Watchmen (2019) s01e05 – Little Fear of Lightning

Everyone gets everything they want. I wanted a Tim Blake Nelson “Watchmen” episode. And for my sins, they gave me one.

Turns out Nelson was in New York for the giant squid attack; as a youth he looked like a cheaper, slightly nerdier Tom Holland and was a Jehovah’s Witness out to preach last minute Jesus to the sinners in New Jersey. He’s in a funhouse when the squid teleports in, covering him in mirrors… which contributed to his origin story because “Watchmen” origin stories are really, really obvious. Though maybe we’ve just gone past where origin stories are going to be any good. “Seeing” the squid attack is all right, for a moment I wondered if Watchmen: The Movie would play any better with it cut in but no because the movie’s still shit and it’s just a faked CG shot pulling back from screaming teen Nelson in Jersey to New York City and the squid.

Turns out the squid attack becomes the subject matter for a 1993 Steven Spielberg film shot in black and white with a girl in a red coat being the only color element because, sure, fuck Schindler’s List, let’s just assume Spielberg’s actually as craven as Damon Lindelof. The Schindler’s List thing will be probably be “Watchmen”’s cheapest moment just because it’s not an Easter egg, they go in hard on explaining it because Lindelof doesn’t do subtle. Even when it seems like he’s going to do subtle, he turns it around and does obvious. In this episode too, at the end, when I was regretting saying nice things about the first couple episodes in particular how well they were directed, because this episode is terribly directed. Steph Green takes the obvious script and somehow makes it even more obvious, which is particularly bad since there are a handful of elements feigning subtly and she really doesn’t want to do anything subtle.

Nelson’s got a life changing experience as he uncovers some of the conspiracy… the pedestrian, contrived conspiracy (again, talking to Lindelof about comic books and what’s good about them must be a mind-numbing experience, doubtlessly even worse than reading one of his terrible comic books) so it ought to—theoretically—give Nelson some fodder as for his performance. Only it doesn’t because it’s so poorly handled. They do the thing where they refer to the opening flashback as one of Nelson’s memories, because the target audience is too stupid to remember forty minutes ago. It’s not condescending though; “Watchmen” isn’t technically superlative enough (anymore) to condescend.

Oh. And Jeremy Irons. So richest man in the world Jeremy Irons used shitty half-inch VHS to record his monologues to the future back in the eighties, making him the eighties equivalent of, you guessed it, a Republic serial villain. Also, for the flashback, they do light makeup on Irons, so he like a fit sixty year-old instead of his usual fit seventy year-old. Because… no de-aging budget? Unless it was a creative decision, which would make sense as there aren’t any good ones this episode.

Also what is the point in making Jean Smart such a useless character. It was always going to waste the character but it also wastes Smart. Though I suppose the only person who manages not to be wasted is Regina King, because she’s able to act past the writing and direction.

Though her writing is really bad this episode.

Alien: Harvest (2019, Benjamin Howdeshell)

Alien: Harvest operates at that all too familiar intersection of bad and stupid. It’s a stupid idea badly executed, though it’s not clear whose at fault for each. For instance, the short is about four survivors on a space ship trying to get the lifeboat before the ship blows up in seven (or eight) minutes. It’s a seven or eight minute short. You’d think it’d be real-time… but no. So who decided to do stylistically weak montage (the second time jump, the first they just cut), director Howdeshell or writer Craig Dewey?

Howdeshell’s direction is bad throughout, sure, but Dewey’s writing is stupid throughout too. For instance, how is it possible no one in the Alien universe knows how to read a motion tracker? Especially given lead (or at least character given the most reaction shots) Agnes Albright ought to know how to read one, given her character’s background. Though Albright’s background is yet another of the script’s stupidities; for an officially produced “Alien Universe” short, Harvest plays pretty fast and loose with the franchise “rules.” And always just for shock value. Dewey and Howdeshell don’t have anything good up their sleeves so they’re just going for the jumps. They don’t get any. They get some eye rolls, which is impressive because it’s usually too stupid to bother wasting the energy to roll the eyes.

