What I'm Watching: Adventure Time: Distant Lands: BMO

Available on the HoboMax.

BMO, especially delusional BMO being a hero, is generally my favorite character of AT, even tho I skip all those awful Grables eps. So I was looking forward to this. Not happy about the result.

No way to talk about this without spoilers:












BMO and their potatoes are going to Mars. But then they're redirected to an ancient space station made of little environment pods, like blown-up Xandar (in the comics, not the boring planet in the Guardians movies), or Robert Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky, and BMO sets off to save everyone!

Unfortunately everyone in the station sucks. The bunny kid sidekick is useless, spineless, and nigh-treacherous (but too spineless to be an effective traitor), the repair drone is just a follower, the adults are all villains or parasites who should be broken down for scrap. The character designs, other than a few sight gag characters in street scenes, are very plain, either blobs, the laziest-drawn humanoid bunnies ever, or a few alien/elf hybrids. Literally the only sympathetic characters in the entire show, besides BMO, are two thieving bugs, and a scrap robot (voiced by Simone Giertz! So there's like one good thing about this!)

There's an amazing environment, a setup perfect for a long series, which is wasted on a very stupid plot and a trite non-Adventure Time ending. Brute force or reason shouldn't get you out of trouble in AT, only insanity, lateral thinking, or coincidence should. Pen Ward hasn't written or directed since S8, everyone still involved is like 3rd-hand hires from when it was good, so tone drifting towards Hollywood garbage writing is inevitable, but tragic.

Well. That was, I guess not surprising after S10, but disappointing. Will any further eps be better?

★★☆☆☆

What I'm Watching: Adventure Time

HoboMax has Adventure Time, and soon to have some spinoff specials "Distant Lands", so I watched seasons 8-10 which I hadn't previously seen, and I'm now rewatching 6-7 which I apparently don't remember at all. Who needs linear time?

  • Season 8: Mostly episodic, often great adventure episodes. This is what I liked the show for originally. "I Am a Sword" seems to be adventure, but then introduces a real tragedy, which turns into the Fern sub-plot for the next 2 seasons. "Preboot" and "Reboot" activate Susan's origin story, and "The Invitation" starts a very long 8-part story about the last of the Humans; individual parts of this were good, but continuity is annoying in a show like this. 11-minute episodes are perfect for delivering the science-fantasy parody, 2-parters are a little long, 8 is (if you'll forgive the '80s sitcom reference) enough.

  • Season 9: Immediately starts with another 8-part quest about elemental (Candy, Slime, Ice, Fire) corruption. While I like Ice King/Simon and Weird Lady/Betty in small doses, an entire series about two amnesiac obsessives is excruciating. Since all the elemental princesses and inhabitants are reduced to insanity, there's really only Jake & Finn to have any sane dialog, and Jake's just a dog. The last few eps resolve Finn & his weird grass clone.

  • Season 10: Almost all of these were terrible. "The First Investigation" was good, a nice self-contained story. "Jake the Starchild" and "Temple of Mars" are decent science-fantasy stories, but almost not Adventure Time. "Gumbaldia" and "Come Along With Me" (44-minute finale story) set up a final Ooo War between PBub and her insane Uncle/offspring, and halfway delivers on it. But then they ran out of plot, and were unwilling to go all the way and let the Candy Kingdoms nuke each other, so just added a new dumb monster for them to half-ass their way out of. BMO at the end of time with an almost empty world was interesting, and they failed utterly to deliver on it.

I loved classic Adventure Time, but the writers really got wound up too much in continuity and making sense of a senseless idea later on. It's Thundarr on E, Mad Max with candy characters. That's fun. A little "oh living in this vale of tears is kinda hard yo" goes a very long ways. Long plots ruin it.

★★★★★ for the single adventures, ★★★★☆ for the first serial, ★★★☆☆ for the second serial, ★★☆☆☆ for the finale.

