What Are You Watching? (August 2023)

We’re all watching stuff; whether it’s a show, a trip to the cinema, or a deep youtube hole. It can be an event you look forward to a week, or something you stumble into after the algorithm gets something right for once.

So, what are you watching?

Use this thread to talk about what you’ve watched recently. Films, shows, twitch streams, internet videos, etc: it’s all fair game here! Whether you’re waiting in line for Spiderverse opening night, backseat quarterbacking the Roy family, learning about shipping lanes from someone playing Cities: Skylines, or watching someone make a knife out of onions. While posting, please keep in mind the following:

  • Please include content warnings if the media has triggering content that would warrant a warning for particularly sensitive topics.
  • Please use the spoiler tags for anything that requires it.
  • If you would like to talk about any media in this thread in depth, feel free to create a topic for it.

I got to see Theater Camp last night, in its last night showing at my local theater. This is a new irritating issue with small movies, if you don’t see them in their first week, they disappear very quickly, so glad I made the time. It’s also only 90 minutes, blessedly short in the modern era of megalength blockbusters. I loved it, it’s one of the funniest movies I’ve seen all year.

Basically it’s Waiting for Guffman but at a New York sleepaway camp. Same mocumentary style, but more legit talent on display, all the kids are great. The joke is really on the weird neurotic usually gay Jewish or Black adults.

This stars Molly Gordon (probably best known for her controversially Manic Pixie Dream Girl performance on Remap fav, The Bear) and is also co-directed by her. The cast includes two Evan Hansens, Ben Platt in an age-appropriate role and Noah Galvin, and also Ayo Edebiri, who needed more screentime.

Huge recommend to anybody who ever was a theater kid or ever went to sleepaway camp. If anything, this is one of the rare movies I wish was a TV series. There’s so much here and with this cast, you probably could have made a four hour miniseries.

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Okay, I need to talk about


I’ve been watching the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Let me start with the good, overall this shit rules so hard. It’s very clear how hard everyone works, how big a part attrition is to having a good season. I love the sportsmanship between teams and even when there is smack-talk it’s so good-natured and fun. Also, big shoutouts to my favorite bot of the bunch: HUGE. It’s such a cool bot, look at this shit

In a sport where it seems relatively solved (as of the 2019 season) — where you want the lowest vertical spinner bot you can — HUGE goes high and makes for a massive knowledge check match-up. Also, maybe not apparent, those wheels are pliable as hell. Every HUGE match is tons of fun, when they win they cause chaos, when they lose they are in pieces often split in half, it’s great.

Okay time to appease my inner sport-fan, I need to get on some hater shit:

  • It seems every driver of a four-wheeled vertical disc bot is called “one of the best drivers in the sport” which is fine, but like, it seems a big advantage to the vertical disc spinner is that despite the force being exerted by the weapon it remains easy to maneuver.
  • Stop trying to convince me that Blacksmith is a good bot when you give it a softball schedule and seem to forget that it’s hammer does zero damage once it comes judgment time.
  • Audience needs to improve their sign game.

I saw The First Slam Dunk yesterday in a crowd of anime fans. That’s either a good thing since the excitement level is high or a real bad thing because you might have to shut up some teenagers who think they’re funny, but in this case, great audience. This is an adaptation of a 90s basketball manga and anime series that I’ve never heard of and released in Japan last fall where it won the Japan Academy Film Prize for Animation - beating out Suzume and Inu-Oh, and is something like the highest grossing anime film since Your Name.

Now, I don’t know about this movie being better than Inu-Oh, Inu-Oh is amazing. But that’s another matter. The First Slam Dunk however is really great.

I wasn’t sure what I was getting with shonen basketball, but the results are very realist for anime. No power-ups, no calling your attacks, the usual character archetypes including one boy who I swear to god is Kuwabara from Yu-Yu Hakkusho. The whole movie is structured around one high school championship match with lots of flashbacks interspersed over the two hours. The animation is clearly CG but aiming for a 2D effect, and normally this would bug me - I think the CG mobile suits in that Gundam movie from last year look and move like butt. But in this case where they’re trying to recreate the fluidity and speed of basketball hoopsmanship, it works. Seems like they really want to get the mechanics of basketball down flat. This might be the best basketball movie I’ve ever seen in terms of filming basketball.

