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: Kingdom (2019)

The Joseon period (14th-19th C) of Korea's their formative period, but a big blind spot for most Westerners. I know a fair amount about the ancient Mediterranean thru fall of Rome, and the Dark Ages thru Charlemagne; some Japanese and Chinese history because of chanbara and kung fu movies and books like Outlaws of the Water Margin; some American history, but not so much the Texas School Board approved bullshit; only the most cursory details outside those time/space bubbles. Even tho it's right on the border, and like Japan was heavily influenced by China, Korea's isolation and outright weirdness keeps it in the dark. What I've managed to learn is: They tried very hard to be strict Confucians, they recorded everything (seems like half their upper class existed to spy on the other half), and they treated women and lower classes like animal property, worse than China or Japan which were hardly egalitarian.

What I'm learning from this show is: A) Their architecture's so Chinese the Chinese look like they're the bad copies, B) They have fantastic hats and rather nice machete swords, and C) Their aristocracy are shit at covering up zombie outbreaks.

The Crown Prince tries to find out if his sick father is alive or dead, in the hands of a wicked, pregnant stepmother half his age. Yeah, this is gonna end well. Happily, he has a fat but competent Sancho Panza sidekick and sets off on an epic quest.

Hanyang, where they start, is the equivalent of Seoul today; Dongnae's a southern port. The show explains none of this, be ready to read a lot of wiki pages to get at least some geography and fact-checking.

The peasantry might as well be Dennis the Shrubber from Monty Python & the Holy Grail, they're charmingly filthy and stinky.

The dead here are like Chinese jiangshi mixed with Return of the Living Dead zombies and a bit of 28 Days Later rage-infected. They're bestial, awkward, and stupid, but not slow or incapable of cunning.

And there's a lot of Evil Dead comedy in the fighting and zombie-eye camera in some scenes. The little zombie children are adoraterrible.

As in any good zombie story, the living are the worse threat.

This is a very gameable series. It's just like my old Dungeons & Zombies campaign, with wandering knights/fools with swords fighting undead or trying to find shelter every night.

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: Carmen Sandiego

Remember "Batman: The Animated Series" from '92, the super art deco film noir one? And Erin Esurance? This is that, but in red.

The art and action animation are nicely done. It never has high detail, and sometimes smooth art deco looks too much like paper cutouts, but if you like this kind of thing, it works.

Opens with an annoying detective Chase with an outrasheous fronsh aaacksent by way of Monty Python, Julia a little lesbian cop with an iPad, "Red" running on rooftops, and "Player" (now her sidekick instead of the antagonist like in the games), a hikikomori otaku nerd who plays Control over a radio like Theora in Max Headroom.

Carmen's a running, jumping, grappling-hook-shooting superhero (antihero, but not really that anti-), which I'd chalk up to cartoon physics except Chase is merely human, risks a broken neck trying a rooftop chase. The other pro thieves also have amazing powers and advanced tech, which always makes me wonder why they don't start businesses to sell this tech instead of committing crimes.

However, then they start having dialogue and flashbacks, and the show grinds to a halt. The writing is stiff and formal, everyone clearly enunciates in silly accents, then LOOOOONG pauses between lines. Howard Hawks, where are you when we need you for some talking-over witty banter?! Well, long-dead, just like my patience with this fucking monologue they're STILL doing since I started writing this paragraph.

Of course everyone is obsessed with their tiny glass rectangles now, and can't imagine a world where anyone isn't. Would it be too much to ask for non-phone-based tech? I miss the videogames' insistence that everywhere is in reach of a home computer or phone booth.

Eventually her Thief School (oh no) cohort become Graham Crackle, Le Chevre (goat cheese), El Topo (the Jodorowsky film?), Tigress (clearly a fursuited camwhore), and Mime Bomb (horrific).

So, uh, there's a gem, the Eye of Vishnu. And we first see this dug up in Morocco. Which is, what, 6000 miles west of anyone who has ever worshipped Vishnu?! WHAT THE FUCK, SHOW. You have one job, which is to teach geography & history, and this is a failing grade.

The final caper in the school is not bad, though, and sets up her nom de guerre, costume, and a long-term goal for the series.

Started to watch a third ep, but the whinging ginger driver annoyed me so I stopped for now.

★★★½☆

What I'm Watching: TempleOS Down the Rabbit Hole

A long, in-depth documentary on the late Terry A. Davis, author of LoseThos (pun of Win-Dows), later called TempleOS.

I'd seen Davis online for a couple decades, but never got far into following him. Davis was an aggressive, bizarrely incoherent "speaking in tongues" Christian racist who hated atheists, the CIA, and "N----rs", so you'd see his posts online and then he'd get downvoted or banned.

