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.

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: 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☆

What I'm Watching: Love Death Robots S2

Previously, part 1 and part 2.

A short set of S2, maybe not trying to flood us like S1 did. I will note, S1 had very little diversity; a couple girl MilSF authors, and the worst story of last season was by a woman who writes vamp-fucker books. S2 has zero, 0, none, not a fig: It is all white male honkie dudes. Probably all straight. A couple are English, Dutch, kinda imperialist. Look, I'm not saying "you can't use stories by honkie males", some honkie males are my friends and I pass for one, but I am saying in every video, they're fucking all honkie males?! I'm very disappointed in you, Netflix.

Anyway, the shorts:

  • Automated Customer Service, by John Scalzi: Too obviously a Scalzi piece, so it's trying to be super funny but instead at best gets a snicker or chortle, and then has a terrible ending because Scalzi can't write his way in or out of a plot. Accurately captures how I think Judgement Day will go: Stupid consumer electronics and overzealous marketing AI start terminating all the Humans. I dislike the weird stretchy big-head geriatric Humans, and the dog has creepy Human teeth which is NOT OK, but the robots are cute so it gets a better rating than the writing deserves. ★★★☆☆

  • Ice, by Rich Larson: short story has a much less kind tone than this video. The premise that you can't genetically engineer someone after birth is just false, a pre-CRISPR/mRNA view. I dislike the art style in this, shadow puppets with minimal detail. ★★★☆☆

  • Pop Squad, by Paolo Bacigalupi: Blatantly ripping off Blade Runner, from the grim cops in black murdering innocents, cars flying up above a grimy city, punching thru clouds to sunlight, Vangelis-lite ripoff music, fake geisha looking entitled rich wench. Zero subtlety or writing, just blunt: "not having kids seems a small price to pay for getting to live forever".

    Done exponentially better in Ad Vitam despite its many flaws; yes, that's 6 hours instead of 15 minutes, but this had more money in it.

    I'd be more impressed with the sets if they were anything but stock "grimy cyberpunk city" and "house inexplicably next to ruins", probably bought directly from the Unity store. Ends with a direct ripoff of the Roy Baty "tears in rain" scene. This is so preachy, obvious, and trite, it's like every trashy non-SF writer's condescending opinion of SF was true. And I fucking hate Blade Runner ripoffs. ★☆☆☆☆

  • Snow in the Desert, by Neal Asher: An old survivor, albino (but incorrectly blue-eyed, not pink; I think an error by the filmmakers, but I don't remember the Asher story well) and full of weird surprises, tries to stay ahead of bounty hunters. Very nice modelling, the desert and scrapyard bartertown are spartan enough you don't really hit uncanny valley, and the not-always-Human people don't look cartoony. Plot's kind of trivial, the reveals aren't surprising if you know anything about Neal's Polity series, but it's all well-done, never stupid. ★★★★½

  • The Tall Grass, by Joe Lansdale: Fantastic oil-paint art style. HP Lovecraft-looking protagonist gets off a train and wanders into the grass. This is a very very dumb idea, but we have the advantage of having seen Children of the Corn. I'm extremely unimpressed by what's out there, the mood is great until they're revealed and then it's just "oh for fuck's sake". Ending is moody again, it's just the whole middle bit that needed a rethink. ★★★½☆

    Notably this is vastly superior to Stephen King & Joe Hill's In the Tall Grass.

  • All Through the House, by Joachim Heijndermans: It's Xmas in May! Brats sneak up on Santa and find out why you should stay in bed and be good. This was just delightful, and doesn't overstay its welcome. Every child should be shown this one, in between Frosty the Snowman and episodes of The Cinnamon Bear. ★★★★★

  • Life Hutch, by Harlan Ellison: So far there hadn't been any dumb Call of Duty videos. Well, here it is. After attempting to murder aliens in space, space murderer crash-lands on a planet, finds an automated survival shelter, and then the systems don't like him much. Which sentiment I share. Possibly unfair. The short story was Harlan's second published, and it fits in an arc of a Human-alien war with a little more question about "why", and the robot isn't self-motivated like in this video. BUT. It's still a dumb piece. ★★☆☆☆