Confession: I’ve never liked basketball. But this movie did have me wondering “do I like basketball now?”

Also, it’s a damn good game. All the characters, even on the rival team, have remarkable personality. You got a lot of boys trying their best, overcoming odds, who doesn’t love that? Easily one of my favorite movies of the year so far.

(Biggest complaint and CW injury: not in love with how a back injury is treated as just something to overcome with force of will, it’s not. Kids, do not be heroes when your back is spasming out, do not do this at home.)


My horror movie catch-up tour has gone through a few more films, first Jennifer’s Body and, tonight, the original Scream. I think the former is, for a lot of reasons, a bit difficult to really process on a first watch — it was tonally disorienting in a lot of ways, it felt like I was seeing something a lot denser than I had the ability to unpack without knowing the whole scope of the thing, and I think I understand (beyond just the bad marketing) why it flopped as a theatrical release but picked up steam after the fact. Just feels like a thing that’s much deeper the second time. I’m sure I’ll rewatch it down the line.

As for Scream, I didn’t think it was possible to compress a dose of 90s energy that concentrated and radioactive onto film stock. So much color and polish and verve in service of something simultaneously picking apart 90s nihilism and delivering such a pure expression of it. I think my favorite part of the movie is how obviously human it makes Ghostface — especially watching this right after so many other slashers, the way he just gets bodied by basically every character in the movie that’s capable of fighting back really grounds the action and makes for contrast with all the slashers who seem like they’re built from pure granite. I don’t know that what the movie is trying to do on a deeper level is actually all that interesting — like I said, I think its commentary is coming from the same pit of nihilism as the stuff it’s trying to pull apart, and I also am watching this in a world where Cabin in the Woods exists — but on the surface? Man that was great. The performances especially. Alongside all this, I am still watching Riverdale, and man does everyone’s favorite gangbanger-slash-deadbeat-but-he’s-trying-dad FP Jones do an incredible job.


So, I finally got around to watching Dungeons and Dragons 4, otherwise known as Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves.
I thought it was fun, in the same sense that movies about hacking where the script writer had spent just enough time with real hackers to use correct terminology but not enough time to use it in the right place are fun.
It’s a strange movie setting-wise, in that it manages to make Faerûn simultaneously more and much less magical than it officially is, in the same script. (And yes, 4e and 5e Faerûn is a setting that’s bordering incoherent at times - a problem that afflicts BG3 at times from what I hear - but not in the way D&D4 is).
I’m not really talking about the druid stuff - too many wild shapes in sequence etc - because those were cool and druids probably should have more wild shapes and be able to turn into owlbears. I’m talking about how the movie doesn’t seem to really explain what it thinks the difference between a sorcerer and a wizard is - and what Simon the Sorcerer (no relation to protagonist of the video game) has that weird silver dial thing on his belt for (it’s not a component pouch, since he tries to use it for Shield, which is VS). Or how it nerfs Gelatinous Cubes (unless this one was just asleep for the entire action sequence). Or how simultaneously the crowd that Simon is fleecing can know enough about magic to complain that their kids can do (a cantrip: probably prestidigitation) yet the Bard knows no magic, and the Druid can only do (lots of wild shapes).
Either magic is ubiquitous (which is closer to the FR canon) or it isn’t, script writer!

Anyway, mostly powered by Chris Pine, Hugh Grant and Michelle Rodriguez’ charisma, it’s still fun, but I definitely found it undercooked and a bit in need of another pass at the script. As it is, it’s simultaneously not far enough from canon to do everything it wants, and too close to canon for its deviations not to be weird.

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I’ve been planing to watch Jaws for a while as part of this classic horror watch-through but the problem with Jaws is that it’s 2+ hours, and I’m starting all these movies at like 2:30 AM, and I have not quite felt capable of it yet. Maybe soon. Anyway, hard hour-forty runtime maximum on these for now. Which instead has led me through two foreign proto-slashers: Bob Clark’s Black Christmas and Mario Bava’s A Bay of Blood.

And hoo boy! Black Christmas might be my favorite movie of this whole bunch. It’s a slow build and the first 45 minutes or so had me a bit bored, but its final act manages to ratchet up tension in a way that outstripped everything else I’ve watched in this little run (including Halloween). The scene after “the call is coming from inside the house” makes its debut as a horror trope with the bedroom, the eyeball through the door gap, and then the basement is one of my favorite sequences in any horror movie. The way it handles its main character’s plan to get an abortion, and ties that into the plot and the core horror/mystery of the killer holds up incredibly well, and it’s interesting to place it against the tropes of the genre lineage it more or less starts. Really good movie, holds up incredibly well despite being 50 years old, and apparently Bob Clark also directed A Christmas Story?? Talk about range.

