The superhero comedy Thunder Force has just arrived on Netflix! It’s a spoof with plenty of laugh out loud moments. My favourite riff was the star-crossed romance between the bad-guy Crab (Jason Bateman is a half-creant (not a half-Korean!) with the arms of a crab) and the Melissa McCarthy character – they go on a date to a fancy restaurant and the waiter recommends the seafood platter before realising his terrible mistake.
Basically, Miscreants are superpowered baddies who are making everyone’s lives a misery. Cosmic rays gave powers to all those with a pathological gene, you see. A ‘normal’ kid (later played by Octavia Spencer) loses her parents because of Miscreants, and swears to become a geneticist one day, so she can create ‘normal’ superheroes to punish the Miscreants. Her best friend at school is a body-positive girl (later played by Melissa) who can more than handle the male bullies.
Cut to the chase: our friends become superheroes and then have to take on the Miscreants! That’s all the plot the film needs, and has really. But that doesn’t mean that it’s lacking in anyway. The gender politics of the film are well handled without ever being too shouty. The flaws of our lead characters ring true. And Melissa turns in one of her best performances to date, tbh. The whole thing is refreshing and life-affirming. WATCH IT. It scores a heartfelt 8 out of 10 from me.
Well, not only does it feature Jessica Chastain, but we’re also given John Malkovich, Colin Farrell and (drum-roll) Geena Davis (of legendary Thelma and Louise and The Long Kiss Goodnight fame). It can’t be bad, right? Surely, it can’t be. Can it? Weeell, it’s certainly a stylish (posed) assassin movie. Jessica plays the assassin-with-a-heart… except it never causes her to decide against executing her target (even though she’s never sure what they’ve actually done). So, she doesn’t have any heart at all, in fact, which reeeally gets the movie off on the wrong foot. There’s a fundamental moral paradox from the start. It’s all slightly off-kilter. Oh well, let’s ignore that, cos it’s still pretty to look at. The fight scenes are well choreographed and well filmed. We’re not really sure who we’re rooting for… but good fighting, right? But we don’t really care, actually. Which is a problem, cos we’re not sure whether to keep watching… or whether to go and watch a far superior female assassin movie like La Femme Nikita.
Sigh. It’s all quite soulless and confused. Indeed, Jessica seems confused for quite a lot of it. Oh, can I resist that demon-drink that once turned me into a family-abusing monster? Oh, looks like I can, after all. So why have it in the movie – to show internal turmoil and emotion? – cos Jessica can’t actually get any emotion going with those chiselled cheeks of hers? John M does some decent acting, threatening to upstage the planet, so gets killed by Colin. Then, Geena gives Jessica an acting class, and then mysteriously disappears from the movie, never to be seen again, with nothing explained.
And the end (if you can call it that) is anti-climactic. I think they were going for something downbeat and mundane, to make some sort of point… about not glorifying violence… about there being no winners. That and other things? Or they ran out of budget so just… stopped. It’s pish. It’s better than nothing in our covid world, sure, but only just.
No wonder Bird Box has been one of the most viewed movies in the world during lockdown! This scif-fi/horror film sees humankind struggling to survive when sight of the ‘monster’ outside causes insanity and a suicide pandemic. You can only get about with your eyes covered, and you must never open the front door when someone or something knocks! Don’t let it in! It’ll infect you! A pregnant Sandra Bullock(!) works with a groups of desperate strangers (including John Malkovich), and she gets to raise two young children in ‘the new normal’. But her group dies one by one, until she has to go outside with her kids to try and get them to some sort of safety. They have to deal with all manner of hazard and marauder!
Honestly, it’s a great great movie that plays with your mind. It’s utterly relatable. And the ending is a triumph. I flaming loved it. 9.5 out of 10. My missis doesn’t tend to like horror, but even she enjoyed it.
Started watching the new metaphysical fantasy series on Netflix: Warrior Nun. I want to hate it, but I can’t… cos the plotting is pretty tight (based on a Canadian combic book, init), the tempo is high, it understands its genre ‘beats’, there are moral dilemmas and problems to solve, and there’s just enough character development for us to care. Plus: it’s got some freshly original ideas in it. Oh and it’s easy on the eye! That’s a pretty good set of ingredients, all told.
Basically, there’s a Catholic order of female templar knights whose job it is to retrieve holy artefacts so that they don’t fall into the hands of demons and unleash hell. But the lead knight dies in an ambush and her power (her ‘halo’) has to be hidden, in a desperate moment, in the body of an incidental dead girl. Unexpectedly, the halo resurrects the girl and she goes out to enjoy her newfound life… with the forces of both good and evil out to claim her as their own. Neat, eh? It works philosophically and politically.
