What I'm Watching: Undercover, L4yer Cake, Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

Undercover S1: A Belgian/Dutch crime drama, based very loosely on a real case, with Anna Drijver as a Dutch woman cop (and rather sexy when she cleans up, or if you like dirty biker chicks), and Tom Waes as a Belgian asshole man cop, setting up an undercover observation of a drug kingpin. Except the drugs are mostly ecstasy, the action is mostly in a campground trailer park, and everyone is just pathetic and low-rent. It's barely above reality TV at times, the filmmaking is not excellent, and the plot is glacially slow. The tension between these cops who have to pretend to be a couple, and the shitty crime boss, his pathetic wife, and ever-changing roster of idiot henchmen, is much better than you'd expect. Watch it in the original Dutch/Flemish. Don't expect a fast burner, this is one to watch a bit, go on with your life, watch a bit more…

★★★½☆


L4yer Cake: Great crime book, if a little heavy on the "oo eck 'e're so 'ery English wot wot" shit. Movie's about 50% of the book, plus 25% new shit out of the writer's ass, not always seamless. Movie ending is bullshit—in the book the same asshole shoots him but he lives and then delivers his "if you knew my name" line.

Never said in the book or movie, but his name is Bond, James Bond. Thus XXXX and the fake posing as Bond, sudden development of Navy Seals level murder skills, and fucking another man's wife (which is rarely brought up in the Bond movies, but in the books it's a common theme, also common to Ian Fleming himself—adultery made philandering without consequences easier for him/them).

I don't especially like Daniel Craig as XXXX or Bond, but if you're gonna do both, he barely passes. Book XXXX is just short of 30, Craig was 36 at the time, but looked 40+, a dried-up ballsack face already. Bloated tub of lard Colm Meany will always and only be sad, pathetic Transporter Chief O'Brien to me; he just looks constipated and confused when he's trying to be menacing, or really all the time. George Harris as Mortimer is too pleasant much of the time to be the borderline personality of the book; it's legitimately shocking when he does snap. The girl, Sienna Miller (named for the shittiest color crayon), is about a 7 or 7.5, not the perfect femme fatale of the book; tho the English have a lower scale of hotness so she's probably as good as they've ever seen; and she has few scenes to even establish the adultery subplot.

Funniest moment of the show was the "Serbian" gangsters speaking Romanian; I couldn't tell everything they were saying with my half-assed Spanish and quarter-assed French, but all Romance languages are recognizable. The English filmmakers probably didn't know the difference; anywhere east of Germany is Poland, eh, limey?

★★★☆☆ — aggressively mediocre interpretation of better but not amazing source material.


Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse: So, up front: I don't especially like Spiders, or Men, or Spider-Men, and as noted in The Boys, I don't trust anyone with super-powers not to be a super-jerk. I grew up with the Electric Company Spider-Man, but by the '80s that motherfucking bug had his own live-action TV show, cartoon, cereal, toys, Japanese sentai show, and more, raking in $millions a year. Plus the police, military, and civilian applications of his web-shooter goop must be worth $billions. If he's married to MJ she's worth at least as much as an actress. The poor white boy from Queens act is offensive.

But I needed something light and dumb after the hash they made of L4yer Cake.

Miles Morales is certainly a more humble protagonist than '60s-era Peter Parker; less Hardy Boys and more Boyz n the Hood. But it's taken 20 minutes to get him bitten and plot to start. How are there not thousands or millions of Spider-People in a world where every radioactive spider produces the same powers? As usual in the movies and TV shows, with limited rights and limited creative people of their own, they only acknowledge the existence of Spidey's "rogues gallery", not any of the hundreds of other supers placed in New York in the comics.

I'm not a big fan of urban graffiti; it's mostly criminals marking territory they extort protection money from, or vandals damaging property they don't own. Buy a fucking canvas to paint on.

Mama Morales speaks like two lines of Spanish ever, then switches back to English for the honky audience. NYPD Cop Dad is the stern-but-fair bullshit they'd like to sell; I expect he's all Training Day on the streets.

Even in cartoons, Stan Lee got his cameo. But not Steve Ditko. They can't spare one fucking scene in this Russian-epic-length film for the man who created classic Spider-Man and drew the comic until Stan stiffed him on money (as he did to everyone)? There's a passing mention of him in the credits, which is sadly better than most do.

I did genuinely laugh at one joke: "Hey, maybe you guys can go around? OK, thanks, New York."

