What I'm Watching: Doom Patrol

So back in 1989, Grant Morrison took over Doom Patrol, which had been around in various forms since 1963, the original genius in a wheelchair, deranged freak "students", fighting weird enemies and society, months before the X-Men. Except instead of having white kids (and later token Storm & Jubilee) stand in for racism with a trite ending every time; Doom Patrol had broken people stand up for themselves, insane, crippled, or just weird as they are. Grant took a weird thing and made it weirder, with increasingly postmodern, deranged plots and villains that just make no sense, cut-up stories and art. Great comic, everyone should read it. Don't bother with anything Grant didn't write.

The show on HoboMax does a decent job of making a core Doom Patrol team: Larry/Negative Being (but not gender-changed Rebis yet?), Cliff/Robotman (voice-acted by Brendan Fraser), Jane/Crazy Jane, Rita/Elasti-Girl, Niles/Chief, and Vic/Cyborg. Larry's easy, a body-wrap of gauze and a shitty ball lightning effect; he whines about his wife and boyfriend a lot, nobody cares. Cliff has a fairly good whole-body suit, and we see a few flashbacks to frumpy Fraser when he had a body. Jane gets a bunch of additional voice actresses for the alternates, her powers are mostly shitty jump-cut teleports and such, the only impressive power is speaking words into steel floating in the air, which become knives. Rita's a pretty good special effect, instead of growing and stretching, she just turns into The Blob but made of fat tissue, oozes into or over everything, and her character trying to fight what a horrible thing she is, is well-portrayed.

Chief, I haven't seen a lot of yet, he's a pompous, secret-filled, treacherous jackass who'll do anything to "put things right" but also to work on his Human experiments; it's Timothy Dalton, so he may be able to pull it off. Mr Nobody, the main villain, is Alan Tudyk, and he gets some CGI erasure to be half-there, which is fine, he mostly just chews scenery and taunts people, nothing actually happens.

The problem here is Vic, fucking Cyborg. In the old Teen Titans comics, Cyborg was the joyless stick-up-his-ass bureaucrat part of the team, but he was opposed by the far more competent Robin/Nightwing, and Beast Boy and every other crazy vigilante to shout him down. Put in with the Doom Patrol, they're no more respectful of Vic the Dick, but he's the least crazy and so kind of runs roughshod over them. Someone please dump him in a recycling bin. Every scene Vic is in is just a drag.

I'm kind of impressed they mostly stuck with '80s-style practical effects and lowest of low-budget surface CGI/painting on the film effects. There's nothing here they couldn't have done back in the '80s.

Speaking of, there's a… setting trick. So, Doom Patrol is deeply tied up in WWII mad scientists, and it's written, set in the '80s. But this show is set in the present. They just skip 30 years, assert that everyone stayed in the mansion and didn't age. I don't know if this will ever be addressed for how dumb it is, but whatever, it lets them have the original crew & villains somehow in 2020. Don't think about it too hard, I guess.

The plots are gibberish. There's a hole in the ground that eats a lame town, and then they travel into a donkey, in order to spit the town back out. They travel to Paraguay and watch a puppet show, put on by living puppets. They're certainly trying to be as weird as Doom Patrol, it's fairly pointless so far, but I'm amused for the most part. It could use some editing to get the pacing up (easy: Just delete every scene Vic is in), these 44-minute episodes feel 2 hours long.

★★★½☆

What I'm Watching: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster

  • Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964): Both UFO cultists and cops agree, heat wave in winter and meteor showers are weird. A cop is assigned to bodyguard a princess from a small island under civil war. Said princess is contacted by an alien voice and told to jump from the plane, and she never even got her drink! Scientists hike into the mountains to investigate a meteor landing.

I must say, Japan's wilderness looks fantastic. The cinematography on this one, in color!, is head and shoulders above previous films. Even when they go into matte paintings and sets, it looks good. They do interesting cuts, like using a subway car as a wipe. It's almost hard to believe this is Honda Ishiro still, not doing locked-down cameras and super simple cuts or wipes; earlier he was more a director of people and cool events, not using the camera well. Even the rear projections are now fairly close to seamless.