  • The Drowned Giant, by J.G. Ballard: A long, talky, introspective story by Ballard turns into a long, talky voiceover video over a dead giant on the beach. Bored out of my skull by this. Narrator does nothing, learns nothing. Purpose and origin of the giant is unknown. Almost literally anyone else visible in this video would be more interesting to follow. ★☆☆☆☆

What I'm Watching: Invincible

I'd read a couple years of Invincible when it came out, and some of Robert Kirkman's other comics (The Walking Dead, Tech Jacket, etc); he was throwing things at the wall until one stuck. And now Kirkman's adapted this into an animated series (it would be insane to do live-action), and like TWD taken it mostly down the comic's plot, but there are some differences already; I hope it doesn't become a walking dead series like TWD, 'zon's already renewed it for S2 & S3.

Invincible takes a very slightly variant Superman (no laser eyes or X-ray vision or blowing ice breath), gives him a happy family with a teenage son (voiced by Steven Yeun, Glenn from TWD) just getting his powers, a Justice League (including blatant Wonder Woman, Batman, Flash, Martian Manhunter ripoffs) he's not exactly part of, a secret agency that monitors superheroes. That all ends abruptly, and very bloodily.

The fight scenes in this are fantastic, very fast-moving, active camera for the most part, and incredibly violent. More violent than you think. You're going to see a lot of internal organs, and often just red everywhere. Superheroes and the things they fight are massive natural disasters that kill thousands or millions of people, up close, and failure is always an option. If that's a problem for you, don't watch this, it only gets more so later.

The character designs are nice and distinctive, the writing and voice acting for everyone… varies from ones they obviously cared about, to wannabes. With some weirdly over-cast, over-written NPCs like the simple tailor (not Garak, but Mark Hamill).

Superman's an equally terrible problem in DC, and the Zak Snyder movies address it, but there's always been at least one villain/hero/President (Lex Luthor) who recognized that and had the tools to fight the alien. There were constraints on his powers. There's no such constraints on Omni-Man, as you soon learn. And there won't be any limits on Invincible, either, when they face him or alternate versions of him.

I know it's a trope, but the inability of anyone to recognize superheroes is incredibly dumb; Invincible, Rexplode, and Eve at least wear trivial little masks, but Omni-Man's face is fully exposed, there's no reason anyone wouldn't instantly recognize him in person or, say, on the dust cover photos in his books. So when characters figure out who Invincible is, it's less "wow they're smart/genre aware/know him really well", and more "how did you not see that 4 episodes ago?!"

There's also a lot of monologue speechifyin', often from trivial NPCs you'll never see again, and I could not care less. The teen romance drama is tedious, but that's sort of plot-related so I can ignore it. Often a good 25% of each episode is fat that could be cut.

The Mars storyline is nonsense, even for superhero space adventures; in the show it's less than 2 weeks there and back. In reality, it takes 9 months to reach Mars, 9 months back, because that's how Hohmann Transfer Orbits work. If Earth was shown having a fancy fusion drive torch, sure, weeks there and back. But they have a long-haul orbit cycler, which you may remember from The Martian (book, not the silly movie).

The college sidequest (that turns out to be more relevant later) has a Justin Roiland cameo. You know, when you see missing posters in a horror or superhero world (same thing), you should pay attention because something bad is happening.

The comic relief is generally good. The Beta Ray Bill stand-in (Seth Rogen) who checks up on Earth, and the Hellboy detective rip-off (Clancy "The Kurgan" Brown!) are amusing. They got Kevin Michael Richardson to play the Mauler clones and Monster Girl's monster voice, and he's funny, but they really should've got Armie Hammer, who played the Winklevii in The Social Network.

It's not the most creative show ever, just Kirkman shitposting on 50 years of DC plot holes, but it's fun enough, if you're into kinda grimdark fun at the expense of people who wear spandex to fly around and punch each other. Vastly, vastly, and I cannot emphasize this enough, vastly better than the live-action misadaptation of The Boys (the comic is still my favorite superhero thing ever, read it all!).

