilley (he made me watch Science Crazed) asked me to guest on one of his podcasts, Eric Roberts is the Fucking ManHe then asked me to be a participant in my own damnation by having me select the Eric Roberts movie we would be discussing. That’s harder than you might think – Roberts’ IMDb page lists 513 actor credits, with probably 200-300 in the last few years. He’s like the modern-day John Carradine.

I discounted all the movies where he played “The Devil” – there are several – as that meant he was likely on set for twenty minutes or so. But there was one that drew my eye, and that was Halloween Hell, where he is listed as playing “Count Dracula”. And it was on Prime Video. You can listen to that episode of the podcast at the site above, but you’re already here, so I might as well use my notes and grumble about the stuff I never got to in the podcast. (ERITFM likes to clock in at an hour, which is something I appreciate in a podcast, my fanboy love for The Projection Booth notwithstanding)

We start with a bunch of kids wandering through a warehouse with a video camera (you are going to become very familiar with this warehouse). They find a misshapen black statuette with Sculpey fangs (ditto the statuette). These teens are three guys and two girls, basically the Scooby Gang without the budget for a Great Dane with a speech impediment. One girl freaks out and tries to run, resulting a door magically slamming shut and The Demon (I think it’s a Type IV) appearing from the statuette and offing the kids one by one.

  1. We start with a disembowelment, shot at floor level, behind the victim. Classic movie cheat.
  2. A throat slash. First appearance of CGI blood, notable for its neon color.
  3. The demon presses a face mask on a girl’s head, then pulls it away, revealing that the other side of the mask was coated with blood. Oh, wait, I think he was supposed to be pulling her actual face off.
  4. The last girl starts flailing around on the floor and screaming while hoses pump blood through her clothes. This will be our first example of death by overacting.
  5. The last guy almost gets away, but the Demon shows up and get our B-movie deal sealed by my old favorite: facial lacerations are fatal.

Blah. Blah.

Eric Roberts tells us those deaths were “years ago” and remained unsolved. He then informs us that he is Count Dracula, and he is hosting a once-in-a-lifetime Internet event: He has the statuette, carved by Haitian slaves “from lava from the depths of Hell”. It houses a demon, and there will be six contestants who will spend 24 hours in a camera-festooned room with it, those 24 hours being midnight-to-midnight on Halloween. Each will earn $100,000 for getting through the day. The cost for the pay-per-view is a mere $24, “One dollar for each hour.”

The contestants are basically what used to be defined in Dynaman as “six good-looking young friends from all walks of life”:

  1. Nerd Boy, who wants the money to open his own high tech company and become Bill Gates
  2. Gothia, a Russian import and stripper exotic dancer, needs $100,000 worth of clothes and make-up
  3. Jessie – “The All-Star’s sweetheart”, who is given no motivation for the money
  4. Toby – who wants the money to start his country music singing career
  5. Rose – an undocumented immigrant who wants the money to go to nursing school and help her brother open a car repair shop (no stereotypes here)
  6. Mr. Jones – our token black who intends to use the money for an independent film

It’s the tusks that get me.

The statuette is in a room in that damnable warehouse which has been tricked out with the entire contents of somebody’s storage locker where they stuffed their Halloween decorations each year for the past decade or so. This is, I guess, meant to be ironic, but god it is cheesy.

Toby the country boy was obviously instructed to go over the top and given no further direction. When you do something like that to an actor, they keep trying to find the top, and getting no further instruction, keep going further and further out. In short, Toby looks like he’s being prepped to be the first to die, just to give us some relief. However, as Mr. Jones points out, “The Brother Man is always the first to go.”

This brings us to another bizarre sidetrip: Dracula is also running a website where you can bet on who will die and in what order. The janitor for the building where Drac is hosting his part of the show logs on to bet that Mr. Jones will be the first to die, causing the Demon to manifest and kill him by making blood gush from his scalp. In a few scenes, a woman will come in looking for the janitor, find his body, and she will be our next Death by Overacting.

Neither of these scenes are long enough to actually qualify as the sort of padding you do when your picture is not an agreed-upon length for distribution. It asks the question, is this happening to everyone who bets on the site? If it is, it would certainly mean more money for Dracula, since he’ll never have to pay out, but that’s never explored. If the Demon can just manifest anywhere, why the hell is the statuette even necessary?

Back at the reality show: we’re basically trying to make what is known as a “submarine film” here, with all the action taking place in a single room. The thing about those are they’re cheap, but you need to have crackling dialogue, something interesting for the characters to do. We don’t get the former, and for the latter, we have Toby singing a song, and strip poker. At least Friday the 13th had the class to switch that up with strip Monopoly.

(At one point, one of his “brides”, either “The Dragon Lady” or “Nectar-feel-ya”, asks Dracula “Where did you get him?” about Toby. “Texas! Where else?” which led me to a hearty “Fuck you movie!” which had been building up for at least a half-hour. Then I realized I could pinpoint within 30 miles which town Toby came from)

“You’re getting CGI everywhere!”

Mr. Jones does indeed get his throat slashed, with a fair amount of CGI blood sweetening so they don’t get the couch he’s lying on messy. Rose demonstrates why she needs to go to nursing school by attempting CPR on a guy with a cut throat. Jessie stabs herself in the eye with some dagger that was obligingly stuck in the wall. Toby and Nerd Boy start yelling to be let out or an ambulance to be called, allowing Roberts to have the best line of the whole movie, “Children of the night! What music they make!”

Now luckily, as our cast keeps getting whittled down, Nerd Boy, before showing up, had gone to a “Voodoo Lady” to find out about demons. “Voodoo Lady” is never given a name, so I dubbed her “Mama Machina” (first name Deus, middle initial X). She gave him some “magnets” (which look more like those stick-on lights for your closet you see on late-night TV)  and a steel urn to capture the Demon.

Guh.

This was written and directed by Ed Hunt, who I was familiar with from Starship Invasions, which I admit I had only seen because it was shown at a Crapfest. He also did Bloody Birthday and The Brain, which are both better regarded (I’ve seen neither, though). This is his first movie since 1988, make of that what you will.

Roberts makes sure Hunt gets his day rate’s worth. Almost all the rest of the money went for that Demon makeup, which is pretty damned good – which is fortunate, because he gets more screen time than Roberts. Also thrifty is the design choice that from the waist down he’s CGI flames, a type III floating torso, as Ray Stantz would say. As for the rest… I’ve seen worse. The script does them no favors.

Really, the tagline of this blog should be, “I’ve Seen Worse”. That doesn’t mean you have to.