On the flipside, I don’t think I have the particular mix of sensibilities to really enjoy something like A Bay of Blood. Which I knew going in. It’s a straight-up exploitation film, and an old one at that, so most of the blood looks like paint and it’s more funny than scary, and that’s not really my vibe. There’s also the weird thing I learned about older Italian cinema as I was looking for different versions of this — that these sets weren’t equipped to record audio, so every version, even the Italian one, is a dub. Which just kinda added to the ramshackle-ness of it all. The ending was genuinely funny though, in a sick but deserved kind of way. And the scenery is genuinely beautiful — all the shots of nature and the water (and the plot’s load-bearing octopus) were compelling enough to make the paper thin justifications for most of the characters’ actions feel a little meaningful. It was fine! Probably not going to dive into more giallos after this, but glad I at least have this as a reference point now.

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I don’t follow any reality tv these days (or decades, really) but I just binge-watched the whole 2020 season of the Belgian game show De Mol after hearing so much about it from game design corners, and it was a lot of fun! And actually super well designed?!

In De Mol, ten people are selected to travel to a picturesque country and they must all work together to try and win hard and absurd challenges that awards increments of money that goes into a collective ‘pot’ and make up the final game prize. But meawhile, each person is also individually trying to uncover who’s the mole amongst them, aka a ‘double agent’ secretly working with the production who was hired during the casting process and who’s subtly trying to sabotage the whole group effort, and crucially, whose identity is also hidden from the audience.

This asymetry is already fun but what really sets De Mol apart are the following imo:

  1. There’s no formal group vote or decisive game mechanics that are directly confrontational here: at the end of each episode, every contestant must privately answer a quiz about who they think the mole is, and the person who scores the lowest is eliminated;

  2. The mole cannot win the prize money so they’re in it just for the game itself. It’s work and not personal, so no one’s really sore about it;

  3. The challenges are all super hard but usually still amusing in some way, done in coop, often containing many ways to lose some of the total money while also allowing for different sabotaging opportunities, so the final prize skews pretty low in comparison to similar shows. For instance, the group I just watched started in the negative and the final prize barely reached 20k by the end which is a lot but still far from the hypothetical 100k ceiling. This obviously affects the dynamics immensely and everyone starts off supportive and generally sympathetic towards each other. They’re doing this more for the game and to have a good a time and less for personal gain, and as more and more people get eliminated, the money suddenly becomes an actual feasible prize for the few that remain which naturally escalate things without the show having to manufacture drama just for the sake of it.

  4. At the end of the day, the contestants are still getting to travel to a different country while bonding with new people and having cool and weird experiences, so the feeling captured here is more of an extreme vacation than a super ultra hardcore competition.

All of these really elevates the show into more of a game for both the contestants and viewers while never devolving into something trashy. I know there’s also a long running Dutch version and many other adaptations (including two American ones, a 2001 one somehow hosted by Anderson Cooper and a 2022 reboot by Netflix, haven’t seen either yet), but the Belgian version is so well-tuned and calibrated, and is considered the best one by far from what I’ve gathered… and it somehow also has great cinematography and music direction??

In terms of game design, there’s literally a Tower of Hanoi puzzle in the first 5 minutes of the 2020 season so you know these designers are true gamers lol, but what cemented my fascination with the show was when a later challenge basically consisted of Hitman levels irl and they even use the Hitman soundtrack verbatim in this same ep. Social deduction, push your luck and probability, puzzle solving, extreme physical challenges, thematic through lines, escape room logic, the viewers’ parallel mole hunting game… making all of these elements work with the specific contestants + the group as a whole + the mole role + the audience turns this into like the hardest game ever to balance and a pretty fun watch with a group esp. if you’re into experience design and game design in general. The final episode is a fun post-mortem with a lot of behind-the-scenes focusing on the mole throughout the season and with the production also revealing some of the obscure clues they peppered in the episodes, which range from interesting editing details to totally bonkers stuff – for example, the introduction of a contestant tying in to a completely different element present somewhere else in the episode, which in turn could be used to deduce the person’s role right from the get-go. It’s Sherlock Holmes-levels of extrapolation and madness, but super cool nonetheless.

