I found some people trading Steam keys, and I had some leftover from Humble Bundles, so I picked up Her Story among others. It’s an indie game, FMV, the premise is that you’re a journalist or something looking into an old police case, and you’ve got access to a database of video interviews about a 20 year old murder. But for whatever reason, you can’t just watch all the videos, you have to search by keywords. So they start you off with a few, and then you search by keywords as you start to find out details about the case. It gets pretty soap opera-y, but something about the interactivity and the haphazard order that you uncover the story makes it really engaging. I barely moved an inch for like two hours while I searched and watched videos until I knew the whole story.
You figure out the whole story after about half the videos are uncovered, but there’s an achievement for getting them all, and I had a chunk of 8 in a row that I didn’t have, so I thought maybe I was missing a plot point and obsessively searched like crazy. Eventually had to google for it, and it turns out both that I never would have found it, and it didn’t matter.
Incorporated is an upcoming Syfy show that I went to set to record and discovered it was available on demand in advance. The advertising harps on the fact that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are executive producers, and it becomes immediately apparent that it’s because of the hippie liberal themes. In the future, global warming devastated the US, the government more or less collapsed, and everything is now run by evil corporations. If you don’t live the sweet life working for one of the corps inside their borders (“Green Zone”), you live in a post-apocalyptic hellscape (“Red Zone”).
It’s interesting enough, though I suspect if you aren’t concerned about the environment or corporate greed, you’re likely to find the hippie stuff irritating. The money shot from the pilot is the guy in his self-driving car on his way from his idyllic suburban home to work, when they zoom out to reveal the lush treeline along the road is a projection, and everything outside his neighborhood/his office towers/the road to work looks like something out of Fallout. That’s basically the setup.
It stars some guy I don’t know as the main guy, along with Dennis Haysbert, Julia Ormond, the always lovely Allison Miller, Dewey Crowe from Justified, some really hot girl in a small part that I hope gets bigger, and a bunch of Canadian That Guys.
As usual over the holidays, I saw a few movies, some of which I wouldn’t have seen had family not been involved:
- Loving is the true story of the couple at the center of Loving v. Virginia, the court case that made interracial marriage legal nationwide. It’s slow-moving, kinda like Drive with the long pauses for silence during dialogue, but otherwise really good, if you’re into that kinda thing. Ruth Negga, Uncle Owen from the Star Wars prequels, Michael Shannon, and for some reason Nick Kroll star (Kroll’s fine, he’s just an odd choice for a serious movie). I didn’t even recognize Uncle Owen until after, he captured “redneck of few words” perfectly. There are older men on the more “rural” part of my family that he could be confused for.
- Allied is kinda meh. Robert Zemeckis seems more interested in making fancy shots with mirrors or with other special effects than in servicing the story or characters (although the ridiculous “rolling the hospital bed out into the streets so Marion Cotillard can give birth in the middle of the streets of London lit by anti-aircraft fire during the Blitz” scene might have been in the script). The elaborate shots are distracting in a lot of places. There’s a pretty decent story in there somewhere, but I think it needed a different director and someone besides Brad Pitt. I’m normally fine with him, but a lot of the heavy lifting is on him to sell first that he really falls in love with this woman, second that he refuses to believe she’s a traitor, and third that he’s starting to doubt her.
- Mascots is a Netflix original that’s been out for a while, but I just got around to it. Another of those Christopher Guest things where a bunch of people are really passionate about something not many people are passionate about, in this case, sports mascots. A lot of the usual suspects appear: Fred Willard, Ed Begley Jr., Parker Posey, John Michael Higgins, Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch, Stiffler’s mom, and Guest himself. I was mostly fascinated by Susan Yeagley who is a perfectly nice looking That Girl (she was the Sweetums lady on Parks and Rec), and here she’s a little bit white trash-y, and I found her really hot. Anyway, overall not the best of Guest’s improv-y movies, but there are quite a few laughs.
Mr. Right is the Anna Kendrick/Sam Rockwell romantic/hitman comedy that I thought, as a fan of Grosse Pointe Blank, sounded like a pretty good idea, but then I never heard anything good about it after it came out, so I thought maybe it sucked. It turns out to… not suck. It’s short, but it’s not a bad way to pass 90 minutes at all. Sam Rockwell is amusing enough and still an excellent dancer, Anna Kendrick is cute in an odd way as usual, and there are some funny moments. It’s sometimes a little too weird for its own good, but I guess I find the romantic comedy format a lot more palatable when the people involved are entertaining sociopaths and you get to mix in fight scenes and assassinations and whatnot.
I’d never seen The Mist and saw it on a while back and recorded it because… I dunno, some people said it was ok. One of my first thoughts was that whoever cast The Walking Dead must have liked this movie (because Andrea, Carol and Dale are all in it), but it turns out TWD original showrunner Frank Darabont directed this. He obviously likes those actors and Stephen King, since this was his third King adaptation after Shawshank and The Green Mile.
