What I’m Watching: Florida Man

I managed to watch a TV (‘flix) show!

  • Florida Man (2023): Produced by Jason Bateman, so you should know what you’re getting into, but this is more funny white trash film noir than outright comedy.

Mike Valentine (really? Star Wars-level joke names for romantic hero? played by Édgar Ramírez) is a degenerate gambler ex-cop in Philly working for Moss Yankov (yes, names are this bad, slow growing parasite Eastern European trash mobster, by Emory Cohen), and banging his moll Delly West (dolly, Mae West, we get it, played by model Abbey Lee, but she’s too scrawny, vapid, and Millennial to pull the role off; she tries “sultry” and it’s just “waif needs a cookie”) and holding a torch for his ex-wife Iris (oddly, no obvious connotation? played by Lex Scott Davis, hot but mean). Delly runs off to Florida, Moss sends Mike to catch her. Down there, they get tangled up with Mike’s father “Sonny” (inverted parental relationship, Anthony LaPaglia), and recovered pirate treasure.

So there’s dense setup in the first episode… and then there’s 4 eps of screwing around, not getting to the point, 1 ep of actual plot(!), 1 ep of resolution. There’s a lot of fun but irrelevant side plots, the EMT & the tweaker, and the dumb vacationing deputy who has increasingly bad days down there, and the honest but simple-minded deputy Andy (not Taylor or Clutterbuck, but meant to evoke that incompetence, played a little too broadly by Paul Schneider of Parks & Rec), and the old hit man Dutch (Ritchie Coster, piece of shit not-really-actor who appears in every bad remake, but he’s adequate here, even has some fiery moments!), and the motel owners, and I haven’t even got into the sister’s family drama they all keep wandering thru. But very quickly you can see they just kept writing junk to fill episodes until someone told them to stop.

If this had been edited, and cut down to just what it needed, it’d be a brilliant Jim Thompson-level Grifters kind of movie of betrayal and femme fatales and “Valentine” thinking more with his other brain. But it’s not, so it meanders around and you lose sight of actual plot until it sneaks back in at the end.


What I’m Watching: Post Mortem: No One Dies in Skarnes

Oh, Netflix. There was a long dry spell of Grim Scandinavian Crime Dramas after the last Bordertown, and Deadwind S2 was aimless without a main plot (tho still amusing mostly). But now they have Post Mortem: No One Dies in Skarnes (there’s like 3 other Post Mortems in the last couple years). Also technically horror, but mostly comedy.

A young woman Live (pr. “Leeva”, Kathrine Thorborg Johansen) is found dead in a field… mostly dead. Not all that dead. Her brother Odd (Elias Holmen Sørensen being a Norwegian Zach Galifianakis, just hilariously incompetent) and father run the small town’s only mortuary. And then she starts to have problems with a need for blood.

Odd is soon in charge of the mortuary, and struggles desperately to keep it open. Live’s murderous instincts should be a nice windfall… Instead she just gets wannabe cop/boyfriend Reinert (André Sørum) tangled up in it, and hapless Odd nearly bankrupted a couple times.

It’s shot like a horror story or drama, but everyone is so foolish and slapstick it never manages to not be comedy (very morbid, hope you don’t mind blood & dead bodies). Some of the eps drag or cycle over the same ground a bit; hopefully if they get more seasons they tighten the plot up more. But just a charming little show.


What I’m Not Watching: Mare of Easttown

Kate Winslet is no longer a Heavenly Creature, nor a Titanic starlet, but a disappointed middle-aged detective in the rust belt with a broken family and a cold case she can’t really cope with. She starts dating a writer passing through, played by Guy Pearce (Shotgun Ed in L.A. Confidential). A local girl with another broken home is murdered, and a much, much younger, fetus-like even, detective played by Evan Peters (a bunch of American Horror Story series) joins her to investigate.

I bother mentioning the actors here because that’s often the only entertainment. The plot is glacial, not helped by HoboMax releasing these one a week like some old-timey 20th C TV series. I don’t care about “Mare” or her family, she’s a sullen, bad-tempered, constantly-vaping wench who supposedly made a basketball shot 25 years ago. Kate’s made no attempt to control her ever-expanding hips and ass, which, I’m not judging her much on that, but it makes her role less plausible. She’s about in shape for a 60-year-old near retirement, not a 45-year-old active-duty cop.

The family stuff is really dire, ex-husband is remarrying, and Kate shows up to annoy him or accuse him of various crimes. Cousin is a priest, and so he’s dirty in some way. Her mother-in-law is just the worst. The victim’s ex-boyfriend, father, and friends are all awful, she’s better off out of the script.