 

 

More Nannydiddering (+ bonus Moana)

So in my pursuit of watching anything to distract me from our current hellscape and musings about the sweet release of death, I found myself thinking, “I should watch a Disney movie.” That’s one of the things I wanted to do this year: catch up on the despised “kiddie fare”. Not despised by me, certainly; one of the vows I made when I was a kid was that I would never stop watching cartoons. That’s about the only one of those promises I kept (becoming a mad scientist required some facility with math, it turns out). Luckily I didn’t specify that the cartoons had to  be cel animation (as in those days, teaching a computer to slur “Daisy, Daisy” was the height of technical artistic achievement) or I would be screwed.

Or reduced to watching nothing but my box sets of Jonny Quest and Frankenstein Jr. That could still happen.

Anyway.

Later for you, primitive DVD technology!

Remember back at the turn of the century when Disney put out The Black Cauldron on DVD? I had seen it when it was released theatrically in 1985 and wasn’t terribly impressed, but this was back when I had disposable income, so I bought it… and proceeded to forget about it. I guess I had foreseen that 18 years later I would have a mad posh to give it another chance and was simply planning ahead.

Settled in, pressed start on the player… and the disc wouldn’t cooperate.

I could soothe my minor disappointment with the memory that I had tried a similar venture with The Black Hole a few months ago and discovered that by golly I may have been younger when I saw it in the theaters and was disappointed, but I was still right. But my Disney mood was in danger of going unslaked! No big deal, as my wife is a teacher and that somehow means we must always have Disney on hand. So what would also fulfill my mission to scope out cinema for young’uns I had missed while watching four-hour Russian movies?

Well, hello Moana.

Hooray! Saved by modern blu-ray technology!

For the benefit of others who were distracted by *harrumph* more serious pursuits: Moana is the daughter of the chief of a South Seas island. As is required of all spunky heroines, she is a bit of a thorn in his side because she is fascinated by the ocean, and Pop has a definite policy against voyaging no further than the outer reef. This is really put to the test when the coconut trees fall to disease and all the fish leave the immediate vicinity. This appears to be due to the curse incurred when the legendary shape-shifting demigod Maui stole the Heart of the Sea from the goddess Te Fiti. Wouldn’t you know, there’s also a legend that someone has to cross the ocean to take Maui back to the scene of the crime to return the Heart. And we know just the title character to do it.

Now, Moana is a good movie, with a story that has remarkable depths. Playing about in the mythology of another culture always yields dividends, and reminds me of my youth when I was devouring books worth of exotic folklore from other nations. The voice acting from Auli’i Cravalho as Moana and Dwayne Johnson as Maui is superb. The graphics are frequently gorgeous. But it is, in the end, a Disney movie.

I mean, look at that. That is freaking gorgeous.

That means it’s a musical. I hate musicals.

I’m trying to figure out why that blindsided me here. I mean – just to reiterate – it’s a Disney movie. Disney movies have songs. In Moana, however, they move the story forward, yet somehow don’t seem very well integrated. I actively resented that Moana’s signature song got stuck in my head, but then I realized it wasn’t so much the song as the power of Ms. Cravalho’s pipes – she sings the living hell out of that song. I think… it’s the songs themselves?

I try to remember Moana’s song – “How Far I’ll Go” – and all I can come up with is Pocahontas‘ “Just Around the Riverbend”. The single villain song that we get – “I’m Shiny” (with Jemaine Clement, who’s got a great voice)? I can only come up with “Oogie Boogie’s Song” from Nightmare Before Christmas. I just don’t find the songs in Moana memorable at all, and that is a hell of a thing for a guy who hates musicals to have to say.

Really liked the rest of the movie, though. Do more non-European fairy tale stuff, Disney. Guess my next posh will go to Zootopia and aw, crap, that’s gonna be a musical, too, isn’t it?

Anyway.

Besides watching other “kiddie stuff” like LEGO super hero videos – shut up, they’re funny, and actually respectful of the source material – there’s all the (here come the quotes again) “prestige TV” I’ve been watching, so strap yourselves in for nannydiddering…

There are also cows.

I’m currently only two episodes away from the end of Season 2 of Legion. After a rocky start for me, the season has steadied into a much better, if somewhat infuriating, groove. We’ve had episodes focusing on one character or another, which is nice, and there are times that the series’ marriage of music to imagery is simply. splendidly unmatched. Homages/lifts from movies like A Clockwork Orange, Office Space and Eraserhead only add to the mix. We’ve been given more Aubrey Plaza in a most unusual way. Way way back in the day when I was reviewing Wild in the Streets, I wondered what happened to multi-panel layouts on movie screens, so prevalent in movies at the time, even in mainstream fare like The Boston Strangler – well, here they are again. Surprise!

A continuing fixture in this season has been mini-lectures on various forms of delusion narrated by Jon Hamm, which surely have some overall connection to the major arc, but as in all thing Legion, we are still uncertain. The one in Episode 9 about sociopathy in the digital age is a particular humdinger.

There has been, though, a singular lack of dance numbers.

And then of course there’s WHAT THE HELL

Legion fills a hole in my head that was left after Twin Peaks: The Return ended, which is gratifying, but also worrisome, in that there is another similarity that is gnawing on my brain: that all this fun, enjoyable stuff seems to be at the expense of the major story arc, and with only two episodes left in the season, I worry about a too-hasty conclusion to all these hectic threads (I don’t know why I was expecting anything different from Twin Peaks, I guess I’m just an old fool). Luckily, Season 3 was announced at the beginning of this month, so hey: more weirdness. Eventually. Chances are I’ll just watch the last two episodes this weekend, to coincide with the finale of Season One of Westworld, Leaving The Expanse the odd man out.

Speaking of which…

It’s slightly older news that there will be a Season Four of The Expanse, and as I catch up with S3, this has new importance to me. On Twitter, someone mentioned being interested in how the series would handle a narrative shift present in the novels, and I guess that’s happened now? Maybe? In any case, one of the books has obviously wrapped up, with the shooting war between Earth and Mars circumvented, and now there is a huge piece of alien technology in orbit near Uranus, and nobody knows what the hell it is, but, as usual, our main characters – who are finally starting to figure out that they really are the unluckiest SOBs in the solar system – are right in the center of it.

Are missiles supposed to do that?

I don’t much care for the personnel shakeup that happened, but also know that the characters lost are still kicking around in that universe somewhere. (Especially since one character we were pretty sure was dead is suddenly turning up and acting all Keir Dullea in 2010) The trade-off in story beats is worth it, I guess, as it’s given me one of the biggest kicks I’ve had in a long time: A massive generation ship – a massive church converted into a battleship – flying into the alien artifact, into the unknown, because every other faction has done so and it is vitally, politically necessary to follow – dang it, that’s just good science fiction.