Spider-Gwen and Noir SM are good takes on the idea; I'm familiar with SG from the comics. Has-Been SM and Spider-Ham are awful, jokes carried way past their sell-by date. Old Aunt May with a baseball bat is good and strong, as fits a potential Herald of Galactus. Mary Jane as slightly frumpy Jessica Rabbit is weird, but she has little screen time, she's just a trophy for various Peters.

Kingpin's a perfect villain as always and chews the scenery less than in the Daredevil TV show. But for someone so obsessed with family, he isn't very understanding of others' familial conflicts. Still, he halfway saves this flick.

Doc Ock is interesting, but I don't see how the relationship with Aunt May can work after this. Prowler's given a surprisingly good background (but a very Huntress-like outfit with nipple patches). The other villains are just big mooks, zero personality.

There's no plot or conflict except "can Miles survive 3d6 random fight scenes and then push a button?" You will be shocked to learn the answer is yes, he pushes the button.

By 1 hour 20 minutes in, I'm ready for the end of the movie, but there's 40 minutes of this to go. Brevity is the soul of wit, but alas. This just drags out the "kid can't fight" part before the moment of heroism schtick. Then a very long neon Jackson Pollock screensaver with Doc Ock taking an improbable amount of abuse, instead of using a bruiser villain or fighting with the tentacles. All the villain fights get dumber and more punchy as the film progresses. The collider's said to be making a black hole, which means it has at least the mass of a planet, possibly a star; but happily magic dimension shit just reverses itself and there's no lasting apocalyptic results like a city vaporizing even if you do shut it down. Consequence-free adventuring.

"Anyone can wear the mask", moralizes (oh, "Morales", I get why he's so preachy now, "Miles" of it even) a kid who is faster and stronger than any athlete, can recover from almost any injury, swings by his arms from tiny spider strings, and can be invisible (and what man could be good with that power?!) and shoot lasers from his hands. You know, like a SPIDER. If a normal kid wears a SM mask and leaps off a building, they'd just die horribly.

★★☆☆☆ — massively overstayed its welcome, shitty final sequence, too many underdeveloped characters.

World of Warcraft: For the Horde!

Q: Will servers be brought down at some point before release or will players be able to sit at character select waiting for “Enter World” to activate?
A: We are likely to perform some kind of realm restarts or maintenance between now and launch. However, in the minutes leading up to launch, our plan is that the realms will up and available and the Enter World button will instantly light up once we’re launched.

I will be sitting there waiting. Click click click. Gotta kill them boars & scorpids.

Q: Has the reception of Classic met or exceeded expectations? Are there far more people coming back for Classic than expected? Or were you guys right within the predicted ballpark?
A: We’ve been blown away by the response to WoW Classic. The passion from the community is exactly what got us working on this in the first place, and we see new signs of your passion and excitement every day. We’re very excited to make it a reality for all of you next week!

Note: They've added several new servers and most of the existing ones are now High or Full, which is apparently several times higher cap than original launch cap. These are for just people who reserved their names, not all the randos who'll try to sub and come in on launch day. Blizzard low-balled the numbers by a long ways. If classic doesn't beat the retail population, I'll be very surprised.

A: Trick or Treat! Yes, because we're based on patch 1.12's data, holidays will play out as day did during that patch. So we look forward to spooky treats and happy haunts this October!

YEEEES! This is Halloween! (but with more Forsaken, no Belfs)

What I'm Watching: Mindhunter S2

Based on the book by FBI agent John E. Douglas — the character Holden Ford is based on him — S1 set up a format of serial killer interviews interspersed with a little too much personal drama in Holden's love life. Their portrayal of Ed Kemper, the Co-Ed Killer, was especially impressive. Sympathetic sociopath.

S2 starts out more of the same, interviews with Ed Kemper again, Charlie Manson, David Berkowitz, and several others, building up the theory of sexual compulsion; interrupted by Wendy trying to have a relationship, Bill's kid becoming a budding sociopath and his wife's high-strung nonsense so Bill has to fuck off of work every weekend to try to be a dad. All the personal stuff's a waste of screen time.

But then it starts to focus on the Atlanta Child Murders, brings back agent Jim Barney for local expertise. The long, half-assed struggle as they don't really know how to profile yet, or have adequate support from Atlanta PD (the photocopy flyer story is hilarious/awful; Kinko's was around and used by every indie zine and punk band, and by the alleged killer, and by BTK in the before-credits scenes, but the cops and FBI can't get anything done in less than geological time). There's a ridiculously long stakeout that finally gets them their one suspect, and the difficult politics in getting him prosecuted.

