What I'm Watching: Jupiter's Legacy

Well, trying to watch it. It is supposedly based on a Mark Millar comic, so maybe there's something of value in here, but also they fired the showrunner partway thru and replaced him with a new guy, so clearly visions differ. Doing this live-action is stupid; it looks goofy at best, the CGI and greenscreens are hilariously ineffectual, the shitty color grading makes everything look like mud indoors or at "night" (all obviously shot day-for-night but then darkened digitally), it would be so much better as a cartoon. It makes CW superhero shows look competent.

At the start, there's preachy old-school Justice League ripoffs, with a "Code" of no killing, no leading, no going into politics. Which we know is nonsense, it doesn't work, because that much power in Human(-ish) hands corrupts absolutely. They claim the "new supervillains" are "going crazy" by killing, instead of just harmless bank robbery, but we see mundane bank robbers gunning people down at the start, so there's nothing new or supervillainy about it. Utopian, asshole Superman father, chastises his son Paragon for killing a supervillain who had just killed two heroes, and however many more in his inevitable escape from prison. Completely stiff, uncompromising, Christian supremacist. But I do not believe for a second that someone can be like that for 100 years without loosening up or becoming completely corrupt, so the whole premise is a fail so far.

The mother's also a superhero, but fairly ineffectual, she's like Edith Bunker with even less of a spine to stand up to her asshole husband (who, admittedly, could pull her spine out if she did more than talk back). The son's a whipped dog who does what daddy says. There's a mostly-absent daughter who doesn't pretend to fight "crime"; she's chased off when she does show up. The telepath uncle is maybe the only likeable character in the first few episodes.

Long sections are set in the 1920s, at the start of the Depression, and the father's origin as an asshole; but they seem so far to be completely irrelevant, a few throwaway lines would've told us as much.

The power sets are ridiculously cartoony. Most can fly just by wishing at the sky, Utopian has laser beam eyes of course, a few others have weak pew-pew-pew energy powers. They all seem to be made of steel, but the fighting sets don't reflect that, a couple bits of fake marble break but the bad CGI grass doesn't even dent when a superhero is smashed into it at mach speed. Zero effort on detail and realism.

Invincible, despite being a cartoon with intentionally cartoony physics including throwing baseballs around the planet at something like 1% light speed and then fighting aliens coming thru portals, is both physically and psychologically more realistic.

Now I'm down to fast-forwarding over anything with the family, unless Uncle Walt's involved.

Oh, finally end of E2/start of E3 we get to see some origin story, where the rich (or ex-rich, as Depression starts) get superpowers, the poor don't even get a pension. George in the 1920s story, and his son Hutch and his little gang of petty near-supers in the present, greatly improve the show. Like, this is an entirely different and better show when they're on screen, than the whiny, horrible Utopian family.

★★☆☆☆ with the Utopians on screen, ★★★½☆ with Hutch. Maybe the show will average out to ★★★☆☆.

What I'm Watching: Tenet

A bit of Robert Heinlein's All You Zombies, a bit of Doctor Who, a lot of every buddy caper flick. Not nearly as clever as it thinks it is. Or I've just read too many competent time travel stories to tolerate most of what ends up on film.

The first half does its best to never tell you what's going on, and at the point where you'd get an infodump, the scene just switches away. Obnoxious writing trick to avoid having to think some of it out.

I don't much like the brown-on-brown film coloring for much of the footage, but it's not constantly cyan-and-orange, so I guess I'll let it pass.

Denzel's kid John David Washington is OK, he's slightly snarky or unserious when he should be serious, but competent enough. Robert Pattinson is a mess, his fake accent is weird, and he has zero affect, either a robot or a sociopath, as has previously been noted: He was perfect as the vapid lead in Cosmopolis but anything else is asking too much of him. My Cocaine Michael Caine has a somewhat pointless but fun little cameo. Kenneth Brannagh's beard looks super weird and artificial, I'm distracted from his generally superb scenery chewing by that weird growth on his face. Elizabeth Debicki is leggy and sleek, but totally extraneous.