Got a new favorite character, too, in David Straithairn’s Commander Klaes Ashford, a boisterous reformed pirate who’s the second-in-command on that church warship. It’s typical of the care shown both by the showrunners and the cast that I’m still uncertain of Ashford’s true motivations and loyalties, and damn if it ain’t interesting to watch. Not to mention that he’s managed to steal my affection away from characters I have two and a half seasons invested in!

If Season Four hadn’t been picked up, there would be cops outside the building right now asking me to put down my weapons. I’ve got the first two books on my Kindle, I guess I’ll be reading them soon. To try to alleviate the twitching after this season ends.

Westworld S1 ends for me this week, and at least with it I can move on to Season 2, not something I can say for those other series. No, I’ll be waiting for their return along with the rest of you, which occurs to me would be a way for the awakening AIs in Dellos to forge their emotions closer to human.

I’m starting to make some sense of those timelines I keep hearing people talking about in the plot, I mean now that I’m listening to people talking about the show. I seem to have developed a method of enforcing blind spots on social media when I perceive a show or movie I have not seen is being talked about. It’s far from foolproof, as I have movies spoiled for me on a regular basis (you bastards), but it enabled me to watch Season One blissfully ignorant of Bernard’s true nature until the fateful question, “What door?”

It also let Tessa Thompson be a surprise, so win/win

The Season One Finale awaits me this weekend, which I suppose will answer some questions but ask many more, to open up the next season. With Legion dropping out of my weekly rotation, I think it’s about time I started Sense8, don’t you? Then, when I run out of The Expanse, there is a better than even chance that I’ll indulge my new Noah Hawley fetish with Fargo, see how that goes.

Maybe I’ll even watch some movies.

Escape (I Get Out When I Can)

So here we are again.

After a period of semi-activity, you may have noticed we went dark last week. There are reasons for this. Folks don’t seem all that interested in my nannydiddering about TV, the only posts that generate traffic are the Crapfest posts – and sadly, reality dictates that we cannot have one of those every week – and I just didn’t have anything to say. Add to that our current antic-driven government is determined to actively break reality by declaring every day to be Opposite Day, allies are enemies, enemies are allies. People who used to wonder about Germany not taking to the streets during the rise of the Third Reich need only look out the window at our own empty streets to get their answer. As a race, I don’t think we are capable of redemption, let alone deserve it.

Also, as you may have noticed, it’s been a while since I could afford my anti-depressants.

So let’s use some movies to get as far the hell away from our current situation as possible, eh?

Can’t be any worse than what’s happening outside my window

One definition of “as far the hell away as possible” is Sherlock Gnomes. I’ve been a Holmes fan since my early days, so why not test my mettle with this? By way of establishing a baseline, I’m okay with the Robert Downey Jr. movies (though that is largely because of Jude Law’s Watson) and am rather ambivalent toward the Benedict Cumberbatch version (increasingly dependent on wackiness). There. Now to this movie.

This is a sequel to 2011’s Gnomeo and Juliet, and if, like me, you did not see that, you’re going to be okay (my wife informs me it was “charming”). The setup, if nothing else, is going to be familiar if you’ve ever been in the same room as a Toy Story movie. We’re dealing with the realm of ornaments, which, like toys, must freeze if a human looks in their direction. Okay?

The movie’s versions of Holmes and Watson are, no surprise, garden gnomes themselves; Moriarty is a renegade mascot doll of a pie company, who delights in smashing gnomes, hence the conflict. At the film’s opening, Moriarty is preparing to drop a dinosaur skeleton on some gnomes trapped in pie filling, only to himself fall victim to the plummeting bones. The gnomes are saved, thanks largely to the super-competent Dr. Watson (though it’s Sherlock who gets all the praise). Our garden gnomes from Gnomeo (including those title characters) move into a council house in London just in time for the apparent resurrection of Moriarty and a mass kidnapping of all the gnomes in London. So Gnomeo and Juliet must join forces with Sherlock Gnomes and Dr. Watson to riddle out Moriarty’s scheme and save the gnomes.

Directed by John Stevenson, who helmed the rather boss Kung Fu Panda, this is a solid kid movie that, when it is allowed to be, gets quite creative and delightful. To get one clue, the team must infiltrate Curly Fu’s Emporium in Chinatown, where the ruler is an enormous golden Lucky Cat (and whose salt shaker spokesperson is a wonderful vocal cameo by James Hong); then a trip to a toy underworld run by Irene Adler, who is voiced by Mary J. Blige. Irene gets a song that, unique among musical numbers in kid movies, did not have me yearning for the fast forward button. The movie also has some non-CGI animation representations of Sherlock’s memory palaces, which are good ways to break up what could have been some visual monotony.

While we’re talking about the voices, I should mention that Johnny Depp is Sherlock Gnomes and Chiwetel Ejiofor is a cracking good Watson. If there is one criticism I would lower upon Sherlock Gnomes, it’s that the major plot driving forward the story is a straight lift from the late Charles Marowitz’s play, Sherlock’s Last Case, which might not be obvious unless, like me, you played Watson in a production, but is nonetheless there. If you cast back your memories a bit, you might recall I’m also the guy who criticized Brotherhood of the Wolf for plagiarizing Richard L. Boyer’s Holmes pastiche The Giant Rat of Sumatra.

I am an astounding repository of information that does me absolutely no good.

Hard science fiction has been in short supply of late. Don’t come banging on my door with what-abouts and but-there-was-es. Most of what is being called “science-fiction” these days is stories from other genres dressed up with zap guns and rocket ships (and, needless to say, laser swords, or “light sabers” if you prefer). You’d think that a successful hard science fiction movie like The Martian would have given us more of the same at the local cinema, but no. It’s expensive and requires some effort.

There’s a reason when I discovered The Expanse midway through its second season I embraced it wholeheartedly. But that only shows that you have to go seeking it on smaller screens. That, also, requires some effort.

I tripped over a trailer for The Beyond mostly by accident. Most genre aficionados know that title belongs to one of Lucio Fulci’s more famous horror movies, so finding it applied to a science fiction flick is… odd.

In the near future, an anomaly opens up in Earth orbit, sucking a spacewalking astronaut right off the International Space Station. Several spheres of an inky, cloud-like substance shoot from the anomaly and take up residence in the upper atmosphere. Typically, some trigger-happy nations fire on the spheres, to no effect. Observation of the anomaly, called “The Void” (another trouble-making possible title right there, there have been at least 14 movies called The Void released in the last couple of years) reveals what seems to be another planet – The Void is a wormhole. Obviously, the only way to find out what’s up with those black spheres is to journey to that planet and ask some questions. The major obstacle to that would be surviving the trip through the wormhole.

