What I'm Watching: Green Eggs & Ham

"I'm not great with kids."
"Ha! Oh, you're not so great with adults, either. Or Chickeraffes. Or really anyone."
—Guy Am-I & Sam I-Am

Yes, the Netflix cartoon of the Dr Seuss book. And this time, it's properly animated, and not infested with Mike Myers.

The book was just a short journey into madness with Sam-I-Am inexplicably tormenting Guy-Am-I who gets run over or flees into cars, trains, darkness, rain, boats… until he gives in and eats the green eggs and ham.

The show turns them into characters and a plot. Sam I-Am is either a sad delusional lonely little man, or an elite ninja animal liberator who frees the Chickeraffe, which is a giant terror-bird that can be squished down to fit in a briefcase. Guy Am-I (Michael Douglas) is a pathetic inventor whose inventions all explode. Pursued by Bad Guys (they have a card) old-timer Snerz (Eddie Izzard) and rookie Glutz, they keep running into single mom Michellee (Diane Keaton playing very very dull and safe) and bored kid EB.

Each episode is more or less a page from the book. "Would you, could you, on a train?" So there's a long train journey and every sight gag they can extract from it. I'm especially impressed by the miniature train car. "With a fox?" And the Fox (Tracy Morgan) is insane, one of the better characters and subplots. "With a mouse?" And there's a mouse in their prison cell who sings Les Mouserables and then it turns into the Shawshank Redemption. Most of the references are pretty good; subtle but on point.

The one part where the show falls down is "Boss", who's ordered this caper, trying to impress his "Cronies". They're all boring and loathesome, and utterly disconnected from the main plot. Delete Boss, make the Bad Guys have some motivation of their own, and this would be a better show. If I'm annoyed by him, I bet kids watching this have a screaming tantrum every time Boss appears.

The green eggs and ham do look tasty, but full of cholesterol. Michellee's tofu version might be safer.


Spoony Bard Monday Music

I don't even mind "Ragnar the Red" when Malukah sings it. I've routinely mass-murdered many of the out-of-tune bards and then all the patrons in taverns (in Skyrim; not yet in real life but don't press me!). One thing I hate in ESO is you can't kill bad bards. You can leave a tavern filled with corpses and necromantic minions, and the bard'll keep singing.

What I'm Watching: Age of the Living Dead

British show on Amazon Prime, and it often shows in their hilariously inept, incompetent, outright stupid misunderstandings of US distances, environments, politics, and military forces, and many of the actors can't manage an American accent. Best not to take this seriously.

Vampire plague spreads across the eastern US, Humans flee West, and somehow, explained in ham-fisted exposition, there's a no-man's-land established across the Midwest, borders with Canada & Mexico walled off, and mighty England and China embargo communications and shipping.

So, the vampires are the least fantastical element here. The orange cheeto criminal's border wall with Mexico is a fiasco, and somehow during an emergency plague they accomplish this and thousands of miles of Canada are also walled off? No. Anyone on Earth is capable of stopping US warships from leaving? No; and that it's China is incredibly funny, since they have one of the world's worst navies. If it was Russians at least it'd be competent if underpaid, underequipped sailors & ships. Anyone's capable of stopping US-owned satellites from sending and receiving? No, the ESA and Russia together might conceivably be able to take out US satellites, but it'd be WW3. And why block comms for 10 years? It makes no sense. Vampires can do business as well as corporate executives can (who can tell the difference?), and they can't suck your blood on a phone call.

At one point a vamp Predator drone shoots missiles at a Human base; except it's launched from New York, and the base is in New Mexico, 1800 miles away. Predators have an operational range of 777 miles (according to Wikipedia, I didn't go all Jane's Guide on this). The writers are uneducated children.

Why didn't they set this somewhere plausible, like Australia, or England? You could cut off AU with some effort and no border walls, their states are isolated enough making the outback no-man's-land is doable, and they have almost no ability to project their military outside their continent except to murder boat refugees.

Using England treads on 28 Days Later, and the vamps could just swim or walk underwater across the Channel or to Ireland, but mine a couple military harbors and it could be patrolled. England has minimal air & rocket capability, and their navy's fine for murdering Argentine farmers but not able to fight the US or Russia.

So back to this increasingly preposterous show. An arrangement has the Humans somehow get fed even though the best farmland is in the no-man's-land, and donate blood to the vampires every Sunday to keep peace.