Naoko the journalist and the Princess are both cute as hell. Naoko's cop brother is kind of a doofus, and utterly extraneous to the plot. The bodyguard cop has no personality except brooding and shooting (not very well, he never kills anyone with at least 30 shots), and there's no love between him and the Princess in the first half; all he has is a picture, and she's not herself. Has Honda learned cinematography, but forgotten about romance as the main driver of Human-scale plots?! What a terrible bargain.

The Mothra twins appear on TV, and summon a vision of the Mothra larva. This is a Japan that just lives with the regular existence of giant monsters and magic on TV, I don't see how anyone can mock UFO cultists or prophets from Venus in that world.

"Stay out of Mount Aso, Rodan will emerge!" "Shut up prophet! … OH NO IT'S RODAN AAAIEEE!" Incredibly predictable scene, but perfect "fools die of their folly" scene. Rodan's costume & flying puppet are much improved over the first movie, but it's a little odd being more of a Pteranodon/Roc hybrid now.

"Don't get on the ship!" And at least the important characters pay attention, but the poor sailors are going to meet… well, who else would be in the ocean? Big G's moving eyes look really weird. The suit's otherwise fine, but definitely reaching the end of this first design.

Fools stand far too close to Ghidorah's… egg? Meteor? Spaceship? But someone must witness the birth of a death god. The Princess tells the protagonists the Earth is doomed, and sells it for once. We start to get a real kaiju cosmology here, with planets preyed on or defended by monsters.

Finally we have all the world's monsters assembled, rampaging begins.

The assassins chasing the Princess thru the entire film have been unstoppable, but not very competent, and kind of a waste of time. The plot as it is would happen without them.

Possibly too much of the monster scenes are them arguing with Mothra, rather than fighting, there's only a few minutes of King Ghidorah vs the three defending kaiju. There is a bit of destruction in Tokyo, but mostly it's a beloved peasant village or wilderness at the foot of Mt Fuji. Mothra's very slow and annoying power, Godzilla throwing rocks, Rodan standing around waving its wings, are enough to drive off the dragon. FOR NOW.

★★★½☆ - Needs about 15 minutes less Human time, replaced with monster fighting time.

This is a major influence on my favorite kaiju movie, GMK: Godzilla Mothra King Ghidorah Giant Monster All-Out Attack, but there Godzilla and Ghidorah switch places, and the subplots are wiped away so it's just reporter, crazy old man as "prophet", and monsters. And on the latest Hollywood Godzilla King of the Monsters, but there everything is 100x larger than life.

What I'm Watching: Us

  • Us: Another Jordan Peele Twilight Zone flick. Text crawl claims that there's thousands of miles of tunnels of mysterious purpose under America. With the implication that it's full of monsters. So Dungeons & Dragons is real?! Good to know, Jordan. Then there's 20+ minutes of utter boredom back in 1986, when normally I would rate the '80s as the least boring part, very briefly a scene with some tension and the little girl Addy.

20 years later (and it feels like it), the plot starts. Addy's very gentrified, possession-oriented black family settles into their Santa Cruz beach vacation house, get a boat, meet their honkie friend "Josh" and his blonde family at the beach. Nice and idyllic. And then out of nowhere, we get told more of the little girl's scene, and the monsters show up.

Addy gets tied up and terrorized a lot, Dad is utterly useless, but the kids are fairly impressive little survivors.

As a slasher flick, there really aren't enough victims, and it doesn't sustain the tension, it keeps releasing to long "oh that's over" scenes. The killers are more pathetic than terrifying.

SPOILER TIMES



















There's a lot of weird visuals, which are poorly to never explained. The remake of Hands Across America (a USA For Africa charity event, you may know the song "We Are the World") makes no sense, how did non-verbal shadows work this out? Police or soldiers will just destroy them once it's sunlight. Do politicians have their own shadows, and how would scissor-wielding maniacs get past the Secret Service? The final scenes show helicopters flying over woods, presumably where the Shadows Across America line goes? Why aren't they firing or dropping bombs on these known mass murderers?

Addy has a final descent into the mythic underworld by escalator (her knowing the way down telegraphed her origin, but it has problems, too), where she finds bunnies running loose (but no explanation how the killers raised them down there, or where all the supplies come from), and a long nonsense explanation about cloning and souls.