★★★★☆

What I'm Watching: Infinity Train

Short Youtube/Adult Swim pieces are now on HoboMax, so I've binged the entire run in the last week.

In Season 1, a teen girl Tulip wants to go to game dev camp; briefly we see the screen and game, a PyGame starter project, on the blandest fake-Windows XP screen possible, but that's probably how the Kids Today™ start in games, instead of typing in Super Star Trek. Disappointed by divorced parents, she runs away, hops on a train… and is in a magic train, hurtling through a wasteland pocket universe. Her entire purpose is to get back home, get to game dev camp, and she's as rational and proactive as a teen can be; a little robotic sometimes.

Every "car" of the Infinity Train is a separate puzzle or weird environment. You find the door, do something to get it open, cross a catwalk to the next car. Sometimes there's ways to go up and around, sometimes not. Passengers get a glowing number on their hand, like Logan's Run in reverse, roughly according to how fucked up they are, and it goes down as they "learn lessons". They pick up native "denizen" friends and enemies along the way. When the number hits 0, they get to leave. Sometimes.

S1's companions are hilarious without being annoying, One-One is a ball robot very very similar to Wheatley from Portal 2, with two personalities. Atticus is king of the talking corgis (and is Ernie Hudson!). A high note is The Cat (Kate Mulgrew), your treacherous fixer frenemy type; a white Persian cat. Aside from eyerolling at teen angst sometimes (I went thru worse parental problems, and I'm… a giant mess. Hm. Where's my Infinity Train?!), this is a great story.


S2 has continuity! A denizen MT follows in Tulip's footsteps, with a new passenger and denizen friend. Since MT is punk and actually does things, I like this the most; there's real moral choices, chances of failure, recurring antagonists, and there's actual horrible or good consequences. You could quite happily stop here.

S3 unfortunately follows a racist cult dirtbag, the enabler leader of said cult, a small child, and a denizen tuba gorilla. I loathe both of these protagonists, and children crying annoy me. The tuba gorilla is OK, but we don't really get any detail on her sad backstory. Even a racist's comeuppance doesn't make it better. They never show back up, so we don't know what progress is being made.

S4 brings in two asian kids from BC trying to start a chiptune/rock band, namedropping YMO as an influence, tho later performances are more like Anamanaguchi. One is the good obedient kid, the other's a rocker with no discipline, they get pulled in and scored together (mostly). The problem is the denizen is a magic flying desk bell who waffles between flirty and almost interesting, and the most annoying fake personality like a Melissa McCarthy (but it's Minty Lewis, from The Regular Show), and antagonists are very weird and whiny for no reason, no real lessons are learned. There's a couple fun short songs, I like little chip synths.

The first two seasons deal a lot with the infrastructure of the train, who's running things, and what it's for. This is awesome, right up my wheelhouse. S3 & S4 mostly annoyed me, and do almost nothing with the management of the train; we get some of it to the middle-end of S3.

★★★★★ S1
★★★★☆ S2
★★☆☆☆ S3 — only gets that high because of Amelia
★★★☆☆ S4

They're still trying to get more seasons made, and maybe movies and comics (which I think would fit the story better? And allow them to go more adult, which this is clearly trying to do but being kiddified a bit), so go give HBO Max some viewership.

What I'm Watching: Adventure Time: Distant Lands: Obsidian

The next one after BMO, this time about a glass kingdom, a lava dragon, and P.B. and Marceline.

Apparently P.B. and Marceline have been living for… decades? in Marceline's old house. I guess most of the Candy Kingdom is extinct and doesn't need P.B., but she spends zero time worrying about that, just being a domesticated lesbian wife.

This time the new generation sidekick is not terrible, Glassboy's just a weak kid literally made of cracked glass, but he's brave and not too stupid. See-Through Princess is just vapid, waffling between "hey now don't be mean" and doing meaningless ritual.