Wouldn’t you know, the deepest reaches of the deep state military has been working on an Enhanced Human project, dubbed Soldier 2.0; a tough cybernetic body housing a human brain. Now the trick is to find a willing subject with the skills and knowledge necessary for the mission, who is also willing to become a robot for the rest of his or her now probably very-elongated lifespan.

I enjoyed The Beyond enough to not engage in any real spoilers, except to say that as we enter the third act, the science becomes a little too fantastic and elastic and cosmic and boy do I have questions but all the same it’s pretty cool. This is the first feature film from Hasraf Dulull, formerly known only as a visual effects supervisor, and man, does that show. The budget is pretty low, but the movie has the visual punch of something that cost multi-millions more.

Dulull poking his head out of his assigned cubbyhole also opens him up to the usual offhand cruelties of the online world, probably the most blatant being stuff like “as a writer, Dulull is a good visual effects supervisor”. That’s a bit of unnecessary snark – there’s nothing wrong with this script. The format is unorthodox, as it starts as a in-house puff piece on the head of the space organization and morphs into a documentary about the events that unfold around the Void. That’s a tough format for storytelling, and I’ve only seen it used well a couple of times – but in this instance, that comment really seems a case of “I need to find something bad to say about this or I’m not doing my job as an online critic”.

Eh, I’m probably guilty of the same thing. I’m tired and under-medicated. I’m sure someone will be more than happy to dig up my hypocrisy and wave it around, if that’s the case.

Anyway. I liked it.

So let’s go on to Dulull’s follow-up, 2036: Origin Unknown.

Despite the title, we start in 2030, and a manned flight to Mars. Despite the aid of an advanced AI named ARTi (voice of Steven Cree), the ship encounters a massive magnetic and electrical phenomenon, and crashes.

Okay, now it’s 2036, and ARTi is so advanced it’s devised a means of Hyper-Light radio transmission, which means it is now possible to remotely control a roving device all the way from Earth. Katee Sackhoff (in the midst of that peculiar curse where, if you are in a popular role on a successful sci-fi series, you will thereafter only get work in indifferently-budgeted sci-fi movies) plays Mackenzie Wilson, the human supervisor on the mission. Julie Cox plays Lena, the head of the Space Corporation running the mission. Oh, and they’re sisters. And their father was on that doomed mission.

In the course of the mission, it is discovered what caused the crash, six years earlier: an enormous cube, which, when activated by an outside source – in this case, a Chinese satellite on a collision course being shot down over the cube – the dang thing causes another ruinous electric storm and vanishes – only to show back up again in Antarctica.

This time around, Dulull has another writer to help, Gary Hall, and the result is a more normal storytelling format, though one that is not interested in explaining itself overmuch. I have a lot of questions – a lot – after that third act, and any unraveling I might do over the massive wad of threads presented would be way more work than the movie deserves, frankly. After an hour and twenty minutes of interesting sci-fi thriller the movie turns a sharp corner into extreme cosmic hoo-ha that doesn’t serve anybody very well, but it sure is pretty.

I’m interested to see what Dulull does next, I really am. But 2036 Origin Unknown feels like a step down from The Beyond. Like somebody holding a money bag just out of reach said, “Well, that was nice and brainy, but people want something with a hero they can cheer for, a human villain they can boo and shit blowing up. Do you have anything with shit blowing up?”

To keep this from ending on a completely dour note, let me add that I’ve journeyed to the realm of theaters twice this past week (as in “Hey, didn’t you say you were going to use that MoviePass card until it imploded?”), and I felt good about it both times. Solo: A Star Wars Story was just as much fun as everyone said it was, except for those grumbling fan boys who wanted The Last Jedi to be directed by Zack Snyder on a males-only set. It mainly brought home to me how much I want see more movies in that universe that have absolutely nothing to do with space wizardry, Jedis and Sith. I was so into the story as presented that when a certain bit of fan service cropped up in the end, I actively resented it. My theater had this in one of their small auditoriums, only 39 seats. It was a showing for me and three other people.

Then, today I went to see Hotel Artemis, in a larger auditorium, but still only three other patrons. I had seen the trailers and thought, “Hm, quirky crime drama” and noted that I would likely see anything with that cast (Jodie Foster, Dave Bautista, Sterking K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, and a surprise appearance by Zachary Quinto). What I was not expecting was near-future science-fiction, a sort of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Cyberpunk! It takes place in 2028, and none of the tech is outlandish. Sadly also not outlandish is the background being a city-wide riot in Los Angeles because the privatized water utility has shut off everyone’s water. I liked it but I didn’t love it. Would recommend it, but you’re likely safe waiting for disc or cable.

Oopsie, got dour again. It happens.

Let Us Remember Crapfest

These are mine and you cannot have them.

If there is one thing that doing Crapfests for mumblemumble years has taught us, they are best with a fighting chance at having the following day off. Therefore, the Sunday before Memorial Day was deemed excellent, and all participated except Paul, who was busy dealing with Real Life. Erik was back, with his burrito bowls, which meant that I ate better than I had all week, and that was a week in which I had made meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and roast asparagus. In trying to support his efforts, I had made a bean salsa that was well received, and if nothing else, in the time while the chicken and other ingredients for the Bowls were cooking, I rediscovered the youthful joy making of my own nachos with this salsa and the chips and queso Rick had brought.

But, although I am sitting here with a smile of gustatory nostalgia on my face, you are saying Can the balloon juice, professor, what about the movies? You obviously do not care for the finer things in life, but then, neither do we, which is why we have Crapfests.

Max is home for the Summer, and this fest brought Max’s very first contribution, Who Killed Captain Alex? It is very difficult to describe Who Killed Captain Alex? with mere words. It is a Ugandan action movie, shot on a reported budget of under $200. Some of the guns are obvious toys, but most are carved wood and other odds and ends slapped together and painted black. One character, a mercenary from Russia (who is quite obviously not from Russia) has a bandolier of bullets which are patently sharpened sticks. The whole thing is very like when a bunch of friends get together and make a movie for a goof, and director Nabwana IGG treats it almost the same – he rendered it off to a DVD master and then wiped his computer clean so he could make another one, because it was obviously never going to be seen by anyone outside his village.

Enter the Internet.