In reality, Douglas got censured for saying the suspect "fit the profile … looked pretty good for a good percentage of the killings". Holden doesn't get to shove his foot that far in his mouth. And we still don't know how many people the suspect actually killed; there's better evidence of some, but he definitely didn't kill them all. Someone else killed at least a dozen kids and got away with it.

★★★★☆ — needs focus on the criminal profiling, not the quasi-fictional characters on the side. Tends to be too gentle on Holden Ford/John Douglas who is seriously quite a flaming asshole.

There's also a podcast, Atlanta Monster about the case, S2 is going into Zodiac.

Mercurial No More

From the Worst of All Possible Timelines news department:

Well, FUCK. The worst of all possible RCS has won, everything better has been abandoned because shit-eating Lingits gobble up their lord and master's garbage.

I don't have any more hg repos, because dev tools standardized on shit, but I'm actually nauseated by this. This is why we can't have nice things.

NetNewsWire is Back!

I've been running it for the last day, and it's stable and fast.

Syncing to my Feedbin account works great; the Feedbin web UI is usable, but especially the last redesign leaves me somewhat annoyed, and it has very limited keybindings. NNW also has local OPML subscriptions, if you don't need to sync and don't mind waiting forever for it to fetch from every blog and deal with everyone's crazy broken RSS. I like Feedbin centralizing that nonsense, just replacing the UI has been a problem.

NNW has everything keyboard-driven, but I'm not enamored of some of its choices (Help, Keyboard Shortcuts). I'd prefer vi keys, and those are a dangerous habit with Brent's keybindings (l is mark all as read, next; k is mark all as read; I almost never want to do that, and want to hide those behind a warning). I'll either get used to them or see if I can rebind them from system settings. The code's on github, so worst case I can just fork it and hack my own keys in.

The reader's pretty nice. Stays in dark mode when I have that selected; I've seen a couple feeds insert their own background image/color which is obnoxious, but if that's what the feed contains, it should probably show it.

I miss in-app browser tabs. For webcomics (which rarely put full-size images in the feed) I often launch a bunch of them into their own tabs and then read them, which in Feedbin's web UI is (while more-comics? (middle-click title) (press 'space "next comic")) and in NNW is (while more-comics? (press 'b "open the current comic in browser") (press 'alt-tab "back") (press 'space "next comic")). Maybe it's possible to open a browser tab in the background?

A million times better than the years-late, rarely-updated Black Pixel release which had their own broken sync server.

Update: One feature I'm loving is drag-and-drop blogroll reorganization. Got a feed somewhere wrong? Drag. Drop. Synced. Fucking done. In Feedbin, you have to have the feed visible (unread or switched to "all" mode), the old way you'd hit Tags (folders) and just change the text in the dialog box, but they changed it to an Edit button which pops up a giant list of all your tags (folders) and you switch them on/off. Utterly awful if you use a lot of tags (folders) like I do. And yes, I'm annoyed perpetually by the "tags" concept, which doesn't exist in OPML, only folders.

World of Warcraft Classic Naming Day

Finally decided on the server, Mankrik. It's PVE, EST, 60%+ Horde. Not happy with the EST, but according to the reddit surveys the PST options were low-population and almost totally Alliance. I won't play PVP servers: Levelling in PVP-only zones is a tedious nightmare of some asshole 20 levels above you killing you over and over for no reason. Camping the graveyard when you give up on your corpse. Chasing you to your home zone and murdering everyone there. It's just a shit experience. PVE lets you flag for PVP when you wanna fight people, and just go adventuring when you wanna beat up pixels.

Logging in took forever, had multiple errors out. Blizzard's servers must be literally on fire.

My characters are:

  • Kamimark, Troll Rogue: "Kamimark" is always an Elfy Spellsword or Nightblade, Rogue fits fine. Troll is the most Elfy Horde race; I'd much rather have Blood Elves in Burning Crusade, but that'll be a couple years out if it happens at all.

WoW Naming-Kamimark

  • Josephcurwen, Undead Mage: Updated: I went in and deleted and chose a new name from Lovecraft. The lack of mixed capitals is ugly, but it's more fitting with the Forsaken culture anyway.

(was Nyärlathotep): Super annoyed that I can't have the unaccented name. Is it taken by the system, or did someone else make a Nyarlathotep in the first 15 minutes? Heavy metal ümlauts fix everything. Strongly considered Warlock, and I love the pet management part, but I hated bag space management for soul shards in retail, and we'll have 25% as much bag space in Classic. I levelled a Mage to 10 in the stress test, and it was interesting, if somewhat harder to keep a grind rolling, so Mage it is.