Most of the episode is P.B. staring at a force field console, while Marceline goes off on a vision quest to get her angry punk rockness back. And occasionally the flashbacks to Marceline's youth in the mutant wastelands have some pathos, drag this up from dull to "oh that hurts". Marcy's first song is excellent, she doesn't quite rock out—the Pixies she's not—but she's trying. The second one is Lisa Loeb-like.

There's a couple cameos of old characters, which mostly just reminds me of how terrible the last few seasons of AT were, but this was much better than those.

★★★½☆ — Watch this one.

What I'm Watching: Three Korean Zombies Edition

  • Seoul Station: Animated prequel to Train to Busan. Hye-sun, a young woman of negotiable affections and her douchebag boyfriend/wannabe-pimp, and a hobo and his mysteriously dying "bro", cross paths at Seoul's main subway station just as the zombie plague starts. It is successful at getting me to care about the girl, and to a lesser extent the men around her; one character flip didn't surprise me much but it needed a little more evidence.

Animation's kind of stiff, low FPS, but detailed, very much not in the style of most anime. What it most reminds me of are the Long Tomorrow and B-52 segments of Heavy Metal; I think it's not actually rotoscoped, but looks a lot like it. Despite being animated, with "unlimited special effects budget" as it were, there's not a lot of sets, not a lot of speaking parts, not a lot of flashy action pieces, it could've all been filmed practically for less money.

I'm a little put out by the cell phone vamping. Girl turns off her iPhone. Then it's out of reach. Then they're in a tunnel. Then coverage just stops because… it's plot convenient. And the other side just sits there shouting her name into it, instead of doing anything. It's a good way to pad out 30 extra minutes of "tension" that wouldn't exist if people just calmly (under zombie attack, yes) left messages for each other while travelling towards a common point.

It is very Korean, where the government is not on the side of the people, it's in self-preservation mode and has been putting down anti-government riots since the war. An American version of this (suppose Fear the Walking Dead was animated and wasn't absolute trash) would make different stupid mistakes; just as many dead civilians but less heartless bureaucracy. A Japanese version would be briefly hilarious, and then everyone would die because they were too polite to break skulls. The Chinese version would probably drop fuel-air bombs on the area.

★★★½☆

  • RV: Resurrected Victim: A prosecutor comes over to his crazy sister's house, and finds his dead (murdered by a mugger) mother there watching TV. A pastor (ugh, Korean christians; worse than zombies, and they're all thru this film) barges in and falls to his knees calling out to Jesus, quoting his "resurrection" fairy tale, singing and praying like the crazy people they are. She goes all zombie on them, as anyone would. Then we get an official briefing/infodump about resurrections, because apparently the writer hasn't heard of "show, don't tell".

It feels like a TV series, several episodes spliced together into a "movie". Or a fever-dream scenario by a Call of Cthulhu referee. Coincidence or fate brings everyone who needs to be in a scene together, but the B-team and C-team investigators just get forgotten for long stretches of the film, then show up again to tag along a couple scenes behind the prosecutor.

"The fact that RVs always appear in the rain is related to the fact that 80% of the human body is H2O.
And the iron content in their blood is more than ten times higher than that of normal humans.
When the vengeance is enacted, all these seem to be related to the strong magnetic field that is formed."
—inexplicably bad English-speaking… Italian? gentleman with a priest sidekick, possibly in the wrong movie.

The mystery being solved is fine, and eventually all the plots are tied together, if not at all satisfactorily at the end, with a preachy speech. The "RVs" do almost nothing, the entire plot could be a non-supernatural drama, or have hallucinations or visions of ghosts, with minimal changes and far less of a wasted premise.

★★★☆☆

  • Stranger: I'm only a few episodes into this series, about a prosecutor (again?!) who feels no emotions (a philosophical zombie!) after a childhood surgery. He solves crimes, fights corruption in his bureau, tries to pass as a person but doesn't really succeed. The sympathetic woman cop Han (Doona Bae, most recently from Kingdom and Sense8) and his rival prosecutor are well-played. There's an overall season plot, and not much episodic plot, which makes it hard to decide where to stop, doesn't give a clear delineation between episodes, and I can't binge more than a couple hours of Korean TV at a time, so it's taking a while to get thru.