Watch the first episode and think ‘hmm, alright’. Watch the second and think ‘heh, this is getting quite good’. It scores a respectable 8 out of 10 from me.
Once more Amazon Prime shows Netflix how it’s done. Get yourself a top notch author (e.g. Anthony Horowitz) of fantasy, thrillers or whatever, take their brilliant novel(s) and turn them into a TV series. Easy, right? You’d think. Yet Netflix still believes that getting themselves hack scriptwriters who really don’t have the craft or genre-knowledge required to write a quality fantasy or thriller novel will result in a great TV show: meaning we end up with utter junk like Bright, The Dark Crystal travesty, etc.
And I was ready to hate the Alex Rider series. Well, it’s YA, isn’t it? A cheap knock-off of James Bond. But my nephews and niece like the novels, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. And wow! It’s tightly-plotted, superbly acted (well done Otto Farrant, not to mention Vicky McLure), veeery inner city London, init, masterfully directed, properly multicultural and refreshingly cheeky (in the style of Kingsman, if you’ve seen that). Honestly, do yourself a favour and start watching it today, even if you have to pay the evil of Amazon for the privilege. This is one deal with the devil that it would be sinful not to take up.
The Witcher: a Synopsis
The setting: some indiscriminate medieval bobbins. A tree, a castle, some poo, a village full of Pythonesque yokels.
Our hero, Gefript of the Islets of Langherans, enters.
Yokel A: We don’t like your type around here, WHITCHERRRR
Yokel B: Aaaarrrrr, in this tavern we discriminates against moody incels with hidden depths, and indeed ALL DIFFERENCE.
Gefript: *glowers in 14-yr-old boy’s version of hidden depths*
Scene shifts. A castle. Home of King Elderflower of Cor Dial
A thin blonde bird in a nightdress: AAAAAAARGHHHHHHH papa I will not marry the Count of Bacon Quichelands oooh wait am I magic?
She runs into the woods, which are sinister, for REASONS.
Scene shifts again: a pig pen.
A gorgeous bird with a clearly “this’ll be gone by ep 4” disability: I have been abused by my family. Will this mysterious powerful woman save me or abuse me in a different way? Only time and the bleeding obvious can tell.
The Showrunners: Heeeeeeeheeeeee! What you don’t know is…
The Audience, who have watched Westworld and literally everything since: IT’S BEING TOLD IN DIFFERENT TIMEFRAMES WE ALREADY KNOW
A Bard: lol lol lol I’m meta and make jokes about how bad the writing is, which cleverly makes it not bad at all, do you see?
An extra with one line: Sir, we here are but simple folks preyed on by the magical and evil Xfristersinghtin, who are EVIL and definitely not a metaphor for misunderstood difference
Gefript: I will kill you all, but maybe not. I like my horse. For coin I will exposition the fact that the evil Xfristersinghtin are a metaphor for misunderstood difference, as are these elves we chucked in.
Some random girl-on-top shagging: we’re not entirely sure why we’re here, but if the GOT fans made it this far I’m sure they’ll be thrilled.
The Magical Council of Dairylea: Can’t believe we’re getting away with this, tbh.
Distant voice of Sir Terry Pratchett: I was taking the p***out of this kind of offensively awful nonsense in nineteen eighty threeeeeeeeeee…….
*Fade to blackout*
[With fanx to Nadine Dalton-West, legendary second elf of the third house of the ninth clan of the Wasting Tribe of Tinterlandia]
Wow. What a tv series Mars is! So inspiring… and believable. National Geographic have mixed talking heads of the Earth’s top scientists (recorded to 2016) with a great near-future science fiction show in which humans colonise Mars for the first time (2033). The show is entirely grounded, entirely science based and actually happening in the now. There are significant cameos with Elon Musk himself and real footage of the SpaceX program. There are interviews with Neil deGrasse Tyson (US astrophysicist) and Andy Weir (author of the amazing The Martian novel… you know, the Matt Damon film was made from it). But better than that… we have a docudrama of their vision being played out before us. It’s compelling and terrifying drama, as humans living on the edge problem solve because their very lives depend upon it. There’s a definite feel of The Martian‘s narrative here, which is no bad thing, given how much research Mr Weir did to write his novel. What an amazing story of human endeavour and spirit… it’s kind of humbling… also because it helps you realise just how vulnerable a species we are. If you’ve ever liked any sort of sci-fi in your entire life, then you simply must watch this show (two series available) on Netflix. It scores 10 out of 10 from me.