His OS, however, is fascinating. 64-bit, limited to VGA graphics, mostly but not solely single-tasking, no Internet or other networking, has a reasonably efficient Norton-style UI with hypertext everywhere, but constant scrolling, blinking, pop-up Bible quotes and hymns which would be maddening. All of which makes it weird but not that interesting, except it was written in assembly by one guy.

In college CompSci classes, you may "write an OS" which mostly means copying Andrew S. Tanenbaum's Minix piece-by-piece until you have a working Minix; which is great, Minix is fun, but this is a far more impressive feat.

LoseThos is for programming as entertainment.
It empowers programmers with kernel privilege because it's fun.
It allows full access to everything because it's fun.
It has no bureaucracy because it's fun.
It's the way it is by choice because it's fun.
LoseThos is in no way a Windows or Linux wannabe -- that would be pointless.
—Terry A. Davis

That's one of the most coherent explanations of the appeal of retrocomputing and low-level programming anyone's ever stated.

There's some interesting features, which are hard to get in modern OSs:

His long downward spiral of trying to be noticed online, then going off his anti-psychotic meds, his conspiracy theories, his embarrassing video streams, and then his final homeless wandering and death, are very troubling. For a long time he appeared to be getting by on donations from 8chan members simultaneously trolling him and supporting him. We do nothing to help these people, and let online gangs take advantage of them.

★★★★☆

What I'm Watching: Trigger Warning with Killer Mike

Rapper Killer Mike does stunts with a social purpose. But unlike, say, Jackass or Dear White People, he's not stupid or preachy, and he's funnier than the supposed professional comedians in those.

E01: Mike tries to live black for 3 days, only buying or using black products from black stores. Cue cruel and sadistic laughter, because that is really damned hard, even in Georgia. The "Figgers" phone is kind of a cheat, because it's obviously an Android made in China, but it's a real small network run by a black kid, Freddie Figgers. The look on Mike's face in the BBQ shop is heartbreaking.

I look a little sideways at his refusal to smoke Mexican weed; I've only ever smoked Washington or Canadian, but surely Mexican can't be that bad, they built a criminal empire on that stuff before legalization.

Still, he makes a good point about how the black community's been economically destroyed. His idea of a good "Black Friday" where everyone tries to buy black is interesting… but impossible where I am.

E02: Mike proposes replacing STEM/liberal arts schools with trade schools, starting with 1st grade. This one Annoying Red-Headed Kid is, like, the worst example of honkie ambition driving everyone else down you can get. Did Mike ship this kid in by asking every school district in the area for their most awful nerd? I predict 100% that ARHK will make a startup that defrauds people, and he'll never go to prison.

"I don't think school teaches you to think. I think school, like prison, teaches you to obey!"

So then he moves on to unemployed adults, and they're unmotivated, so he comes up with a great idea, which I won't spoil. Unfortunately, I find most of the people in his idea too unattractive to be effective.

★★★★☆

What I'm Watching: Netflix FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened

A documentary by Chris Smith, of "American Movie" fame. This is a lot glossier, better-produced, like a classic VH-1 Behind the Music special, just as much humor and schadenfreude as AM, but a lot less hope. Everyone who sits for an interview is great, especially the Bahamians; Chris did not interview Billy McFarland, who wanted to be paid for this, even though he's a convicted criminal and it's illegal to let him profit from a crime.

So, get a con man with a shitload of VC money, and a bunch of amateurs who've never organized more than a house party, to build a giant concert and housing on a Bahama island.

The, uh, "sacrifice" the elder team leader Andy is prepared to make is the turning point of this from badly-organized fiasco to Coen Brothers-level tragic-comedy.

"That's not fraud, I would call that… uh… false advertising" —Ja Rule

This goes from some of Billy's previous black-card scam Magnises, the setup and construction on the island, and a bit on the development of the app. Then the horrible launch day we all saw online, the aftermath, and one of the worst team endings I've seen in many years of shitty startups. And then after Fyre, there's Billy's next scam…

★★★★½

There's also a Hulu "Fyre Fraud" documentary, but they did pay Billy McFarland to be in it. I haven't watched it, and anyway don't have Hulu anymore.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

They're getting the band back together!

I'm surprised, Bill Murray's been a stick in the mud about this for so long Harold Ramis died first. But maybe Bill needs money for drug or whiskey habits? His vanity overcame his trolling? He saw the terrible Feig film and thought he had to do something? Are you, Bill, currently menstruating?

Ernie Hudson will do any job, he pretty much is Winston Zeddemore; and Dan Aykroyd is still a great performer (and maker of the best vodka I've ever had). Get them and some newbie interns still doing the job, don't be preachy, don't make science look stupid; GB 1984 was all about science and a tech industry startup saving the world from the supernatural; II had real science with Egon's puppy/child experiment, and absolutely stupid shit like the dancing toaster, but the guys followed the evidence and used the goo to fight Vigo, so it paid off; the Feig thing might as well have been incanting spells over wands.