About the hardest thing our little group of Wakaliwood virgins had to deal with was the Video Joker, VJ Lemmy, who keeps up a running commentary on the movie. As the Wikipedia entry on The Cinema of Uganda informs us (you can tell I was impressed by Who Killed Captain Alex? because I was moved to do research):

Audiences go to video halls where narrators called “video jokers” translate the dialogue and add their own commentary.

so Lemmy is basically a one-man MST3K. At one point he exclaims, “This is how we watch movies in Uganda!” and apparently it is. He also tells us what movie we are watching every ten minutes or so, which seems absurd on the surface but is likely for the benefit of folks who just walked into the video hall a few minutes before. Lemmy is subtitled in yellow, while the movie’s dialogue is in white.

You want a plot? Come on. Okay, the Tiger Mafia is in control of Kampala, so the government sends in their best soldier, Captain Alex, to take control of the commandos and stop the Tiger Mafia and their leader, Richard. Alex’s men arrest Richard’s brother after a pitched battle, and Richard – after learning about it from a special TV bulletin – declares war to get his brother back. Captain Alex is killed, but nobody knows who did it, so his brother – a Ugandan Shaolin Monk – takes on the case.

(Erik: “I wonder if his name is Bruce.” (five minutes later) “Holy crap, his name is Bruce.”)

That’s a great gun, dude.

It’s also only sixty minutes long.

The thing is, those action scenes are actually pretty good. The muzzle flashes and spurting blood may be introductory-level After Effects digital hoohah, but it’s all heartfelt, decently edited, and the CGI helicopter fights at the end… well, they have to be seen to be appreciated.

Have you been good? Do you truly deserve this? Okay, then.

Yeah, yeah, I know, you’re reading this at work (naughty!) and don’t have a hour. Fine. here:

For those of you did watch the full-length video – no, we have no idea who killed Captain Alex. Nobody does. That’s why it’s art.

The food was ready. We ate (not for the first or last time that evening), and Erik brought out his entry: The Man Who Saves the World, or as it is better known around these parts, Turkish Star Wars.

It is called that because, rather famously, it nakedly rips off space battle footage from Star Wars and waves it in your face. Herein lies the very first problem, and probably the reason my only other attempt to watch this movie, many years ago, resulted in failure. We have a lot of cultural baggage associated with that footage, of course – we know who’s flying those ships, what the histories are behind them. The Man Who Saves the World makes no attempt to tell us which of the many vessels whizzing about are being flown by our two heroes, Turkish superstar Cüneyt Arkin and Aytekin Akkaya. They get shot down despite being our heroes, wind up on a desert planet ruled by a spiky Darth Vader wannabe, and aaaaaah who cares. Visit the Wikipedia page for the plot, because that’s the only way I – and hundreds (if not thousands) of others, including the guy who translated it into English – could figure out what was going on. Arkin also has the screen-writing credit, so blame him. Blame him early and often.

Spike Vader has a bunch of Cylon knock-offs and some life-size muppets who are disturbingly easy to pull apart and beat with their own disembodied arms and legs. There’s a mute woman and a prophecy and the most impractical freaking design for a magic sword ever (that comes with its own brain) which Arkin winds up melting down for armored gloves so he can relive his Lion Man glory days, anyway.

This makes me long for the high-tech majesty of Police Robot L in Starcrash.

Turkish cinema of the period (obviously) had a very noncommital and abusive relationship with International Copyright Law, and when we saw the movie was not going to meet us halfway with any sort of actual plot, the survival game became identifying what movie the soundtrack was lifted from at any given moment, Raiders of the Lost Ark being the main victim, but it was joined by Flash Gordon (even ripping off Max von Sydow’s laugh at one point), The Black Hole, and Silent Running.

It also had the first appearance that evening of the character I only refer to as “The Hippie from Birdemic”, a character who appears to offer an info dump that may or may not contain anything pertinent to the story, but certainly fills out the running time. This time it’s a priest who babbles on and on about Islam and lost tribes. Then we’re back to a welter of stolen space warfare and I think the good guys won, maybe.

Now it was time for Dave’s entry, or as he put it, “You don’t get to go yet, because Max counts as you.” This might seem reasonable, but it was still no excuse to put on 1978’s Matilda. Dave has seemingly become the guy who brings up movies played ad infinitum in the afternoon on HBO and Cinemax back in the day (see his earlier selection, Teen Witch).

Clive Revill, Elliott Gould and Art Metrano try to figure out how to get out of this movie.

Elliott Gould would like to forget that he plays down-on-his-luck fight promoter Bernie Bonnelli, who lucks onto the title character, a boxing kangaroo that can take on and best all comers. This leads into a plot where Gould has to convince Boxing Commissioners to allow sanctioned matches, as portrayed by Roy Clark (was it Alan or Rick who observed “This is probably the type of movie that won’t let Roy anywhere near a guitar”? Whichever it was, he was far too right), avoid the bumbling henchmen of mobster Uncle No-No (Harry Guardino), and completely screw over the worldview of his love interest (Karen Carlson), who works for the ASPCA, but eventually admits that exploitation of animals is A-OK, especially if that animal is a man in a suit.

A boy and his demon.

The “Hippie in Birdemic” character was under our noses the entire time in the person of Matilda’s caretaker, Billy Baker (Clive Revill) who reveals that if a boxing kangaroo is ever actually hit, it will never box again just before the climactic match with the world heavyweight champion. Nice timing, Clive.

You might have noticed I have spoken little of our title character. As mentioned, Matilda is a man (Gary Morgan) in a costume. This is spectacularly obvious from the get-go, no effort is made to conceal this fact, although Morgan does bounce up and down in every scene in a nod to method acting. The costume doesn’t even have the decency to try to mask Morgan’s legs, which, being human, the knees bend in the wrong direction. The head is immobile, impassive. If Quint were describing it, he would mention that it has “dead eyes, a doll’s eyes” which doubtless roll up when the kangaroo gets its first taste of blood.

Max found it frankly terrifying.

“Fook ‘im oop, Matilda!”

The IMDb does cough up this bit of trivia:

Producer Albert S. Ruddy once said of this movie: “We debated over using both a real kangaroo and an actor in costume and opted for the latter as cross-cutting proved too jarring for the viewer. However the costume was a $30,000 investment that paid off as it not only allowed freedom of movement, but we were able to program it with transistors to allow us to direct the actor’s tiniest gesture”.

If by “tiniest gesture” you mean “absolutely none”, then that is not a totally delusional quote. Matilda does manage to get in a few ear twitches and blinks, but doesn’t manage a curl of the lip until after the final fight. Maybe it took that long for the operators to get the hang of those $30,000 transistors.

Here, try to ignore that Robert Mitchum is somehow involved in this, and that in that final shot Matilda is staring DIRECTLY INTO YOUR SOUL:

So now it was my turn, and after Turkish Star Wars and Matilda, I was not about to apologize for what I was going to do, and what I was going to do was R.I.P.D.

