“If I can make about five good scenes and not annoy the audience, it’s an awfully good picture.”
– Howard Hawks (1970)
Damn… I haven’t written anything on this site – let alone a proper film review – since April. If this site does have regular viewers, I hope you’ll forgive the fact that I’ve spent that time filling up that “Journalism” page you see at the top. It’d be great if I could do that full-time, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way yet.
Another reason for the delay is that I’m used to writing reviews on this site after having seen a film, play, or art installation in person. The latter two I’ve done a lot, but not on this site (again, see “Journalism” up top). Add to that the fact that I haven’t been to see a film on the big screen since March of 2022 (unless you count Cyberdelia at the DNA Lounge almost one full year ago). Since then, I’ve been watching films and tv shows from the relative safety of my bedroom, attaching an HDMI from my laptop to my plasma screen.
Since that’s the way I’ll be viewing films for the foreseeable future during this still-ongoing pandemic, I might as well take some time between freelance journalism work to write up some stuff I’ve seen.
(Yes, I’m essentially copying jwz’s film and tv round-ups. Look, I watched a lotta stuff between work these past 4 ½ months, so they need to be covered expeditiously, okay?)
Sonic 1 & 2
Even before the infamous trailer was released for the first film, I had low expectations for a Sonic movie. I’ve seen a few decent video game movies (which I can’t really recall off-hand) and a lot of shit ones (too many to name), so the infamous trailer was, more or less, what I was expecting.
To my surprise, both movies are okay pieces of relatively inoffensive fluff. They don’t raise the video game movie to any high new standard, but the best you can ever say about this genre is “I’ve seen worse”.
The reason I love the first two Ant-Man flicks (even if we’ll never get to see Edgar Wright’s years-in-the-making vision) was that they lowered the stakes of MCU flicks. They’re the only ones I can think of off-hand where the whole world isn’t in danger.
Black Widow makes that mistake. I probably wouldn’t complain if it had come out some time after Captain America: The Winter Soldier – in fact, more small-scale MCU flicks would be better and make the “event” flicks all the more special – but the creators of this one are so determined to put Natasha Romanov in a world-changing scenario because they think that’s the only way she can stand side-by-side with heavyweights like Cap and Iron Man. She did that already.
This flick isn’t bad so much as it’s just bloated.
Incidentally, this one makes the similar “world’s at stake” bad choice as Black Widow, but this one puts its entertainment value first. This flick is a helluva lotta fun and I enjoyed every bright, colorful moment of it on my screen.
Also, it’s one of two fantastic Michelle Yeoh flicks to recently come out. (More later.)
Spider-Man: No Way Home
I wonder how I’d have reacted to this film if the major twist hadn’t been spoiled, even in its official advertising? Who’s to say? I don’t agree with the consensus of this being “one of the best superhero movies” ever, or even one of the best Spider-Man flicks – and I have quite a history with that sub-genre; a history that plays a crucial role in this film and its big twist.
Still, it was decent. I’m curious as to where the series goes from here.
Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness
I haven’t seen any of the Disney+ MCU shows, so I can only take others’ words for it that this film shits all over WandaVision. As a standalone film, it’s not bad. It’s like a tug-of-war between Kevin Feige wanting a mainstream F/X flick and Sam Raimi wanting to do a horror flick in Marvel cosplay. He even turns the lead character into a Deadite at one point.
There are some missed opportunities in this and some tonal whiplash galore, but I enjoyed myself.
My disdain for the DCEU is well-documented on this site – just click the tag. Zack Snyder (I know he no longer works with them) was so intent on defining the franchise with nihilism that now R-rated flicks are modus operandi of films with Batman and Superman. They had a job infinitely easier than the creation of the MCU, but they still screwed it up royally.
But if the wonderfully outlandish Birds of Prey taught us anything, it’s that there’s fun to be had when one embraces glee. Peacemaker is of the same tone and proves that there’s series longevity to the only continuity the DCEU seems to have anymore. Plus, it skewers and satirizes the stupidity of US jingoism with as much sincerity as it has humor.
I’d be happy with just one season, but it ended on an “open door”, so…
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
This is the first Trek show I’ve seen since DS9, probably because it’s the only one since then to get any acclaim. I’m diggin’ it, and not just ‘cause it actually has the diversity Roddenberry only thought his show had. No, I’m genuinely diggin’ this show about Pike knowing his days are numbered and Spock getting’ laid on the regular.