Jason Reitman's done mostly very straight, deadpan romance-drama things, but Thank You For Smoking shows some comedic talent.

Cautiously optimistic.

What I'm Watching: Solo

Sigh. I wasn't going to watch any more of these Disney "Star Wars", but I'm a completionist and a glutton for punishment and terrible movies.

The special effects are fine, the sets are great, the 5-act plot of train job-failure-heist-Kessel Run-treachery is predictable and badly written, but it's no worse than usual for Disney.

The soundtrack is a lame ripoff of John Williams' score. Long stretches are too quiet, a few spots are very heavy-handed covers of the Force Theme or other parts of larger songs. I guess I don't expect John to still compose at his age, but this was ham-fisted.

The incompetent schmaltzy Ron Howard direction and the terrible acting are the main problems. Everyone involved in this should've been fired and started over.

Alden Ehrenreich is not a pretty boy, and he's a blank, emotionless drone, a terrible Harrison Ford replacement. His Han Solo is brash but never fun.

Emilia Clarke as Qi'ra is sort of Leia-like in looks, but she does nothing really, has little spine, mostly there to threaten to motivate Han. She has a position and combat skills, but they're used only when nobody else is available.

Woody fucking Harrelson as Beckett. What the hell. Just a terribly out of place character, Woody's never really been an actor, the script asks nothing of him and he delivers it.

Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca since Last Jedi is… OK. Chewie has a couple scenes where body language matters and plays the part well. Certainly the best dialogue in the film.

Donald Glover as Lando is as relentlessly mediocre at this as he is at everything else he does. He plays a vapid, cape-obsessed, loathesome, un-lovable un-rogue version of Lando.

The rest, Val, Rio, the crime lord, Enfys Nest, and so on, have no depth or plot arc to even make their characters matter.

You already know all the beats this has to hit to put every Han Solo backstory element in a single movie, a few days of his life. Then he sits around in a Tatooine bar for 20 years waiting for Luke and the old man to show up.

★☆☆☆☆

What I'm Watching: Occupation

An attempt to do a big science fiction war movie. For Australia, it's very ambitious.

What works: Special effects and explosive squibs are competent. The actors are mostly good, though the hero's a doofus. I didn't hate anyone or anything, though it falls far short of respect.

What doesn't: Almost everything else. It's like the writer saw Independence Day, but didn't have the skill to produce all the intertwined plots, and really didn't have the budget, so it's just the grubby resistance in a single forest. Despite a high female cast, I'm not sure it ever passes the Bechdel test; a male character calls the female Army leader a ball-buster, and Strine misogyny isn't subtle throughout. There are several Asian characters who are treated well, but rather blatantly no Aborigines, who you'd expect would survive well in this environment; but they may be on the side of the invaders since the white fuckers are finally getting what's coming to them.

15 minutes of Australian hooligans doing road work, dating, and playing sportsball, before spaceships with searchlights fly over and shoot up everything. Yee-haw. Then alien infantry who look just like Humans in armor march around with plastic toy rifles shooting buildings. They're completely inaccurate, which is weird for beings that can cross interstellar distances. A dozen local idiots, the protagonists, escape in a camper van, which should be an obvious target for the aliens, but they never seem to be able to hit it. Finally the Strine Air Force manage to shoot an alien down, which again seems implausible for advanced aliens.

There's some ludicrously dramatic "pose as a team" scenes, and a lot of whining and sniping at each other, I think intended to make them feel like a team coming together.

The alien infantry don't have thermal sensors, and are all but blind, they just walk past people hiding in tin shacks and under blankets like children. The armor isn't totally useless, for once, but their guns aren't security-locked, so any monkey can grab one and shoot it. They walk into hostile-occupied buildings and just wander around alone so a group of monkeys can overwhelm them. These idiots are incompetent. The US military is better equipped and trained.

What follows is a training and war montage based on Ewoks vs Stormtroopers, except the Stormtroopers here are even worse idiots. And the Ewoks are so dumb they throw phones containing explosive batteries into a fire (but the filmmakers don't understand the consequences).

The Strine military finally shows up again, which ends the insurgency. I don't believe any of these people could have survived, the military doesn't know how to hide, and does stupid standup fights. While the aliens have shown no cunning or skill, they have apparently endless forces and better weapons.

Of course there's an explanation at last, and it's stupid: The aliens devastated their planet, and we're polluters, so they'll take Earth. But if they already have interstellar ships, they don't need planets, and anyway could've just bought Australia for a few spaceships.

The happy ending is so out of place and not how things work, I dunno what the writer was on.

I'm not unamused by the film, but it's a trainwreck.

★★½☆☆