There’s one good performance—Jessica Clark, as the pregnant and therefore sympathetic survivor. Adam Sinclair’s pretty bad as her dude, James C. Burns is even worse as the mansplainer. Watching Burns makes you appreciate how even some bad actors are at least not godawful at it. He’s fairly godawful.

Albright’s… not good. It’s a crap part but she’s not good.

Nothing’s good about Harvest, though the space CGI exteriors aren’t bad and Danny Cocke’s music could be worse. At least it’s not too derivative of the source material, whereas Dewey reuses lines from the real movies.

Bad editing from Jake Shaver, though it’s unclear if its his cutting or just Howdeshell’s footage. It seems more like the latter… if you forget the ineptitude of the fifteen second montage to show the characters passing forty-five seconds of present action.

It’s never any good, but the utter stupidity of the finish (and the real-time fails) make Harvest much worse than expected.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Benjamin Howdeshell; screenplay by Craig Dewey, based on characters created by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett; director of photography, Chris Saul; edited by Jake Shaver; music by Danny Cocke; production designer, Troy Spino; costume designer, David Tabbert; produced by Shawn Wallace; released by IGN.

Starring Agnes Albright (Mari), Jessica Clark (Hannah), Adam Sinclair (Alec), and James C. Burns (Sturgis).


The Flash (2014) s06e09 – Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Three

Crisis: Part Three is a scant handful of okay moments surrounded by truly godawful dialogue, sometimes so bad it’s impressive the actors are keeping it together—points to Grant Gustin, Elizabeth Tulloch, Cress Williams, and Candice Patton—one inventive plotting point, a couple big nostalgia deep-dives (they really felt the need to validate “Birds of Prey” fans, which I’m not sure I believe is a thing), and a lot of nonsense. Along with plot points from other DC Comics crossover events, including one of the silliest ones.

There are a lot of obvious budgetary shortcuts, like how Brandon Routh’s Superman returned never gets a shot actually going through the teleportation effect because apparently there’s only so much CGI budget. But also the lack of exterior shots (they don’t even recycle footage from the last time they showed Crisis hitting Earth on “The Flash,” which might threaten some kind of extended cut?).

The three big plots this episode—almost called it issue, but no, if it were an issue of Crisis it’d look better, George Perez and all (seriously, how they didn’t get a uniform good score for the crossover instead of just dropping in the old superhero themes…)—anyway, it’s Gustin, Carlos Valdes, and Danielle Panabaker trying to save the world from the speed cannon, which is an utterly crappy sequence. Especially compared to the comic, but even compared to when Gustin disintegrated in his nightmares earlier this season. Like they spent more money on that effects shot from a regular episode than the money shot in this one. It’s a bummer. Even if it’s got a good nostalgia hook but also an exceptional missed opportunity. The crossover asks for a whole bunch of slack and doesn’t deserve any of it.

Oh, wait, there are four big plots. I forgot about Matt Ryan leading David Ramsey (whose acting has gotten worse the longer he’s been on “Arrow,” and not just because he has a very forced Malcolm X quote to show he’s a Black man, which might be the most questionable creative decision in a series of very questionable creative decisions), Stephen Amell, and Katherine McNamara on a cameo-filled field trip through the Arrowverse purgatory. Even though it’s unclear how the infinite Earths work with purgatory, because it seems to be unified between realities but… whatever. Anyway, it’s just for cameos and to give Ramsey some crossover time. McNamara’s got almost nothing to do so she’s nowhere near as bad as last episode.

Then Ruby Rose and Melissa Benoist are bickering about Benoist wanting to use the Book of Destiny or whatever it’s called to save the lost universes and acting like they’re in a Frank Miller rip-off until they get girl power. Rose is bad, Benoist’s not good but also not bad; it’s neither of their faults. It’s the script, it’s the direction. Their plot’s a pointless, terribly written one.

Finally, Patton is tasked with introducing Osric Chau to the Arrowverse. I’m sure he’ll have a job after the crossover as Atom II. He’s actually okay, even though the scenes are atrociously written. Because of course they are.

The big cliffhanger—it’s five weeks until the last two entries—lacks in grandeur and execution, also not a surprise. It’s almost like they don’t have the budget for the guest stars and special effects and so went with the former. Or maybe it really is just a terribly produced crossover. It’s not like the last one was any good either.

