What I'm Watching: Post Mortem: No One Dies in Skarnes

Oh, Netflix. There was a long dry spell of Grim Scandinavian Crime Dramas after the last Bordertown, and Deadwind S2 was aimless without a main plot (tho still amusing mostly). But now they have Post Mortem: No One Dies in Skarnes (there's like 3 other Post Mortems in the last couple years). Also technically horror, but mostly comedy.

A young woman Live (pr. "Leeva", Kathrine Thorborg Johansen) is found dead in a field… mostly dead. Not all that dead. Her brother Odd (Elias Holmen Sørensen being a Norwegian Zach Galifianakis, just hilariously incompetent) and father run the small town's only mortuary. And then she starts to have problems with a need for blood.

Odd is soon in charge of the mortuary, and struggles desperately to keep it open. Live's murderous instincts should be a nice windfall… Instead she just gets wannabe cop/boyfriend Reinert (André Sørum) tangled up in it, and hapless Odd nearly bankrupted a couple times.

It's shot like a horror story or drama, but everyone is so foolish and slapstick it never manages to not be comedy (very morbid, hope you don't mind blood & dead bodies). Some of the eps drag or cycle over the same ground a bit; hopefully if they get more seasons they tighten the plot up more. But just a charming little show.

★★★★½

Rick & Morty Season 5

Up to now, the long long wait for R&M S05 has been not worth it at all. I'm not quite at /r/rickandmorty levels of hate, but it's been pretty disappointing, like all the crap filler eps of past seasons put in one season. But E08 finally redeemed itself.

  1. "Mort Dinner Rick Andre": Good villain, plot's a tedious farce.
  2. "Mortyplicity": Random nonsense ep, without the fun range of activities of Interdimensional Cable.
  3. "A Rickconvenient Mort": I love Captain Planet and parodies of him, but both Robot Chicken and Don Cheadle already did this better, Planetina is squicky, Rick & Summer's interstellar fuck tour is gross.
  4. "Rickdependence Spray": Giant sperm, not too bad. There's some SF short story I read where the first male interstellar astronauts turn into giant sperm and impregnate a planet (the female astronauts are unaffected?), and this is less nonsense than that.
  5. "Amortycan Grickfitti": Hellraiser parody doesn't understand the point of Hellraiser (in Clive Barker's book & the first movie, they aren't "bad is good baby!", they're "we've done all the good stuff forever, we can only feel anything from the bad now"); new kid's crap, but AI car gets to do some weird stuff. Like 5-10 minutes of good stuff in the ep.
  6. "Rick & Morty's Thanksploitation Spectacular": Great premise, but Thanksgiving isn't for 3 months, assholes. Totally misses the mood.
  7. "Gotron Jerrysis Rickvangelion": Too much Voltron, not enough NGE. They should've had Rick as Gendo, Morty as whiny Shinji, Summer as Asuka, Beth clones as Rei & the Mommy robot, it would've made sense and been deep. Instead it's just robot ferrets & bugs.
  8. "Rickternal Friendshine of the Spotless Mort": First actual good episode in a very long time. Bird Person's memories of enthusiastic young adult Rick are hilarious, and kind of terrible in the way, you know, my own might be, or yours.

What I'm Watching: Fear Street

So, I'd heard enough chatter about Fear Street to wtach it. New slasher flicks are rare enough. What I didn't realize is these are based on R.L.Stine books, which I have never read (obviously). So for the first two movies, 1994 and 1978, I was baffled. Are these comedy horror? There's almost no jokes; only in the end of the third film does it get funny. But there's barely anything more than a few jump scares and bad fake blood in dark sets. While there's some borderline teenage sex and drugs, it's PG-13 even if it says "R".

The first one's not bad at 1994 period, but I assure you Nine Inch Nails was not played on mall PAs, and the black girl dating a very generic-brand white cheerleader would not have passed without comment in the time, nor would Nurse Betty (who I'll note is a straight man playing a gay crossdresser/transwoman like Klinger, because there were apparently no gay/trans actors to take the role? This ought to be as taboo as putting honkies in blackface). If you're gonna do period, you might at least milk the period's tail-end racism and homophobia for some drama.

The unstoppable killers each have some unique character, but we never really find out much about several of them, and I'd much rather hear that. Long flashbacks to why they were chosen and what they did; instead we get a few quick-cut repeats of the same crimes. Everyone's dumb in this. There's one gross-out kill that actually startled me, telegraphed for like a minute and I still didn't think they'd do it. But otherwise it's the dullest, dumbest thing I've seen, there's a half-assed explanation for the killers, a story about a witch which is driven into the ground so hard that it's obviously bait.