I could tell you the plot of R.I.P.D., but it would be easier to just say “take the plot of Men in Black, substitute dead people for aliens, Ryan Reynolds for Will Smith, Jeff Bridges for Tommy Lee Jones, Mary-Louise Parker for Rip Torn, and omit the talking pug.” It is fair to say that this movie was the point at which America was actively begging Hollywood to stop trying to make Ryan Reynolds happen. I guess that path eventually leads to the Deadpool movies, but man, that period was rough going.

This is also the year that Jeff Bridges decided he was going to use all his funny voices.

Here’s that mercenary from Russia to remind you of back when we were having fun.

R.I.P.D. was one of the few times I’ve brought a movie to Crapfest without viewing it first; Max knew I had a copy (bought used, and I scrawled “Please! We’ll pay YOU!” over the price tag. Great fun at parties!) and asked that I wait until his return to show it. It’s not a truly baaaaaad movie, just excessively predictable, and kinda pathetic in that way that you can’t even make fun of it. How the hell you manage to do that with a movie that stars Jeff Bridges and features James Hong and Kevin Bacon is beyond me (please, nobody bring up Seventh Son). And now Alan hates me because he paid money to see it in the theater.

Aaaah, he probably hated me anyway. Also, Erik has unfriended me on Facebook.

It was decided that we could cram in one more movie before we all turned into pumpkins, and Dave thoughtfully provided The Great Bikini Off-Road Adventure. A return to Crapfest basics, as it were (as I told you last time, the roots of ancient Crapfest can be found in huge marble tablets that read, simply, T&A) .

We’re in Utah, and Uncle Duke’s (Floyd Irons) jeep tour business is in trouble, and you can bet it’s all due to the company that wants to strip-mine the desert (boooo!) He asks his niece Lori (Lauren Hayes) for advice (since she just got her “lawyer license”), as he needs to come up with ten grand in a month to stave off Evil Capitalists Inc. Lori and her vacationing girl pals take over the jeep tours, then discover that they can charge twice as much when they conduct the tours in their bikinis ($8! The Community Center is saved!). Then each tour ends up basically being a Playboy video, so God knows how much they’re charging by that point. Maybe as much as ten bucks!

Blackface Dynamite! Ask for it by name!

There’s an Evil Capitalist henchman whose job it is to sabotage the jeep tours, but fortunately for our heroes, he’s taken Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack for his role model. Fortunately for him, the dynamite he keeps slinging around and inevitably sitting on is not the lethal variety, but cartoon blackface dynamite.

Soooo there’s a lot of boobage, some largely inept villainy, and a last-minute plot injection to get us to the finish line, when the Hippie from Birdemic informs us that a rock about to be dynamited by two more inept and theoretically comedic Evil Capitalist henchmen is a protected cultural artifact! There has also been an Indian shaman who shows up every now and then to gather the cast-off bikini tops; his appearances are always announced by that dramatic twang that opens Peter Gabriel’s “The Rhythm of the Heat”. He does some questionable magic to save the rock. Everybody lives happily ever after, and that included us, who went home satisfied, well-fed, and still hating Ryan Reynolds.

(Not so) Amazingly, YouTube does not have a trailer for this, but here is the very same version Dave employed. Join us in saying “Hi-Fi!” everytime those words appear.

“Hi-Fi!”

 

 

 

Another Interlude

Okay, I found the Man of Steel disc I alluded to in the last interlude, so I gave it another shot, as promised. I hate it a little less.

“Wait… there’s a building I haven’t knocked over yet.”

There are still some things I will not get over, no matter how much Internet urging washes over me. The fact that apparently, the one time Ma and Pa Kent joined the Smallville Library Book Club the selection was Atlas Shrugged; Kal has several opportunities to carry the fight to less populated areas, but doesn’t (how else are we going to get our spectacle, our 9/11 as performed by aliens?); and, of course, the killing of Zod. The script, at least, probably felt like it did a good job justifying that – but, as I’ve kvetched before, it is such a blatant, lazy shock tactic, the negating of 80 years of character development and mythos.

In Man of Steel‘s favor was my recent watching of the Extended Edition of Batman v Superman. The former movie now feels like an extremely focused and serious entry. And this time, forearmed and able to ignore these points I listed above, I was at least able to appreciate the hard work that went into all those visual FX.

And Michael Shannon’s voice really annoys me, which I realize is totally unfair to him.

Also pretty amazed they manage to rebuild Metropolis so quickly. I’d say Superman probably helped, except that this Randian version wouldn’t; he probably used that time to read The Fountainhead. Yes, I went for the low-hanging fruit concerning Zack Snyder’s next announced project.

Now, back to The Great Experiment in the Land of TV.

S2E2 of Legion has me asking some hard questions and not liking the answers. It felt largely like some poorly motivated filler. We finally meet Amahl Farouk face-to-face (and wonder of wonders, is an actual Middle Eastern actor, Iranian Navid Negahban). I am concerned that there seems to be some “Oh yeah, we’re expected to be weird” going on here when it’s not, strictly speaking, necessary.

S3E2 of The Expanse continues to impress with a space chase and battle that’s almost episode-length. The series has done sequences before about the stress of extended high-g travel on the human body, and this time uses some poorly-secured tools during battle maneuvers for nice suspense. The non-space sequences mainly center on a new character played by Elizabeth Mitchell (talk about your sudden Lost flashbacks!), the Reverend Anna Volovodov, whom I really like, a contentious moral compass in the events Earthside. It also ends with a cliffhanger that sorely tested my plan to just do one episode of each series a week.

And I was warned:

Great. Actually, I suppose that’s a good problem to have.

Westworld S1E2 continues to play the long game, and I’m really appreciating that. Also appreciated is more insight into Delos’ day-to-day, as we are introduced to who I guess are our equivalent characters to 1973’s James Brolin and Richard Benjamin – Simon Quarterman and Jimmi Simpson, I believe. Anthony Hopkins is up to something because Anthony Hopkins is always up to something. Ed Harris’ Man in Black is still being a complete bastard in search of something deep within Westworld, and his quest demonstrates that there are remote sections of Westworld that the clients have probably never yet encountered, yet the androids perform their story duties, day in and day out. Intriguing.

Westworld is another series that’s sorely testing my no-binge vow.

But I stood my ground, so I deserved a reward. And that reward was adding on to my task. In other words, I added another series. But that series was Ash vs Evil Dead.

Yeah, you’re probably saying, “What do you mean you haven’t been watching Ash vs Evil Dead?” Well, having cut the cable long ago, seeking out shows like this is something of a process (usually involving Amazon Prime or Netflix or even – how primitive! – physical media). That, and – much as I love Evil Dead 2, a top 10 horror movie for me – I didn’t care for Army of Darkness. There, sue me.