On ep 3, and I’m not making it thru this. I watch an ep and feel like someone living in the rust belt, like life is pointless and ugly. Is there any payoff possible that’d make it worth going on? This is what happens when someone decides they need an Oscar, so they make some misery porn for a few hours and hope the tired old men of the Academy remember when she wasn’t old.

★☆☆☆☆ This just sucks.

What I’m Watching: The Head

An English-language (mostly), Spanish-made mini-series on hobomax. Remarkably good actors, cinematography, for the most part… though indoors scenes are heavily tinted cyan/orange. The disease of monochromism is spreading. I assume everything outdoors was shot in Norway, because it only shows Antarctic panoramas from stock footage, anything with characters is in a generic white void.

Science team goes to Antarctica. We see them goofing off, last day before winter. They watch John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, firmly lampshading what kind of show this is: Creepy drama, but with a few laughs. Team leader Johan (Alexandre Willaume) gets to go home for a break, his wife Aniika (Laura Bach) stays behind to work with pompous scientist Arthur Wilde (John Lynch, the poor man’s John Lithgow).

Contact with the base is cut off. When they get back, almost everyone is dead. A survivor starts telling a story, and then more and more facts don’t match up, and contrary stories are told.

So, the science in this: Arthur claims he’s invented a bacteria that’s 153x better than photosynthesis at scrubbing CO2 from the air, so he’s solved global warming. If they’d said “10%”, or even “100%”, OK, maybe; 153x is so far past what’s physically possible it’s pure fantasy. Plants use sunlight to get energy to crack CO2 for carbon and oxygen; what’s this bacteria using, nuclear fission? And even if you had it, you couldn’t release it, it’d run away and convert the entire atmosphere to oxygen, deadly to most current life.

Each episode, Maggie remembers more of her story, tells Johan, he runs around looking for evidence, mostly doesn’t find any.

★★★½☆ – watch, don’t expect miracles


The problem is, the “mystery” doesn’t hold up, it’s out of character for at least 2 people directly involved, and 2 covering it up. The original crime is petty, and doesn’t need a giant base-destroying coverup. The murders in the new base are just deranged and over the top, completely out of anyone’s league who’s accused of them.

I’d been wondering since the survivor story started if they’d do a Keyser Soze flip at the end, and sure enough the girl is who I thought she was, and even does a “this physical disorder is all an act” scene. But I don’t find her “true” story plausible either, especially Nils’ death is just impossible, and there’s no way for her collaborator to not realize what’s happening.

What I’m Watching: Last Suspicions, The Investigation

  • Suspicions of Mr Whicher: Ties That Bind: (zon) A divorce case (in Victorian England, nasty business) turns into a missing person case, then murder. Paddy really seems to have grown into the role here (tho again by now the historical Mr Whicher is utterly different from this character), but this is the last one. Unlike #3, the video quality is back to normal, even fairly good views of pastoral English countryside, horses galloping around. Everyone in this crappy little village and the nearby manor house has secrets, nobody is innocent of anything. The mystery almost works; but they have to cheat by telling Whicher something the audience doesn’t get to hear, which resolves everything. Still, a good enough episode to go out on. ★★★½☆

  • The Investigation: (hobomax) Danish 5-episode miniseries about the death of a Swedish journalist in a submarine (“ripped from the headlines!”). Stoic, brooding cop (Søren Malling) largely ignores his family while slowly moving between scenes. Very heavily tell-don’t-show. We don’t even get to see the first interviews with the submarine guy, just told about them. Ep 2 mostly follows officer Maibritt (Laura Christensen) investigating the journalist’s private life. Somewhat less brooding, but still closed-off, moody. Ep 3 they finally get some physical evidence, but again spends very long stretches waiting, in silence. That’s where I am so far. Another case of maybe 45-90 minutes of content stretched out to 225 minutes of show. I’ll probably finish this tomorrow, I’m interested in the case, but I’m bored out of my skull by the pacing. ★★★☆☆

What I’m Watching: More Suspicions of Mr Whicher

  • Murder In Angel Lane: Mr Whicher is now a “private inquiry agent”, dicks not yet having been invented, and searches for a missing girl in a story about uncertain paternity and jerks with knives. Obvious villain is obvious, but the multiple visits to the insane asylum are nice; for a Victorian bedlam it’s pretty cushy.


Note that the historical Mr Whicher was still a police officer at this time, and moving up in authority in London.

  • Beyond the Pale: The English are, it should be noted, monsters. The conquest, rape, and robbery of India over centuries is one of the greatest war crimes of history, every English is blood-stained clear through. The Sepoy Mutiny was the first try of the Indians to seize back their country, which took nearly a century. And that’s what this oh-so-happy episode is about.

“Out there in the hills, we lived like kings. No one to censure us, no one to disapprove.”