SPOILER

















So, the trick is you can reverse time flow on an object or person, by just walking through a big iron turnstile; zero special effects budget, literally all they ever use is running some film backwards.

If you reverse bullets, a forward-time observer sees them pulled out of the target. All the Protagonist can think to do with that is a few parlor tricks, go "whoa" like Keanu, and does occasionally avoid standing in front of bullet holes. There's a lot of interesting things you could do with this, the film never does. Shoot a bullet now, pull it out "later" (by one perspective or another), it's the best sniper kill. Nobody else pays attention to bullet holes, damaged cars, etc. until it's too late, which is probably supposed to be suspenseful but it leaves me in contempt of these idiots.

There's a point where they clearly just brain-farted: A reversed driver car chases the Protagonist… driving backwards, in front of them. No. The car isn't reversed, the driver just sees the world going the wrong way around. The entire bomb caper is weird, often confused, but that was the weirdest.

And while it's not a major plot point, suppressed pistols are not silent. It's not "thwip", dead, it's more like a gunshot down the block instead of in your ears. The locked doors all over are weirdly inadequate, they have both keypad and tumbler lock; most such are very low-grade security, where you want fast access but a key in case you lose power. The good keypad locks are keyless, or a high-security tumbler that can't be bumped like Protagonist is shown doing. This is kind of a major plot point, and I don't believe the villain would use such shitty locks to protect his doomsday machine.

Very quickly they jump to spending long periods of time reversed, mostly hiding in cargo containers or ships with sealed air, so they can go back and fix their previous screwups. Their "temporal pincer attacks" don't make any sense, the people in reverse just end up fighting people in reverse because they're moving back before go-time. Protagonist does eventually figure out how to do things right: See the aftermath of something, wait for the event, follow it back to the cause. But he does it very badly, continuously gets beaten up and rescued.

The entire plot of the arms dealer's wife is extraneous to the 2.5 hour film, and adds about half an hour to it; it should've been the first thing cut. The only thing I liked in that entire bit was the diving woman.

And turning the entire thing into "oh, there's nine Horcruxes and we have to stop Voldemort from assembling them" is just silly.

The finale is just a big messy gunfight in a California gravel quarry, no better than classic Doctor Who but wasting millions of times more money. I'd rather watch Jon Pertwee spinning out his jalopy than this.

And of course the All You Zombies twist: There's never been any other mastermind. But where do all you zombies come from?

This movie makes me greatly miss the Netflix series Travelers[sic], which made intelligent use of knowledge from the future.

★★★½☆ — there's a better movie buried somewhere under the flab and stupid characters, but this ain't it.

What I'm Watching: Warrior

On Hobomax. Based, allegedly, on notes by Bruce Lee in the '70s, it's a kung fu series in 1876 SF Chinatown. Produced by Jason Lin of 2Fast2Furious2Legit2Quit, and Bruce Lee's daughter.

Right from the start, there's a nice mix of actual kung fu halfway between Bruce Lee's actual beat-em-ups and physical comedy like Jackie Chan's fights (not just shitty jump-cut editing), politics within the tongs, brothel girls, nativist mobs of assholes, and the severely underfunded, corrupt, thug-like SFPD (so nothing changes in 150 years) starting a Chinatown squad (including a Georgian Confederate traitor, leading to some bad blood right from the start).

It's a little weird casting, Ah Sahm (half-Japanese/English Andrew Koji) doesn't at all pass for Chinese, especially when standing next to Young Jun (Hong Konger Jason Tobin) or Ah Toy (Olivia Cheng), but he's a fine fighter, a competent actor.

The dialogue is modernized, even more than in Deadwood, there's more profanity and just flippant speech that doesn't fit a Chinese man who supposedly trained with a sifu. They use the linguistic trick of speaking a few words in Cantonese (apparently all phonetic memorization except the whore) and then switching to modern English… and then back to stilted English or Cantonese if there's whites around. They have weird alternatives to "white" and "han" or whatever ethnic group they're pointing at, calling them "ducks" and "onions", much like The Wire replaced the N-word with "bitch" most of the time. "Itchy" means looking for a fight.

