What I'm Watching: Dark

(Needed a little break from EVA which brings up both happy and terribly sad memories for me… So something "dark" instead)

Dark is a German Twin Peaks/12 Monkeys/La Jetée/Stranger Things/The Caves of Time CYOA mashup.

Kids go missing in the woods around a nuclear power plant.

Terrible English dubbing, often gravelly old people for the kids. But I find German harder to tolerate for long periods than most languages, even Dutch or Finnish, so I'm doing both dub and subtitles; the two are often hilariously unalike.

Is everyone in Germany supposed to be terminally depressed, or just this town? It's shot bleaker than any Scandinavian drama, everyone just stands around crying or staring blankly, with bursts of aggressive activity.

Guy leaves an office with, "Do you ever wonder where we took a wrong turn?" Dramatic non-sequiters abound.

Also wow these are some unattractive people. They've never seen the Sun, most are lined or lumpy before their apparent age, nasty looking hair. Cinéma Vérité is one thing, but this is going too far.

Senile old physicist doing the Log Lady routine. Drug dealing kid like Bobby in Twin Peaks. But there's nobody with any charisma or good looks.

Music ranges from '80s pop to some sorta dark atmospheric, both of which I love, to very gloomy, whiny incidental music which I could do without.

The actual plot so far—non-spoiler, this is all in the first couple episodes—seems to be someone using kids as guinea pigs for a time machine. But they do this in the most hamfisted way possible, creepy dude grabbing local kids instead of, say, taking strays in Berlin back to the Secret Underground Lab.

There's enough good parts, and more enough downbeat but interesting parts, that I'm still going in it, but I wouldn't call any of this compelling.

★★★☆☆

What I'm Watching: More of Love Death Robots

Apparently Netflix is doing 4 different ep orders, they say it's completely at random, though some people think it's based on gender, sexuality, age, etc. What horoscope does my robot show order reveal? Humans are idiots.

The Dump: Joe Lansdale story of a weird dump thing, videogamey CGI of of slime & trash, quick and obvious, but amusing. Not shown: Fuel-air bombing of the dump after missing persons are tracked there. ★★★½☆

Shape-Shifters: Military werewolves, realistic CGI, clearly the next Call of Duty game. Too much werewolf dick. The transformed state isn't as convincing as the Human. But not bad at the personalities and how shitty the military is. Author's Marko Kloos, a military fanfic writer. ★★★☆☆

Helping Hand: This is perfectly designed to piss me off (or any educated person). As anyone who's ever seen a spacewalk knows, astronauts don't work without a tether and a tight grip on their ship or station. It just does not happen. That was bullshit in Gravity, with idiots flying around on 5-minutes-of-fuel maneuvering packs that haven't been used since the '80s, and it's bullshit here, too. Dumb astronaut—again like Gravity a woman, which is so insulting to Peggy Whitson and other skilled woman astronauts—is knocked off station by space junk. I don't buy a cheap company sending out a lone astronaut, either: Launch cost for an extra body isn't much compared to a whole ship. And then her first solution is dumb, maybe 1kg of reaction mass thrown half-assed overhand won't move a 50kg body anywhere. Her second solution is even dumber—in reality, heat radiates away from a body very poorly in a vacuum. THAT'S HOW A THERMOS WORKS! YOU INCOMPETENT FUCK WRITER! Vacuum of space will chill you eventually, especially if you touch cold metal or regolith, but a floating body won't freeze solid for days. ☆☆☆☆☆ Claudine Griggs, hack "sexual politics" writer, I hate you and want you to get an education and then die of shame at your stupidity.

Fish Night: Interesting look, motion-captured CGI but so cel-shaded it looks hand-drawn. Probably took 10x as much time and money as simple rotoscoping and hand-drawing would've. Alas, I care nothing for the characters or the situation. Stop talking and start doing. Hunter & Dr Gonzo had "The drugs took hold around Barstow, on the edge of the desert", too, but then they did shit. Supposedly another Joe Lansdale story, but it's just nothing but a screensaver. ★★☆☆☆

