THE WITCHER // s02

Solid fantasy/action, benefitting from a more coherend (read: linear) arrangement of timelines than the first season.

Interesting spins on all sorts of legendary monsters give it a distinct and grounded flavour of high fantasy.

Cavill proves again he’s the perfect casting, and the love he has for the role oozes off the screen.

Nice to revisit painting the charater too, since the illustration I did for the first season kicked off the habit of adding them to reviews.

If you enjoyed the first season, you’ll enjoy this one. If you weren’t totally sold but thought it had potential, this season might change your mind.

Recommended.

STATION ELEVEN (2021)

Post-apocalyptic fiction with a theatrical slant.

Switches back and forth between the first hundred days of a world-ending flu virus, and twenty years after the fact—following a troupe of actors circling the Great Lakes of Northern America.

For all its waxing lyrical about the power of performance and the pretensions of art, it ultimately places its value on human relationships and the ties that bind us.

Tied together with a series of Shakespearean performances, some people will likely find it too high-minded and slow. But for those willing to stick it out there’s a unique, self-contained story about stories here.

More, it’s refreshing for once to see a civilizational collapse story about the slow, protracted death of the modern world. Among post-pandemic media, it’s distinct for not retreading the same beats you’ve seen a thousand times.

Recommended.

THE DEAD DON’T DIE (2019)

Kind of pointless?

Great cast, and a director I usually love, but this didn’t do anything for me.

Seems like it’s aiming to be a throwback to old-school classic zombie tropes, but doesn’t bring anything new or interesting to the table. Doesn’t even strike a compelling tone, or wring distinct performances out of anyone.

Plot just sort of meanders from one scene to the next, there’s no apparent stakes, and everything is playing so straight and flat that it almost seems like it’s supposed to be satire?

Impossible to tell what it’s trying to say, in that case.

Dull. Skip it.

THE SILENT SEA (2022)

There’s been a boon of films lately that feel like they would have been better served as a limited series. The Silent Sea is the opposite.

A pretty serviceable sci-fi B movie that is unfortunately stretched too thin over an eight episode runtime. Doesn’t have enough material to stop the back half from retreading the same beats without adding any clever new twists or stakes.

Once its premise is established it doesn’t have anything more to show besides a pretty standard, drawn out story you’ve seen half a hundred times.

Well produced, just not that compelling. Decent, not great.

YELLOWJACKETS // s01

Brilliant.

Kicking off with one of the strongest pilots in recent memory, Yellowjackets splits a narrative between a girls’ soccer team whose plane goes down in the mountains during the 90s, and the lives of the survivors in the present day.

It’s ominous, foreboding, and gives you enough information upfront to know that things are going to get bad, before expertly dancing back and forth between the time periods.

The soundtrack is fantastic, the production value is top-notch, the editing is masterful.

The performances too deserve special mention — the cast are excellent, but Juliette Lewis and Christina Ricci are bringing career-best character work to their roles.

There’s a tonne more intrigue left, with plenty of clever misdirects and setups. Some of the gore is not for the faint of heart.

An absolutely stellar first season, here’s hoping it can maintain.

Highly recommended.

Happy 2022!

Wanted to kick off with a fresh painting, so here’s something from my time in the Yukon over the New Year’s break.

Best wishes to all, I have some exciting things in the works for this year!

THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS (2021)

Sadly, no good.

Starts out interestingly enough, but the instant it becomes so meta that you expect it to elevate into something wild, it just… stops evolving.

The rest of the (very extensive) runtime is filled with dull exposition and mediocre action. Familiar characters return, with some of them swapped out for younger counterparts (with wobbly in-world explanations) since it seems unlikely Hugo Weaving or Lawrence Fishburne were going to get back into fighting shape for another go around the block.

Action films have come a long way since the original Matrix, and it’s disappointing that there’s nothing here that comes even remotely close. It’s unremarkably shot, and there’s not a single iconic setpiece, which is odd in a franchise that exploded to fame on the back of its iconic setpieces. We all thought, apparently foolishly, that the return of The Matrix meant some grand, mind-bending new evolution of action films again. Hell, Keanu’s still on his A-game with the John Wick franchise.