The duel/dance is passable, but Addy never cooperates with Red's dance, which would've made this fight more interesting. I think especially of Jet Li's The One, where he fights himself, but each has mastered a distinct martial arts style, so the fight's visually amazing. This is… it reminds me of Marvel movies, where there's amazing fight choreography but the actors aren't all up to performing it, so you get a martial artist fighting a drunken bozo.

The final revelation about Addy doesn't make a lot of sense. Addy's awful vulnerable and emotional for a soulless murder machine like the others. Red's croaky voice is from being strangled, fine, but why didn't she ever come up to the surface before? How did she organize a worldwide cult of the shadows to come up at the same time, when they don't talk, or really seem aware?

Obviously I'm pretty tolerant of implausible premises in movies, given my love of kaiju and fantasy, but this one falls apart internally worse than most.

★★★½☆ Good try, Jordan, better than your awful Twilight Zones, but not another "Get Out". Jordan Peele is the new M. Night Shyamalan.

The concept's been around a while: Mirror people, dopplegangers, or faerie changelings, ultimately going back to pre-historic myths. My favorite's in the Nightbane RPG by Palladium Books, where the Nightland (always dark, mirror image Earth) is populated by dopplegangers of Earth people, just waiting for a chance to use a mirror as a portal and kill and replace you (Nightbane also borrows heavily from Clive Barker's Cabal, Great and Secret Show, and Hellbound Heart). I really should dig the books up and run Nightbane again.

What I'm Watching: Unfriended: Dark Web

  • Unfriended: Dark Web: Written and first-time-directed by Stephen Susco, the writer of the American Grudge remakes (which utterly missed the point: The Japanese films were cursed hauntings of familiar, safe places; the American ones set in Japan are hauntings of a person who's already alienated and scared, not to mention that Sarah Michelle Gellar's range doesn't extend this much beyond stabby cheerleader). And it's a Blumhouse film, which is to quality cinema what pickled pigs feet are to cuisine. BUT I DIGRESS.

Do you want to watch 90 minutes of a doofus with terrible hair using Facebook® and Skype® on a stolen MacBook? Because that's what this is. It never takes the camera out of the screen, which is an interesting choice; everyone has a giant selfie-cam in Skype, right? I will say, this may be the only movie I've ever seen use Terminal on a Mac. Also the "Papaya" app for translating speech to text to personally-recorded American Sign Language videos (because the doofus's girlfriend is deaf, and he's too much of an asshole programmer to practice ASL without writing code for it) is unique. Awful, but unique.

But then it goes into discovering the previous owner made torture porn/snuff films for an obscene amount of bitcoin on a darkweb site named "The River", populated by "Charon 68" ("they never made it to 69"), a figure who projects static into all cameras appears, and things get more and more desperate.

A film of just finding the snuff films and chasing down the perpetrator online would be interesting. But the squeamish characters stop the doofus from playing any of the videos for more than a few seconds, eliminating the only actual horror in this "horror" movie.

Then it goes from a slightly fantastical computer horror show, to a secret society of utterly impossible killers and l33t h4xx0rz, and cops that show up in 2 minutes. The last half ruins a perfectly good premise.

I watched the "Extended Edition", which has a bad ending for everyone, but given the super-powered secret society, it's the only consistent ending. There's also an incredibly stupid "Charons vote and think he's enough of a bastard to live" happy ending on the regular edition.

End credits are live-edited into what looks like SSL source code; ironically if anyone had been using SSL, drive encryption, and secured their computers with more than 1-letter passwords this entire script would be impossible. I assure you I keep my snuff flicks (no.) and darkweb bitcoin lockers (also no.) in an encrypted volume with a long password written nowhere else.

This is a sequel/remake of Unfriended, which I have not seen but is apparently an actual ghost haunting Facebook®, which might be more plausible than what I just watched.

★★☆☆☆ — not bad enough to be good, but stupid enough to be funny at times.

What I'm Watching: Mothra vs Godzilla, end of Watchmen, cartoons

  • Mothra vs Godzilla (1964): Environmental destruction, in this case draining wetlands to make an industrial zone, exposes radioactive material. An egg floats near land, and is brought ashore. The twin fairies and Mothra herself show up asking "please give our egg back", but a greedy land developer, backed by even greedier billionaire, puts the egg at the center of a theme park. None of this can end well.

    I'm fairly displeased by the green screen/rear projection tricks in this one. It was early days for color, but it wasn't a technology ready for this time.