There is a pleasant surprise at the finish, but only because it promises to amuse when they get back. Amusement would help. This episode’s not amusing. Or entertaining. And Audrey Marie Anderson and LaMonica Garrett are still terrible. Oh, and they managed to get an even worse performance out of Tom Cavanagh than he’s been giving the rest of the season (he should quit after this disservice to his filmography, just for the godawful costuming alone).

Is it as bad as the first episode of Crisis? No. Is it as middling as the second one? Nope. But whatever’s coming in five weeks, it’s pretty clear even if it’s entertaining or amusing or manages some decent moments from the actors… it’s not going to be good. And it’ll probably be bad. It’ll definitely be tedious. The cliffhanger would have been the end of the first installment if this Crisis were any good.

Superstore (2015) s01e05 – Shoplifter

The cold open has Jonah (Ben Feldman) and Garrett (Colton Dunn) discovering a dead body in the store, which doesn’t turn out to be foreshadowing because neither Feldman or Dunn have anything to do with the resulting dead body in the store C plot. Dunn’s just around this episode, checking in for the occasional one or two-liner (though I guess he does have something to do with the C plot).

Feldman’s busy all episode babysitting America Ferrera’s daughter (Isabella Day) while Ferrera has to counsel boss Mark McKinney, who’s the only one freaked out about the guy dying in the store. The counseling bit falls on Ferrera because actual assistant manager Lauren Ash is busy trying to bust a shoplifter (Natasha Leggero). Ferrera’s going to end up in that plot too, because “Superstore” is really good about keeping its characters nimble as they bounce around the store.

Nico Santos and Nichole Bloom end up with the biggest parts in the C plot, as they both want to buy the couch the guy died on.

If the episode’s a showcase for anyone, it’s Ash, who doesn’t just get to go off on suspect Leggero, but there’s also some character development (ish) for Ash regarding Ferrera. Plus some of her weird flirting with Feldman. Feldman’s mostly doing physical comedy with props and he’s good at it. The episode’s not heavy on belly laughs; Jackie Clarke’s script more goes with constant situational amusement (getting a lot of mileage out of three basic events, the dead guy, the tween babysitting, the shoplifter) and Ruben Fleischer’s direction is focused on the cast’s performances.

McKinney’s really good this episode too. Figuring out he should be autonomous from his workers’ perceptions continues to succeed and he and Ash get into some rather amusing banter without interruption from the rest of the cast, but still some good reactions.

So not the uproarious heights the show’s recently hit but consistently amusing, leveraging the cast over the situations. “Superstore”’s developing nicely.

Buy the new Ijeoma Oluo book

Earlier this year when I launched Visual Reflux as the new everything but The Stop Button blog, I thought I was going to get interested in the technical aspects of blogging again. I was wrong. The technical aspects of blogging are a chore now. At least the first time around, it wasn’t like people just knew this stuff. I need help files written for people who stopped futzing with self-hosting in 2011. I’m probably reading help files meant for boomers. And getting confused. It’s also not exactly frustrating because I know I’m trying to take the shortcut instead of actually learning what I’m trying to do. I’m assuming I can take a short cut and make it successful. Though successful in this case is literally not getting an email notification the site is down. Otherwise, The Stop Button is set. The content’s here. The point’s the content. The content’s here.

Only that success—despite like sixty notifications of old posts (at least) and various crashes and errors and re-imports, but it’s been a success. Much easier than expected. And now I’m not super-interested in curating the old content anymore. It’s, you know, here. I did the move. And I was not expecting this feeling of finality with the old posts. I never treated blogging as at all serious writing and the times I hobbied with collecting it in print was because I like messing around with print. You can make a zine look like an issue of “Harper’s” in 2019. Hell, 2014 probably. It’s fun to futz. But, again, I was only ever a print dilettante. I assumed technology would let me take short cuts and make whatever I needed work.

And I’m basically right.

I was also right about TV on DVD and, to a lesser extent, MOD. I’m not sure I knew a white guy in the mid-aughts who didn’t secretly fancy himself a futurist. Though my sample is overrepresented with comic book readers and futurism was a big Marvel thing in the mid-aughts, when the old young creators were doing new things instead of new young creators doing old things.

