Finishing Happy!

Done. Parts of this worked out well, as a violent fairy tale for Christmas.

The mob boss's sister's reality TV show, bruja grandmother(?), and the sort of return of her son was both annoying as hell (fake-ass social media & TV people, ugh), and sometimes the only good parts of an episode; but the actual supernatural shit going on around this later is jarring. Imaginary friends can be seen by someone else, great premise. They can touch things, uh, this is weird… But the demonic stuff I'm not so sanguine about (the sanguinary sauce scene is great, though!)

The bad guys' constant running the kids around to different places, no clear explanation of who's coming for them, the Big Bad's weird-ass bug suit cult, Bad Santa's, uh, friends… Not tied up neatly at all. Reminds me a bit of Shadowrun's Universal Brotherhood which are really insect spirits. Grant Morrison's had insectile villains, doing radical body and brain surgery with very similar results in The Invisibles, too.

The characters remain cartoonish and hard to take seriously. And there's a homophobic vibe to some of it, two villains are gay and weird about it, there's no positive portrayals (not that anyone's positive in this show, but still). I dunno if this is intentional; Chris Meloni's pro-gay rights, has done all but gay porn in Oz, so he's probably not meaning it to be taken this way. Grant's a cross-dresser, and is weird about it, but not like this. I still went "Oh, that's not OK" a couple times.

As is often the case, even on a short series, there's a lot that could've been cut. About 2-3 episodes worth are just "Nick goes to a new location, gets in a fight, gets a clue or has to flee to the next location". The fights are good, often funny slapstick; there's axes, and a chainsaw, and a kung fu gang in Chinatown. Blood but still not a lot of visceral damage.

There's a parody of a Tarantino film scene that made me laugh out loud for over a minute, and freaked out my dog. The show keeps dragging down to boring, and then up pops a good gag and it carries me forward to the next.

If we were making a checklist:

  • Bad Santa
  • Smoothie
  • Blue
  • Nick being an asshole all the time.
  • Big Bad

So, still ★★★★☆, but I'm creeped out by some portrayals, and probably other people will be, too.

What I'm Watching: Happy!

So, this is adapted from a Grant Morrison comic. Grant's a crazy person; one of my favorites, but I think adapting his work is a memetic hazard, immanentizing the eschaton.

Take Chris Meloni from Law & Order: SVU, and make him a washed-up drunk ex-cop Nick Sax. Add a CGI blue flying unicorn, imaginary friend of a little girl. … Sure. And a bad Santa who's kidnapped that little girl. Nick soon convinces himself he's not hallucinating, but he's such an asshole he may not care.

This is bizarre. It veers between parody of SVU, itself so earnestly grimdark it wrapped around to comedy, and Roger Rabbit comic antics.

You never feel bad seeing Meloni get beaten, tortured, or hit by a car; he's very punchable and seems like a bad dude even when playing good, and Nick's shit. There's a lot of blood and screaming, it's as violent as a Friday the 13th film; not quite Eli Roth but not cartoony. There's a flashback scene explaining how Nick got that way, and it would be traumatic to watch if not so far past plausible.

Almost all the characters are ridiculous caricatures; and then the mother of the girl isn't. She walked in from some totally different show and everything being insane around her doesn't faze her, she just wants her kid back.

Happy the unicorn is obnoxious in the way children's cartoons are, but watching him cope with Nick's horrible life is amusing.

I don't know if this is good in any rational sense. Like, if you sat down a normal, well-adjusted person with minimal traumas and made them watch this, they'd hate it and then vomit profusely. I find it kinda charming, a new holiday special up there with Lethal Weapon and Island of Misfit Toys.

★★★★☆

What I'm Watching: Get Shorty

I love Elmore Leonard's books, "Get Shorty" especially. The Barry Sonnenfeld/Travolta/DeVito film is silly, but a good take on it.

So this series made me wary. For good or ill, they've changed everything except the one-sentence summary: "Hoodlum makes a movie with stolen money". And it's full of "actors", visibly playing characters, rather than character actors; just like the prior movie.

They've replaced cool shylock & legbreaker Chili Palmer (Travolta's a stiff "actor" but was perfect for the role; he bleeds desperation and confusion) with inexplicably Irish scummy bagman & hitter Miles Daly (Chris O'Dowd), and piece-of-shit producer Harry Zinn with piece-of-shit producer Rick Moreweather (Ray Romano).

Miles is OK. Pathetic, chasing a separated wife and kid, but clearly more cunning than his job needs him to be and more optimistic than Chili. The mick accent renders his attempts at both menace and persuasion comical.