Anyway. De Mol is the kind of competitive game show that isn’t a total cozy snoozefest nor a cutthroat torturous experience, so it can end with the winner, runner-up and the mole all in a group hug congratulating each other over the results, feeling sad that it’s over but satisfied with what just went down, which is always great to see.

edit: Also, another quirky part of the experience of watching De Mol for me was that while the show is huge in its original region, it completely relies on fan translation and basically old-school style distribution for the rest of the world to access it, like it was an anime series in the early aughts. lol


Inspired by the Telltale game, I finally got around to finishing The Expanse. Overall I enjoyed the last season, although it felt short (especially the Laconia subplot). I should note that I haven’t read the books and have no idea what was changed, but I’ll probably end up reading them eventually.

I was amused that Rob Zacny was so critical of the voice acting in the game, because Keon Alexander’s smoky Belter patois as Marco Inaros really bugged me by the end. It’s not a bad performance per se; his character worked for me in earlier seasons. However, the smaller personal stories around Inaros didn’t work for me when it was just him and his son. I think previous plots, especially with Cyn and Naomi, worked better because multiple perspectives balanced the scenery chewing. By season 6 there’s no one in Inaros’ orbit that stands toe to toe with him and so he dominates every scene and that lead the performance to feel a little one note to me.

There’s a moment near the end of season 6 when you see Inaros’ facade break slightly because he’s losing control. Absent other characters to keep him in check, I think there should have been more opportunities for this kind of nuance. Villainous and larger than life characters benefit from some kind of humanizing element, otherwise they’re a bit too dour and tiresome to spend so much time on screen.

Part of the reason I have been thinking about Marco Inaros and divorced-warlord-energy is that I went to a screening of The Legend & Butterfly a couple weeks ago and then rewatched it this weekend (streaming on Amazon). Like season 6 of the Expanse, this film also pivots around charismatic toxic masculinity in a man bun in the form of Oda Nobunaga.

After rewatching it, I’ve kinda become obsessed with this movie. It’s a romantic biopic that centers on Nobunaga and his wife Nohime. The film is able to take some pretty wild swings and construct a larger than life character around Nohime because the historical record of her is thin, and it weaves a tumultuous, romance-of-rivals relationship through Sengoku history in a way that I found fascinating and entertaining.

In the first half there’s a lot of humor that is mostly at the expense of Nobunaga, depicting him as full of bluster but also a bit hapless and uncertain. There’s a pivotal scene, right before the Battle of Okehazama, when Nobunaga is facing overwhelming odds and is sullen and indecisive, seemingly given up hope. Nohime challenges him to reevaluate the situation, devises an ambush, and finally stirs him to action via a rousing speech. The film then hints directly at the construction of the actual historical legend of this moment: Nohime instructs Matasuke, historical chronicler of Nobunaga’s deeds, to omit from the record that she was there. (I had to pause and switch to Japanese closed captions, which includes his full name, to figure out who she was talking to) The film plays with history in this way that is not just surface level but kind of interogating the nature of historical legend itself.

The other thing I think is fascinating about this scene is that it doesn’t actually depict the battle. Instead we only see the aftermath. Nohime is shown sitting alone when the sounds of returning soldiers is heard, and there is a momentary flash of uncertainty across her face. She genuinely doesn’t know yet if they were victorious, or if Nobunaga survived. The banners carried by the soldiers are torn and blood soaked, and by skipping over the action itself this image is somehow a lot more stark and grisly.

The movie never quite goes full Lady Macbeth with Nohime, although there are definite undercurrents of that kind of trope. In the second half of the film when Nobunaga has gone full “demon king” there’s a real sense of ambivalence that gets mixed up with their personal rivalry, with Nobunaga seemingly compelled by little more than momentum and Nohime questioning why they can’t have a normal life. The accumulated result is that there is a lot of texture to both characters.

I dunno, it’s frequently kinda corny but I ended up really liking it. It helps that both Takuya Kimura and Haruka Ayase are very charismatic together, and the music is great. Also, it manages to sneak in something like an actual twist in the final moments of the movie, and have its cake and eat it too between ahistorical narrative and reality, which was baffling the first time round but funny and oddly poignant on a second viewing.