I'm not especially interested in the segments about the SFPD, and even less about the nativists, but that may change as the show goes on.

At times they also slip in modern music cues and other anachronisms, but it's largely trying to be a period piece.

Every fight isn't amazing, but they're all good. I've seen none that are as pathetic as any superhero trash.

Watch this show.

★★★★½

What I'm Watching: The Long Kiss Goodnight

I had a rough night trying to find a thriller I hadn't seen. Started watching Clooney's The American, 3 minutes in it loses me by him killing an unarmed girl for no reason. Skipped to the end to get it out of my queue and there's another dead girl, so presumably he just does that a lot. If you kill a dog or an unarmed girl in a flick, I have zero sympathy.

Started watching the Barry series, which immediately pivots from low-rent killer premise to actors playing at learning to act for Hollywood, because actors are the most interesting people… no. They're fucking walking meatsticks, and best case they hit their marks and say their lines, and shut the fuck up otherwise.

So I gave up and watched something I've seen multiple times, but I know is not crap: The Long Kiss Goodnight, by Shane Black.

Now, the one real problem with this film. What I find implausible isn't the soap opera amnesia/MPD, it's that a homeless woman with no paperwork or cash comes out of the ocean and she's immediately able to get a teaching job, a house, raise a kid, have a square life.

Geena Davis & Sam Jackson are cute, of course, and Geena does a plausible turn as an assassin with mom-butt, but Craig Bierko as the antagonist really steals the show. He hasn't been in anything good since The Thirteenth Floor (1999), I mean literally nothing but soap opera, reality TV, and Scary Movie 4 garbage, just a dumpster fire of a career, but here he's just adorable, smirking and lounging around while still being obviously psychotic, he's got crazy eyes and perfect delivery.

Spoiler:










Oh. I'd forgotten this film, from 1996, basically lays out the plan for the CIA faking 9/11 to get their budget increased. Kill 4,000 people. "Oh, blame it on the Muslims, naturally." Yeah, I dunno IRL if they did it, maybe just gave the Saudis a little push?, but the CIA had motive, means, opportunity, and they're all soulless spooks, so this checks out.

There's a lot of points where the plot makes no sense, you'd just kill someone this annoying and get on with your mission. All the deathtraps, and leaving someone to be tortured (it is the CIA, and they love to torture), and kid hostage scenes, are just Shane Black shane-blacking it up. Standard tricks: 1) Teddy bear has a secret, 2) Running & shooting at a helicopter, 3) Exploded safely out of a house (not in a bathtub this time), 4) Tied up and water-tortured, 5) Kid is a hostage.

Unique tricks: 1) Escape from the freezer, I like the callback to the doll and the vigil candles, as I'm a sucker for inventory puzzles from text adventures. 2) The ice skating kills. 3) Way back at the beginning, One-Eye Jack freaking out at the TV.

Unfortunately some of it relies on the kid (Yvonne Zima, worst surname ever, who now plays soap opera & B-movie victims and hookers), and she has a formless, dumpy look and personality, and maybe they sedated her to get her to hold still, so it's utterly implausible that she grows a spine in one scene. Shouting "you can't be dead" at someone doesn't actually bring them back to life, that only works for Tinker Bell.

You'd think the Canadians would have somebody guarding a major border crossing, especially if there's an overturned tanker and a bunch of US pigs on the other side, even if it's just to offer donuts and say "So I see ya got an overturned tanker, eh?" But no Canadians could be arsed to show up.

I don't buy the Charly personality going back in the box as "Samantha" again. She might compromise to raise the dumpy kid, but there's no way she's back on the PTA and marrying the boring white dude.

Didn't quite earn the ½ for rising above cliché, but it's a perfectly fine shoot-em-up.

★★★★☆

What I'm Watching: The Old Guard

A 'flix adaptation of a Greg Rucka comic; I haven't read this one, but his series Lazarus and Queen & Country are also headed to adaptations. I'm more interested in Lazarus, post-apocalypse feudal lords with engineered female super-soldiers. Greg's got a similar "type" to mine, and buff women is it.