Instead, Resurrections chooses to go down this strangely self-aware and self-referential path, but then doesn’t really capitalise on the ideas at all. One of the earliest bits of dialogue in the film literally goes: Our parent company, Warner Media, was going to make another Matrix anyway, at least this way we get to do it on our terms.

Kind seems like “on our terms” meant taking everyone’s interest in the franchise out the back and shooting it.

Don’t bother.

DON’T LOOK UP (2021)

Your standard Adam McKay biting satire that’s so uncomfortably close to reality as to hardly qualify as satire.

This time around, it’s a comet headed for Earth with a 100% guarantee of a planet-wide extinction event, and the absolute trainwreck of a circus that ensues from the media parade of misinformation, disinformation, corporate interest and general political fuckery.

It’s frequently infuriating in its accuracy, playing for comedy what could be modern headlines with only a few small tweaks.

If the pandemic hasn’t yet completely soured your appetite for laughing at this sort of thing, then it’s a solid comedy with a stacked cast and a black heart.

Recommended.

FOUNDATION // s01

It’s long been held that Isaac Asimov’s titanic science fiction book series Foundation could not be adapted. As it stands, it still hasn’t been.

There are ten fairly short novels comprising Foundation, the bulk of which are made up of anthologised tales of men in rooms discussing historical events in extraordinarily dry fashion. They’re fascinating reads, absolutely, but they don’t make for exciting television.

The Apple+ series counterbalances this by altering the characters and the narratives to focus on some of the action of the various conflicts, however in doing so it fundamentally alters what Foundation is.

The problems come when the cold, clinical narratives about predictive models of mathematics and “psycho-history” from the novels are adapted somehow into storylines that border on mysticism and the supernatural, while handwaving away what should be hard explanations as simply fatalism cloaked in “very fancy maths”.

In the novels, the moral is that individual actions are essentially meaningless against the tide of culture and time. Humanity as a large-scale movement in eminently predictable in its behaviours, and individuals are not be able to alter this course, only adapt and prepare for its eventualities.

In the show, individuals shift and alter events, and talk of mathematical predetermination on granular scale. They have visions and talk about fate and higher individual purpose. It’s a complete inversion of the point and emphasis of the books, and as such, Foundation still cannot be said to have been adapted.

There is certainly some fantastic work going into this. The cast are excellent, the effects and designs are extremely well executed. Some of the concepts presented are fascinating.

As an original, standalone sci-fi series, it’s pretty decent for the most part. But as an adaptation, it fails, and it fails hardest when it deviates furthest from the source material.

Read the books instead.

SUCCESSION // s01-03

Arrested Development, if it wasn’t a comedy.

Of course, Succession is still actually billed as a comedy, though it’s so massively steeped in its satire while it plays totally straight. The humour comes from just how nightmarishly awful this family is—doubled again because it feels like it could be a biopic series about the Murdochs or the Packers. Even the Trumps are more comical in real life than the fictional Roy family.

We follow the Roys during a time of upheaval at their massive media conglomerate. It’s a family affair, so the question is: which of the three children (the fourth is so blissfully useless as to be entirely out of the question) will come to take over the top job.

Problem is, Logan Roy is an absolute c***, and nobody is more aware of this than Logan Roy. Each season becomes an exercise in seeing him psychologically twist and ruin each of his children in turn as they vie for his favour and position.

The real masterwork is in seeing how the writing can make you loathe each of them, but then come to pity them, until it wants you to remember that not a single one of them actually has any redeeming qualities they wouldn’t sell out in an instant.

And they frequently. It’s non-stop scheming, manipulation and power plays. In three seasons it has never once been made clear what any of them actually does in their job.

It’s absolutely compelling, fascinating, and blackly hilarious.

Highly, highly recommended.