Ray Romano is loathsome, a humorless whiny Sienfeld-wannabe; but that's actually working here, Rick is not funny, he's sad and cowardly, the shittiest kind of Hollywood hack. And so Ray Romano suddenly fits. You can believe he's a man with no principles, with a rotten onion for a heart. His voice is still awful, and his Just For Men dyed beard and hair are preposterous.

They moved the mob's base from Miami and Vegas to a shithole casino outside Vegas. The mob boss Amara is interesting, but entirely too much time is spent on her pathetic crew, and Yago the "nemesis" our legbreaker isn't really needed. April Quinn (Megan Stevenson) is cute as the executive, and how they get her to do the job is good and dirty. Sidekick Louis (Sean Bridgers) is a Coen Bros type: Withdrawn & goofy one second, charming the next, instant murderous psychopath the next.

And: Peter Stormare as Hafdis the, uh, wise hobo when we first meet him. Stormare is more familiar to Elder Scrolls Online players as Jorunn the Skald King. I'm eager to do some draugr-slaying quests for ya, King.

As of S1E04, this is fun. I'd rather have another proper Elmore Leonard show, it's been too long since Justified ended. But as dark comedy loosely based on Elmore's themes, it's good.

★★★★☆

What I'm Watching: May the Devil Take You

So let's go full horror here. Indonesian director makes an Evil Dead homage. A man makes a bad deal with a creepy witch woman and gets a suitcase of money. Just how bad a deal will be revealed in time.

Years later, his business empire has risen and fallen, his first wife dies and leaves a daughter Alfie more or less orphaned, and at his deathbed, his gold-digging actress second wife and her brood meet her. They go to his secluded villa in the woods to see if there's any loot. That's surely going to turn out well!

Everyone (except the little girl) is terrible, and Alfie's got her own secrets. They don't really need to open the sealed, magically-warded cellar door and the Deadites to start giggling and killing, but that's the second hour of the movie.

The effects are good latex and squibs and mouthfuls of black slime. The camera work is straight out of Sam Raimi's playbook. Music is simple piano plinking, actually kind of annoying, but very direct and to the point.

The pacing is often glacial, lot of flashbacks, interrupted by good action scenes. It's never really scary, even at what should be jump scares, but it's fun, like Evil Dead or Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or any classic splatterpunk film. Maya's actress is not really competent to play such a heavy role; everyone else is much better. Chelsea Islan as Alfie's a good final-girl type, I'd like more with her.

★★★½☆ (Could be 4 with better editing for pacing)

(this concludes our movie-watching day, please take your cups and wrappers and demonic voodoo dolls and exit the theatre.)

What I'm Watching: Don't Watch This

Collection of short-short (under 10m) horror(?) flicks on Netflix. None of these are the least bit frightening.

  • Friendship Bracelet: Obvious but not terrible. Could've been made into a real movie. ★★★☆☆
  • CTRL+ALT+DEL: Shitty "darkweb"/"VR is real" shit with crappy puzzles like a Rubik's Cube of skulls. Film school project with no talent. ★☆☆☆☆
  • Incommodium: Shitty "Faces of Death" blooper reel, no plot. ☆☆☆☆☆
  • Keep Out: Stupid frat boys enter a spooky house and get what's coming to them. Plot & actors are awful, makeup for last scion of his line is OK. ★★☆☆☆
  • Antoni Psycho: Foodie parody of American Psycho's morning routine. Dumb. ★☆☆☆☆

What I'm Not Watching: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Take Satanism and evil magic from medieval Christian superstition, rather than from Wicca or LaVeyan Satanism which don't believe in a real Satan. This is already a borderline hate crime.

Add bullshit high school drama and an anti-bullying, anti-transphobia plot that goes nowhere because nothing mortal matters. And it's weird: Everything in the show tries to look like the 1960s, but with random modern anachronisms. I think the writers and set decorators are not being clever here, they're just too stupid to understand how different the 1960s were.

Add bullshit boarding school, half-blood bigotry from Harry Potter. The Harry Potter fanficcery is strong in this, right up to the suggested shopping for familiars, and witch girls with black lipstick who might as well draw "SLYTHERIN" on their foreheads.

Add one very dark-haired bleach-blonde-but-gross-roots-showing weird-looking chick who does a lot of shower scenes for someone supposed to be 16 (actually 19). Her creepy, lumpy boyfriend (actually 23, and looks 25+) doesn't help.

Add maybe the worst Q&A with a "High Priest of Satan" ever (imitating Lucius Malfoy, but with all the charm of a bored accountant).

The dialogue's awful, like a Christian trying to write "spooky gothic". It's exactly like fucking Twilight.

I made it barely into E2, and gave up. This is the worst.

★☆☆☆☆

What I'm Watching: Adam Ruins Everything

So, up front: Adam Conover has a ridiculous shaved-side mullet and horrible suits that would look stupid on a christian boy band, let alone on someone trying to educate you. Whatever the modern fashion industry is, he ran thru the sewage runoff from it.