What I'm Watching: Godzilla Raids Again, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, The Player

More of my HBO Max queue. I absolutely hate that they make me choose my profile every single time. I have one profile, it's a purple cock-ring that says "Mark" in it, there is zero reason to make me choose a profile every new window! Netflix now lets you choose movie characters for your profile image, so there I'm Hup from Dark Crystal 2019, but they only make me choose my profile if I've logged out and back in.

In the old days, I watched 3 movies every night from the video store: One B-movie, one studio flick, one known-good movie (often a rewatch). And that's kinda what I did here:

  • Godzilla Raids Again (1955): On Monster Island, Godzilla is back from the dead (or a second Godzilla!) fighting a 30m-long Ankylosaur "Anguirus" (actual ones were up to 6.25m long), dated at 70-150 MYA (in reality 65-67 MYA), which is certainly better than the first Godzilla's 2 MYA dates. Dr Yamane returns to show stock footage from the first movie, without sound effects or context, and then he is never seen again (smart, take your paycheck and run from this film). They also get to use some military stock footage to show air & naval search for the kaiju. Boy this is a cheapass movie so far.

    The drama of the pilots & radio girls (the pretty one is the boss's daughter, of course) relationship is maybe a repeat of Ogata & Emiko from the first movie, but it fills the Human interest requirement fine. There's a prison break story which has fuck-all to do with Godzilla, it's just B-roll, but serves to screw up the blackout/light lure plan. Oda Motoyoshi was a terrible but prolific waste-of-film director, and in more competent hands the prison story could've been given some pathos.

    The monster fights are goofy, accelerated footage instead of more properly slowed-down to look like 50m-tall monsters, mostly wrestling instead of the more acrobatic fighting of later Godzillas (admittedly these early suits were heavy). The miniature cities, and historic Osaka Castle(!!!), are clearly empty shells inside, when the original tries to not make that visible, and later ones succeed even more. There's a flooding subway scene that's fairly effective, though we don't see the victims; presumably nobody was willing to risk their lives for Oda's filmmaking.

    The music is not great. Anything dramatic or horrifying in the original has heavy Ifukube Akira music. Here, there's a little bass line behind the monster scenes, and light "laugh now" or overbearing brass band music in every Human scene.

    A little "Human interest" goes a long way in a kaiju movie, but post fight there's just endless people talking bullshit about romance and business, corporate drinking in a circle worshipping the boss, nothing to do with the plot. Incredibly tedious, and the comic relief pilot is badly written. Please make this end.

    They really don't seem to have watched the first movie. A fire fence is supposed to keep Godzilla in place? It was born from the hydrogen bomb, breathes fire, stomped thru a burning Tokyo. It lives in the deep freezing ocean. There's no fire or ice solution that's going to stop it. The bombing runs use a mix of miniatures, stock footage, and rear projection to fake in-aircraft camera shots, and the "miniature" terrain and mattes are bad.

    I'm giving this movie way more thought than was put into making it, or has deserved for 65 years. But I'm disappointed.

    ★★☆☆☆ only because Anguirus is slightly cool, being a completely non-humanoid kaiju.

  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: I haven't seen the previous Fantastic Beasts film, which is nowhere to be found, but how much context can a "wizzarding world" flick need? Unfortunately after a pretty good prison break scene with badass Grindelwald (who seems to have the right idea, magical revolution now!), the story switches to whiny, useless "Newt" as protagonist, and then nothing happens forever, and I lost all interest.

    The cinematography looks like absolute shit, it's dark and color-distorted, you can't see anything, it's all CGI cartoons and fast cuts over bad actors, almost a parody of modern terrible filmmaking. Maybe there's plot later, but after 30 minutes of reading my phone while I waited for plot to start, and it didn't, and I loathe all the "good guys" so far, I gave up.

    ☆☆☆☆☆ and may Cthulhu have mercy on their souls.