The vampires of course call themselves names like Viktor and Viggo, and dress like dead Eastern European aristocrats, and play shitty baroque chamber music while torturing and draining Human victims because of course that's what vamps do. I love these shit-sucking vampires. Most of them are burned by sunlight, and their hunters use the Blade trick of full biker leathers and helmets to go out in the Sun. They even have a classical Renfield named Jared or Neal or something, at least for a while. Their leaders call themselves Elders, and claim to be immortal and ancient, but I think they're just LARPing, same shitty infected Humans as the wild ones. There's no way actual immortals would be this exposed, but someone who just got their shit together after being turned might be this dumb.

The vamps would benefit the most from being set in England. Aristocrats turned vampire eating the peasantry is no different from what they've done for 953 years since the Norman invasion (and the Danes, Saxons, and Romans did to the native Britons/Welsh before that). Walling off Scotland is possible, Emperor Hadrian did it with Roman technology. Having a delusional inbred English monarch (but I repeat myself) try to run the Crown in exile in Scotland or Wales, while the vamps rule London & the South, would make this story make sense and have some historical parallels. Some depth.

Instead we get the worst fake President I've ever seen in a movie. She's obviously cast to be a Hillary imitation, but the total opposite: meek, quiet, stupid, and wants to tend to her garden, passively takes all sorts of shit from the military goons (who are completely implausible as active service Generals), and leaks vital intelligence to the vamps, like a female Chauncey Gardiner.

The fight scenes are adequate but cartoony. The vamps are strong and fast, and vamp-on-vamp fights are over quick; the fight choreography is OK. They don't have any gore, though, this is strictly PG. Guns do nothing much, so it's bizarre that the Humans carry rifles; now, realistically I think they should tear the vamps to shreds and we'd maybe see them regenerate? Or they could have white phosphorus tracer rounds, or flamethrowers; or wooden bullets, if that's what works. But this is just like firing blanks. The soldiers also have no military discipline, they don't form fire teams, they don't find cover, they just stand around firing at random until a vamp leaps in and gives them a hickey, which is apparently enough to kill someone. Couldn't the filmmakers get even British Army consultants to help them?

I've put up with 2 eps so far, so I'll probably finish this just to watch the vamps chew scenery, but it's really really dumb.

More great vampire flicks of the past:

Lost Boys (1987): "One thing I never could stand about Santa Carla, all the damned vampires." Best soundtrack in any vampire movie, but a lot of it is just goths on bikes in California, not "vampires" as such. The Frog Brothers are big damn heroes. Some of the best vampire fights in any movie.

Blade (1998), and Blade Trinity (2004). Not brilliant, but always fun, Snipes does a fantastic run as Blade, and the vamps are powerful, crazy, and smart. And I love ♥ Parker Posey ♥, and for different reasons Kris Kristofferson, so hell yeah. Little baby Ryan Reynolds playing Hannibal King from the comics was fun, he was still in his pre-Deadpool b-movie days. Blade II is unbearably stupid, though Ron Perlman does redeem it a little bit.

Ultraviolet (1998) was right on the edge of being silly. They're one of the main drivers of "not saying the word vampire", with Code Five and such. Idris Elba's a dignified dude, but pretty much everyone else was whiny or comedic. The vamps had no personality or real motive, just coming out like cockroaches and trying to take over. But the hunters are smart, use plausible science and technology, and pay attention to what the vampires can and can't do.

What I'm Watching: Family Blood

A morning driving around in sunlight and dealing with the morning people made me wish for eternal darkness. Skipped over some bullshit soap operas and Buffy ripoffs with teenage vampires, found one adult vampire flick on Netflix.

Family Blood: Starts with the last moments of a vampire wrecking a family, so you know what kind of people this'll be about…

Then jumps to junkie mom Ellie in AA (which doesn't work) and new guy "Christopher" (from the last scene) who talks about "torn thru so many people". Then very long slow never-throw-out-b-roll shots of nothing interesting happening with her teenage kids.

Whatever city this is has "sketchy" neighborhoods of parks and great big houses with multiple floors and spartan concrete murder basements, ideal for serial killers/vampires; the black neighbor is right to be worried about gentrification, they'll just drain the lifeblood from your community.

Then Christopher turns Ellie by dripping some blood in her and snapping her neck; clearly the writer learned about vampires from Vampire the Masquerade, which this is the slowest fanfic of ever. Hours, days of footage later, Ellie starts to turn.