    The reporter and sidekick cameragirl are fine, kind of a Howard Hawks-like situation, and they're not stupid, and not unreasonably competent; there's only so much the press can do against a developer who doesn't care. Eggman, the reporter who loves eggs, would be annoying comic relief except he's not onscreen all that long.

    There's a visit and multiple visions of the natives of Infant Island, who've been nuked and struggle to survive in a barren wasteland. They're implausible primitive, but Japan has a long imperialist history of its own to deal with here. The fairies sing a song every scene they're in, which is somewhere between charming, mystical, and "oh shit I hate musicals".

    The monsters appear after half an hour. Godzilla as the walking force of destruction, Mothra as the ancient mother ready to protect her egg, and sacrifice to help the Japanese who have done her people so much wrong, and later the gross Mothra babies as the cycle of life. Their squeaking really gets on my nerves.

    The military/JSDF is portrayed unusually competent here. In most Godzilla movies, they are baffled, they try to fight, and die, and are utterly pointless. But this time they have competent plans, and are not doing too bad. They can't win but they can fight Godzilla to a standstill while evacuations take place.

    The ending isn't reasonable. 10 children and a teacher vs thousands dying on the mainland is a small price to pay. Godzilla hates squeaky little bugs like the Mothra larva, but they aren't actually harming it, and their secret power takes forever, during which time Big G should nuke them into oblivion. Hmn, in 1968, Star Trek had the Tholian Web episode, which has some similarities.

    ★★★½☆

  • Watchmen: Finished up. Happily this isn't getting a second season. Big time spoilers, but don't worry about it, you're not missing anything by keeping it secret.

    In the comics, Dr Manhattan's first action as a superhuman was to reassemble himself from nothing, after disintegration. When Ozymandias… inconveniences… him, he pulls himself back together in very little time. So it's utterly ludicrous that the whole plot of the series was to disassemble Manhattan again, and then "absorb" his "powers". His power is that his nervous system constantly reassembles matter to stay existing, a magic booster shot of Manhattan won't make someone else into a superhuman; maybe disassembling them in the right conditions would.

    So the hillbilly Senator, and Lady Trieu's entire plan, and the egg scene at the end, are just nonsense.

    Adrian's escape plan is dumb but amusingly portrayed, Jeremy Irons does occasionally wake up and play Ozymandias instead of just sleep-walking across the set in some tired English country drama. That's about the only part of this entire 9 episodes of bullshit that I enjoyed.

    Later, Adrian using frozen baby squid as an orbital Project Thor system is fun, but the actual effects would be rather more catastrophic, even with frozen organics from high atmosphere instead of tungsten rods from orbit, they're probably impacting at 3 km/s, ~1 Rick (Robinson, not Sanchez) each, so equivalent to 0.25 kg of TNT per squid, and there's thousands of squid. Holding a box over your head won't help. The area impacted would look like a giant cheese-grater had run across it to a few meters depth. And this is why we shouldn't let psychopaths have teleporters or spaceships!

    Fake delayed tension is all through this shitshow, but most notably in the minutes of "run!" "what?" "take shelter!" "who is this?" "you're gonna die!" "uh..." vamping when they would clearly already be dead. Again, I hate Damon Lindelof and hope he gets cancer of the fingers and tongue so the world will not again be plagued by his writing.

    Angela Abar (Regina King) is OK, decent action-hero chick, but she plays a detective very poorly; just hits her marks and says lines she clearly doesn't believe. As Laurie/Silk Spectre, I preferred the dumb but very fit Laurie (Malin Akerman) from the Zak Snyder Watchmen to this one (Jean Smart) who couldn't do a pushup let alone plausibly be an aging costumed vigilante G-woman.

    Hillbilly conspiracy theory cop Looking Glass (Tim Blake Nelson) is amusing, maybe not good, but funny. Very ancient Louis Gossett, Jr as Grampa Will is kind of sad, I didn't even recognize him, but I can't hate on Lou even if the role is badly written. Everyone else is a cypher or a walking meatstick.

    They couldn't even get Robert Redford to do a cameo as himself. Incompetent Lindelof wrote him a letter, and he wouldn't even respond.

    ★½☆☆☆ — I appreciate Irons' Adrian enough to not completely savage this, but don't watch it.