It’s also got me much more interested in Ridley Scott’s upcoming Napoleon movie


This is one of the strongest parts of the books FWIW. Has a real AJP Taylor’s depiction of Bismarck and Hitler vibe to it. Ultimate opportunist versus perceived master strategist.


I have continued watching an obscene amount of horror movies after my last post, enough that each one is gonna get their own dropdown and mini-writeup here. (I will try to be as unspoilery as possible for the more recent ones, but be warned.


Ok look you don’t need me to tell you Jaws is good, but along with Halloween, having never seen this film was basically what impelled this whole little adventure. It comes across as dated in some aspects but still extremely solid — one of Spielberg’s greatest skills is his understanding of the line between wonder and terror, and how to play one back into the other over and over again. It’s a slow burn for most of the movie, but the way it switches modes like that helps keep the tension up most of the time, and the contrast of the happy little island and the waters filled with blood is just kinda timeless. Jaws good! Moving on.

Final Destination

It’s fine! I honestly don’t have much to say about it. Tony Todd really steals the entire show with his three solid minutes of screentime and the rest of it is mostly trying to guess what’s going to cause the next gruesome Rube Goldberg-y death and probably being wrong in a fairly entertaining way. I think it’s less fun if you treat it as an actual vehicle for story, but hey good schlock can be good schlock. It’s interesting as a pre-9/11 film though — and kinda fun to think about what would have changed about the beginning had it been put into motion a couple years later.

Friday the 13th (OG, 1980 ver.)

So after going through Halloween, Black Christmas, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Scream, and Nightmare on Elm Street (a long time ago), it seemed like I couldn’t just not watch this one, even though it doesn’t quite seem to catch the same kind of reverence those genre siblings do. And I get why not — it’s fine. Very barebones, and surprisingly slow to really get going, and there’s not too much to it once it does, but the final act is fun and the actual identity of the slasher is a fun little mystery that actually probably was a little subversive back when all these killers were exclusively big, crazy, intimidating men. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, glad I checked it off.


The biggest surprise of this watch-through so far is definitely how much I enjoyed (and continue to think about) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and as I was looking through some lists I saw this movie (a low budget A24 flick from last year) referenced as a clear homage to it, and after seeing that the cast list had some legit names in it (Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Brittany Snow, Kid Cudi), I threw it on. And generally it’s really good! It’s certainly trying to do some stuff on the line between (s)exploitation movie, slasher, and A24’s whole “elevated horror” thing, and while I don’t know that it’s always successful, it definitely left me with more than just a little exhilaration. I think the weakest link is just how grotesque they made the old couple look with makeup and prosthetics — the rest of the movie was grounded in a way that made it almost funny, which didn’t quite work with how seriously the script treated them as both characters and antagonists. But beyond that, it’s a really well-made movie dripping with the same kind of rural Texas ambiance that made TCM feel so compelling.


This one I just finished a few hours ago, so I’m still riding the aftereffects a bit. Largely though, that rocked! Love jarring tonal shifts when they’re done well and in service of a larger purpose, and since I managed to avoid spoilers until now, it went in some delightfully unexpected directions than what I was expecting. The first act was extremely tense, and nearly hit my limit for the kind of thing I can watch at 2 AM with the lights off, but once that scene happened and it shifted focus to Justin Long playing the absolute shit out of an utter dirtbag, it definitely relaxed a bit. It’s one of those things that seems odd and unfocused for probably 80% of its runtime, and then suddenly a couple things click into place and reveal that actually it was laser-focused on one particular theme the whole time (this one being the ripples of sexual violence and the ways monstrous men try to shield themselves from accountability), and I thought the ending tied that all together even more cleanly than I thought it could. (I will say though, Tess having Jane Eyre in her suitcase was maybe a little too on the nose, but at least it was a basement instead of an attic.)