Anyway. I’m not really enjoying going back and editing old posts. It might just be “Superstore” is proving exactly the situation I want to cut my teeth on as far as sitcom responses go. With the third episode, which I accidentally watched second, it became obvious I needed to get the wife in on the show. And it’s just gotten better, leaps and bounds off an incredibly solid start. So there’s a lot to look at and talk about. It doesn’t hurt the show agreed with all my early observations and so in how it improves, it’s basically giving me an endorphin rush as it confirms my prescriptions. Or whatever. Also, you should still see August because I was right about Josh Hartnett. I don’t know about the Christian movies and “Penny Dreadful,” but I was still right about early career Josh Hartnett. O. August. See those two.

Old time blogging indeed. This 750 target word count on Summing Up posts is kind of intense. I’m doing 300 for TV, 350 for comics (though trades are going to be something different, probably 750), and movies range from 250 (for a short) to 850 (for something superlative). So 750 is a lot. And I’ve even started taking notes on the 750s; I started a critical epistemology post the other night—didn’t finish because bed time—because I was so pissed off about The Last Jedi response. A friend finally saw it, leading to a terrifying chat simulation of welcomed mansplaining re: Rose Tico (who’s the best thing about the new trilogy, which isn’t the greatest bar but Kelly Marie Tran is a true find), but then the “Mandalorian” sucked, and I heard some older Gen-Xers (forty-five and fifty-ish) talking about how Rogue One is the only good new Star Wars and grumble grumble about the Last Jedi so obviously they can’t be sexist because there’s the woman in Rogue One but obviously Favreau gets it because the “Mandalorian” is so perfect.

It’s playing with your toys. The ones you have stories about for after the movie ends. When you were six or seven. Then you kept playing and it kept getting weirder. Would fandom be so toxic if men had just felt comfortable playing with all their old toys in the nineties? Actually, if you turned that idea into a show produced by Seth Rogen I’ll bet it would work. An alternate history show where men got to play with their action figures into adulthood without fear of shame at wanting the Jedi model Millennium Falcon because the chairs were so much cooler.

Growing up in the early eighties has turned out to be a lot weirder than expected. It really didn’t seem so weird at the time, not compared to other eras. But, yeah… it was weird. And not great. I was in fifth grade when “Native American” all of a sudden was the word. I’m also old enough to remember when it was still “Afro-“ American. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. She talks about it. How you didn’t realize “The Cosby Show” wasn’t just not real, it wasn’t even possible until it was way too late.

Holy shit, her new book’s called Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America. It’s going to be amazing. She’s so great.

And y’all almost got a whole paragraph about the spectrum of potential targeting per demographic but instead I’m just going to get this posted so I can get ready for work and get those cat pictures together. I’m not sure the opening quote thing is happening this post. Actually probably just a “Buy the new Ijeoma Oluo book.”

And here’s Gregory, stoned on sunlight.

Pale Flower (1964, Shinoda Masahiro)

Pale Flower opens with lead Ikebe Ryô narrating his first day out of prison. Not what he does—we get to see what he does—but how he feels about being out, what he notices. He’s killed a man, been in prison for three years, and nothing has changed in Tokyo. The dead man’s absence doesn’t matter, Ikebe’s absence doesn’t matter. Ikebe’s indifferent to existence, particularly his own; so what better thing to do with one’s time than the endorphin rush of gambling. Oh… right: Ikebe also talks a little about the thrill of killing. Not anything to get a rush—dope’s out, for example—but almost anything. Ikebe’s looking for a (relatively) safe rush, whether it’s from gambling or hooking up with lady friend Hara Chisako. Hara’s in a bad situation—abused by a now senile stepfather she now cares for, romantically pursued by a civilian at her office, she too is looking for a rush, one only bad boy (again, relatively speaking) Ikebe can provide.