I just wish they didn’t shoot it the way 95% of tv shows are shot these days. Christ forbid they go 10 second without a goddamn unnecessary edit.
House of Gucci
Before this movie was released, all the buzz was about how bad it was (especially Gaga’s accent). After it was released, she got nomination buzz. The early buzz was right.
Ridley Scott is officially in the stage of his career where he no longer wants to make anything good, which is why I rarely see whatever shit he plops out these days (I’ve never seen the whitewashed Exodus: Gods and Kings and you can’t fuckin’ make me).
The Bob’s Burgers Movie
This is The Simpsons Movie all over again, except Groenig’s show was already over-the-hill and just tried to extend its never-ending life. Bob’s Burgers is still a good show, something lost on the nihilistic assholes who made this turd.
Train to Busan
I’m pretty sure I was recommended this as part of a “COVID-adjacent outbreak flick” recommendation. Glad it was – this is a helluva zombie flick! Sure there were a few moments when characters only seemed trapped and I would think “Just kick him away!”, but the film as a whole plays well as monster flick and a human psychology drama (as did The Thing). Well worth your time.
Hell House LLC (trilogy)
I first heard of these flicks due to Linkara’s Midnight Double Feature, in which he recommended them. Enough time had passed since seeing the episode that when I came across the flicks on Tubi, I thought I’d check ‘em out… which is odd for me ‘cause I’ve been averse to found footage flicks since the original Blair Witch Project in ’99. Sure, there are occasional flicks like the first Cloverfield, but most of them wind up doing like the Paranormal Activity flicks and adding obvious editing when the camera wouldn’t cut away.
Anyway, the first film is a damn-good horror flick that never slips into the aforementioned bad editing. The second drops in quality, with some bad acting, bullshit mythology, and just an overall “cheapness” to a lot of things. The third is an okay finale, clearly trying to wrap up loose ends from the first. The finale is, like the series overall, not perfect, but not a waste of time either.
A former girlfriend of mine was possibly more into horror than I am. Our first date saw us bond over our mutual love of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. As we became a couple, she asked if I’d ever scene this “truly fucked-up French flick” that disturbed the hell outta her.
Eight years later, I finally saw it… and see why it disturbed her. It’s not a film you ask “Did I/you like it?”, it’s a film that makes you ask “Who the fuck thought that up?” Not in a disgusting sense (a la Human Centipede) or completely for the violence (it’s not Faces of Death), but the pure sadism is what lingers.
I never wanna see this flick again.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Every bonkers thing you’ve heard about this flick is true. This is a contender for my 2022 fave, come year’s end.
Crimes of the Future
I… don’t know how to feel about this film? I love, Love, LOVE the aesthetics (which I typically do when watching Cronenberg), but I just felt nothing watching it. I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t leave an impression, despite all that was happening. I hope this was just a stumble, not a Ridley Scott-style slide into irrelevance (see House of Gucci above).
Earlier this year, I wrote this article about the absurdity about being two-plus years into a very-much-not-over-COVID-19-pandemic, but there’s still a dearth of COVID presence in film and tv – production schedules be damned. I thought of that whilst watching the latest batch of Atlanta episodes; both the early-2022 ep.s and the currently-running final episodes.
As disappointed as I am to not see any mention of COVID (they’re making it clear the episodes take place after 2020), what I can say is that the show is wonderfully surreal and on its way to finish as one of my all-time faves. Y’all don’t know how long I’ve wanted to see a Black show that takes these sorts of creative turns – part-sitcom, part-horror flick, part-magical realist work. All unique.
Back in my 2019 year-end piece, I mentioned Euphoria as one of the bright spots of that tv year. Three years and one ignored pandemic later, Euphoria has become everything we were afraid it would be in the first place: wonderfully acted, but now more concerned with big twists rather than intriguing (and realistic) characters. It’s a shame to see it waste its potential and create half-a-billion plot holes just because it wants shock value.
It may improve next year, but I’m not waiting for it.
A much, much, much better HBO. I honestly hope it remains a one-year piece, and I say that as a compliment.