Lucky 13: More Call of Duty, now in a space dropship but carrying Marines to terraforming stations on some planet. And the writer keeps calling the Marines "Soldiers" which at least modern ones don't like much. Love affair of a pilot and her dropship (AI? Maybe. It never speaks, but gets a camera POV.) is nice, and the dogfight videogame sequences are fine. It's not clear who the enemy are supposed to be, they're just as well-equipped, so are they a rival nation of Humans? Why would anyone bother shipping military to space to fight over an uninhabitable rock? Stupid premise, unexamined. Author's Marko Kloos again. ★★★☆☆

Zima Blue: Another Alastair Reynolds adaptation! Perfectly animated and told. The joke of Zima the beverage is a little weird against a serious story. The theme of transforming and abandoning unneeded complications is done several times in Reynolds (Diamond Dogs is another), but here is the best of those. ★★★★★

Blindspot: Mad Max/Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors/GI Joe do a train job with no planning, and get hosed down amusingly for it. All the nonsensical robot-on-robot violence we grew up with, but more swearing. Fuck yeah! Vitaly Shushko makes more of these ridiculous animations, too. ★★★★☆

Ice Age: A very light microscopic civilization take by Michael Swanwick (Vacuum Flowers!). Almost too silly to publish, the characters are utterly passive, but cute graphics for the micros. ★★★☆☆

Alternate Histories: Multiple ways for Hitler to die and consequences. Trivial, and I hate the stick-figure art, but amusing. Surprisingly by John Scalzi, who managed to make several actual jokes in a row! Maybe he wrote this before the brain injury that made him a humorless Internet troll. But it's about Nazis, so it gets no score according to Godwin's Law. He should have done the Lincoln one instead.

The Secret War: More Call of Duty with Soviets in fur coats in the snow during WWII, hunting monsters. And a story of making monsters, and the futility of being right in the Soviet Union. The monsters look like crap, almost literally, like the Xen in Half-Life. Written by David W. Amendola, another military fiction/horror writer. ★★★☆☆

Fin and Philosophy

And that's it for this season! More dumb combat and horror than robots in this half, and I do not appreciate that.

When I say "Call of Duty", that's not a compliment, I think the lowest form of Human slime make and play these mass murder simulators, and stories which are just "then I shoot everything wooo!" are by and for morons.

I have no objection to monster-killing if it illuminates something in a story, or in games if it's a drain on strategic resources (tactical RPGs with HP, MP, and gear to keep an eye on, and that's why my games are bright and happy AND bone-crushingly hard), but otherwise you leave those monsters alone, it's their world and you're just a morsel in it. Compare especially Beyond the Aquila Rift, where there are no "monsters" but these Call of Duty fuckheads would see one.

Total ratings are not bad, Scalzi and that incompetent Hand ep are all that's really bringing it down, but that glut of mediocre military content is hard to wade thru.

☆☆☆☆☆ 2
★☆☆☆☆ 1
★★☆☆☆ 1
★★★☆☆ 7
★★★★☆ 5
★★★★★ 2

What I'm Watching: Kingdom (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

★★★★★

Hell no boy

I love the Hellboy and BPRD comics, the novels, and somewhat the two Del Toro movies; the second one is much closer to the comics than the first. So this drops:

No Del Toro or Ron Perlman.

The makeup on David Harbour (drunk loser sheriff from Stranger Things) prevents him from using his face, which he can't anyway, or speaking clearly. They should hire Ron Perlman to dub in his voice, like James Earl Jones did over David Prowse. Harbour's mouth full of oatmeal sound is unacceptable.

Billy Idol's fun, but is completely inappropriate in tone for Hellboy, which is Brothers Grimm seen through a Lovecraftian lens. Maybe go Celtic and have Faith & the Muse, or Nightwish. This is bullshit.

I've seen a couple of Neil Marshall's movies: The Descent and Dog Soldiers. Both are good B-grade horror, on cheaper than nothing budgets, mostly single shaky-cam following about 4 amateur actors through a dark wilderness; his other two movies are more of the same, though I haven't seen them. I have zero confidence that he can run a big-budget thing with characters and try to get acting from them.

Lots of big action scenes, which rather misses the point of Hellboy; there's usually one or two fights in an entire Hellboy comic story, mostly quiet investigation and character interaction.

Yeah, no. Waiting for streaming on this steamer.

What I'm Watching: May the Devil Take You

So let's go full horror here. Indonesian director makes an Evil Dead homage. A man makes a bad deal with a creepy witch woman and gets a suitcase of money. Just how bad a deal will be revealed in time.