Mads Mikkelsen plays the assassin-with-a-heart Duncan Vizla in this neo-noir movie version of the Dark Horse comic book. Vizla is finally calling it a day and is about to collect his pension pot of $24m… except his unscrupulous employers (played by the wonderfully hammy Matt Lucas) can’t afford for him to collect. Naughty Matt therefore decides to have Vizla bumped off… to which Vizla takes extreme exception! Fancy taking it so personally!
Mikkelsen does a great job, bringing brooding menace, regret for misdeeds and a deep sadness to Vizla in equal measures. His relationship with the damaged young woman living in the chalet-next-door is particularly tender and believable. And believability/credibility is an entirely essential requirement for this movie, given how the rest of it is so cartoonish (unsurprising in a comic book conversion), anarchic, darkly comedic, full of caricature and bullet-raddled. Indeed, were it not for Mikkelsen, the movie would be far too voyeuristic and immoral for the taste of pretty much all audiences.
The body-count is of course ludicrously high, and Vizla has an all but superhuman ability to survive torture, brutality and heavy ordinance. It’s escapist fare, just like the John Wick movies. And there’s going to be a second movie in the series, according to industry insiders! Hopefully, the tonal balance of the next instalment will be better judged. But Polar is a good popcorn movie if you like this sort of thing. Happy days.
Humankind now regenerates – using stem-cells to renew and refresh the body – to the extent no one dies anymore. The oldest human on the planet is 169 and she looks no more than 30yrsold! Of course, if no one dies anymore, population control becomes a serious problem. Truly young people just can’t get space to live in. They are disenfranchised by those older than them… and then the waves of suicide begin: hopeless young people, guilty old people, the religious, and so on.
Our protagonist is a grizzled cop (he doesn’t regenerate enough because it gives him headaches) aged 119yrsold. He’s been a copy for 100 years – ennui and disillusionment don’t even begin to cover it. When 7 young people turn up dead on a beach, he’s tasked with uncovering a particularly sinister suicidal cult known as Saul. He uses a cult survivor to try and get inside the group based at The Church of Glorification – and outfit that is anti-regeneration and believes in natural ageing and death.
Ad Vitam is actually a French series with subtitles, but you the show is so immersive that you won’t even notice the subtitles. It’s compelling, fascinating in an awful way, and disturbingly credible. Because of that – there are content warnings on the show. I love the show – the ideas are well articulated, philosophically coherent, and entirely accessible. Being French, the whole thing is stylish, ubercool and… sexy in a typically Gallic way.
A couple of nice points. Living so long, people get very bored of their jobs and ‘retrain’ every ten years or so… but not our cop friend. Living so long and always being young, people can have kids no matter their age… but having kids is kinda selfish… and society is about to vote to have a ban on having children!!! What sort of world would it be if we were all immortal but there were no kids? People don’t really understand what death means in an everyday way anymore. So, our cop has to explain to a mother that her daughter has committed suicide, but the mother simply can’t comprehend what it means.
If you like intelligent, moving scifi, then Ad Vitam is for you. It gets 8.5 out of 10 from me. You can find it on Netflix. And it’s FAR BETTER THAN BRAD PITT’S TERRIBLE MOVIE Ad Astra. Go Ad Vitam!
Your personality and behaviours can be mapped and predicted with just 5000 data points. More than that, the way in which to influence you and change your behaviour (such as who you vote for) can be calculated and implemented (via platforms such as Facebook). None of this is particularly farfetched – human beings are far less sophisticated than our egos like to think. Yet, to watch it being carried out is hugely disturbing and unsettling. It makes you doubt if democracy actually operates anywhere in the world anymore. We like to think it does, but maybe we’ve simply been programmed to think that.
The Great Hack is a documentary-movie on Netflix that tells the story of how Cambridge Analytica (CA) nicked personal data from Facebook, identified the most vulnerable amongst us (‘the persuadables’) and then targeted them during both the US presidential election of 2016 and during the Brexit vote. It very much appears that CA swung the votes in favour of Trump and Leave.EU.
The Great Hack follows the story of one IT professor who simply demanded to know what data CA were keeping on him. And the story of two ex-CA-employees who’d retrospectively had an attack of conscience and wanted to make some sort of amends by exposing the ‘truth’.
This documentary-movie is almost a dystopian horror… except it’s just real life. Yikes. You will certainly feel sickened when watching it. You will wonder why some of the facts revealed in the movie didn’t appear in the UK press. You will wonder if you were influenced/manipulated by CA. You will wonder how we can switch off the machine. Or can we never put that genie back in the bottle.
It’s not a perfect piece of film-making, by any means, and you may not trust a word that of what many of the talking heads say. But it’s certainly a hugely thought-provoking watch, and one to discuss with everyone you know. Very much recommended (if it’s not going to give you an insurmountable degree of anxiety). 8/10