Anyway, age has not rendered Ash any less of a horse’s ass than he was in that movie, and for some reason he is toting around a copy of Necronomicon ex Mortis (isn’t that “Book of the Dead of the Dead?”), gets stoned while trying to make time with a poetry-loving hippie chick and reads the incantation. Because, remember, Ash is an idiot. Luckily, he is an idiot who still has his shotgun and chainsaw because his trailer park is about to become wall-to-wall demons.

Sam Raimi directed the first episode, so it’s got a fair amount of hyperkinetic gore. So far Ash has two assistants from the knock-off Best Buy he worked at, and there’s a compelling parallel storyline with a cop who encountered that earlier hippie chick, now in full demon mode.

Seemingly, Raimi only directed this first hour-long episode, but the rest are all a half-hour. This will be a nice cool-down from the other, more thoughtful series. It’s been cancelled after its third season, and it seems that was a bit of a relief for Bruce Campbell. Really, there’s not much left for him to do with the character, and I’m sure the desire to just do something else for a while is pretty strong.

The Catch-Up: Somewhere in There Was a Crapfest

I guess the title says it all, eh? I unfortunately had a Saturday off, so a Crapfest was thrown together. Due to its thrown-together nature, a couple of the regulars couldn’t make it: Erik and Paul, leaving David, Alan, Rick, my son Max (having arrived that same day for Spring Break), and myself. Erik usually handles the meal for the evening with great aplomb, and Alan stepped in to fill the void with an exceptional chili with several different meats: beef, steak, venison, narwhal, sasquatch, and I believe I detected the slight tang of unicorn.

Yes, obviously a Jackie Chan movie.

Alan made up for that largesse by bringing Cannonball Run, claiming that it was due to the fact that Max had likely never seen it (he hadn’t) and so it began.

(There was an odd dynamic about this Crapfest – David, Alan and Rick have known each other since high school, so this event was largely a chance for them to catch up and shoot the breeze. Not much movie watching was accomplished by that side of the room.)

Now Cannonball Run – if, like Max, you were not alive during that period of HBO/Cinemax showing it 24 hours a day – is a supposedly comedic retelling of a high-stakes and illegal transcontinental race that actually existed. The first half of the movie shows the gathering of the contestants and star Burt Reynolds’ and Dom DeLuise’s quest to find the vehicle that will score him the million dollar prize. He finally settles on a souped-up ambulance (director Hal Needham had actually run the race in just such a vehicle), but he needs a doctor and a patient to make the ruse work (so did Needham), Enter the movie’s MVP, Jack Elam, who so effortlessly upstages everybody that I wanted him to get a standalone sequel. The patient role is supplied by Farrah Fawcett and her nipples (the bar where Reynolds first spots her must have been very cold). The fact that Fawcett is essentially kidnapped and transported across state lines by Reynolds and crew is only one of the problematic aspects of the movie.

Our last chance against Thanos.

Among the other participants: Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman as racers who use their spandex outfits to get out of any traffic stops (until they run into a female cop); Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. as gamblers disguised as priests; Jamie Farr as a sheikh who just sort of vanishes; Jackie Chan as a Japanese driver with an experimental high-tech car (being cast as Japanese reportedly pissed Jackie off); and Roger Moore as a guy who thinks he’s Roger Moore and has a different girlfriend in every scene (who, when they are allowed to talk, are all voiced by June Foray).

He, too, would like to hit Dom Deluise.

This section of the movie concerns the dirty tricks played by the racers on each other and the various subterfuges to avoid the law. The whole thing has no significant plot to speak of, just an excuse for comic vignettes (and, to be fair, some pretty damn good stunts). I’d only seen this movie piecemeal over the years, and my experience of it this time remains just as piecemeal. I was wondering if Needham’s comic chops had improved since The Villain, and…

Well, most of our amusement that was not Jack Elam-based was shouting at the screen for Reynolds to hit Dom DeLuise again.

This pissed off David enough (really, anything pisses off Dave enough to justify his choices) that he sprang Incubus on us. Not the Cassavetes horror movie, the Shatner Esperanto one. (Paul later admitted that a contributing factor to his non-attendance was the possibility of Shatner, so there is a Crapfest insider trading scandal brewing)

Kia (Allyson Ames) is a succubus who lures men to their doom at Big Sur (although the ambience is 16-17th century European). They’re all wicked men, though, so she finds the work boring, and wants to test her mettle against a good man – Marco (Shatner). The results are disastrous – Kia passes out from the exertion and the innocent Marco carries her into a church to recover. The succubus world regards this as an act of rape and they summon the Incubus (Milos Milos) to deal with him. Kia turns to the light side of the force to protect Marco (Polo) and is attacked by Black Phillip (a cameo which I must admit surprised me). The end.

Talky films are death at a Crapfest, and talky films in a foreign language, well… This is where the kaffee klatsch nature of the other side of the room truly kicked in. Most of the time was spent in using Google Translate to find out what “Shatner is a dickbag” is in Esperanto (Shatner estas pikilo, if you were wondering) and other such wonders while occasionally asking Max to explain what was going on in the movie.

Incubus is actually fairly intriguing, and I’m still not sure why Esperanto was used, except that it was 1966 and stuff was starting to get weird. Shatner was reportedly an enthusiastic supporter of the man-made language, but everybody in the flick learned their lines phonetically, and the more serious Esperanto community is very critical of their skills. Shatner, being Canadian, is habitually defaulting to the French pronunciation for several words, for example. It remains a curiosity at best, but it is far better than its reputation, its inclusion in Crapfest, and the trailer below would have you believe.

And everybody who complains about Woody Allen’s earlier mature films being overly imitative of Ingmar Bergman really needs to see Incubus. Or ĉiuj, kiuj plendas pri la antaŭaj maturaj filmoj de Woody Allen, kiuj tro multe imitas de Ingmar Bergman vere bezonas vidi Incubus, if you will.

It was my turn, and I admit that I phoned it in. If you look at the chronological listing of Crapfests, you will note that its origins lie in the realm of R-rated drive-in movies, or to use the (appropriately) vulgar, T&A. If I was into the introspection thing, I might wonder if I took the lazy route because I knew there would be fewer people to hurt with my choice. In any case, I brought Orloff and the Invisible Man, a movie which I hate, but it has to be admitted, has lots of T&A. There is one lengthy sequence where a servant girl undresses for bed to convince her loutish boyfriend to go grave-robbing, and when he agrees, undresses again to don her grave-robbing clothes. It also has the most luxuriant thatch of pubic hair seen this side of actual vintage porn. All ignored, probably because they were still translating stuff like “luxuriant thatch of pubic hair” (luksa tegmento de publikaj haroj) into Esperanto on their phones.