  • The Player (1992): Haven't seen this in decades. Goddamn that initial long tracking shot. Tons of movie references, I dunno I've ever seen Absolute Beginners, just heard the Bowie song; adding that to my list. The Sheltering Sky I've seen and was bored out of my skull by, all of Bertolucci's films were some mix of fantastic cinematography, pretty girls, dumb assholes, fascists, wandering aimlessly, never intersects a plot, like Last Tango in Paris; he was the original Ridley Scott (right down to the unwatchable but very pretty oriental set piece flicks). I love Fred Ward and he's good at laconic delivery of both useful and menacing lines, but he doesn't get to do any violence here, which is a shame. There's a metric fuck-ton of cameos by Old Hollywood people, before it all went to shit.

    "It's Gods Must be Crazy except the Coke bottle is now a TV actress." "Exactly, it's Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman." made me crack up completely. I can't stop giggling at these people and their awful pitches.

    Oh, I miss movies like this, with writing and characters and cinematography that isn't just cyan/orange filters. I want everyone involved in that Fantastic Beasts flick to watch this, and then blow their brains out in shame.

    "Can we talk about something other than Hollywood for a change? We're educated people." … … [laughter]

    Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is kind of too easy-going to have his job, but he steps up to crazy eventually. Vincent D'Onofrio didn't have his known career of being a crazy person yet, so his unstable writer act now looks too obvious.

    "I would hate to get the wrong person arrested." "Oh please. This is Pasadena. We do not arrest the wrong person. That's L.A., see, L.A., they kick your ass, and then they arrest you." A year after Rodney King.

    The first act is great, just a perfect storm of everything coming down on Griffin Mill. Second act develops his guilt and romance, and it's fine, but a little slow. Third act should be a massive storm of catastrophe, but instead nothing happens. Rich people get to be rich and goof around.

    ★★★★☆

Spoiler screenshot but this is the story they wrote and inserted into the paper:

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What I'm Watching: The Witcher

It is the most magical time of the year, so time to watch the new shitty fantasy series.

The show alternates between two almost totally separate shows; this season is based on prequel short stories, so apparently nobody will meet anyone until the end and the videogame starts.

Moody almost monochrome Witcher scenes where Geralt[sic, Polish can't spell "Gerald"?] broods and delivers Batman lines, refuses to do anything for anyone, but is clearly so desperate for coin he'll fight monsters on spec ("Kikimora" here being a weird swampy spider-ogre thing, rather than the Slavic mythological one which is a pair of good and evil house fairies). He meets a sexy witch in a bar who keeps the locals from murdering him and buys him beer, but he runs off with a little girl who kills rats to get a job with a magician. Who has a fairy fountain full of naked dryads, and wants him to kill the sexy witch from the bar.

Much brighter but still washed-out medieval political shit, battlefields run nothing like a real medieval battlefield (no honor guard for the queen, who leads from the front, lot of Lord of the Rings kind of cgi crowd shit). Tiny tomboy princess is about to be heir to a dead kingdom. The "Nilfgardians" are apparently black-armored psychopaths who don't take prisoners, torture victims.

I played a bit of the first Witcher game, but it doesn't explain much of the background. It's some generic pseudo-Europe called "The Continent" (or whatever that is in Polish). The Nilfgardians there are a more normal Holy Roman Empire pastiche, even leaving subject kings in place.

Why is Geralt[sic] a "mutant"? Allegedly 80 girls born in an eclipse are all mutants and evil, which is either medieval nonsense or factual description of magic world, and I can't tell which. But what's his excuse? Magic seems to be rare and super powerful, but nobody really minds its use, which seems at odds with the "he's different KILL HIM" attitude to Geralt[sic], the girls, monsters, and Elves.

We finally get a real fight scene with the Witcher, and it's pretty good; fight choreography and editing portrays a thing far faster and tougher than Human like a high-level videogame character just murderizing all the normal thugs, and fighting evenly against another mutant.

"They created me just as they created you! We're not so different!"

E2

Now there's another storyline: Hunchback Pig-Girl can teleport to magic fairy-land, and gets bought by a witch for half the price of a pig. No worries, tho, someday she'll become Yennefer[sic] the Witch and make herself pretty, because only poor & non-magic people are ugly in the Witcher. But first she has to go to Shitty Hogwarts, which is a series of caves and stone classrooms with a loading screen showing two towers and a bridge for context; there's no scenes set where you would see the matte painting/loading screen behind anyone. Total set budget: $50 for plaster, scrap wood, and a veritable mountain of plastic skulls & bones.

