RUSSIAN DOLL // s02

Unfocused but nonetheless enjoyable followup to a stellar first season.

Natasha Lyonne puts in an absolutely killer effort to a strange, meandering season of an overall great show. She’s a treasure.

The emotional through-line resolves itself much later and less clearly than the first season, choosing instead to reach for a broader scope and losing some of it’s razor edge as a result.

Still, it’s quick and punchy and all the performances are excellent at holding up a messy time-travel concept.

Loved it, even if it didn’t have the same kick of the first season. Third season welcome.

Recommended.

THE NORTHMAN (2022)

Strap in boys, new hypermasculine ideal just dropped.

A bloody, visually stunning Nordic revenge epic.

As much as Eggers’ previous masterpiece (2019’s The Lighthouse) was a thesis on masculinity, this is all of that dialled up past eleven. This particular time and place in the world is more brutal and cruel, and so the protagonist must match it on all fronts in order to exact his revenge.

Alexander Skarsgård is a terrifying presence throughout; absolutely enormous, animalistic and violent—not so much a human as he is an archetype, an icon.

While it’s mythic and blunt, there is still an elegance and economy to The Northman that sets it above and beyond a standard action flick. It feels incredibly tangible and authentic, even when dabbling in mysticism and legend.

Astoundingly well shot, brilliantly performed, exceptional worldbuilding. A definitive modern “historical” epic.

Recommended.

OUR FLAG MEANS DEATH // s01

OR: Rhys Darby & Taika Waititi’s Gay Pirate Show

It’s great. Takes a few episodes to properly reveal the true premise as a warm, ensemble comedy with strong queer undertones that turn to overtones of self-acceptance.

Once it gets going it’s a very sweet sort of romance set against a backdrop of classic pirate hijinks, but one of the captains is foppishly terrible at their job.

The whole cast is excellent, even if they’re slightly overshadowed by the charisma and chemistry of Waititi and Darby.

Highly recommended.

Hope this gets a second season, it’s a breath of fresh sea air. Kinda feels like an inevitability with all the (well deserved) positive buzz, so fingers crossed.

SEVERANCE // s01

Brilliant.

Four people work in an existentially unsettling office, following a procedure that severs their mind into two separate personas: one that exists within work and one that only exists outside of it.

A paranoid thriller that absolutely nails impersonal, hyper-polished corporate aesthetics and culture. The person who made this has clearly worked some awful office jobs—the satirical element feels horrifyingly true even at its most absurd and strange.

It’s nightmarishly calculated in concept, sleek and precise in execution. Surprisingly stacked emotional stakes, fantastic production design and cinematography.

AppleTV is really coming out ahead as the streaming service with incredibly high caliber projects, and this is one of the most intriguing, darkly hilarious shows in years.

Highly recommended.

EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE, ALL AT ONCE (2022)

Just… wow.

There is so much going on here — a hurricane of full-sprint, gleeful weirdness. It’s incredible. It might be your new favourite movie.

It’s like The Matrix, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich and Rick & Morty conspired to make something that even all that hyperbole can’t accurately describe. It 100% lives up to it’s title, and twists your expectations at every turn.

I think we’re done with multiverse movies after this. The upcoming Doctor Strange promises a lot, but you truly have to see what this film achieves with a fraction of that budget. Even on a purely practical and technical level it’s playing eight-dimensional chess.

Complete joy, wonder, raw emotion and hysterical laughter. What an absolute masterwork of cinematic lunacy.

Highly, highly recommended.

THE ADAM PROJECT (2022)

Above average family action film, but never quite rises to truly exceptional.

All the individual elements are well done: the cast is charismatic, the VFX are top notch. But there’s something in Shawn Levy’s execution, same as with Free Guy… they’re kinda flat?

A bit too polished and clean, so that all the real quirk and personality has been buffed out of them. They feel like products. Products with heart and charm, sure, but never truly unique enough in their own rights to elevate them above pretty good.

My hope is that having the Molyneux sisters (Bob’s Burgers) handling the script and Kevin Feige doing his Marvel overlord thing, the next Levy/Reynolds collab on Deadpool 3 will really click.

As for The Adam Project, it won’t stick with me longer than the next big action film I see.

LICORICE PIZZA (2022)

More of a dreamlike snapshot of time in the 1970s than a potent story in its own right.

Narratively structured around the friendship between a teenager with grand ambitions and a twenty-something with an immaturity streak, and the romance/not-romance developing between them.

Mostly it’s a series of moneymaking schemes strung together over a single summer, not really coalescing into any more plot than the emotional journey of its two protagonists requires.

In the grand ouvre of PT Anderson films, this one kinda sits around the middle — pleasant enough and very well executed, but not as gripping as a Boogie Nights or a There Will Be Blood.

Still, worth a watch.

THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH (2021)

A truly definitive rendition of a classic.

Stripped back and draped in stark, Expressionist production design, Joel Coen’s adaptation is a loving marriage of stage and cinema—playing off the strengths of both mediums to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

Visually stunning, with A-grade performances. A total masterclass of simple, direct adaptation: it’s a highly classical take, so your mileage will vary depending on your appreciation for traditional Shakespeare.

If that’s at all your jam, this comes highly recommended.

NIGHTMARE ALLEY (2022)

Gorgeously shot, wonderfully acted, ultimately a fairly standard thriller.

Maybe I was waiting on a supernatural turn that never came and am judging it based on my expectaions, but I was left a little cold, mostly appreciating its craftsmanship and aesthetics from a distance without feeling any real investment in the story or characters.

It’s certainly very well executed, though, and worth checking out.

SCREAM (2022)

Terrible, but in a mostly fun way.

Chock full of blunt exposition, awful logic and bad character choices… but that’s kinda what it’s going for?

It wants you to be yelling at the screen, wants you to be engaging with its trashiness—it’s explicitly stated in the opening sequence that this ain’t “elevated horror”, this is schlock.

Still, for all its pseudo-meta commentary, its not especially clever, nor does it really bring anything new to the franchise other than waving its hands around and pointing out things it knows about itself.

Probably best for a drunk watch with low expectations and heckling.