But Hara doesn’t offer Ikebe that same rush. Especially not after he goes gambling and discovers things have changed a little since he’s been gone—there’s now a girl (Kaga Mariko) in the gambling scene. At first, Kaga just slightly piques Ikebe’s interest—he’s busy trying to adjust to the new yakuza ground situation. Ikebe went in for killing one of Tôno Eijirô’s men, on boss Miyaguchi Seiji’s orders. Only there’s a new player in town and Tôno and Miyaguchi have had to team up, something not all of Tôno’s men are all right with; they want to avenge themselves on Ikebe, which ends up providing Ikebe with his only steady acquaintance. Foolish young yakuza Sasaki Isao tries to take on Ikebe and botches it, leading to Sasaki having to apologize (multiple times) and Ikebe taking Sasaki under his wing. Of course, since Ikebe doesn’t do much besides gamble, it just means he and Sasaki play cards a lot.

Most of Ikebe’s time—and Pale Flower’s runtime—is spent with Kaga. She wants a bigger game, bigger thrills, and Ikebe lines it up for her. She’s something of a mystery; besides getting her name and having some suspicions about her day life, Ikebe doesn’t find out much and doesn’t care. He’s protective of her, worries about her, but is also a little awestruck. As the film progresses and the pair reveal more of themselves to each other, it becomes clear just how much they’re alter egos, bound by the thrill seeking. One of director Shinoda’s great successes with Pale Flower is not making it icky as Ikebe’s concern goes from paternal to romantic. He goes from mild disapproval of youthful, apparently wealthy Kaga’s excesses to longing for them, even as his obligations to Miyaguchi make it hard if not impossible for their relationship to continue. Or, at least, to intensify.

When Hara finds out about Kaga, she gets extremely jealous without ever understanding the nature of the relationship, which is an excellent, subtle device for Shinoda to examine it as most of the time spent with Kaga and Ikebe is about the thrills. There are the exquisite gambling sequences—Shinoda could care less if the audience understands the gaming being played (at one point, Ikebe asks Kaga if she understands a new game and she says she’ll figure it out on her own as she plays; the audience has to do the same as they watch)—and then a fantastic, out of nowhere car race. Shinoda’s direction, Kosugi Masao’s photography, Sugihara Yoshi’s editing, and Nishizaki Hideo’s sound design sit the viewer next to the leads, encapsulating their visceral experience of the moments. The down time, when Ikebe sits around his sparse apartment with pals Mikami Shin'ichirô and Sugiura Naoki, is just treading water until he can get to the next game with Kaga.

There’s also the completely silent Fujiki Takashi, a half Chinese yakuza dope addict psychopath; Fujiki interests both Ikebe and Kaga, but for different reasons. For Ikebe, Fujiki presents a threat to Kaga’s attention. Dope’s the easy thrill and Kaga’s too young to understand why easy thrills are wrong. Ikebe’s jealous of Fujiki before he and Kaga even discuss him. And since the exposition is always delayed about ten minutes in Pale Flower, Ikebe’s got to convey the character development in his performance. Shinoda and the crew help, obviously, the way they present Ikebe and his experience of the situations, but Pale Flower doesn’t rush to explain anything. Explanations are overrated anyway, something the film all of a sudden forgets in the epilogue.

After a flawless finale, Shinoda and co-screenwriter Baba Masaru jarringly sync the calmly delayed exposition to scene. Worse, they do it with narration. It makes sense, there’s not enough time left in the film for the traditional delay, but it’s also a needless gesture. Pale Flower needs to be five minutes shorter or five minutes longer.

Great performances all around—Ikebe, Kaga, Hara. Bosses Tôno and Miyaguchi are awesome together, these almost adorable old men as they determine the fates of those around them.

The plotting is excellent; Pale Flower’s expansive but concise. Shinoda’s got these specifically directed sequences with different styles but the same tools used to create them. The car race, for instance, looks and feels entirely different than the foot chase, but it’s the same tone, it’s the same filmmaking techniques applied. And the narrative distance is the same. It’s almost always about Ikebe’s experience of the moments; when it’s not, it’s about Kaga’s and Ikebe’s experience of observing her experience of them.

It’s phenomenal.