  • Adventure Time, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Rick & Morty, etc.: There's a lot of amusing cartoons for both kids and drunk/stoned adults on here.

What I'm Watching: Rodan, more Watchmen

  • Rodan (1956): A mining company has unexplained flooding, and miners die cut up. Suspicion falls on Goro the brawler… Engineer Sageru is sure he's not guilty, and reassures Goro's sister Kiyu—ah, Honda Ishiro's romances. Every film needs a pretty boy & girl, even if all they say to each other are their names.

It only takes 18 minutes to show the first larval monster, a record for early kaiju films. The giant mob of mine security with their poking sticks and little revolvers are ineffectual as always, but why do they have so many?

The lighting is pretty bad. It captures the darkness of the mines, but even outdoors is very dim to hide details of the larva puppet. The rear projection scenes are not as bad as previous efforts, but still obvious. The only place where lighting is good are the office & hospital sets.

Everyone at the mine and JSDF is competent, and respects science experts, unlike the Godzilla vs Mothra flick. But the scientist then blurts out some unsupported bullshit about the hydrogen bomb moving tectonic plates. The civilians are really quite dumb and deserve their deaths. Then there's an endlessly long nothing happens act.

Baby Rodan is so cute and chubby it's amazing. I've only ever seen it as a giant lean flying death, and of course I adore Pteranodon. The flying model and suit are excellent, and Rodan's wave of destruction is lovely, though they didn't find a traditional Japanese castle to destroy this time. It's a shame it's embedded in a pointless movie.

However, the tank models are preposterous, and the JSDF jingoism is eyeroll bad, lots of sound and fury inflicting no harm on Rodan, but everyone's very proud, it's a very military-focused adventure at this point. None of Godzilla's horror at war, this treats Rodan like, say, Korea, a contemporary problem to be solved by bombing the shit out of it. The end is literally 10 minutes of rockets being shot into a mountain while nothing else happens, and two demoralized Rodans die like Romeo & Juliet. Humans are the monsters.

★★½☆☆ If it wasn't for my absolute weakness for Pteranodon and Pterodactyl, this would be a spectacularly bad movie. As it is, it's merely bad.

  • Watchmen: So eventually the show tells us where Dr Manhattan is, and the nature of Ozymandias' prison, and the origin story of Sister Night. Still no answers as to why, in fact it deliberately has the plot eat its own tail, stupid people causing the problems stupid people investigate. Nothing happens at great length. Interesting ideas like the memory pills are brought up, used in a stupid way, then discarded. The whole thing is a tale told by an idiot. Which, again, Damon Lindelof, I knew it'd be incoherent nonsense made up on the spot, like talking to a toddler. But I don't understand how this fool gets anything this nonsensical and badly-written produced. Got a couple more eps to go and then I can wash my hands of this shitshow.

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: HoboMax

  • Hey, Beastmaster's On (seriously it was on a lot in the afternoons)
  • Hobotime (when you couldn't decide between HBO or Showtime)
  • Skinemax (ah, scrambled cable porn; to this day, static makes me horny (no not really (well, kinda)))

I was ignoring the HBO "Max" launch, but Rolling Stone ran basically an ad/listicle of great movies on it, and so I've given it another shot. Site organization is kind of terrible, it's "Netflix but with more hubs" so you have to poke around all over to see what movies they have. But they do have more older A-list movies, less TV shows.

Currently building up a giant queue by looking at the A-Z list, and then I'll work thru it, because finding anything on this site is a nightmare.

So far, quite pleased by the selection. It's not every movie; there's weird gaps and missing prequels or sequels (they have Yojimbo, but not Sanjuro?! Well, I have that on DVD, but the principle of the thing!), but it's like a pretty good video store. Not as good as mine back in the day, let alone Scarecrow Video, but you can find something besides Navy Seals.

  • Watchmen (2019 series): 3 eps in. Starts with the Tulsa Massacre and does not get more cheerful. Goes back more to the source comic, including the giant exploding squid, but has the consequences 35 years later. Rather implausibly has President Robert Redford, who would be 80+ at this time; I'm actually surprised he's still alive in reality. The masked cops are scum, the KKK using Rorschach as a model sucks (atheist anarchist vigilante, not a racist), the FBI's lead agent is a traitorous bitch, Adrian is a murderous (well, sorta) loonie. Nobody is worth saving. Protagonist cop and old man are… interesting, I guess. But I'm not sure I care. Whole thing's written by Damon Lindelof, who pisses me off with almost everything he writes and especially the dumb ending of Lost, so no shock there. Kind of a hate-watch, but I'll likely finish it.