WoW-Naming-Josephcurwen

  • Fuzzytomato, Tauren Hunter: I couldn't seriously play F.T. as my main, but I had fun with it so I'm keeping the name, and Tauren are much fuzzier…

WoW-Naming-Fuzzytomato

Speaking of the server name, in the stress test, I finally dinged 15 and got Mankrik's wife quest. You'll be happy to know I found her, not so happy to hear the state she was in. And I didn't even bury her!

WoW Stress Test-Mankrik 1

Now we just have to wait for the end of the month to start playing. I'll see you there, right?

WoW Stress Test-windrider

What I'm Not Watching: Another Life

New Netflix UFO first contact series. It's rare that a show flunks out with me as fast as this one has. Maybe I'm unfair, maybe I have impossible standards of mediocre TV. Certainly my tolerance for bullshit like FTL, non-functional starships, and implausible human social structures in SF decreases asymptotically with the newness of the work; I ignore or even enjoy it in pre-'60s SF (H. Beam Piper and Robert A. Heinlein can do no wrong), tolerate it in '60s-70s (Star Trek TOS & TAS are cool, even if it's technical nonsense), eyeroll in '80s-90s (TNG is not cool; I tried rewatching recently and made it 8 episodes in before going insane. Babylon 5 and Stargate SG-1 were competent and avoided most of my technical and social complaints), and just say "fuck that" in the 21st C.

So, this. Starts off badly with vapid people oohing and ahhing at maybe the shittiest CGI spaceship ever drawn, an overhead drone shot with fisheye lens for no reason, a shitty CGI impact & Photoshop crystals growing, and lens flares everywhere. Yeah, this is gonna be a chore to look at, isn't it?

Then the main character, Astronaut Niko (Vic from Longmire) & her trivial other are introduced and start "As You Know Bob"-ing each other. With an iPad with shitty plastic prosthetics on it so it doesn't look like an iPad. Apparently this is the distant future, not the present like the previous scenes and the lame Midwest honky fashion suggests?

Next scene she has a shitty CGI starship which makes no structural sense the size of a… tanker? The ring suggests it rotates for pseudo-gravity, but is so thin this thing would have to be city-sized instead. And it'd be vulnerable to radiation, especially when they cruise right up to a giant bright star like Sirius A (8.6 LY away). Rough estimate from on-screen size of the ring is 1mm thick, 10cm across, which would put a 20m thick ring around 20km wide & 30-40km long starship. So something is very wrong here.

She said she'd be gone 3 months each way to Pi Canis Majoris, 96 LY away. They have FTL, but haven't gone anywhere with it? So why does she have to go into what seems to be cryogenic sleep? You'd use cryo for a STL ship that would take centuries to get there, not for magic FTL.

Immediately we're informed that the star isn't where they thought (what, no) and there's a "dark cloud" in the way. And her first concern is maybe they'd hit a planet. OH FUCK YOU. Space is fucking huge; hitting a planet in light years of cloud would be like hitting a BB in the ocean, if you were a microbe.

Making a pit stop at Sirius to get to Pi Canis is like making a pit stop at Barstow on the way from LA to Poughkeepsie, New York; yeah, it's thataway (they are in the same direction from Earth), but you've barely started. The star map shown is ludicrously wrong in scale.

Now there's a black man hologram who's apparently the ship's AI. It's paranoid about the aliens being hostile, and is inexplicably Human-behaving. I loathe machines pretending they're people, and presenting your AI slave as black is some nasty shit.

The crew apparently don't know each other and have to introduce themselves, except they don't finish the introductions so the audience is left in the dark; there was no on-Earth briefing or training, they were just loaded aboard in cold-storage? They say spaceships haven't had uniforms in decades, which I find even less plausible. Shitty space teenager has to lounge in a sofa and text her parents during debriefing; so they have FTL comms, but decentralized command like an isolated exploration ship?

Everyone talks over everyone else, finishes their sentences, which would be fine if it was witty Howard Hawks banter but instead it's lame technobabble and bad leadership. The writers for this have never spent a minute in an engineering or military organization.

Now trivial other, left behind with the annoying child (best decision yet; I'm annoyed they're ever on screen), has gone crazy and is trying to use bird sounds to talk to the shitty CGI UFO, and explains this in a "Holo-Call", which is two actors sitting in the same room with some shitty CGI static to suggest they're light-years apart.

This is 20 minutes in and my hate for the incompetent writers and filmmakers could set fire to the planet. I'm done, stopping. Fuck this.

☆☆☆☆☆ I award you no points