THE NEW MUTANTS (2020)

It’s hard to tell at what point of this film’s absurdly protracted release things started coming apart — clearly there was a distinct vision at one point and all the mess of its production just muddied that so much that what we got was just sort of a flat, disjointed and indecisive jumble of ideas that don’t cohere together at all.

Nothing in its premise stands up to the slightest bit of scrutiny, and the fact that it’s trying to squeeze five superhero origins and a romance and a horror film and a teen drama all into a tight 94min does nothing any favours at all.

100% would have been better served as a limited TV series where any one of those concepts could have had a moment to breath outside of rushed expository dialogue. As it is, each of the characters gets an introduction, a scene where they Don’t Want To Talk About Their Trauma, a manifestation of said trauma and then a moment of overcoming it in the climactic battle. On paper it sounds like everyone gets an arc but really it’s just a fill-in-the-blanks, paint-by-numbers rollout with zero nuance and a staggering lack of clarity or explanation.

I’m familiar with the comic run it’s based on and even still I struggled to keep focus. Some of the visual effects and design are cool but they’re not in service of anything.

Not even bad enough for a fun drunk watch, just skip it like you would all the late-game X-Men movies that aren’t Logan.

BEHIND THE MASK: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

A slasher film parody/mockumentary that exists in a world where the famous supernatural serial killers not only exist, but that it is a position one can aspire to.

It’s a stroke of genius to see a hopeful slasher legend trying to build his own myth. All the tropes of the genre are accounted for using a combination of training, preparation and tricks right out of a basic magician’s handbook.

Loses a bit of steam when the mockumentary aspect folds into a more traditional horror film arc, but fans of the classics will find a lot to enjoy even if the final execution doesn’t quite live up to the cleverness of its premise.

If you grew up on slasher films, this one’s for you.

LEGION (s01-03)

It’s hard to pin Legion down, since it’s very proudly one of the least superhero-y comicbook-based TV series of the past decade despite being populated by very comicbooky characters and ideas.

It’s more of a psychedelic mind trip through gorgeous production design, S-tier cinematography and a plot and cast of characters that absolutely delight in and embrace all the weirdest things that the genre has to offer.

The cast is clearly having a ball, and it goes to show yet again how underutilised Dan Stevens is in the broader scheme of things.

Sure, there are action sequences and the like, but more often the central conflicts are resolved by compassion and strange conversations and a few times by psychic dance-battles. Oh, and a hippy cult smokes happiness from the udders of a gigantic pig at one point.

Yeah. It’s weird.

And that’s all to the benefit, because it’s not trying to be a regular sort of X-Men show, it’s a character study of a persona fragmented by trauma, wrapped in a dream-like 1960s aesthetic and often a very Lynchian desire to be willfully obtuse.

It’s unsettling and dark at times, gorgeous and strange and wonderful at others. The pacing overall is fairly off-kilter, but if you’re willing to forgive its self-indulgence you’ll find a tonne of reasons to fall in love with it.

It runs just long enough to tie itself up nicely without overstaying, but I wish more shows were this willing to embrace the absurdity of their own premises.

Highly recommended.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY (s02)

Now that introductions and an initial conflict in the first season are out of the way it’s much more fun just to let the characters be themselves… while scattered across the timeline of 1960s Dallas, Texas.

Of course, there’s another apocalypse looming and a trio of time-hopping Swedish assassins to deal with, but really the show shines when it’s letting the family play off and support each other.

Feels a bit more loose and creative this time around, and the soundtrack is bangin’, the whole cast puts in great, hilarious, dysfunctional performances.

A case could be made for spreading the show out over weeks instead of dropping the Netflix binge model all at once, since something like this is fun to keep in conversation rather than to burn through and promptly forget about, but that’s a broader conversation on streaming strategies.

All up, better than the previous season even if the pacing is a little strange at times. If you liked the first one you’ll have a good time again here.

HORSE GIRL (2020)

A descent into a fragmenting mind that at first seems like it might land too far the side of twee and meet-cute but veers off into the strange and tragic.

Alison Brie paints a convincing picture of someone suddenly and very rapidly losing their mind to PTSD in a world of pastel mundanity that is both tonally light while uncomfortably grounded.

The sort of weird indie project that Netflix excels at platforming, worth your time if that’s anything like your jam.

PALM SPRINGS (2020)

Much more subdued than what you might expect from a Lonely Island movie but still light, easy and fun all the same.

Effortlessly charismatic performances from both Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti and the always welcome JK Simmons wildcard.

Could have maybe gone a little bigger on its premise, but it’s also really charming while keeping its humour away from the sort of rambling aimless improv you’d get from, say, an Apatow version of this.

Good for a lazy day if you want to feel colour and sunshine pouring out of your TV.

THE VAST OF NIGHT (2019)

A nice, simple little scifi thriller with the look and feel of an early Cold War-set episode of STRANGE TALES or THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

Does a great deal with very little, and has some really creative camera work that beautifully describes the distances around a small town somewhere in 1950s America.

Some incredibly long and seamless shots and two extremely charismatic lead performances, but to say anything of the plot would be to ruin the tone and the expectation it so wonderfully builds with steady, thoughtful pace. Could have perhaps gone a little further with some of its more creative reaches to really elevate itself it greatness, but I’m not going to hold that against it since restraint stops it tipping over into gimmicky and helps it feel authentic.

Recommended — don’t read anything up about it!