What We Do in the Shadows (tv show)
In my aforementioned COVID article, I say this about WWDitS’ ignorance of the coronavirus:
“[M]ost works ignoring the pandemic contradict what we already know of their characters. Most vampires on What We Do in the Shadows are multi-century-old Europeans, meaning they’ve been through multiple plagues. Hell, a common trope in vampire fiction—from Bram Stoker and Richard Matheson to San Francisco’s own Anne Rice and Christopher Moore—is for the vamps to hide in plain sight by letting the public believe their victims died of some illness. That makes it perfect for Shadows’ morbid humor, but somehow this plague has passed them by.”
Aside from that, the show is still funny, but is starting to see its characters more as joke-delivery avatars rather than characters. They keep treading water and making disturbing choices (Nandor’s wife) that have no consequences. This show is a ship that needs to be steadied.
Whereas the above FX show shies away from realistic character portrayals, this FX comedy painfully sticks with it. All for the better.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
They actually mention COVID for about two episodes, then it suddenly disappears. (We should be so lucky.) Other than that, It’s still a wicked joy to watch these assholes suffer.
This one has grown so far past its original premise that it’s struggling to hold on. To its credit, it’s still entertaining as hell – and I’m not just saying that because I know one of the writers. I just wish they’d stop ignoring COVID.
John Wick (trilogy)
Finally got to see these during a weekend binge. I get it now. So much damn fun.
Beavis & Butt-head do the Universe (and Paramount+ series)
Y’all remember when Beavis & Butt-head returned last decade? No? That tells you a lot of what you need to know about their new version. The film has some truly laugh-out-loud moments, but it’s essentially a retread of …do America that falls apart by the end. And apparently the last-decade series never happened? ‘Cause B&B are flung from the ‘90s to 2022 (sans pandemic), but nothing is done with that premise, save for a few jokes about smartphones.
The new Paramount+ series is the same: bringing back old characters (none of them wonder where B&B have been for 30-plus years?) and running out of steam quickly. I only got through about three episodes before quittin’ out of boredom.
Another much-beloved recent genre flick that I only now got to see. As with John Wick, I see why everyone loves this one so much. (As of this writing, I’ve yet to see Glass Onion.)
Broadcast Signal Intrusion
I personally found this to be style-over-substance, but the style is good, even if it’s not as disturbing as I’d hoped.
Your enjoyment of this is entirely based on your tolerance for grime-covered white people screaming at one another at full-volume for 2 ½ hours. I saw the whole thing, but – just like The VVitch, by the same writer/director – I think this one of the most overrated flicks I’ve seen in years.
This, on the other hand, is absolutely fantastic and you should see it now! Like with EEAaO above, this is two hours of pure entertainment that makes a strong case for “Best of 2022”.
Last Night in Soho
This film is the very sort of off-the-wall Edgar Wright flick I was hoping Baby Driver would be. Unlike that film, this one didn’t disappoint.
I felt bad not having seen this earlier, what with my having interviewed Keith Knight before its premiere. Now that I’ve finally seen the two only years of this already-cancelled show, my thoughts?
The first year is pretty damn good, even though Canada could never pass for San Francisco in a billion years. They switched showrunners between years, and it really shows: there’s downward turn in quality that no doubt figured into its cancellation. Plus, a major character from Yr.1 disappears for Yr.2 with a brush-off comment. It kills me to see so much promise squandered like that.
The Other Two
I absolutely loved Yr.1 on Comedy Central (despite a final ep. cameo from a toxic asshole) and had no idea it had moved to HBO Max until I read this Vanity Fair article by chance. Year 2 is just as great and they can finally say “fuck” uncensored. The only flaw was any lack of COVID presence… until the mid-credits scene of the final episode. It honestly had me on the floor laughing!
Year 3 better be masks left and right, but I also hope it’s as funny as its predecessors.
Only Murders in the Building
Year 1 is worth all the praise its gotten: funny, touching, intelligent – no notes. Year 2 seems to know its in the shadow of Yr.1, but can’t quite escape it. Don’t know if I’ll come back for Yr.3 ?
Finally got around to seeing this. Usually, I love Soderbergh, but this misogynist, homophobic piece of shit is beneath him. It starts off fantastic: he and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns doing for greedy Big Pharma what they did for outbreaks with Contagion. But somewhere around the midpoint, it turns into a story about how a rich white boy is the victim of a manipulative lesbian, and how Big Pharma should be trusted.
What the fuck?!
Much like Us, I didn’t straight out love it the way I did with Get Out, but (like Us) this one lingers with me weeks after having seen it. I may need to see it again to get a more solid feel on it.