We finally get back to Geralt[sic], remember the main plot? Hunting "devils" who steal grain for a leather sack of coins, which is suspiciously exactly how much he negotiated for. Zero effort was made to make anything plausible, it's just like the videogame. Ah, I love a good kill/fetch quest. We get a lot of sitting around hearing about Elves and how Humans have massacred them. Which never makes sense to me: If Elves are a superior, magical, immortal race, how are mere trash monkeys able to kill them?

The princess runs away from the Evil Dark Army, and is taken in by stupid refugees who don't realize she's clean and pretty and therefore royalty; they are of course dirty and ugly because they're Working-Class with Ambitions, and therefore doomed. Their Dwarf slave doesn't like the situation, but nobody likes him either. Well, I like him more after [SPOILER]. The princess has zero personality (or the actress simply couldn't even read lines), she's a plot coupon that moves thru scenes on rails.

I'm perplexed by the period this is supposed to be in. The Witcher game is sort of medieval 12th C Poland? But there's post-Renaissance bards with 18th C or so lutes, singing about potions for abortions. I'm shocked I haven't seen more anachronistic technology with the casual disinterest the show takes in period drama.

The currency situation is bugging me, too. In two episodes we've had marks, ducats, orins, and florins? Marks are German and only in Shitty Hogwarts land, but the other three are within a day's ride of the starting forest and are Italian. Why aren't there any zloty, if this is so Polish? Why is any of this historical Europe if it's a completely different fantasy world?!

Well, so far this is about on par with Uwe Boll's Bloodrayne, but lacks the star power (Michael Madsen, Ben Kingsley, Meat Loaf, and a dozen Romanian whores!). All this has is Henry Cavill (the doughy, vapid, murderous Zack Snyder Superman) who does fine standing around growling, and he can fight well, but he's barely even present for "acting", he just hits his marks and says his lines. Lars Mikkelsen (Mads' wuss brother, who we last saw in the original Danish The Killing 13 years ago) is sort of amusing and cuddly as the magician Slartibartfast or whatever; but I think they wanted menacing and mystical, which he is not.

★★☆☆☆ script, production, and acting quality, ★★★½☆ for fight scenes and entertaining stupidity. Totally going to keep watching, this is a nice fun trainwreck show.

What I'm Watching: Dark Crystal (2019)

So, I love the original movie; I loved Jim Henson's work, maybe Labyrinth more than Dark Crystal but they're both amazing. The Mystic/Skeksis split, dying races of Gelflings and Podlings, weird monsters, nothing is stationary or normal, Froud's fairy paintings brought to fuzzy life, it's all lovely. I've read a little of the fanfic/expanded universe stuff but not much.

This story is mediocre prequel fanfic with good production values, but not up to the level of the movie.

In this, there's only blatantly evil Skeksis rulers, guarded by Gelflings and served by Podlings, both so stupid they don't see the gloating, scheming, whinging, and stealing of their masters. The Skeksis are as nasty as in the movie, but somehow made a cult where they're all-powerful, all-giving, but that's so transparently false it's just nonsense. This show would've made far more sense if they were still the Ur-race at the start, and the events of this, the corruption of the Crystal to drain life, is what makes them split.

The Gelflings are all ruled by queens and princesses, but still seem to put males in charge of everything else. They can use telepathy/"dreamfast" which is mostly shitty CGI blur effects, much like Avatar, except when the plot requires they be too obstinate or stupid to verify facts with each other. Females in this can actually fly; Kira in the movie just glided. There are seven clans, but only 5 are relevant to the plot so far: rich bossy Vapra, swamp rednecks Drenchin, warrior Stonewood, gypsy trader Sifa (very racist Roma caricature), underground Grottan.