"I turned you into whatever it is that I am", says a guy who doesn't know he's a shit-sucking vampire? Everyone has known what a vampire is since Dracula in 1897 (earlier vampires just didn't get the reach of Stoker's novel). The boy who draws horror art all the time does recognize the symptoms, but doesn't say the V-word (Vampire, not vagina, tho he doesn't say the latter either). I hate this MacBeth-level actor bullshit of not naming the thing because it's "bad luck".

Also, apparently nobody uses their cellphone, because that would complicate a "plot" consisting largely of people slowly wandering around. "Dad" is seen a couple times but has no lines, probably to avoid paying scale. The speaking cast is very minimal.

It's very inconsistent about mythology. They don't have reflections, which is a strong supernatural power; it basically means they're just in your mind. They regenerate from any injury. They're superhumanly strong & fast. But sunlight & crosses do nothing, which usually work on any supernatural vamp.

The boy makes his first stake, and it's the best stake ever, stabbed with many times (but not left in the heart like you should do; I actually yelled at the screen), and then is still sharp as a razor multiple stabbings later. When I make a stake it doesn't last that long because wood's soft.

There's a few good vamp-on-human action scenes, but the only vamp-on-vamp is behind closed doors with just foley and shadows. Laaaamme. Builds up, but does not deliver.

★★☆☆☆ - I like the small personal stories, I could take the glacial pacing, if they'd shot just one good vamp-on-vamp fight scene.

There's a Turkish series "Immortals" which looks vaguely interesting, but Turkish shows tend to be pretty awful—badly written, badly acted, racist, sexist, and closeted gay/homophobic—the recent "Protectors" series as case in point—so I dunno if I'm up for 8 eps of that. If they made a 90-minute movie I might try it.

You know what was my favorite vampire movie? Dance of the Damned (1989). It has two speaking roles really, the sets & effects are minimalist, Roger Corman no-budget film. Just a sad stripper and a lonely vampire, for one last night. But it's perfect, never boring or filling dead screen time, and tense up to the last second. That's a ★★★★½ at least.

Near Dark (1987) is amazing, too, best vampires-as-hobo-junkies ever, but kind of sprawls out with the vampire pack, and the ending is absolute bullshit, shoulda been the girl bites the boy and they unlive unhappily ever after. That's also ★★★★½ but as utterly unlike DotD or FB as you can get.

I hated the Interview with the Vampire (1994) movie; the books are great fun, but cool badass mofo Brad Pitt as whiny useless Louis, and tiny neurotic anal-retentive $cientology cultist Tom Cruise as badass rock-star Lestat, was the dumbest casting fuckup in the history of bad casting. It's utterly unwatchable because of Tom Cruise squeaking out lines from his tightly-clenched sphincter-face that should be Lestat's. I know they beat Anne Rice with sacks of money to stop talking shit about it, but I think this film is why she went crazy and found Jesus. Also the sequel, completely skipping the book "The Vampire Lestat" and making Queen of the Damned (2002) which is sub-direct-to-video soap opera garbage.

I'd really like a new Castlevania season soon.

In 30 years, nobody else can make anything good about bloodsucking fiends?

What I'm Watching: Agatha Christie

The ABC Murders (2018, Amazon Prime): John Malkovitch is a fine actor. Sadly, he is 30cm too tall, very not Belgian, his accent fades in and out even in the same scene, and wouldn't shave down to a moustache, instead keeping a slightly scruffy Van Dyke which he ridiculously dyes in the first ep. Perhaps they should have done an animated Hercule Poirot show, and got him a Belgian voice coach.

Inspector Japp dies after a brief cameo (spoilers for plot-irrelevant elements, oh no), the new guy is awful and hostile, and there's no Arthur Hastings at all, so too many scenes are literally Malko-Poirot sitting alone silently waiting for the mail, instead of explaining his reasoning. No mention of his little grey cells, and even his background as gendarme is questioned with a ludicrously melodramatic new backstory which adds nothing to the plot. ABC is quite well played by Eamon Farren, the rest of the cast is forgettable.

I like the original story, and wish I'd just reread it instead of seeing this farcical reimagining.

Ordeal By Innocence (2018, Amazon): A non-detective murder mystery. First it has to get over a big hurdle with me: It's about a rich English family, and I loathe everything about that. The father's the epitome of what most disgusts me about Humans, but there's also the thug son, the asshole son-in-law, the simpering daughter, the utterly forgettable daughter, the meek black daughter (for they are all adopted, it turns out), the gold-digging secretary, and the maid (who is apparently also an orphan, but not adopted? Well, English need someone to do the dirty work; and what you expect in an English manor is what goes on in an English manor), and the mother who was a harpy, until someone killed her.