The fantastical element of this episode is that any English cares. That Mr Whicher will stand up even a little bit for the Indians seeking vengeance for a truly heinous crime. And the resolution requires even more empathy and compassion that I don’t buy from them. The premise could’ve gone really dark and given something like closure, but instead it whimpers out.

Also, the lighting/color grading in this one is terrible, it’s just black and yellow, sometimes black and cyan for variety. Everyone looks jaundiced, and you can’t see any of the action. Even the outdoors scenes are so fake-overcast (but not actually overcast) they look like day-for-night shots. Impossible to guess at the hour.


Just one more of the series to go, hopefully it goes out on a higher note.

What I’m Watching: Suspicions of Mr Whicher

Not “The Witcher”. This is on ‘zon, “The Murder at Roadhill House”, there are 3 more episodes so far. Based on a 2008 book by Kate Summerscale.

Period 1860, in a crappy English village of Wiltshire, a family awakes to find a missing child (called a “baby” and kept in a crib, but he’s nearly 4), and when he’s found dead, early Scotland Yard is called, they send a sad-faced Paddy Considine as the improbably-named but historically real Mr Whicher, though the actor doesn’t fit the character well:

Whicher was reportedly described by a colleague as the “prince of detectives”.[2] Charles Dickens, who met him, described him as “shorter and thicker-set” than his fellow officers, marked with smallpox scars and possessed of “a reserved and thoughtful air, as if he were engaged in deep arithmetical calculations”.[2] William Henry Wills, Dickens’s deputy editor at Household Words magazine, saw Whicher involved in police work in 1850 and described him as a “man of mystery”.

The start’s very slow, and often uses voice-over repetition to pad out scenes that would just be Paddy walking around looking at things. Later in the first ep, they send along a sergeant, “Dolly” (William Beck), which helps with dialogue, though he gets vanishingly little character development. The local authorities are unhelpful, hostile, closed-minded fools you’d expect of the still-medieval backwater English.

Whicher’s not quite a modern, scientific detective, but he tries. And he’s a bit moody, especially between cases he’s as useless and dissolute as Sherlock Holmes; which is probably a modern back-adaptation from Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1880s books.

The pacing is glacial, much plot happens off-camera, and an early version of spinning-newspaper headlines. Very little time is spent on backstory outside of the main suspects; I wonder if the book goes deeper, or if this is all there is.

Still, it’s a good enough mystery, Whicher’s worth watching, what-cha.


What I’m Watching: “the little things”

Let it always be known that I dislike everyone imitating e e cummings. Write in all caps. And I don’t like leading articles in titles; “Little Things” is a better title. The entire credits are in lowercase, and I hate it.

How is it that 1990 is a period era? Yeah, it’s 30 years ago, and they only have pagers and big CRT monitors, but it’s post Cold War, LA is a shithole… it’s not clear if this is before or after Rodney King, but nothing really changed. You could set this in the present and it’d be unchanged. Apparently the script was written in 1993, and took 26 years for someone’s slush pile to get low enough for this to be produced.

The starting scene is annoying, car drives past a girl driving her car at night, then she pulls into a deserted diner to try to shelter, then runs into the desert, instead of just driving on. That’s kind of repeated multiple times, with victims being killed because they were stupid, or just let their guard down. Blaming the victim, instead of building up the killer.

A working sheriff’s deputy Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington) does an evidence run to LA, hangs around and gets involved in local serial killer investigation. Which is a lot like his backstory investigation that burned him out. Denzel lays out some rules for how to be a bad cop, and immediately breaks them himself.

The LA sheriffs are mostly awful. Rami Malek (the whiny millennial with the bug eyes from Mr Robot), Chris Bauer (Tony Sobotka from the bad season of The Wire), Terry Kinney as a Christfucker captain. Rami’s trying to learn something from Denzel, but he’s barely even there, a mannequin being pushed around would have more presence. The coroner (Michael Hyatt, the black lady with the very male honkie name, you may remember as Bri Barksdale on The Wire and from Nightcrawler) is essential to the actual plot, but she gets only a couple of scenes. Jared Leto, my least favorite person in film, is skanky but not really menacing, obviously fucking around stoned most of the show. I will say, he gets what he deserves for the first time since American Psycho; it doesn’t pay off having to watch this film, but it’s something.

Unbelievably slow. Over 2 hour movie, one crime scene in detail, another seen on the edges. No real suspects. Slow police work leads nowhere. What we do find out about is Denzel’s backstory, but only through flashbacks, very tell-not-show.

Completely misses a chance to reference The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly “There’s two kinds of people in this world, those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You… dig.”

★★☆☆☆ — absolutely a waste of my time.