Hell, even the big pay-off, that the Invisible Man is actually a guy in a cheap gorilla suit, went unnoticed.

Bah.

The Original

Dave wrapped things up with the definite high point of the evening, and I wasn’t even displeased about having to watch Revenge of the Sith againIt’s a bit of internet lore about a (bootleg?) version of the movie with subtitles translated into Chinese, then translated back into English via Google Translate (there it is again), with hilarious results. This is the origin of the “Do Not Want” meme.

That’s good enough, but someone went to the trouble to actually re-dub the movie using these mammocked subtitles. The result is astoundingly disorienting at first, because it’s really well done – the guy they found to dub Christopher Lee is spectacularly on-target. Yoda may have somehow become an old woman, but that’s part of the fun. The other part of the fun was figuring out what certain repeated phrases meant – “Sector Ratio” for “General Kenobi” and the Jedi Council’s transformation into “the Presbyterian Church”.

The rest of the fun was listening to the other side of the room bitch about how many years they had looked forward to the final showdown between Anakin and Obi-Wan and the many ways in which they were dissatisfied with what they got. “Do not want!” indeed.

We will be having another Crapfest this coming Sunday, with hopefully better attendance and a better choice from me (no promises). Max will be bringing his first selection, and new vistas of hurt will open for everybody, I am sure.

 

 

The Catch-Up: Interlude

“So how did that grand experiment you alluded to in your last blog post go?” asked nobody. (C’mon, pay attention to me! It’s not like our country is being burnt to the ground or anything)

That experiment was: while I’m catching up on reviews of movie watched during my hiatus, watch episodes of some TV series on Friday nights instead of three or four movies, alleviating the buildup. Simple.

(Hold for laughter)

Have you seen me?

Cold turkey didn’t work this time. Last week’s entry, in fact, wherein I excoriated Batman v Superman (and trust me, I cut myself short), prompted a bit of discussion on Facebook where there was some spirited defense of Man of Steel (there was also a complete lack of name-calling and similar drama because my friends are not dicks). There was enough that I thought maybe, just maybe, I should peek back in on that disc to see if I had actually missed anything.

And I couldn’t find the disc. That bothered me more than it should. After all, I’ve gone on record as actually hating that movie, I shouldn’t be surprised that I was lackadaisical about its location in my collection. My database says it’s still there, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve lent out or even given away a disc that I had no further use for, without noting it. I am, in fact, annoyed at myself for being annoyed that I can’t find a movie I hate.

That’s three discs, people! THREE!!!

So I defaulted to another Facebook thread from a week or two earlier, wherein I stated (on the subject of worst Marvel movie) that I would watch The Incredible Hulk again before another viewing of Iron Man 2. So, since I couldn’t watch one hated movie, I watched another. And it’s the 3-Disc Special Edition, bitches. I am serious about this stuff.

My opinion of The Incredible Hulk remains unchanged; I think it’s a pretty good Hulk movie. This opinion may be suspect, in that I’m not a Hulk fan. But I’m also not a Spider-Man fan, and I still recognize that the first two Raimi movies and Homecoming are good Spider-Man movies. The tropes are all there: Thunderbolt Ross continuing to run operations that are guaranteed to make Bruce Banner’s heartrate skyrocket and become the Hulk; the seeking of a cure that only winds up creating more Gamma monsters; and, of course, wanton destruction.

The CGI is ten years old, and is adequate, largely unembarrassing. As the second movie in the MCU, this is valuable mainly for the things it does not have. I couldn’t help but think about how – were the movie made more recently – certain action sequences would have been slicker, better staged and paced. There would be more humor. But it’s not terrible. It’s a shame that the MCU has ignored the movie, retaining only William Hurt’s General Ross, and tossing Liv Tyler’s Betty, The Abomination and The Leader down the memory hole. There was a mention of the Battle of Harlem in one of the Netflix Marvel shows, and that seems about the extent of admission of the movie’s canon-icity.

Also it doesn’t get near enough credit for running the Hulk’s origin story under the opening credits. That’s something we all know, and that saved ten-fifteen minutes or more screen time.

And then I could finally get down to the Great Experiment.

The second season of Legion is even trippier than the first, and sometimes self-consciously so. I don’t mind that at all – the trippiness is what I’m here for. Having not read the comic book, I can’t testify as to how much is derived from the comic and how much madness is coming from Noah Hawley. But in a lot of ways Legion is what I wanted from Twin Peaks: The Return and often got, but in a continuous, high-pressure firehose stream.

Not much Aubrey Plaza or Jemaine Clement yet, though. Sad!

Who knew I’d end up really liking Bobby?

The third season of The Expanse remains solid science-fiction, which is to say solid drama with a nice hard science background. The crew of the Roci remain the unluckiest SOBs in the solar system, and they just renamed the ship, so that’s going to take a while to adjust. Relationships continue to grow and evolve. The penultimate episode of season two gutted me, and the next day Syfy announced it was not coming back after season three. Double Whammy! There’s lots of fan turbulence over its cancellation, so maybe I’ll get to enjoy it past this season. That would be a good thing. (Good Things Do Happen Dept: while I was typing this, Amazon announced they would be carrying Season 4)

Westworld is going to be a hard sell for me, but the first season’s premiere episode is a good start. It’s – no surprise – based on the 1973 movie, concentrating more on the androids and the technicians of the Delos parks. The basis for the events in that ’73 flick seem to be laid out in this episode, and much more. I’m impressed with the amount of screwing with audience perception that’s going on, and appreciate the attention being paid to the day-to-day operation of the park (though that also leads me to some questions that may or not be answered in future episodes. Guess we’ll see).

I like Bernard, so I figure he’s not long for this world.

Why should this be a hard sell to me? I don’t have a good history with these prestige TV series. I’ve yet to actually finish a Netflix series – 8 episodes seem to be my limit. Miss me with Game of Thrones, the first episode landed with a dull thud. The record holder so far is Deadwood, with two seasons under my belt before I got exhausted. Westworld, though, has presented me with enough hard science fiction puzzle boxes to give me hope.

One of the questions I had immediately was if this version of Delos only had the Westworld attraction, but I see from some social media that Shogunworld has entered the series. Of course social media is also coughing up entries that amount to “Y’all are still watching Westworld?!” This doesn’t dismay me. I stuck with Lost until the bitter end. I still have hopes for Westworld.

So the Grand Experiment was a success, mostly. Besides the fact that I’m here writing about what I watched instead of catching up on those older reviews.

Crap.