What I’m Watching

  • Hand of God: Ron Perlman as a Judge who has hallucinations leading him to the man who destroyed his family. I saw S1 last year and loved it, but the cliffhanger dangled annoyingly. S2’s chasing down the consequences of his God-or-not-fueled crimes. I love his desperation and horror. And Dana Delany is still the hot slightly older chick. ★★★★★
  • Stranger Things: S2 is a predictable, fairly lame repeat of S1. I’m not done, but maybe won’t finish. I want new horrors in new crappy ’80s towns. ★★★☆☆
  • Michel Clayton: Boring person’s name is a terrible movie title. A good slow-burning, tense, psychological thriller, in the style of Grisham novels/movies but less trite. I’m a little astounded this got made, tho Hollywoo inserted one good explosion scene, and played it 3 times. ★★★★☆
  • Jack Taylor: In this show, all Irish people are drunks, sluts, crooks (mostly learned from the English), and bums. Which is fine, if rude. But it makes it hard to empathize with Jack or his shitty clients or shitty suspects. ★★★☆☆
  • The Gates: Trashy suburban drama with vampires, werewolves, witches, and a new cop with an even more fantastical panopticon surveillance system. This isn’t high art, and it’s not the kind of grim horror or splatterpunk I usually like, but I’m amused, at least when drunk, at the stupid catty shenanigans they get into. ★★★½☆ but don’t judge me for watching this.

Halloween

“I love Halloween, the one time of year when everyone wears a mask, not just me. People think it’s fun to pretend you’re a monster; Me, I spend my life pretending I’m not. Brother, friend, boyfriend, all part of my costume collection. Some people might call me a fraud, I prefer to think of myself as a master of disguise.”

—Dexter, S1E4 “Let’s Give the Boy a Hand”

Movie Policy

My movie policy is “with rare exceptions, don’t watch adaptations or sequels”.

Movie adaptations of books are mostly horrible. What I read a book for is complex new ideas, setting, plot, very slightly writing style and characterization. Those are almost impossible for movies to capture; they can have attractive sets, cinematography, and soundtrack, and adequate hitting-marks-and-saying-lines by the walking meatsticks we call “actors”, but there simply isn’t time for a complex plot or any exploration of an idea in a film, and few of them even try.

Competent SF/F/H adaptations are almost nonexistent:

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
  • “It’s a Good Life” (1961)
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
  • Altered States (1980)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1981)
  • “Who Goes There?”/The Thing (1982)

These are not competent, despite what some fanlings will scream in all caps:

  • Solaris (1972) and Solaris (2002), both are slow, tedious, and almost unwatchable. Stanislaw Lem’s hard to film, but these are terrible.
  • 2001 (1968) was a collaboration, but the book has an actual ending.
  • The Shining (1980) is beautifully-shot, perfectly-acted nonsense which loses everything interesting from King’s book.
  • Every Philip K Dick adaptation. I didn’t hate Screamers (1995) or Radio Free Albemuth (2010), but neither are great films.
  • Watchmen (2009) and Batman: The Killing Joke (2016) tried, and about half of each succeeds perfectly, wrecked by the other half being trash.
  • Pirates of the Carribean 2+, which had sometimes spectacularly good ideas and amazing visuals, wrecked by Disneyfication, incoherent plots, bit part actors who aren’t competent for limelight, and Depp’s Mick Jagger impersonation wearing thin fast.
  • Harry Potter. Films 1-5 are fun trash, then 6-8 are grim, dull, melodramatic trash. I quite like the books, even the grindingly slow later ones, but these aren’t quality adaptations.