Years later, his business empire has risen and fallen, his first wife dies and leaves a daughter Alfie more or less orphaned, and at his deathbed, his gold-digging actress second wife and her brood meet her. They go to his secluded villa in the woods to see if there's any loot. That's surely going to turn out well!

Everyone (except the little girl) is terrible, and Alfie's got her own secrets. They don't really need to open the sealed, magically-warded cellar door and the Deadites to start giggling and killing, but that's the second hour of the movie.

The effects are good latex and squibs and mouthfuls of black slime. The camera work is straight out of Sam Raimi's playbook. Music is simple piano plinking, actually kind of annoying, but very direct and to the point.

The pacing is often glacial, lot of flashbacks, interrupted by good action scenes. It's never really scary, even at what should be jump scares, but it's fun, like Evil Dead or Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or any classic splatterpunk film. Maya's actress is not really competent to play such a heavy role; everyone else is much better. Chelsea Islan as Alfie's a good final-girl type, I'd like more with her.

★★★½☆ (Could be 4 with better editing for pacing)

(this concludes our movie-watching day, please take your cups and wrappers and demonic voodoo dolls and exit the theatre.)

What I'm Watching: Don't Watch This

Collection of short-short (under 10m) horror(?) flicks on Netflix. None of these are the least bit frightening.

  • Friendship Bracelet: Obvious but not terrible. Could've been made into a real movie. ★★★☆☆
  • CTRL+ALT+DEL: Shitty "darkweb"/"VR is real" shit with crappy puzzles like a Rubik's Cube of skulls. Film school project with no talent. ★☆☆☆☆
  • Incommodium: Shitty "Faces of Death" blooper reel, no plot. ☆☆☆☆☆
  • Keep Out: Stupid frat boys enter a spooky house and get what's coming to them. Plot & actors are awful, makeup for last scion of his line is OK. ★★☆☆☆
  • Antoni Psycho: Foodie parody of American Psycho's morning routine. Dumb. ★☆☆☆☆

What I'm Not Watching: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Take Satanism and evil magic from medieval Christian superstition, rather than from Wicca or LaVeyan Satanism which don't believe in a real Satan. This is already a borderline hate crime.

Add bullshit high school drama and an anti-bullying, anti-transphobia plot that goes nowhere because nothing mortal matters. And it's weird: Everything in the show tries to look like the 1960s, but with random modern anachronisms. I think the writers and set decorators are not being clever here, they're just too stupid to understand how different the 1960s were.

Add bullshit boarding school, half-blood bigotry from Harry Potter. The Harry Potter fanficcery is strong in this, right up to the suggested shopping for familiars, and witch girls with black lipstick who might as well draw "SLYTHERIN" on their foreheads.

Add one very dark-haired bleach-blonde-but-gross-roots-showing weird-looking chick who does a lot of shower scenes for someone supposed to be 16 (actually 19). Her creepy, lumpy boyfriend (actually 23, and looks 25+) doesn't help.

Add maybe the worst Q&A with a "High Priest of Satan" ever (imitating Lucius Malfoy, but with all the charm of a bored accountant).

The dialogue's awful, like a Christian trying to write "spooky gothic". It's exactly like fucking Twilight.

I made it barely into E2, and gave up. This is the worst.

★☆☆☆☆

What I'm Watching: Castlevania S2E6-8

Finishing Castlevania S2, here's where all the slow burn finally pays off. And then back to slow burn.

The stand-up fight Carmilla's been plotting finally comes up, and… I'm a little dubious how powerful an undead Bishop (Matt Frewer!) can be given that in life he couldn't keep one vampire out of his church. But it's a really solid plan.

The Humans and Alucard finish dicking around in the vault, and then magically screw everything up for everyone, and have fun storming the castle. If I remember my boss fights correctly, the trick is to evade the fireball and whack him in the face three times. They don't go according to that plan.

But then there's a whole ep left. So everyone says goodbye to Alucard for a long time, and spends more long times deciding what to do next, and the surviving vamps work out their next moonlit holiday plans, and some very implausible violence—even considering what we just saw—sets up the lunatic as a new big bad.

Season 3's been announced, and there's plenty of vamps to stake, plus Dracula never remains dead.

★★★★★, altho I'd like the pacing to be faster, and I miss Godbrand.