I’m going to do something different this week: instead of a regular review/opinion column, I’m going to do the visual equivalent of “sound bites” for various videos I’ve been watching lately.
Figure 1 shows a few of them. Other titles include Star Trek: Strange New Worlds; Naomi; The Orville, and a few movies, like Men. What will be different about this week is that I won’t, in most cases, give a full précis of the show; I’ll assume you—as genre readers and viewers—will already have some idea about the show, so I may also inadvertently throw in a spoiler or two if you’re not current with the show. (One or two, like Naomi, I’m not current with, either because of time, or because I haven’t gotten up the energy to continue watching. Sometimes it’s me—all this screen time uses up an enormous amount of my time—and sometimes I just lost interest in actively pursuing the show.)
The MCU hasn’t been exactly wowing me lately; although I think Benedict Cumberbatch is absolutely perfect as Dr. Strange, the latest movie was, for me, a failure. First off, although the first Dr. Strange movie paid homage to Steve Ditko (you know, the Dormammu sequence), the latest one was just an excuse to throw in lots and lots of splashy CGI. And what really ticked me off was the villain (I’m trying not to spoil here for those who haven’t seen it), whom we were originally made to believe was one of the “good guys.” I didn’t buy this person as this villain. Marvel has had such luck with matching characters and actors; like the aforementioned Strange/Cumberbatch; like Chris Evans and Captain America; like Mark Ruffalo and The Hulk; and let’s not forget Robert Downey, Jr. and Iron Man/Tony Stark. So the fact that they took an actor we’d come to like and made that actor (a good match for the character previously) a totally uncharacteristic villain—and I don’t buy the reasoning behind that, either—really upset me. Oh, and while I’m on great matches, how about Chris Hemsworth and Thor? Totally likeable; I’m looking forward to Love & Thunder just because of him and, to a lesser extent, Natalie Portman also as The God of Thunder. (Or Jeff Goldblum’s calling Thor “Lord of Thunder”?)(Postmedia’s resident genre critic, Chris Knight, headlined his review in the paper “Gorr + Thor = Bore!” but I don’t care. Chris is a great reviewer, but I often disagree with his reviews; for example, Jurassic World: Dominion.)
He said that Jurassic World: Dominion was overly long and had nothing new in it. That part is completely true—it could have been cut by quite a bit; as for nothing new, the movie was essentially a paean to the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World series itself. We were supposed to, and did, thrill to the reunion of the main characters, even though Chris Pratt’s “hand out to the dinosaurs” shtick was getting pretty old—in the “real world” (if there could be dinosaurs in the real world), he’d have lost that hand at least once. It was nice to see a new, strong female character (DeWanda Wise as Kayla Watts, the pilot), even if her abandonment of her previous money-hungry status was sudden and not really explicable. It was nice to see new types of dinos onscreen—some with feathers—but let’s face it: this movie pretty much abandoned science for action sequences. I liked it anyway. (But then, I’m a hopeless lowbrow when it comes to genre.)
We watched a movie I had great hopes for; Men (2022), starring Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear. A woman’s husband dies and she, following the advice of her best friend on the phone, rents a house way out in the English countryside for two weeks to recover. Strange stuff starts to happen, and you think (well, I did, anyway) this will be another terrific British horror movie, but it devolves into… well, I’m not really sure. I predicted the actual end, but I didn’t like it. The actors were very good, but the storyline broke down and took off for left field.
I’ve also watched, as I said, a lot of TV series; one of the best (IMO) newer ones is The Boys, which just ended its fourth season; with Karl Urban as Billy Butcher; Jack Quaid as Hughie Campbell; Erin Moriarty as Starlight/Annie January; and Antony Starr as Homelander (there are several other outstanding actors, but these are the main ones). It’s violent, bloody, obscene… and probably a good look at what would happen if ordinary people had superpowers and worked for a controlling corporation. What might happen if the most powerful of all was a violent sociopath? It sure kept me watching.
Stranger Things just ended its fourth season too, with Milly Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Gaten Matarazzo, Matthew Modine, and Paul Reiser(!)—and quite a few other good, mostly young, actors. I have to say that the season ender was too long, too drawn out, and the ending kind of unsatisfying (I can say no more). If there is indeed another season, which there probably will be, it should be the last. They’ve drawn this one out farther than it needed to be, in my less-than-humble opinion.
What We Do in the Shadows has just started a new season; in my opinion, the last season kind of fell off the rails. I’m hoping this will be better; but really, a group of vampires living together in a house in modern New Jersey (I think—the original was in New Zealand) is fodder for only a certain number of comedic situations, and I think they’ve pretty much exhausted them. Maybe it’s time to stake this one.