E1 does a good job of debunking TSA, safety caps on drugs, and Tylenol, and has good expert guests, especially Bruce Schneier on an iPad telepresence rig. The skits are amusing and get to the point.

E2 starts OK, with the car dealership scam, but rapidly collapses. He doesn't manage to mention that in many states Tesla has evaded the scam, and the FTC has started discouraging it. And then the anti-car diatribes start, clearly the work of someone who's never left a city or seen grass, trees, or the stars on a clear night in his life. While we could rebuild our cities for public transit and pack everyone into claustrophobic hive cities with total light and noise pollution, and total surveillance, the US is a huge country where many people prefer to commute from distant suburbs or little towns so they can live in peace and quiet away from you noisy, snooping motherfuckers. And the stoner kid and his friends in the skits are super annoying. FAIL.

E3 attacks police "forensics", and at least sticks to just a few characters for the skits, and kind of a plot. It's a little too uncritical of DNA analysis, which has been used for some of the same systematic frauds, and he keeps claiming the pigs have "unconscious" bias. The pigs know exactly what they're doing and why they're caging people on false pretenses.

Hmn. I like the premise, but Adam is moderately terrible at delivering it.

★★★☆☆

What I'm Watching: Errementari: The Blacksmith & the Devil

What a charming film. Basque, with maybe the worst dubbing I've ever heard, so put it on English subtitles and Basque language. Lovely real-looking run-down sets, especially the forge, dark cinematography but not cyan/orange.

Set in early 19th C after the Basque lost their independence. Follows a blacksmith with a temper, a bizarrely fortified forge, and a deal with the Devil. The scarred, orphaned girl, Usue, is adorable, mean, and hilarious. The government fop isn't just there to rob the smith. The priest is a mean, conservative old bastard, the innkeeper and his grasping cronies deserve the bad ends they're all coming to, the town children other than Usue are brats. The demon Sartael is excellent, both makeup and mythical behaviors.

Cast, writing, and design are all perfect. The ending is very old-school D&D problem-solving.

Reminds me a lot of The Witch, or City of Lost Children, in this half-real, half-dreaming style and the grotesque people.

★★★★★

What I'm Watching: The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)

This is weird. A series based very loosely on Shirley Jackson's great book (more likely for the writers, the 1963 movie The Haunting or the shitty '90s remake).

The builders/founders of the house, the Crains, and the scientist ghost-hunters of the book, are here replaced by house-flippers with five children in flashback to the '80s(?). In middle flashbacks of the '00s, one boy becomes a ghost-hunter, one a junkie, one girl a mortician, one girl is useless, one a mousy little housewife. In present day, the plot moves forward. Sometimes the time is obvious from the characters in a scene, sometimes it's hard to tell which flashback is which, and the characters' clothing and accessories are not distinctive (fashion died in the '90s and never recovered). It's good that they have iPhones and iPads in the present, because those make it possible to date the scene.

Everyone seems pretty resigned to seeing ghosts or at least having hallucinations on a regular basis. OH NO the walls are banging in an old house, must be ghosts. OH NO my dead SPOILER is here where they were expected and now ghosts.

Long tracts of "dramatic" footage which aren't good enough for "reality" TV are painfully uncut here, I'm 2 eps in and it feels like it's been 12. The movie was so much better at getting to the point (that secrets and madness will make you see anything, even/especially if there's something to be seen). But there's scenes which are effective, where the oppression of Hill House works, where it actually creeped me out. The actors range from reasonably good (Stephen, Shirley), to stiff and unlikable ("Dad", and whoever the middle daughter is, I keep forgetting that she's even in this and then I go "wait, who's the other brunette?"), to bland caricature (the Dudleys).

★★★☆☆

Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland Movies

No zombies or magic, just people in a plausible near future shithole like we'll have by 2100. Ordered by how much I like each film, not so much plausibility or rotten fruit reviews.

  1. Hardware
  2. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
  3. Waterworld (watch it for Dennis Hopper)
  4. A Boy and His Dog
  5. Blood of Heroes
  6. Tank Girl
  7. Steel Dawn
  8. Rick & Morty S3E2 "Rickmancing the Stone"
  9. Delicatessan
  10. Six-String Samurai
  11. The Quiet Earth
  12. Mad Max Fury Road (very silly)
  13. Mad Max
  14. Road Warrior
  15. It Comes at Night
  16. The Postman
  17. The Road
  18. City of Ember
  19. Snowpiercer
  20. Various Twilight Zone post-apocalypse episodes, never used for anything but a punchline.

Not Seen Yet:

  • The Bad Batch
  • The 5th Wave (may break the "no magic" rule)
  • The Rover
  • Man Down