The Podlings are either grovelling servants, or really stupid sub-Humans (somewhere between filthy hobbits and how Eastern Europeans are portrayed in fantasy).

A Fizzgig creature is immediately met when the underground heroine reaches ground. It has legs and a weird gaping non-muppety mouth. We see a bunch of these during the series, they're semi-tamed?

The Spitter is not quite a Garthim. And mostly it's really shitty CGI.

Aughra knows too much and is too stable to be the weirdo of the movie. She didn't make her own orrery in this, it's a "gift" from the Skeksis. And then implausibly she goes for a walk, crosses way too much of the world in an episode, and spends a lot of time doing nothing. The Mystic we finally meet is useless, and does not talk like a Mystic.

The land seen in CGI scenes is very Earth-like, if a bit more spiky mountains. There's a lot of shitty CGI lens flares, glowy things, and purple crystal screen filters, like the Abrams Trek movie but with more realistic characters than his muppet Kirk.

The puppets look good, but many are emotionally blank most of the time. The females especially can't flex their faces much at all, so they seem to be dead-eyed staring into the void for long stretches. The walking scenes are very badly done, like everyone from the Muppet Show and Jim Henson are long gone.

The fight scenes with Gelflings look awful because they can't actually hold blades, and can't be shown being struck. Even Hup, the stupid Podling wannabe-Paladin with his wooden spoon, is more menacing than the Gelflings.

There's at least 4 parties and it takes until E04 before any of them meet up, and they immediately split again, slowing the plot down. Rian is a lame protagonist, veering from braggart to coward as the scene demands, never being worth your time. Deet and Hup are pretty good, I like them even if they're incompetent. The princess is just annoying and gets everything handed to her. The hunter party have no characterization, they're just felt bodies.

★★★½☆ — And this is being generous. I really want this to be better than it is. It's very pretty when the lens flares aren't in the way. But the basic competence isn't there.

Harry Potter Contains Actual Curses and Spells, Says Local Idiot

"These books present magic as both good and evil,
which is not true, but in fact a clever deception.
The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells;
which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits
into the presence of the person reading the text"
—Dan Reehil, soi-disant "reverend"

This is a thing an adult Human, supposedly in charge of "educating" children, wrote in the 21st Century. This person actually believes that magic and evil spirits exist, that a series of children's books actually let you violate physics and produce effects with no cause by waving around a stick and saying some Latin doggerel. Which is at least consistent if stupid, since Catholic doctrine is that saying Latin doggerel over wheat crackers and wine turns them into manflesh and blood. If his lunatic premise was correct, we would be in the middle of a magical apocalypse the likes of which the Book of Revelation would say is "too much, man". Any child in this idiot's care is being misinformed and mentally abused.

Stop treating this nonsense as if it's a valid opinion. End religion. Ban the Bible, or at least replace it with Asimov's Guide to the Bible. Read more fantasy novels with the understanding that they're fiction.

What I'm Reading: Lord of the Fantastic: Stories in Honor of Roger Zelazny

"I took it with equanimity, however: I've long known that fortune's a whore and life itself a kind of stupid muddle. I am not a religious man. Far from it. I hold, if anything, a belief which I believe was once ascribed to the Gnostic: that Satan won out over God, not the other way around, and the Dark Prince runs things in the dismal and disastrous way that suits his nature. I knew that everything was just chance and bad luck, in a universe in which things were stacked against us and even our ruling deity hated us."
—Robert Sheckley, "The Eryx"

Great little anthology, Walter Jon Williams' "Lethe" in particular hits a Zelazny note (not the first time; his Ace Double "Elegy for Angels and Dogs" sequel to Zelazny's "The Graveyard Heart" is fantastic), "The Eryx" is the kind of wiseass story Sheckley told in all his work, with a little Zelazny mysticism. Some of these are more poetic fantasy than I'm really into, but that was also Zelazny's thing.