Competent genre adaptations (I don’t read romance or no-genre “literature”, so I can’t comment on those), I can think of:

  • The Godfather (1972), and the movie is far better than the book.
  • The Wages of Fear/Sorcerer (1977) perhaps, but I haven’t read the French novel, only seen the French movie; Sorcerer has deeper characters and literally explosive tension.
  • Lonesome Dove (1989)
  • “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”/The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  • Fight Club (1999)
  • American Psycho (2000) and The Rules of Attraction (2002), but the Less Than Zero (1987) “adaptation of a title” almost cancels out both positive adaptations.
  • Man on Fire (2004) is better than the book, dumping the trick ending of the book helped.
  • A History of Violence (2005)
  • Jesse Stone: Stone Cold (2005) and all the sequels have done justice to Robert B. Parker’s novels, though Tom Selleck is about 30 years older than the Jesse Stone of the books.
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009), the Swedish films are pretty close to the books’ brooding tone, technophilia, and fucked-up psychologies, and the actors are great for it. NEVER watch American remakes.

Competent sequels are just as rare. After quite a while thinking on it, I have:

  • Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955)
  • Sanjuro (1962)
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1967)
  • The Godfather: Part II (1974)
  • Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), also an adaptation, but the book is terrible.
  • The Empire Strikes Back (1982)
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  • Day of the Dead (1985)
  • Aliens (1986), but only barely: It’s written by a pack of syphilitic monkeys compared to Dan O’Bannon’s perfect Alien, it’s not even a horror movie, it’s just another of James Cameron’s trashy Vietnam-in-space flicks. Still, you take what you can get.
  • The Killer (1989), not technically a sequel to A Better Tommorrow (1986), but close enough.
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
  • New Dragon Inn (1992), I found the original 1967 film grim, dull, and unloveable despite great swordfights, the remake/sequel is fun while still menacing and having even better swordfights.
  • Léon: The Professional (1994), not technically a sequel to La Femme Nikita (1990), but close enough.
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), considerably better than the first, and more like the comics.
  • The Dark Knight (2008)
  • While I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) as fun trash, it’s not as good fun trash as the first.

I bring this up because of jwz’s unhappy review of Blade Runner 2049. It’s like they did everything I hate in films. And jwz likes Blade Runner, I barely tolerate it as moving wallpaper.

Philip K Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” is vastly more interesting than the very pretty but vapid Blade Runner, and the new one is a sequel to an adaptation, so it’s a hall of mirrors reflecting horrors. All the philosophy and setting of DADOES is thrown away for visual flair & a nice Vangelis album, which you can listen to without a movie talking over it.

Why in Blade Runner are there artificial animals & people? Why is the city so empty except for little gaggles of people? Why is empathy their test for humanity? None of this is even hinted at. So the movie is just a psychopath murdering and raping what appear to be human slaves who try to run or can’t quite pass his test.

So they doubled down on pretty nonsense instead of background or plot, and introduced stupid new ideas. The only good thing Jared Leto has ever done was American Psycho, especially the Huey Lewis scene. Every use of him in any other film should just be a remake of that scene.

Scary Things on Netflix

  • Mindhunter is fantastic, David Fincher-produced ’70s period piece serial killer interviews. They made a show just for me!
  • Slasher was so tedious and badly paced I couldn’t make it to a second episode. Will try again later, after the first few people are dead.
  • Curse of Chucky, Cult of Chucky: Child’s Play keeps on going. When Don Mancini wrote the original, a Teddy Ruxpin/Cabbage Patch Kid/My Buddy gone rogue was impossible but creepy. Now we’re on the verge of making robots that can do this. The movies are still fun trash, but don’t you ever let a talking redheaded doll in your house or insane asylum, it’ll kill you.
  • Patton Oswalt opens his comedy special with shit about Twitter and politics. Nope nope nope. I closed my Twitter for a reason.

Waiting for Rick Godot

Sunday evening. No Rick & Morty yet. So what’s on?