But so far, I like everything about this, good investigation, forensics, office treachery that isn't mysterious figures in the dark but rather just awful coworkers. Best of all, a protagonist who's proactive, isn't all weepy and stupid, has his own secrets but isn't a villain. Han is also really adorable, she tries to be a supercop (a coworker calls her "Angelina Jolie", but really she's more Michelle Yeoh ) but also takes in strays and is surprisingly good for a police force not exactly known for that.

★★★★½

What I'm Watching: Harley Quinn

HoboMax delivers a mostly-adult-oriented cartoon about recently-separted-from-Mistah-J Harlequinn/Harley Quinn.

Voice-actor is Kaley Cuoco (the annoying chick from the more annoying Big Bang Laugh Track Show), who is better than I expected, but doesn't really hit the shrill Joisey girl accent I expect; Poison Ivy, her slightly but not too overtly lesbian (well, you'd think, but they do throw in lines about Kite Man) roommate is the surprisingly competent Lake Bell (who has been acting for 20 years but her IMDB page is just a list of trash roles; did you see Surface? Be glad if you didn't.); Alan Tudyk does the Joker, which he's not really fit for, I miss Mark Hammill as the Joker, but he also does Clayface, which really fits his over-the-top thespian tone just like Mr Nobody in Doom Patrol.

"You helped me. I can be around people now. You know, I mean, I hate it, but I can do it without vomiting."

Some of it's well-written, there's a lot of snarky lines, and the plots and tone are similar to the '90s Tick cartoons. But I do find it odd and annoying that A) There's 3 main writers, all of them dudes, B) The art is very male-gazey/Striperella, which hey, I like cartoon porn as much as anyone but it's not a good way to build Harley up as a self-respecting villain. In fact, of the 30 names listed for writing on all 15 episodes, 7 are women, all with 4 eps or less to their names. And it shows over and over again. When they try to "talk about women", it's slightly better than the Rick & Morty Bechdel Test gag, but only very slightly.

"This guy's such a douche."
"I'm sorry, but none of the charming supervillains with great personalities were holding seminars today."

Occasionally manages some social commentary, but at the same time exactly reinforces the stereotypes it's gossiping about.

"I had to make my own [crew] by believing in stupid little things like Mark. No offense, Mark."

SIGH. The curse of the generic name.

Well, I'm rarely bored by it, and I do laugh.

★★★½☆

What I'm Watching: Adventure Time: Distant Lands: BMO

Available on the HoboMax.

BMO, especially delusional BMO being a hero, is generally my favorite character of AT, even tho I skip all those awful Grables eps. So I was looking forward to this. Not happy about the result.

No way to talk about this without spoilers:












BMO and their potatoes are going to Mars. But then they're redirected to an ancient space station made of little environment pods, like blown-up Xandar (in the comics, not the boring planet in the Guardians movies), or Robert Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky, and BMO sets off to save everyone!

Unfortunately everyone in the station sucks. The bunny kid sidekick is useless, spineless, and nigh-treacherous (but too spineless to be an effective traitor), the repair drone is just a follower, the adults are all villains or parasites who should be broken down for scrap. The character designs, other than a few sight gag characters in street scenes, are very plain, either blobs, the laziest-drawn humanoid bunnies ever, or a few alien/elf hybrids. Literally the only sympathetic characters in the entire show, besides BMO, are two thieving bugs, and a scrap robot (voiced by Simone Giertz! So there's like one good thing about this!)

There's an amazing environment, a setup perfect for a long series, which is wasted on a very stupid plot and a trite non-Adventure Time ending. Brute force or reason shouldn't get you out of trouble in AT, only insanity, lateral thinking, or coincidence should. Pen Ward hasn't written or directed since S8, everyone still involved is like 3rd-hand hires from when it was good, so tone drifting towards Hollywood garbage writing is inevitable, but tragic.

Well. That was, I guess not surprising after S10, but disappointing. Will any further eps be better?

★★☆☆☆