HBO’s Watchmen – DNF
Despite some originality, Watchmen too often descends into formulaic cop show storylines, and I started tuning out sometime in the 2nd episode. It made for enjoyable background entertainment, for a day of writing, but honestly in the end it was more frustrating than rewarding, to me. Reznor & Ross provide a cool soundtrack, and the sound design in general is pretty solid, drawing my attention back repeatedly as it went on, along with some of the more out-there ideas and set pieces. It got so much press for being controversial with its treatment of racial violence, but even though this was edgy and fresh at times, it generally failed to find the real gravity even in these scenes. The action is most often typical and a bit unrealistic at best. Maybe I’m just jaded toward the Hero genre at this point, idk, but Watchmen struggles to decide whether it wants to be taken seriously. A few of the characters are more interesting than others, like Will and Pirate Jenny, or Angela’s significant other, but too often the acting is wooden. I’ll try to remember the show for moment’s like Agent Blake‘s phone message to Dr Manhattan, which is a truly inspired bit of writing. If I go back and finish the last 3 episodes, I’ll update here in the future, but for now it goes DNF.
Netflix’s The Witcher – WTF
I almost want to give The Witcher a full review, but honestly it would get about a 6 on my scale, putting it solidly in the WTF category. Cavill’s deadpan consistency, and the really awesome effects, not to mention my lady’s shared interest, kept me watching all the way through to the end, but I just can’t really say that it was quite . . . good. You know if this was the 80’s and it was up against The Fall Guy, or the 90’s Highlander the Series, ok, Witcher takes that formula to new heights in some ways. But mostly that’s just the effects talking, and they are killer. Witcher had my full, interested, unsceptical attention, for about 2 minutes. That opening shot of the faun by the water is good stuff! But then Cavill blows up onto the screen in battle with a giant demonic monster, and yes it looks cool, but it makes no sense! Where were they seconds before? The world’s believability dies just that fast, along with any chance of greatness for the show. Despite a few action sequences throughout that are really well choreographed and exciting, most of the action is as flat and predictable as the character development. Honestly, it takes a lot to get me to NOT enjoy a powerful coven of badass witches, but by the end of season 1, Witcher has done it. If I’m bored, I may give season 2 a shot, because you better believe they’re gonna air it, but season 1 lands squarely in WTF territory. It’s a beautiful, but very shallow, mess. Just saying the word Destiny, 20 times per episode, is not going to lend a story gravity. Maybe if I had played the game? Anyway just please kill that bard and put him out of my misery…
HBO’s His Dark Materials – 6.5
I’m holding back from giving this 1st Season the WTF treatment, but only by half of a point. Keen is talented and capably anchors the show, the effects are solid, some of the imagery is really cool, and compared to The Golden Compass, the story is given space to breathe, which it very much needed. But even so, the writing is cramped and much of the dialogue stilted. Lorek‘s big story arc gets shoved into one episode, McAvoy is in less than top form, and Ruth Wilson is entirely transparent from her first frame. Instead of transcendent fantasy, we end up with run of the mill TV, + the northern lights and awesome armored polar bears. That’s enough to leave me not totally despondent about season 2, but not excited enough to write a full review.
Doctor Sleep – WTF *Spoilers*
It scored a 7.5 with me, which is better than something I’d typically give the WTF badge to. But then, thinking it through, I’d rather review The Shining. The Shining is a 9.5 or a 10, a classic that deserves its gold. But you already know that. Sleep fell short in so many ways, but that was predictable from the outset. Lots of reviews already written. So I’m going to just drop my thoughts here, and walk away. First time I saw the trailers, I was psyched, but skeptical. The most engaging images were direct rips from Kubrick. The movie itself offers some memorable scenes, but the best moments are not only in the trailer, they are in The Shining. Sleep is at its best when it is a little more daring. When Abra first meets Rose in psychic space, and kicks her ass, I’m into it. Rose, projecting herself flying over the earth, is striking, visually. Danny as a nurse, comforting the dying, is a cool idea. None of this equals that hallway rushing with blood. Where The Shining was an epic meditation on slow psychosis and murder, with ghosts and powers serving to support rather than justify that central drama, Doctor Sleep becomes in the end just another mishmash of rehashed ideas and almost successes, psychic vampires doing exactly what you’d expect them to do. The effort to pay tribute shows up in every fade, but the heart is missing from the start, and never quite shows up. I loved the TV miniseries version of The Shining, and someday will likely go back and finish the book, which I enjoyed but did put down before the end, so it’s not like I don’t realize that the story was always a bit different than what Kubrick gave us, and I haven’t exactly read the sequel either, but what we have in Doctor Sleep, the movie, falls so far short of what it could have been that this is the only kind of review I can write. The house that shines is a nice original premise, but they just use it as a prop. The details fall short. We don’t ever even learn why she wears that hat… So if you watch it, and you probably will, you’ll likely enjoy it. But afterward put on The Shining, like we did, and revisit something legendary.
Parasite – 7.0
Just a few words about the Academy’s Best Picture. I wanted to like it, especially in the first half. But by the last act I had no sympathy left for anyone in the cast. The movie is well made, and if you don’t go into it with expectations, you might enjoy it more than we did. But honestly, after hearing that it was relevant to class consciousness, I was really disappointed, in that the whole thing talks down to the poor so damn consistently. The poor are murderous, scandalous, lying, cheating, honorless, drunks. The worst crimes of the rich are blissful ignorance and intolerance of bad smells. As a promising debut from a new voice in film, Parasite was definitely not boring. As 2020 Best Pic, unmistakably disappointing.
The Rest of the Questionable at Best
Honorable mentions to some awful attempts that we tried to enjoy, with varying degrees of success, but I’m not going to waste my time bashing them with a full sentence. So much potential, so much talent, hey props for putting it out there, anyway. In all fairness, some of them are worth a look, depending on your tastes. But not really. There’s better stuff out there.
Locke & Key, Bates Motel, You, The Last Jedi, Nightflyers, Carnival Row, Brightburn, Avengers: Endgame, What Keeps You Alive, Detective Pikachu
Shout out to a couple that got it right, if imperfectly –
Toy Story 4, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Alita: Battle Angel, Grand Designs on Netflix