I spent a while after watching Us thinking about why I remember the reaction to it being so mixed back in 2019, and it brought me back to something I also felt came across in the response to Nope last year — which is that Get Out is a tenacious machine of a film that trades every possible ounce of ambiguity for a staunchly grounded, razor sharp satirical knife, and the things Peele has made since then are decidedly not in that mold. (And also the internet’s obsession with “plot holes” probably does this movie no favors, even if it that whole thing is antithetical to real inquisitive media critique.) Anyway, Nope was easily my favorite film of last year and honestly might be an all-timer for me at this point, and Us felt like a less refined approach to the same kind of ambiguity and discontinuity that that movie thrived on. And man, the whole cast was great, but Lupita Nyong’o stole the whole goddamn show. That was a great movie that, while absolutely being very messy at certain points, really makes the mess turn into something, and while I already noticed and remembered a bunch of threads that tie together across the whole thing, I think it’ll make a great rewatch at some point too just to see how it all connects again.


Us and Nope suffered from colossal expectations which is understandable as I think Get Out made the Sight and Sound list and deservedly so for being so perfectly scripted and watertight. The other two are more experimental and charged with more elusive meaning which meant a lot of people bounced off of them. I love that about them though and they are still loaded with some of the most unsettling scenes in recent major movies (there’s a family in the driveway) and are crucially really, really funny. Peele’s movies really benefit from having an absolutely master of comedy and timing at the helm. The scene in Nope with the aliens in the stables for example or the scene in Usat Elizabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker’s house.


So, I was on another pair of long flights recently, which means that I finally saw all of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 1… and one random episode of Lower Decks.

SNW is an interesting show, in that most of the things that don’t work in it are things that have never worked consistently well in Trek series. I’ve only seen the first three episodes of Discovery [see here; What'cha Watching? (TV or Film) - #679 by aoanla for my thoughts at the time, and about the first three episodes of SNW], and I still think the things it gets wrong are the opposite - trying to not really be very “Star Trek”.
So, for example, there’s a “the crew gets embedded in a historical/fantasy/game setting and need to understand the underlying message to resolve it” episode (see, eg, half of TOS episodes on planets of Space Romans, or being captured by Greek Gods, but especially the “once-a-season” weird episode of TNG [Qpid with Q translating everyone into Robin Hood, or Masks, with the ship and Data getting taken over by an alien mythology] and later [we all remember, despite ourselves, DS9’s Move Along Home or the far superior Our Man Bashir, and all those Holodeck episodes in Voyager]), which Trek tends to either have fun with or just manage to be amusing with. In SNW, the episode serves as the ending of Chief Medical Officer M’Benga’s personal ark plot - but whilst the comical aspects work fine, mostly drawing on all the actors playing wildly out of type as various characters from a book, the personal elements for M’Benga didn’t hit home for me - partly because they really don’t spend enough time on the ending (either polishing it or in screentime) the actor playing the “adult” version of M’Benga’s daughter is merely okay, but her lines also don’t really help her.
It’s also the start of a weird trend in the final third of the series where it precipitously resolves interesting plot lines in unsatisfying ways (the arc of M’Benga’s curing his daughter thing doesn’t deserve as little time as it has, especially with the seeds in previous episodes - but it’s even worse that Hemmer is written out as dead the very next episode, without ever having a focus plot - despite being the only “obviously alien” principal character, for example).

Also, I’m very confused by what this series wants to do with the Gorn - but I’m reminded a little of what 21st C Doctor Who tried to do with the Ice Warriors, except this is even more revisionist. Prior to SNW, the canon was always that the Gorn were unknown to the Federation, except via third party descriptions, until the TOS episode “Arena” [which is the one where Kirk fights the Gorn in that famous bit of California and gets a polystyrene rock thrown at him] - which is literally about having mercy and empathy for your enemy.
SNW, for some reason, has the Federation having experienced Gorn attacks - much more gruesome than anything TOS ever implied - and at this point (I don’t know what they do in S2), also makes Gorn seem utterly without any empathy - and, in fact, as if they shouldn’t even be capable of forming a sophisticated civilisation. We’re told Gorn are fundamentally hyperaggressive - their young hatch, Xenomorph-like, from living (often sentient) hosts, and then fight amongst themselves until only one survives.
This means that they can run an “Aliens meets Predator” episode with Gorn juveniles in it (to the extent of - like with the Ice Warrior refresh - using all the tropes from both film series, like infrared “monster-vision” cams, unsettling clicking noises, goo dripping from the overhead grille where the monster is hiding etc) - but it seems to reduce the Gorn themselves to something completely uninteresting and Other.
(That episode also was in general less interesting that I hoped - I picked up on apparently unintended hints that the refugee girl seemed to want companions who protected her, and thought this was going to be one of those actually, the girl is the real monster, and she’s creating these threats herself to get herself protectors and friends.)