Jack, the son accused of murder, seems like the only half decent one, but he's not around. And then an alibi shows up to distress everyone. Casting's pretty generic, tho they had to reshoot every scene of the original thug son with a new actor after the first was accused of sexual assault; but that doesn't matter much since almost every scene is two assholes leaning in doors or sitting straight in uncomfortable chairs sniping at each other.

The dead mother is increasingly shown to be worse than a harpy. You know Harry Harlow's monkey experiments with the wire mother and terrycloth mother? This woman's a wire mother. Functional but unloveable. I know the feeling.

There's a theme of fear of nuclear war, but until quite late it's never discussed, only mentioned in passing. This would've greatly enhanced the show if it was. And John Wyndham's book The Chrysalids, which is of course about nuclear war, family secrets and betrayal, rejection of the outsider and mutant.

This presentation has the awful habit of showing spoilers for the next episode over the credits, so skip forward as soon as one ends.

I don't recall this book at all, so it's somewhat of a mystery to me, but I also don't feel sympathy for any living character so don't care if they all did it.

The final scene's a little ridiculous, out of character, and unnecessary after the actual finale a minute before. Some producer had to piss in the soup to say he contributed, I expect.
★★★½☆ — I complain a lot, but I watched it in one sitting. Still hate everyone except dead Jack.

SwiftUI, SceneKit, AR, and Facebook's React are the new JavaFX

That is all.

OK, will clarify for those who don't know about JavaFX: It was a new UI metaphor/declarative model on top of Java Swing, which is a giant bloated mess on top of Java AWT, which was a thin, minimally-functional shim on top of native platform UI, usually just CPU-bound drawing in a canvas. It came out just as Java applets became the most common virus vector, and Java on the desktop was dying off (aside from Minecraft, which uses LWJGL). JavaFX was not inherently bad, but limited by its underlying tech stack. Only a few people used it seriously, and their software is now broken because it's EOL by an uncaring corporate owner.

Don't tie yourself to hot marketing garbage APIs pushed by evil mega-corporations.

What I'm Watching: Goliath S3

S1 and S2 were great scrappy lawyers vs giant foe shows, with some treachery and Billy's shitty personal life (and incidentally, he should very obviously have been named "David" instead, the writers really dropped the sling stone there). Fantastic work. Billy Bob Thornton and Nina Arianda are fantastic in these seasons.

S3 has Billy, inexplicably scruffy despite the millions he must've made in S1-S2, wandering in a daze through a shitty Indian casino, drinking and talking to a barfly, occasional hookups with "Applebees" from last season, vague yet menacing subplots that go nowhere. See, the California drought is being taken advantage of by a nefarious almond farmer Wade Blackwood (so the writers are on point with that naming; played by Dennis Quaid), borderline incestuous sister Diane, her two adopted black sons who are cuckoo, Littlecrow (Graham Greene, aka Malachi from Longmire) the casino operator, Stephanie Littlecrow (Julia Jones) as a stuntwoman who is one of the few competent, interesting characters, and "Roy" (Beau Bridges) as the sorta sympathetic conspirator.

And why not, they bring back Cooperman (William Hurt) and Marisol Silva (Ana de la Reguera) from past seasons even though they have nothing to do with the plot. The daughter and the hooker are in college, and at least they have some hope of escaping from this clusterfuck of a show. Patty just gets dicked around and keeps forgetting to bring comfortable shoes for wilderness treks.

Sherilyn Fenn shows up in flashbacks as the cause of this case, and… she does not look good. Like, she's a couple years older than me, and she looks 20 years older. Props for showing adult women on TV, but jeers for letting her on camera looking like this.

Nothing happens for hours, days of basically b-roll pickup shooting pushed onto the screen. Once in a while you catch a glimpse of a plot. Finally they do a flashback which explains most of the start of the story, and the actors/writers/director all sober up enough to film some court scenes, get through some depositions—WOO! Most exciting thing in this very very slow season. And then in the last 1.5 eps they finally have everyone do crimes to cover up their previous crimes, and happy or sad endings are distributed like drunk, diarrhetic Bad Santa showed up on the set.

To say this was a pointless waste of time is an insult to pointless wastes of time. I would've been more rewarded by watching Real Horny Housewives of East LA or whatever the fuck is on broadcast TV.

★☆☆☆☆ pretty much solely for Julia Jones' couple of fight and chase scenes, which are literally from a movie within the show.