I'm not going to spoil this much, but I need to talk about the first scene.

The Old Guard starts dumb.

These guys are immortal soldiers, like four little Deadpool experiments but not funny, must have dealt with thousands of clients, and they can't figure out that transparently treacherous CIA guy is playing them? Even after walking into an obvious trap, the goons who kill them in the first minutes don't keep an eye on the corpses, search them? Even with non-immortal victims, combat praxis is to remove weapons, flip them over to make sure they're really dead. "No, it's fine guys let's huddle over here with our backs to the corpses." SIGH.

Show doesn't understand that suppressors are not fantasy "silencers", you can't shoot someone "thwip thwip" and it's not heard, suppressors just make guns less incredibly loud. The actual melees are pretty standard but well-choreographed vampire/superhero fights. There's nothing here you haven't seen in Blade 1-3, Deadpool 1-2, every damned Marvel flick, the Punisher series, the Nolan Batman movies, Red, Polar, etc etc, but it's competent enough. I wasn't paying a lot of attention to bullet counts, but they do run out of ammo, and regularly stop and scavenge guns from enemies, which I see too rarely in these things.

Any time a scene is a little bit dark, it goes full cyan/orange filter, forget about being able to see colors. Then the camera moves anywhere lit, and it has mostly unfiltered color. It's super jarring, but I guess I should be happy it wasn't cyan/orange all the time.

There's a wafer-thin backstory exposition for the ancient Scythian "Andy" (Charlize Theron; she's still very cute); Crusader Nicky (Luca Marinelli) and Arabian Joe (Marwan Kenzari) who are in love, there's a good scene with them and some stupid snickering soldiers, but I don't believe love lasts years let alone centuries; Napoleonic soldier Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts); joined by newbie US Marine Nile (Kiki Layne, barely capable of hitting marks and saying lines, her fighting is poor).

No explanation for their ability is given, "that way lies madness" says one of them, and the magic/psychic dreams are unexplained even though Andy mocks religion and magic. I must say I'm always glad when atheists get heroic representation in movies. It's just a scene, but thanks, Greg.

The little bad guy, ex-CIA spook Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is pathetic, and has implausible moments of morality; nobody with morals becomes a spook. It's just kind of insulting. His Zodiac-conspiracy/Andy-stalker whiteboards are full of stuff, but he behaves like an accountant, not a motivated crazy person or soulless spook. Terrible writing, acting, or both?

The big bad guy, Merrick (Harry Melling, aka Dudley Dursley; but he's twice as ugly skinny as he was fat), is a jackass: Scene-chewing, Shakespeare-quoting, openly admitting he just wants money for saving lives, openly sadistic. There's a partial violation of Chekov's Law, he poses with Andy's axe, but then doesn't use it; holding it keeps it from being forgotten before the next scene, but it's still a tease not delivered on.

The plot is linear, most of the twists are obvious. When they're not, it's always revealed in low-stakes environments, and then you just wait out the development of the twist. There are zero surprises if you're paying even minimal attention.

Actual plot ends with 15 minutes of denouement and team-building, like a superhero "Pose as a Team Cuz Shit Just Got Real" scene. Words cannot express how tedious and commercial the ending is. I feel a couple thousand years old like I've seen every possible story when I see a scene this badly written.

Then it has a "post-credits" scene, but of course Netflix makes it hard to watch credits, so they moved it up before even the star credits, let alone the technical credits and classical music. Sit thru your goddamned credits, people. That's when I write these posts, I've just got some notes until then.

★★★☆☆

You know what I liked in this genre? The Losers (2010). Andy Diggle & Jock's comic was well-adapted, the fights were higher-stakes and weirder, the characters had massively more personality & development, and were much more aware of being double- and triple-crossed. Zoe Saldana is a fucking magical special effect all by herself. It didn't do great in the box office, I dunno why.