The earlier Gorn episode is much more interesting - especially since it leans more into “submarines in space” stuff that works so well in Nick Meyer’s TOS movies - but also because there’s a touch of that “understanding your enemy” theme that is nowhere in the later episode.

Meanwhile, I thought (despite it being a variation on The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas), Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach was probably the best episode of the middle third; although it doesn’t really do anything new with the material it starts from. (Compare to N.K. Jemisin’s response to the original story, “The Ones Who Stay and Fight”, which does something much more pointed with the prompt).

And, after a run of less good episodes, the series does redeem itself somewhat with the final episode - albeit that you really need to remember the plot beats from the TOS episode Balance of Terror to really appreciate it. Despite continuing the theme of rather too rapidly wrapping up personal subplots (Pike’s angst about his fate presumably being fully resolved by his pioneering the fine tradition of Starfleet captains seeing alternate histories), it is entertaining, and the new Jim Kirk manages the right level of cockiness - although the mistake that’s made is identical to the one in Discovery: S1 E1 - The Vulcan Hello, which is even named for the whole principle.

Anyway, SNW S1 - strong beginning, pretty strong middle… weirdly disappointing end.

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At a certain point in Season 2 of Riverdale, I asked my partner which character on the show she thought was the dumbest, and then we came to the conclusion that, depending on the episode, each and every one of them is the dumbest. Except Fred Andrews.

Also, for no reason whatsoever other than I saw a weirdly compelling scene in a tiktok (because they’re just putting straight up movie clips on tiktok now), I watched this 2017 Amazon Studios military thriller called The Wall. Apparently it was a Blacklist-winning script — which shows, because it’s very script-forward — it’s literally a soldier talking back and forth on radio with a sniper who has him pinned down behind a wall for 90% of its 90 minute runtime. It actually might have been better as a stage play. As is though, it was solid — Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena are pretty great, the directing (by the guy who made the best video game movie ever, Edge of Tomorrow) was very good, and the way it ties together at the end was actually pretty brilliant. Good unemployed weekday afternoon watch.

Anyway, continuing through horror movies at my pace of like 1.5 a day (someone respond to my job applications please), got a few more.


I’m coming up on the third anniversary of my move to Chicago to start grad school, so for that reason I think this one hit a little harder than a lot of these others. But even if not, that was utterly excellent — top tier in basically every way. Something I’ve really come to love is fiction that plays fast and loose with its own internal reality for the sake of metaphor or mood piece, and Candyman does that really well; I don’t know that I could easily explain every plot beat, but they don’t really matter when everything it puts on the table is so haunting (god, the bees). Also now that I’ve acquainted myself with quite a few of these characters, this one’s easily my favorite. Also god the ending rocked. Get fucked, Trevor, you asshat.


I really just had this on the list because Nope is one of my favorite films and it was a big point of comparison for it, but man that was great. Kevin Bacon chewing scenery for an hour and a half as some really great animatronic monsters swallow cars from underground? The Mojave (I think) also looks really great here — the way they use the desert for atmosphere and vibes was just perfect, and it managed to toe the line between being really funny and still a bit scary pretty well. Favorite moment is probably the scene prepper character’s basement, as they scramble back and the camera pans to reveal that utterly incredible corkboard wall full of guns. That or the several moments where the score seems to be trying to do Indiana Jones but just different enough to avoid a copyright lawsuit. Great movie.

Cabin in the Woods

And okay, this one’s cheating because I have very much seen it (several times) before, but because I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, I rewatched it today — and man, I hate to give credit to anything tangentially associated with Joss Whedon, but this movie remains incredibly good. I really can’t help but compare it to Scream, both being nihilistic (in their own way) deconstructions of the genre and its justifications, but man does the stuff this one is trying to do under the surface just feel so much more impactful. Both are very rooted in their eras: Scream’s hacky-slashy nihilism felt rooted in a kind of empty 90s anxiety — Cabin’s more apocalyptic version feels like a response to the ways in which we all seem to be trying to hold together a world quickly spinning out of grasp. Every time I watch this movie I’m struck by the scenes in the headquarters, and how the operators’ jovial callousness develops throughout the movie. It’s this and Get Out for the decade for me, really. Everything else is just vying for 3rd place.