  • Godzilla (1954): Aside from the B&W subtitles being baked in, instead of letting me choose yellow on black as I prefer, and calling it "Godzilla" instead of "Gojira", a perfectly adequate presentation. As always I sympathize entirely with the monster, Godzilla's been wronged and the Humans should be crushed under its feet. Serizawa is the real monster. It's amusing to compare this with Shin Godzilla; in the '50s, occupied Japan, the security board & Parliament are panicked, but competent at hearing advice and acting on it; in the 2010s, autonomous Japan, the government is completely paralyzed by bureaucracy, the "experts" are only used for PR and any science must be accomplished on the side, until things get close to an extinction event. ★★★★½

What I'm Watching: Train to Busan

A very standard modern zombie outbreak movie, remake of the Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake with a Korean train instead of a mall. It's entertaining, but never really tense or frightening beyond jump scares. Lots of fake blood but very little gore, it's no Tom Savini flick.

The most neglectful financier asshole father and his implausibly nice daughter go on a train ride to let her visit her mother (separated, not yet divorced but you know they should be). Rest of the passengers are wrestler/MMA dude & pregnant wife, gay jock teen (well, he's closeted, but it explains his behavior) & his disappointed wannabe-girlfriend, two old ladies, scruffy hobo survivor, awful corporate executive, train crew, and a few extras who aren't gonna get even cardboard personalities. Names are in short supply, and provide no plot immunity, the train's aggressive about whittling down the cast.

The one slightly different take in this is everyone's moral except the asshole and the older executive is "cooperate, think about other people first". His self-interest and survival instinct would make him the hero in a Hollywood zombie flick, George Clooney in that garbage "we took the title from World War Z but none of the good stuff" flick. Everyone who acts selfishly in this dies horribly, except our asshole who gets to learn a lesson about being a team player and a good father.

But the real moral of the film, as with Snowpiercer, Harry Potter and the Horrible Train (I don't remember which book; all of them really), Throw Momma from the Train, Under Siege 2 (double threat: You might get molested by Steven Seagal, AND killed by terrorists), Murder on the Orient Express, and more, is: Don't get on a train. Drive on the roads, go cross-country on bikes, get a boat, whatever you have to do, never get on a train because it'll always be full of bad guys, you can't get off, and there's only one way forward or back. Even if you lock them in a carriage, they get off when you do. Trains = death.

I'm perplexed at how the asshole's assistant is still alive and making calls like business as usual, only suffering a little moral crisis, when everywhere else is infected. We hear other people dying on phone and TV.

The "safe zone" plays off the Korean DMZ. The country ought to be pretty secure against zombie plague, Seoul and a few other open urban areas might be a total loss, but between Korean and US military (currently 23,468 troops) every smaller city should be able to fortress up pretty quick, and we don't see that in this. Early on, politicians are just calling it "riots", and that has kind of a bad connotation for not-so-distant Korean history where rioters get killed by cops & military.

Let's talk about the fast zombie thing. Romero based Night of the Living Dead on Richard Matheson's I Am Legend (adapted badly into movies that totally miss the point four or more times), where the recently-turned "vampires" were slow, stupid, lost their old mind and took some time to get new ones. And so in the first NotLD, they're slow, fried-chicken-eating, implacable, but incapable of even prying up a plank; easy pickings for Texans to kill off. In Dawn of the Dead they started to repeat living behaviors, and sometimes had basic hunting tactics. In Day of the Dead, probably the best of the series, they're becoming smart hunters like Bud and the ones in the cave; simple barriers no longer work, only total isolation will save you. In Land of the Dead, the living have tried to cohabitate with zombies, keeping up a barrier wall around a city, foraging outside, while the increasingly smart zombies try to get in. To take back their world from the monsters called "Humans", finally achieving what Matheson was after in a short novel after 4 movies. Zombies are threatening in these, not because they're fast or powerful, but because they never stop, and while they're not smart yet, they're getting smarter.