  • Lethe, by Walter Jon Williams
  • The Story Roger Never Told, by Jack Williamson
  • The Somehow Not Yet Dead, by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
  • Calling Pittsburgh, by Steven Brust
  • If I Take the Wings of Morning, by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
  • Ki'rin and the Blue and White Tiger, by Jane M. Lindskold
  • The Eryx, by Robert Sheckley
  • Southern Discomfort, by Jack C. Haldeman II
  • Suicide Kings, by John J. Miller
  • Changing of the Guard, by Robert Wayne McCoy and Thomas F. Monteleone
  • The Flying Dutchman, by John Varley
  • Ninekiller and the Neterw, by William Sanders
  • Call Me Titan, by Robert Silverberg
  • The Outling, by Andre Norton
  • Arroyo De Oro, by Pati Nagle
  • Back in "The Real World", by Bradley H. Sinor
  • Mad Jack, by Jennifer Roberson
  • Movers and Shakers, by Paul Dellinger
  • The Halfway House at the Heart of Darkness, by William Browning Spencer
  • Only the End of the World Again, by Neil Gaiman
  • Slow Symphonies of Mass and Time, by Gregory Benford
  • Asgard Unlimited, by Michael A. Stackpole
  • Wherefore the Rest Is Silence, by Gerald Hausman

Sword and Sorcery

"I was actually tired of sword-and-sorcery as the genre then existed. I admired the work of C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, and Fritz Leiber and continued to respect the vitality and invention of Howard, but I had little time for the likes of Tolkien and Lewis, whom I regarded as bad popular children's writers whose moral attitudes were highly questionable and whose particular syntheses had none of William Morris' vision, Howard's manic originality, or Leiber's sophisticated flair. I was, I suppose, bored with the form itself. So when Carnell commissioned the first Elric story I decided I would try to do something as different as possible from everything which then existed."
—Michael Moorcock, introduction to "Tales of the White Wolf"

What I'm Watching: Castlevania S2E6-8

Finishing Castlevania S2, here's where all the slow burn finally pays off. And then back to slow burn.

The stand-up fight Carmilla's been plotting finally comes up, and… I'm a little dubious how powerful an undead Bishop (Matt Frewer!) can be given that in life he couldn't keep one vampire out of his church. But it's a really solid plan.

The Humans and Alucard finish dicking around in the vault, and then magically screw everything up for everyone, and have fun storming the castle. If I remember my boss fights correctly, the trick is to evade the fireball and whack him in the face three times. They don't go according to that plan.

But then there's a whole ep left. So everyone says goodbye to Alucard for a long time, and spends more long times deciding what to do next, and the surviving vamps work out their next moonlit holiday plans, and some very implausible violence—even considering what we just saw—sets up the lunatic as a new big bad.

Season 3's been announced, and there's plenty of vamps to stake, plus Dracula never remains dead.

★★★★★, altho I'd like the pacing to be faster, and I miss Godbrand.

What I'm Watching: Castlevania S2E1-5

Like Castlevania S1, the art is fantastic, but the animation varies from nearly Hanna-Barbera to perfectly smooth, mostly in combat scenes.

Much of the first few eps are in Dracula's court, with his hilarious Viking vampire subject Godbrand ("I like boats! I'm a fucking Viking! We're supposed to make boats out of things!"), slutty & scheming Carmilla, the human forgemasters (necromancers, more or less) Hector (a spoiled brat with… pets…) and Isaac (harsh disciplinarian religious lunatic). And we see much more of Dracula's character and his rage at humanity. Make no mistake, I'm sympathetic to his culling, not so much to the random way it's implemented.

In contrast, Belmont, Sypha, and Alucard are pathetic. Sniping at each other, barely have any plan. They sit around and do some research, they're very reactive. The Humans are the antagonists of this season, the Vampire court are the protagonists.

The idiots (Trevor, Alucard, Godbrand) all speak like Warren Ellis, noted drunk, misanthrope, and vulgarian. The others are some of his better writing, intelligent and broken in various ways.

The plot takes quite a while to get anywhere, but for the most part it's enjoyable. FAR better start than S1 had.

Up to S2E5 now, I'll watch the rest tomorrow.