  • The Bitch in Apartment 23: Krysten Ritter (alias Jessica Jones) is adorable as a mean slutty girl, but the show doesn’t work for me. I lack the ability to empathize with perky people, and screaming blondes exist only to be chased by guys/mothers in hockey masks.
  • What Happened to Monday: Grim, serious, pretentious stylistic imitation of Children of Men, Demolition Man, and Blade Runner; total nonsense unleavened by humor or science or characters. A “European Federation” facing overpopulation and starvation from climate change puts ID tags in everyone and cryofreezes multiple siblings like Simon Phoenix. People are buying dead rats from street vendors. Reality: The birthrates in Europe are far below replacement rate, and would have zero impact on climate change. China showed that one child policies don’t work. Rats don’t look like chicken inside, and are an inefficient food source; you cannot feed seven people on one Rattus norvegicus. Also cryofreeze doesn’t work except on dead bodies, and you can’t possibly get people to put their six-year-old child in a death freezer as shown. Rick & Morty is hard science & social theory compared to this.
  • Witnesses: French crime drama? Seems dry and dull, gloomy cinematography (they found a part of France as grim as Seattle or Scandanavia?), but opening with a weird graverobbing crime is interesting. I kind of like the characters, which is better than most shows. Despite my toddler-level French, I distrust the subtitles because they translate “le flic” (rather rude) more politely as “the force” instead of “cops” or “pigs”, and a few other tone shifts. Gonna keep watching this.

The Defenders

  • Why are they fighting in a sewer with glowing blue walls?
  • Fight choreography brought to you by people not even in the same shot.
  • Oh good we’re starting with racist rich white trash cultural appropriator Danny Rand, this can only go up, right?
  • “New York City”? Who says that, unless it’s followed by “Git a rope.”?
  • Alias is still a mopey drunk, so characterization is established.
  • Cage is boring, so there’s nothing new there.
  • Murdock takes all the best cases of chemicals (they’re in everything!) either crippling or superpowering people, gets $11 million in settlement = $1.1M + court costs for him, but he still wants to go beat up bad guys instead of blowing coke off a stripper’s ass.
  • Sigourney Weaver! In a terribly staged scene with awkward dialogue. I wish this shitshow would kill me, but sooner than weeks or months.
  • Long dramatic scenes going nowhere. I need to drink more than Alias to blackout thru this.
  • Cage: “Hero’s your word, not mine.” No, in the comics he & the less shitty Danny Rand ran a biz called “Heroes For Hire”.
  • Oh no it’s a natural(?) disaster which occurs about once a month in some places, so New Yorkers panic and light up Murdock’s windows with gel lights, not that he can see.

Well, that was Ep 1. I can’t even rate this, it’s just random scenes leading to nothing. Maybe I’ll watch E2 and see if it coalesces. Maybe I’ll just self-flagellate some other way.

What I’m Watching

  • Happy Valley: 2 seasons (and a 3rd is planned) of a middle-aged English policewoman chasing murderers in a small town. I find Flock of Seagulls, the first season junior antagonist, utterly unthreatening, but he has his moments. The 2nd season arc was a little obvious, Moaning Myrtle was sinister as hell but with minimal payoff. Still, it’s as good a police procedural/mystery as I’ve seen in ages. ★★★★☆

  • Message from the King: South African badass Jacob King comes to L.A. looking for his missing sister. The plot’s a little opaque at times, Jacob is a mute statue except for some side-eye, and there are far fewer guns and security systems than I’d expect in L.A. underworld, but the fistfights and stealth missions are good. It’s very reminiscent of The Limey, but much grubbier and less fun. ★★★☆☆

  • Rick & Morty S3: Holy shit. Pickle Rick with Danny Trejo. How many times can I spam the star button? ★★★★★★★★★★ I do want at least one of the dumbass improv cable show eps this season, we can’t take a constant dose of this like that Statham flick Crank.

  • Almost no anime. Last year’s Crunchyroll simulcasts had Gabriel Dropout (seriously Gabe is my spirit animal: A dropout who wants to destroy humanity), Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (this might be a tech blog? She’s a Python programmer! She’s writing Django all day in a soul-crushing open-plan office without even a cubicle!), Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor (awesome title, sometimes great characters & plots, endless filler crap in between), some Sakura Quest (cute start, and hooray, more shows about adults with jobs! But this was too mellow and sappy). Everything else this season seems to be a ripoff of Sword Art Online without the cranky MMO-soloing protagonist in black (ahem), or rom-com. Get your shit together, Japan, you’re being out-weirded by a Marty McFly & Doc Pickle cartoon. ★☆☆☆☆