Fast zombies throw that out for a cheap jump scare. Turning takes a few seconds instead of the minutes or hours it takes to die and rise for the Living Dead; which means you can't have any drama about someone bit and turning, no hope of a cure or cauterizing a wound or any desperate measure. Just bite, they're dead and join the mob. The best case in this film is about 2 minutes, and that's for a limb bite on a named character; if you have no name, or get it in the neck, you're gonna turn so fast.

Additionally, we see these zombies have very limited senses, they hunch up and stagger around like drunk frat boys, they're not coordinated… until the scene needs them to be, and then they can run, jump, climb over each other. In some scenes they're charging berserkers, strong enough to bust glass doors & windows, in others they're weak and flabby, pathetic things just asking to be let in. So I'm a little frustrated and disappointed by all of the director's choices there. It's still fine, adequate, but that's what keeps it from getting that coveted half-star or more above average from me.

There's an animated prequel, Seoul Station (apparently on 'zon Prime? Will look later), and a sequel movie, Peninsula, supposed to come out this year, but obviously the current zombie^W coronavirus outbreak might interfere with that. There's also a Hollywood remake, which you should burn before watching; if only there was a zombie outbreak killing everyone in Hollywood, the average quality of movies in the world would double.

★★★☆☆

What I'm Watching: Man From Earth

This is up on 'zon prime, and written by Jerome Bixby, who (very relevantly) wrote the Star Trek TOS episode Requiem for Methuselah.

An apparently 30-something history professor (David Lee Smith) is leaving his job and town, and a few colleagues and friends (hey, the asshole biker professor is William Katt! He looks like shit 30 years since I last saw him, but he's still alive!) show up for a going-away party. They notice some oddities in his furnishings, and he tells them a story, that he's a 14,000 year old caveman, and the things he's seen, people he's met. They react with incredulity, get a shrink in…

The entire thing is shot in and just outside a little cabin, with a fireplace. Mostly one-camera, calm, long shots, actors mostly in character and reacting appropriately. I could wish for them to all speak a little more Howard Hawks, New Yorker speed instead of slow and laconic, I don't buy that some of these people are professors, but you work with what you can get on indie flicks.

The writing's not fantastic; he does question & answer, with often terse answers, not technical or detailed, and often interrupted by snarky people. There's one or two, where he's recalling scenery or people, that get something like actual SF writing. What I would like is long monologues about his people, about life in Sumeria, or Rome, or Paris. There's a Poul Anderson book, The Boat of a Million Years which covers a similar character, which has much longer expositions of the nature of living forever.

He has a story of meeting another unnamed immortal, which he puts in the 17th Century. It might possibly be a reference to Le Comte de Saint Germain, a reputed immortal and courtier, though he did eventually die. This is the kind of detail that would've improved the story.

And then there's a religious argument, with a devout true believer, because apparently one random decade in the Mideast 2000 years ago is more important than the other 14,000 years. I think this argument scene is defective in a few ways. First, the believer thinks the King James Version is a "recent" and "accurate" Bible, when in reality it's 400 years out of date and a known shitty translation, most modern Protestants (the theist here is openly anti-Catholic, which is hilarious if you're screaming "blasphemy!" at someone; a "religion" that splits into reformations every couple years is obviously not divinely inspired) use the New International Version, New Living Translation, or New American Standard Bible (for hardcore Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek literalists). I mostly quote KJV because it's poetic and used in so much English literature of the last 400 years, but I'm absolutely not trying to receive "truth" from it.

And while the voices of reason in the room explain the places where Christianity is copied from prior less-shitty religions, the theist is only capable of denying and crying, can't make any rational arguments. SIGH. Look, I'm an aggressive, mocking atheist, but we should be better about presenting the opposition argument than the Christian God's Not Dead idiots.

But I do like his 100-word New New Testament better than anything Christians have ever written in the last 2000 years. They would all be massively improved by switching to this belief.

★★★½☆

There is a sequel, Man From Earth: Holocene, written by the director of the first with no input from Jerome Bixby who was by this time dead, and the comments are harsh: "I've just finished watching Man From Earth: Holocene and this is less a review than a warning." Well. Maybe if I'm angry at myself I'll watch that for punishment.

There's also a movie on Netflix, He Never Died, starring Henry Rollins(!!!), about another immortal, though it's more religious/magical, if played for… not comedy, but funny horror? ★★★★☆ for that.