As a long-time Superman fan (both comics and TV—I started watching Superman when George Reeves was the star!), I’ve been watching Superman and Lois. Tyler Hoechlin is a pretty good Supes, but I wish he’d use a razor once in a while. The unshaven look doesn’t work for the original superhero, IMO. At least he seems to have real muscles. Elizabeth Tulloch as Lois Lane looks more like she is a bulimia victim than an ace reporter. And the concept of two half-super children who are slowly gaining powers is an interesting one. I laughed out loud when they showed the cubical Bizarro world, btw; I doubt it could really work, but that’s how the comics always showed it. Also, the idea that just anyone can snort this special golden Kryptonite and become super for 24 hours is just a bridge too far, don’t you think?
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds seeks to semi-retcon ST:TOS before James T. Kirk took over as captain; despite the fact that they have special effects that TOS could only dream of, they maintain a certain amount of faithfulness to the original series. That is, until a certain episode that might as well have been a “Q” episode from ST: The Next Generation. I might as well say it now: I don’t like fantasy in my science fiction—the two are completely separate genres for me. When magic comes in and anything can happen—like in Harry Potter—that doesn’t fit in a rational, realistic world. Let’s face it: a lot of TV/movie science fiction depends on bafflegab and unobtainium, but at least it’s (on the surface) “real-world” stuff. Like in Larry Niven’s The Magic Goes Away, magic for me is not “anything can happen”—it must have rules and costs. (Hey, I’ve watched all the Potter movies, including the latest Dumbledore one, and that’s fine—in their universe. But keep magic out of Star Trek, please!) The following episode was (obviously, according to my wife, the Beautiful and Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk) based on Alien, though it features a radically altered Gorn from TOS. Here the Gorn is a CGI creature instead of a man in a really, really bad rubber suit, but like the alien in the eponymous movie, it grows really, really fast (something I always had a problem with, scientifically—like, where does all that mass come from? But I’m in danger of saying too much, so I’ll shut up about that. Oh, and what’s up with Captain Pike’s hairdo?
Back to movies for a moment—I wasn’t thrilled with the Kingsman: Golden Circle movie; even the addition of Julianne Moore, whom I really like, and Elton John (yes, that Elton John) couldn’t save this awful mishmash. But the newest one, The King’s Man (with Ralph Fiennes, pronounced “Rafe Fines” for some British reason; and Gemma Arterton, whom I think is a real cutie) was pretty good; in fact, quite fun. I recommend it.
And I haven’t yet mentioned the closest thing to Star Trek: TOS yet: The Orville, now in its third season. It’s close, I think, in spirit; if ST: STN (if I may be forgiven even more acronym-ing) hadn’t existed, it would still be the direct successor to TOS. No, the characters are nothing like the TOS original characters except for Bortus, who’s obviously an analogue to TNG’s Worf; oh, and Isaac, who’s the Data analogue, again from TNG. But the spirit’s the same, in my opinion, even if Seth McFarlane is no James T. Kirk. Adrianne Palicki could be a real kick-ass XO (Executive Officer/Number One) if they’d let her actually do something. But mostly she gets to stand around with her lips pursed. She actually kicked a lot of butt in Agents of Shield. I’m still watching The Orville with a lot of enjoyment, despite the giant flaw in the episode where Gordon gets stranded on Earth 400 years in the past. I won’t go into it here, but his reaction rang totally false to us.
I’m using up a lot of electrons here, and haven’t even touched on my other favourites that I’ve been neglecting, like Doom Patrol, Resident Alien, Moon Knight, Umbrella Academy, Westworld, Space Force, ST: Prodigy, and so on. There are a lot of series to watch, and I have to prioritize on the ones that are giving me a bit of an adrenaline boost. Because—believe it or not from this list—I do have a life outside watching TV and movie screens. I’m working my way through the original Jack Reacher book series by Lee Child, again; in a way, it’s my farewell to the series. I don’t think his brother is capable of carrying on the series—and Child himself has been making giant mistakes not only in his character, turning Reacher into a careless psychopath, but also in the books’ backgrounds. (To the extent that he lost a dedicated reader, Spider Robinson, for those reasons.) But the series isn’t really genre, so I won’t go into that.
In a future column I will attempt to catch up a bit not only on those neglected shows mentioned above, but on some of the books I should have been reviewing all along. So that’s enough for this week.
If you have any comments, you can comment here or on Facebook, or even by email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). All comments are welcome! (Just be polite, please.) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!