It just needs to be a little shorter, or a little longer. Pale Flower’s an objective lesson in the trickiness of epilogues.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Shinoda Masahiro; screenplay by Baba Masaru and Shinoda, based on the novel by Ishihara Shintarô; director of photography, Kosugi Masao; edited by Sugihara Yoshi; music by Takahashi Yûji and Takemitsu Tôru; produced by Shirai Masao and Wakatsuki Shigeru; released by Shochiku Company.

Starring Ikebe Ryô (Muraki), Kaga Mariko (Saeko), Fujiki Takashi (Yoh), Sugiura Naoki (Aikawa), Mikami Shin’ichirô (Reiji), Sasaki Isao (Jiro), Nakahara Kôji (Tamaki), Miyaguchi Seiji (Gang leader), Tôno Eijirô (Gang Leader), and Hara Chisako (Muraki’s lover).


Batwoman (2019) s01e09 – Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Two

So “Batwoman”’s Crisis crossover is rather instructional, at least in understanding what’s going to go wrong with it (the crossover). The writing. “Batwoman”’s script is all right. Not great, but leaps and bounds over the previous one. Even if the performances get a little shaky and they’re trying too hard to foreshadow, but Don Whitehead and Holly Henderson’s script does something “Supergirl” couldn’t manage. They make a decent “hour” of superhero adventure TV.

Albeit an hour with absolutely nothing to do with the regular “Batwoman” stuff, including having Ruby Rose play second-fiddle to pretty much everyone and then have this weird “straight-coding” moment with Melissa Benoist, which is a pointless Bechdel fail. How is it possible the Arrowverse shows can’t find a writer capable of not screwing up at least one of the characterizations. It’s not like comics got to have writers’ rooms or paid assistants so you’d think there’d be someone checking on this stuff, but whatever. It’s a short scene and soon gives way to the simultaneously successful and not successful Kevin Conroy cameo.

How does “Batwoman” get away with never having Batman on the show? Go to the future on an alternate Earth during the Crisis and introduce old man Batman Kevin Conroy (who voiced the “Animated Series” cartoon for years along with a bunch of other cartoon features and video games). Shame Conroy’s really bad at acting. Though director Laura Belsey gets major props for trying to hide it. Most of Rose and Conroy’s scenes together consist of Rose standing and listening to Conroy speak, close-up on Rose, maybe an over the shoulder from Conroy every once and a while because that way Conroy’s speaking but not having to emote. It’d be more impressive if the Conroy cameo added up to anything, but not really.

Meanwhile, there’s the Jon Cryer’s Lex Luthor hopping universes to kill Superman over and over again, leading to a shockingly good Tom Welling cameo. I’ve never seen “Smallville” but Welling seemed like he’d impress as an actor but he’s good here. Is able to play off Cryer without much setup. Good stuff.

Then there’s Brandon Routh getting to put on the Kingdom Come Superman outfit and do a Superman Returns sequel, with plenty of references… then a sad Joker one. And it turns out… Routh really was a lot better at playing Clark Kent than Superman. Maybe he’d have grown into the part if Returns had gotten its Man of Steel but… also maybe not. Though he’s in old age makeup and CG-buffed or something to play old man Superman here so who knows.

Oh, right, then there’s Grant Gustin and Caity Lotz (the best performance in “Supergirl,” decidedly not feeling it here; she seems exhausted) going on a secret mission with Green Arrow fille (Katherine McNamara, who’s not good) and exhausted too but still lovable Matt Ryan. Dominic Purcell shows up for some comic relief, along with an actual nice surprise cameo.

Candice Patton’s also around, participating in the continuing Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch “Superman Family” backdoor pilot. It’s still cute enough, more so here just because the episode’s a lot better television than the “Supergirl.”

Shame the Arrowverse producers didn’t care about consistent writing… with this crew on the whole crossover, Crisis might have had a chance. But hopefully it won’t ever be as bad as “Supergirl”’s entry again.

Got to be fair and point out there’s less LaMonica Garrett in this episode than the “Supergirl,” which means less absurdly godawful acting and just regular tepid TV performances and not even many of those… it’s a very professionally executed episode.