Anyway, it stars Tom Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, Sam Witwer, that girl from The Chronicles of Riddick, William Sadler, Cliff Clavin’s mom, the Sherminator, and the aforementioned TWD people, all locked in a supermarket as some spooky mist has descended on a small town in Maine (naturally, because Stephen King). When people go into the mist, they don’t come back. In classic this-kind-of-thing fashion, the supernatural stuff isn’t the real threat, it’s the other people.
The special effects from 2007 look like a SyFy Original movie from 2016, the horror aspect is pretty unexceptional, and the other stuff is a mix of blunt political metaphor and that Twilight Zone episode where the power goes out and people go crazy turning on each other. You can definitely see the seeds of The Walking Dead in it, beyond just the cast. Same basic idea of people surviving a supernatural catastrophe, and the same sort of melodrama, archetype characters, and sometimes clunky dialogue, but looking for big payoff moments of horror and personal drama.
I think it’s mostly notable for a brutal ending. I’m not sure what the point of the ending is, but it is extremely dark. And I do kinda appreciate a non-happy ending, so I was pleased with that. Not enough to recommend the movie as a whole to anyone but a horror fan.
Shooter is USA’s TV adaptation of the Marky Mark/Kate Mara movie from a while back. For whatever reason I strongly remembered the terrible name “Nick Memphis” from the movie, but forgot Marky Mark had the terrible name “Bob Lee Swagger.” Ryan Phillipe plays Swagger and they turn Nick Memphis into Nadine Memphis, played by Waller from Arrow, and Nadine makes it somehow much less dumb a name. Also from the CW superhero shows, Patty from Flash is Mrs. Swagger.
It’s a little heavy on gun porn, which I guess should be expected with the title. The bigger problem is that again the pilot is not a pilot. Of course it’s standard for a drama pilot to show the main character’s idyllic life before the thing happens that flips his life upside-down, but it’s also important to show the results of the life-upside-down-flipping. This doesn’t happen here, it basically ends on a cliffhanger, the resolution of which will be… what the show is. From the movie, I expect the subsequent episodes to be more like what I might enjoy, so I’ll give it some time.
Mars is the first thing I’ve ever watched on National Geographic (is its real name “NatGeo” or is that just like how Comedy Central slaps a “CC” brand on everything? I don’t even know), a miniseries about the fictional first manned mission to Mars. But also sort of a documentary about current Mars plans? Or a commercial for Space-X? It’s weird as hell. It’s presented as a flashback to the 2016 origins of the fictional Mars mission, and it includes interviews with Elon Musk and Neil DeGrasse Tyson and other people I don’t recognize but they’re probably scientists and engineers rather than actors. It bounces back and forth between definitely-fictional 2033 and at-least-mostly-real 2016. It’s an unquestionably weird format and half-assing two things turns out worse than whole-assing either a fictional show or a documentary.
The Brothers Grimsby is about two brothers whose last names aren’t Grimsby. So that pissed me off right away. It’s that one where Sacha Baron Cohen is a drunken football hooligan and Mark Strong is his secret agent brother. I mostly thought it looked dumb, but that one thing where they couldn’t show a clip on Jimmy Kimmel so they instead showed it to the audience and aired their reaction (horrified laughter) kinda worked on me. In the end, I had to google which one it was and had to google it because there were a few that were pretty extreme.
It’s basically a garbage movie with a few scenes that are really disgustingly funny. The message about the importance of family is kind of ruined by the AIDS jokes and other stuff that clash with that tone. I think it might have worked better if it just accepted itself as an action/gross-out hybrid instead of trying to have an emotional center.
Perhaps the most unrealistic thing in a movie with some really unrealistic things is that the plot has England doing well in the World Cup.
Arrival, the aliens-arriving-on-Earth movie with Amy Adams not to be confused with the aliens-arriving-on-Earth movie The Arrival with Charlie Sheen, is at the same time highly engrossing and kind of a letdown, which is a weird combination. They did a great job building up mystery and presenting new elements in ways that made me want to know more, and the ultimate resolution pretty much made sense in the context of everything and resolved any plot threads I was concerned about in a novel way, and yet I felt somewhat unsatisfied by it. I’m glad I saw it and I enjoyed the experience but I don’t want to strongly recommend it, which seems like a contradiction, but it’s how I felt about it.
The Great Indoors stars Joel McHale and Stephen Fry and I like them both, so I gave a laugh track sitcom on CBS a shot. McHale’s an outdoorsman writer for a magazine who’s recalled to the office for the magazine’s conversion to digital and to have him lead a bunch of millennials. So a basic generational conflict as the source of the sitcom (“Damn kids with your apps and your phones!”). It’s ultimately… a laugh track sitcom. Predictable, bland, not all that funny.