What I'm Watching: Close

Dumb rich party girl Sophie Nelisse (of The Book Thief) with a new inheritance goes to Morocco with new bodyguard Noomi Rapace (from the good Dragon Tattoo movies), shit goes bad, and bodyguard has to keep her alive and try to figure out who's behind it. None of which is particularly new or interesting by itself, but the movie pulls out a few good moves.

The fights are good close-up struggles, a little jump-cut-heavy instead of the long tracking shots I prefer. The fortress kasbah is interesting, security system's not complete movie bullshit but visual enough to follow on screen.

I think they wanted to make another Man on Fire, but Creasy is a far more complex character than Sam, and there's more plot and bonding in that film; this isn't slow, but there's nowhere near enough plot, and it just kinda trails off at the ending.

★★★½☆ which is what Netflix originals seem to get for the most part.

What I'm Watching: Polar

Someone please inform Netflix that disco is not appropriate at any time. I could go the rest of my life without hearing Earth Wind and Fire's awful falsetto and Casio demo loop "music".

When Mads is brooding or doing a job, it's shot like a Scandinavian crime drama, grainy camera and maybe teal/orange crap. Everywhere else, the color palette is super-saturated like a Technicolor cartoon.

Anyway. Crew of young Tarantino-wannabe assassins are killing retired assassins, which seems like a job you wouldn't take if you're an assassin, because you'd want to retire someday. Millennials just got no long-term planning skills, I guess.

Mads Mikkelsen's Duncan "Black Kaiser" Vizla is an asshole old assassin with his shit together. Don't get attached to anyone or anything in this. Nothing nice is going to happen.

While he's out being calm and professional, the wannabes are dressing up (mostly Sindy, the Debbie Does Dallas cheerleader of the hit squad) and committing atrocities to try to find Vizla. There's some lovely hits and some really stupid gross-out ones.

The villain is like TV's Frank with an acid burn or wine stain on his face, I can't take him seriously. He's just too fat and petulant, and his entire scam is suicidally stupid.

Yet again women are used as hostages and bait because that's all hack screenwriters can think of doing.

This does, however, have the coolest gun since REASON. I'm disappointed there's no swordfight, though we're teased with one.

Then there's a tacky moral confrontation which tries to make up for all this overly fun violence.

★★★½☆ This is almost the definition of a 3.5: mediocre but engaging enough that you should watch it if you like trash movies.

What I'm Watching: Jack Ryan

Back in the Good Old Days of the Cold War, I read the hell out of the original 3 Jack Ryan books, and I love the Harrison Ford movies, considerably less the Baffleck "Sum of All Fears". The spinoff pulp books and shitty videogames, far less so. Amazon's now got "Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan" on Prime, let's see.

Slow start, but obviously a War That Never Ends in Middle-East thing.

Blank-faced drone John Krasinski as Ryan is generically skilled, has war flashbacks while he stares emotionlessly at a ceiling, writes "SQL queries" that pop up graphical displays. He's like someone's shitty PC in Millennium's End RPG, and I don't believe from his walking meatstick "acting" that this Ryan has a PhD in Economics, or even a GED, or really more than a brainstem.

Wendell Pierce (the Bunk!) is promising, but he's playing a last-chance-don't-fuck-this-up bureaucrat section chief, nothing exciting yet.

After a bit, Ryan is Proved Right as in all Jack Ryan stories, and dragged into the field from a party for a rich asshole & his generically pretty but vapid blonde daughter.

Interrogation and the vaguely placed prison are, uh, unpleasant, but nobody's being tortured. Yet. Bombs and guns always get into these, and it's fine but very console-shooter: Indistinct action around a squad shooting aimlessly (because without mouse you can't aim).

It all seems competently produced, poorly acted, and written by very unimaginative frat boys who've played too much Tom Clancy's Rainbow Seven. Long-dead Tom Clancy is the only real writer on the show, and this is "ripped from the headlines" by some necrophiliacs last employed on garbage like Lost.

I'll probably do another couple eps to see if the Bunk does anything good, but I hold little hope unless they replace almost the entire cast and writing room.

★★☆☆☆