After credits and at the start of each segment, there's a tediously long spoiler and recap, as if they weren't meant to come out at the same time. According to wiki, they started development in 2015, wrapped shooting in 2019(!), and then it took until this month to release them.

The summer camp story in 1978 is much better, focusing on "Ziggy" the tomboy redhead, her square sister, a punk rock girl, stoner dude, and about 30 absolutely indistinguishable honkie automaton clones blundering about. The problem is one of those is the killer, and another is… another problem… and I couldn't pick them out of a lineup. But Ziggy and punk rock girl are pretty tough, the party sticks together until they stupidly split up and then terrible things happen, but we get another different bullshit explanation for the killers.

Third film is two films. 1666 fills in the Pilgrim Times theme park setting, but does the American Horror Story hack trick of reusing actors from the present as their ancestors, except Deena inexplicably plays someone who won't have any descendants, least of all her. This is not The VVitch. This is tedious RenFaire play-acting with pig shit, co-ed dances in the woods, and an old wise woman with a copy of the Necronomicon. OH NO don't read from the scary magic book, not-Deena, we don't know what the consequences are. Then it's back to reenacting Salem but with actual black magic so someone really did need to be hung & burned.

The final half, the comedy writers finally got their turn, and it becomes goofing off in a mall lit with blacklights, shooting super-soakers at killers, a lot of Scooby Doo hijinks, and an ending that doesn't really make sense, permanently stop the killers, or provide any closure. But everyone who lives gets a cameo so that's nice.

There's a couple moments where R.L.Stine's books are used as props in the show, and not respectfully. Stephen King is mentioned much more seriously.

These aren't even as good as the worst Friday the 13th movies, let alone any actual horror movie, but I was amused enough to stay awake thru three movies. If you're normally scared of horror movies, these are like tiny baby stories which won't upset you much.

★★½☆☆

What I'm Watching: Godzilla Singular Point

Netflix animation mashing up Godzilla, Jet Jaguar (!), Scooby Doo (Mei is such a Velma it's… whoo; and Barbell is Freddy, and if the other nerd isn't Shaggy I dunno who is). "Haunted" house, weird signals that sure sound a lot like the Mothra fairies, renegade electricians, giant flying monsters, and it gets more so every episode. I might do an episode analysis later, but if you like what I like, just watch it right now.

Rick & Morty S5

So, Nimbus. Goddamned Sub-Mariner wrecking homes and, uh, having his own solution to surface cops. So, are cops fish in this? Fish was a cop, so why not… Casual reference to "destroying mermaid puss" from the Ricklantis Mixup episode, which has never made sense since human-top mermaids don't have… anyway.

But what I want to point at is the two visual uses of The Fountain, and Jessica's journey there.

The Fountain is Aronofsky's only great-film-but-badly-edited. Pi and Requiem for a Dream are perfect as they are (tho I'll never watch Requiem again, fuck you, man). But all his other films are kinda trashy. The Fountain should be his best work, but jumping back and forth in time wrecks the message, halfway thru you know where it's all going, just have to wait it out.

If The Fountain was edited correctly, say 3/4 of each story in linear order, and then a coda for each in the same order, with the future part LAST, you might actually follow the character's enlightenment. As it is, I just get drunk and yell at the screen. And that's about how Jessica's enlightenment goes.

SPOILERS










Morty's enemy culture in this is a good development. Like every D&D party picks a fight with some stupid NPCs, and ends up razing their village and getting enemies for life (I know it's not just me, the Knights of the Dinner Table do it all the time… which is maybe a bad sign). The progression from a family of barbarian idiots who don't understand the consequences of a magic door, to medieval civilization built around hating Morty, to increasingly technical and apocalyptic focus on the one horrible thing that keeps happening to them. I want these to keep showing up, tho that's the kind of continuity they don't really do.

It's been a long damned time since S4.

★★★★★

What I'm Watching: Manifest

Just started, dunno how long. They did 3 seasons and cancelled, so now I know I can actually watch the whole thing without 'flix cancelling it on me.