Supergirl (2015) s05e09 – Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part One

With the Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, the CW Arrowverse achieves one of those DC Comics’s successes—they promise they understand, they promise they get it, they promise they’ll do it right, then it’s terrible. Not just regular terrible but also profoundly inept in some manner. See, you know, DC Comics’s comics for the last… twenty years? Twenty-five? Depends on if you want to see “Zero Hour” as the last chapter of the old or first chapter of the new. And Warner’s even done it with the movies–Batman & Robin and Justice League being the most obvious examples. They say they know what they’ve got, then they show they don’t. The fail the project’s potential.

Like, I hoped it would be better than the regular production values on “Supergirl.” It’s worse. Melissa Benoist gets to play second fiddle to Tyler Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch’s “Superman Family” backdoor pilot, which is fine because Hoechlin and Tulloch are a hell of a lot less obnoxious than the regular cast this episode. Even though it’s a regular “Supergirl” director (Jesse Warn), somehow Jesse Rath’s totally different. Like no one’s on the same page with the character, actor, writers, director, and it makes his every expository deliver simultaneously exasperating and enraging; the show doesn’t have to be so bad, why aren’t they trying to at least not make it its worst. They ought to be showcasing their strengths.

The show’s shockingly inept at introducing the other heroes, which kind of makes sense since you’ve got to spend time with the regular cast since you’re not paying them all to crossover… but maybe mix it up a bit. Ruby Rose and Katie McGrath doing something has a lot more potential entertainment value than McGrath and Chyler Leigh sniping at each other over McGrath’s supervillain potential. Brandon Routh and David Harewood doing something would beat Routh playing second fiddle to Caity Lotz (who gives the episode’s best performance) and Harewood still having his stupid wisdom lines.

Nicole Maines and Azie Tesfai only show up to herd people out of the waterfront area, which has become the show’s biggest and stupidest action trope now. Is it a Vancouver fun run or something, shooting “run from the huge waterfront in the Kansas City stand-in city” every week?

Basically no one gets anything good. Hoechlin and Tulloch excepted. Hoechlin even gets to be sad about Benoist’s long-lost mom dying because guest star Audrey Marie Anderson (who’s terrible and going to be in all of the crossover episodes, which is really bad) didn’t have enough energy in the Dilithium crystals to save her. It’s a poorly plotted episode. Like, I get there needs to be a bunch for Stephen Amell because it’s his last crossover but they pad they heck out of his scenes. He and future daughter Katherine McNamara have the same conversation at least twice, maybe more, and when it gets time for Amell and “Flash” Grant Gustin to have their big crossover moment they don’t get one because there’s not time, there’s already the “Superman Family” pilot in session.

Worse, it’s cheap. They fight the “shadow demons,” which were the “Crisis” comic disposable baddies but they’re like medieval-ish ghosts… like, cheap CGI model ones. All the action sequences with them are terrible, even worse than the “meet Batwoman” action sequence the show goes with. Warn’s never been a good director but they really should’ve gotten someone else.

They also should’ve hired a good composer special for the crossover. The music is truly horrific.

The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths is off to its most inevitable start… it’s a shitty DC event crossover.

And while the opening cameos with Robert Wuhl (from Batman 1989) and Burt Ward (from “Batman: The TV Show), along with the clip from “Titans?” They set up a false expectation of competency. Maybe not technical prowess, as the green screen shots are terrible, but they at least suggest the crossover gets its entertainment potential.

Then it fails. Over and over.

Outside convincing me to maybe try “Superman Family” and to reassure me I’m not missing anything on “Arrow,” the show’s greatest success is providing a solid jumping off point.

Evil (2019) s01e09 – Exorcism Part 2

This episode actually surprised me, which I didn’t realize “Evil” could do, but I was wrong. I really didn’t expect the show to head-on confront the Catholic Church enabling, supporting, and facilitating child rape with it being a-okay and turning their number one “defending child rapists” lawyer Renée Elise Goldsberry (from the show creators’ previous success, “The Good Wife,” playing a character named Renée, and giving a terrible performance) as a super-sexy woman from Mike Colter’s past who’s going to coerce him into physical relations or die trying.