What I’m Watching: American Murder: The Family Next Door

The conceit here is all footage is real police bodycam, Ring front-door spycams, phone footage, etc. I’m dubious about the how much of this was filmed before the events, and how much staged, but it’s badly shot enough in many places to be possible. The Facebook captures are kind of gross, the fake SMS reenactments with fake misspellings and retyping are weird; “Shanann”[sic] was as bad at spelling everything else as her own name (it’s normally pronounced & spelled “Shannon”)?

It’s creepy how much people share, without saying anything of substance. Self included, of course… you know what code and games I release, and my snarky media reviews, but I don’t tell you anything else. On Fediverse, I mostly share jokes and comics I’ve found, and bitch about code.

The police station footage is really the disturbing part, as always when showing conversations with pigs: The touchy-feely-cop and bad-cop routine, no lawyer, cameras left running during “private” (but not protected by lawyer) conversations. Obviously the first and only words you should utter to cops are “I have no comment. I want my lawyer. Am I free to go?” Am I the weirdo for being incredibly skeeved out by pigs rubbing someone’s shoulder to try to make them confess?

The “cashless economy” is an incredibly bad idea, and this shows why: Every step anyone takes is recorded as a bank charge. If you carry cash (as I mostly do), then only your dumb online purchases show up, which are probably not too incriminating.

The reveal of the murders, such as it is, is incredibly badly presented, but they just didn’t have any footage to present it. And there’s not enough “character building” to tell anyone why. I don’t believe the statement accepted by the court, but no better information is possible.

In the end, this is a horror movie about people oversharing.


What I’m Watching: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

Michelle McNamara, Patton Oswalt’s late wife, was a crime podcaster/writer. The one she wrote about was the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker (rather overly functionally named: EAR/ONS). Much of this is framed in interviews with Patton in the few years since her death (prescription drug overdose), and it’s certainly awkward watching him, not doing standup so I don’t know what to expect from him, and he’s obviously hurt, but he doesn’t have a huge emotional range.

The show is all flashbacks, old footage, people reminiscing, and a few dreamlike, abstract reenactments—about a writer who only read books and endless forum posts, and interviewed people who had done the actual investigation, and thought she was contributing something to the cold case. “This is what I was born to do!”, she says.

In Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, Lord Dorwin is “awfully fascinated” by history, and the origin question (what planet Humans originated on, long lost and forgotten); but he does no field research, he just reads other peoples’ books and papers and writes his own third-hand papers. That’s also the trend in E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops, where original research and going outside is abandoned, people just make video talks (Youtube, but written in 1909!) about other video talks. I bring these up, because these dystopian distant-future visions of totally derivative non-research have already come true, and this is a show about it.

Michelle (and the voice actor reading her text) is incredibly preachy and pretentious; she was one of those writers who thinks a 5-dollar-word is better than a short one, that poetry in the middle of her exposition about a rape and murder makes it pithier. An editor would’ve told her to dial it back, but she was almost entirely self-published and unedited. The scope of her book, and idea of getting it done on deadline, was just implausible, solving a cold case as her first investigation, writing her first book. Even if you didn’t see the news, her manner of death is unsurprising.

“Michelle was such a brilliant woman, she was such a talented writer, she was so into everything that we’re all into, and she made such great contents. It’s just an incomprehensible tragedy.”
—Karen Kilgariff, “My Favorite Murder Podcast”

“Such great contents”. Fuck. Let nobody be buried with that as an epitaph, OK?

Because EAR/ONS used wooded creeks as a “highway” between stalking sites, there’s a repeat theme and little snippets of The Creature from the Black Lagoon. But this is weird, bordering on offensive; it’s portraying the Creature as the rapist, Julie Adams as the victims. But in the actual movies the creature fights only in self-defense, he has no woman of his own kind and never hurts the girl, but he’s hunted by a murderous, reactionary white lynch mob and murdered in his home; I’m always heartbroken by the ending. I haven’t yet seen Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, but I understand it’s in line with that. Surely they’re not suggesting EAR/ONS is a tragic victim.

E1 almost completely lost me, I wasn’t going to keep going, but I gave further eps a chance, and it does get better, but still spends entirely too long on Michelle’s personal life and death, and it’s all intermingled.

You get a segment on EAR/ONS in rather grim detail. A segment on research and interviews with the surviving victims. A segment on Michelle playing with her daughter. Shove in a blender with barely a screen blank for transition. That’s appalling storytelling.

The case is, however, not solved by Michelle’s book, or any of the paperwork, but by DNA evidence & geneology (many people are stupid enough to upload their DNA to random company websites!) years after Michelle’s death, by detectives also working on the case. Almost nothing about the actual killer, his plea bargains and the additional murders he confessed to, is covered at all.

Real life’s not neat and tidy like a good crime drama, but this biopic/true crime mix is an absolute mess, gives you whiplash going from subject to subject.