Watched first two eps. Plane flight from Jamaica to NYC vanishes, lands 5.5 years later without time passing inside, nobody mentions Langoliers. They start having auditory hallucinations which lead to saving lives or solving crimes or standing outside at night to stare at a plane, some of them think it's God, others are relentlessly sane. Again nobody bothers to mention Stephen King. The government investigates them. Nobody mentions The Shop, from multiple Stephen King books about traumatized, time-lost psychics investigated by the government like say The Dead Zone or Firestarter.

The writing's nowhere near Stephen King level, but the family dramas are all tightly interconnected, the rather obvious bad guys are rather obvious, it's an enjoyable enough popcorn show ripoff of his books. I could do with less "God" from the stupid, life-disaster NYPD lady who's often the protagonist.

I'm tagging this "horror" but that's really not accurate. They don't have the balls to show anything dark and terrible, this aired on NBC for weak-spined old people who don't have streaming, so a young man in prison is just beaten up a little, not… The girls in a cage are… cared for off-screen, so you don't have to hear what happened. Fake sex is done with lingerie and taffeta sheets, not sweaty people boning just short of real porn. There's a murder… shown only as bloodspatter cut away from the victim.

The amazing world of the future of 2018 from 2013 doesn't seem to phaze anyone, just minor notes that their iPhones don't connect to obsolete 2G towers or long-cancelled phone accounts. Medical research girl's work has gone on without her. Nobody so far has noted that they went from a bright, hopeful America with President Barack Obama, to a war-torn hellhole dystopia under Traitor Tr@mp. If I found out I'd skipped over half of Barry's term and into that shit, I'd be pissed.

★★★½☆

Mornin'. Nice day for fishin', ain't it? Hu ha!

  • Epic NPC Man: Playlist of 182 (and more all the time) little skits from "The World of Sky-craft" aka "Aze-Rim". Some nail exactly what the MMO experience is like, frustrating and amusing at once, some are less so. But I watched most of these in the last 2 days, totally worth it. My brain has melted.
  • Baelin's Route: Movie of the silly fisherman with one line of dialogue, dragged off to adventure. The actor does a LOT with that one line and a fishing rod (that turns into a staff with a knob on the end during fights). If he earns a tiny bit of XP every time he fishes, and he's been fishing nonstop for 20 years since launch, he's probably the most powerful being in Azerim. I don't like the inevitable plot twist 2/3 thru, but fucking Witcher did it, why wouldn't these guys?
  • NPC Dungeons & Dragons: Playlist of the nerds playing D&D (5E, not at all my favorite edition and I dislike the kind of story-driven modules they're been funneled thru, but the play's the thing)

Makes heavy use of New Zealand's fantasy aesthetic and loudly plays celtic music like a certain set of movies set there. Their costumes, props, and film editing "magic" are simpler, but better than those movies. They do OK at getting diverse casting, it's not all honkies.

What I'm Watching: Jupiter's Legacy

Well, trying to watch it. It is supposedly based on a Mark Millar comic, so maybe there's something of value in here, but also they fired the showrunner partway thru and replaced him with a new guy, so clearly visions differ. Doing this live-action is stupid; it looks goofy at best, the CGI and greenscreens are hilariously ineffectual, the shitty color grading makes everything look like mud indoors or at "night" (all obviously shot day-for-night but then darkened digitally), it would be so much better as a cartoon. It makes CW superhero shows look competent.

At the start, there's preachy old-school Justice League ripoffs, with a "Code" of no killing, no leading, no going into politics. Which we know is nonsense, it doesn't work, because that much power in Human(-ish) hands corrupts absolutely. They claim the "new supervillains" are "going crazy" by killing, instead of just harmless bank robbery, but we see mundane bank robbers gunning people down at the start, so there's nothing new or supervillainy about it. Utopian, asshole Superman father, chastises his son Paragon for killing a supervillain who had just killed two heroes, and however many more in his inevitable escape from prison. Completely stiff, uncompromising, Christian supremacist. But I do not believe for a second that someone can be like that for 100 years without loosening up or becoming completely corrupt, so the whole premise is a fail so far.

The mother's also a superhero, but fairly ineffectual, she's like Edith Bunker with even less of a spine to stand up to her asshole husband (who, admittedly, could pull her spine out if she did more than talk back). The son's a whipped dog who does what daddy says. There's a mostly-absent daughter who doesn't pretend to fight "crime"; she's chased off when she does show up. The telepath uncle is maybe the only likeable character in the first few episodes.