When Goldsberry showed up in the first few minutes, after the show established it’s a follow-up on the episode where Colter and Katja Herbers argued over an exorcism but also Michael Emerson’s incel shooter training camp (are all psychologists bad for incels, or just the white men?), I was happy to see her. Any good guest stars would help, especially since incel shooter-in-training Noah Robbins is so bad it’d make more sense if his character were an undercover cop trying to bust Emerson and also Herbers’s decidedly not sexy husband Patrick Brammall is back and, after briefly seeming like he and Herbers might be good together, decidedly is not good with Herbers or anyone else. So, Goldsberry, who’s been not bad in the past but I’m now wondering, was a welcome sight.

Then she started acting.

I mean, the deposition thing is really bad—who wrote all “Good Wife”’s realistic-y lawyer stuff because they ain’t working on “Evil”—where Goldsberry tries to out-lawyer Jennifer Ferrin (who probably ought to find a better agent, like, real talk) while trying to obscure Herbers and Aasif Mandvi being atheists who don’t think Colter should’ve tortured the plaintiff in her exorcism. The best part is how the case resolves because it’s so obviously how poorly thought-out the plotting.

Also Peter Scolari is Colter’s new boss at the Church and he’s terrible.

The big surprise, besides the Catholic Church propaganda (guess who the incel wants to shoot? Good Catholics who don’t abandon the Church because of child rape, isn’t it progressive) and Goldsberry being bad, is Emerson’s ostensible demon. He’s less an evil mastermind and more an incompetent jackass. He has a silly “break stuff in my room” scene like he thinks he’s Kylo Ren, he’s just in his late sixties or whatever. It’s buffoonish. Though I suppose at least it’s not as gross as if “Evil” really is about being Catholic Church propaganda.

Also, also. A correction from an earlier post. Black Catholics are a thing in urban areas and “Evil” supposedly takes place in New York, just a really poorly shot one. They still aren’t in that survey I mentioned and they still seem overrepresented on the show.

The Mandalorian (2019) s01e05 – The Gunslinger

So series executive producer Dave Filoni, who apparently unmemorably directed the first episode, is back here. He’s writing too, making it the first “Mandalorian” not written by series creator Jon Favreau. So The Gunslinger doesn’t feel like Favreau playing with his Return of the Jedi Kenner toys, instead it now does feel like someone playing their Star Wars Roleplaying Game campaign only not really because a roleplaying campaign is probably better written. Filoni’s script is truly godawful. His direction is terrible too. It starts with a really stupid space battle for people who hated them making sense in Episode VIII, then moves on to Tatooine, where Pedro Pascal leaves Baby Yoda in the ship to go and try to find work. Except mechanic Amy Sedaris (who’s likable but bad) finds Baby Yoda while she’s working on the ship with her CGI prequel droids; Filoni’s a prequel guy. He really doesn’t get how to do the original movie Tatooine homages, but then he also doesn’t get how to do any action scenes either… okay, hang on. I’m ahead of myself.

So Pascal goes to the cantina where it’d probably be no worse if two aliens were arguing over who shot first and teams up with truly bad actor Jake Cannavale. Yes, Cannavale (as what Filoni seems to think we’re going to buy as a Han Solo-type) has terrible dialogue, a dumb story arc, lousy direction, all of it, but he’s really, really, really, really bad. He’s bad enough you stop taking the show about the adorable little hairless Mogwai and Jon Favreau’s custom repainted Boba Fett figure seriously.

If Cannavale had been on the first episode… I don’t know I would’ve made it to episode four. He’s even worse than Filoni’s script, which is saying a lot.

This episode also has Ming-Na Wen. She’s Cannavale and Pascal’s bounty, a superior assassin or something. You wouldn’t know it from her fight scene with literal first-time bounty hunter Cannavale, who holds his own in a terribly choreographed and directed fist fight until Pascal can get there to put the show out of its fight scene misery.

Is Wen any good? No. She’s not worse than the script though. Or Filoni’s direction.

There are some other Tatooine references in the episode, they’re all terrible. Some are worse than others. Filoni can’t even manage an obvious gag. He’s so bad. He also doesn’t realize the whole point of the show is Baby Yoda, which is exceptionally concerning.

And the speed-bike compositors do a truly awful job. Bring out the Vaseline.

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