Long sections are set in the 1920s, at the start of the Depression, and the father's origin as an asshole; but they seem so far to be completely irrelevant, a few throwaway lines would've told us as much.

The power sets are ridiculously cartoony. Most can fly just by wishing at the sky, Utopian has laser beam eyes of course, a few others have weak pew-pew-pew energy powers. They all seem to be made of steel, but the fighting sets don't reflect that, a couple bits of fake marble break but the bad CGI grass doesn't even dent when a superhero is smashed into it at mach speed. Zero effort on detail and realism.

Invincible, despite being a cartoon with intentionally cartoony physics including throwing baseballs around the planet at something like 1% light speed and then fighting aliens coming thru portals, is both physically and psychologically more realistic.

Now I'm down to fast-forwarding over anything with the family, unless Uncle Walt's involved.

Oh, finally end of E2/start of E3 we get to see some origin story, where the rich (or ex-rich, as Depression starts) get superpowers, the poor don't even get a pension. George in the 1920s story, and his son Hutch and his little gang of petty near-supers in the present, greatly improve the show. Like, this is an entirely different and better show when they're on screen, than the whiny, horrible Utopian family.

★★☆☆☆ with the Utopians on screen, ★★★½☆ with Hutch. Maybe the show will average out to ★★★☆☆.

What I'm Watching: Army of the Dead

This is a zombie flick, the most worn-out of genres, by Zack Snyder, the most worn-out edgelord filmmaker of the millennium. And it's vastly, vastly better than I would expect.

The title credits show the rise and fall of Las Vegas zombies with Elvis singing, you think "oh that character's totally surviving"… no mercy. Over the top but not quite into comedy range, tho I did laugh at some of the machine gun scenes.

So now years later, Vegas is walled off, the few surviving heroes are in dead-end jobs, or refugee camps. A fixer (Hiroyuki Sanada) hires ex-hero/fry cook Dave Bautista to gather a heist team to extract wealth from Vegas before the inevitable military solution.

The team's full of fun character actors, from Garrett Dillahunt (Francis from Deadwood, Ty from Justified) as the Carter Burke company man type, to Ella Purnell, one of the girls from Miss Peregrine's. And a lot of the crew are stunt performers. Samantha Win does a great job channelling Vasquez from Aliens, right down to the red bandana, tho there's no Lieutenant Gorman analogue in this.

The gunfights, knife fights, and brawls are quick and bloody, nice honest squibs it looks like in most shots, with a few cartoony but generally blurred-out CGI shots for machine-gun fire melting armies of the dead.

The crawler zombies are slow, dumb, and follow Night of the Living Dead tradition of just being extras in makeup, not too much effort. The ghouls, or "alpha zombies" as they call them, are heavily made up and sometimes CGI'd, especially their bright yellow eyes. There's some interesting zombie ecology/culture built up here, especially Valentine, and the showgirl, and Zeus.

I make a lot of comparisons to Aliens, because this is clearly like 50% Aliens + 25% original Dawn of the Dead + 25% Zack's Dawn of the Dead. Which is fine, Snyder needs a better template than just "dark superheroes brood and kill people", and here he's got one. This is shockingly superior to anything Zack's done since… Sucker Punch?

There's a spinoff TV series already in production, it seems, covering the zombie war, I'm definitely watching that.

★★★★★

What I'm Watching: Adventure Time: Distant Lands: Together Again

Third, following Obsidian, for Finn & Jake.

Well, Finn. Who's old, nearly dead in some dungeon, and goes through to Hell looking for his long-dead brother. Instead he finds a bunch of returning characters who are all dead, including Tiffany (sigh) as the main rival/annoyance.

The designs of the Hells, "Dead Worlds", are fantastic, except the crappy 1st one, but you don't get to spend long in each, there's no exploration or sense of wonder, just fancy backdrops for a few death angels & New Death chasing Finn who's chasing Jake. The cosmology is sort of Buddhist by way of Dante's Inferno; but it's never explained enough for that to be a major element, either. In the silly 12-minute episodes, they could do a long dreamlike song or mystical exploration, and then next ep be back to kicking butt. In these 46-minute movies, they don't really seem to do that.

It is nice having the brothers back together, having adventures.

But, BMO had a great setting, kind of a good story, but terrible characters other than BMO and the bugs. Obsidian had a boring setting, boring characters except P.B. and Marceline, no plot. This one has the best characters, a plot… but an unexamined setting. Are they doomed to just make sequels with different failures?

★★★½☆