Nothing bad this week.
Writer/director Ti West is one of the most interesting voices in modern American horror movies because he’s kind of like a bridge between so-called “elevated” horror of A24 (The VVitch, Green Room, Midsommar) and the always dumb but sometimes fun, mainstream trash. He’s not afraid to pick at greater ideas but he knows the type of vicarious thrill the audience wants from a horror movie. It works to somewhat differing effects, with The Innkeepers and House of the Devil being examples of a healthy marriage between these two subgenres and The Sacrament and his V/H/S segment being the exact opposite. So I guess it’s fitting that X, a movie blending equal ingredients throwback slasher horror and satirical sex comedy should both work and not work, a great compromise that just doesn’t go far enough on either side of the spectrum to be truly great. I would say the comedic elements work better here than the horror ones, because the plot/killers are so bat shit bananas it’s hard to take them seriously. I can’t really spoil the “message” or “commentary” of the movie without spoiling the movie, but I will say it has to do with the fear of getting older on a physical level which is pretty fucking scary. Also, I don’t know if mainstream audiences are really going to grasp what West is going for here, I was one of only two people laughing in my near filled theater, whose patrons seemed equal parts confused and bored. The cast is universally good, with Mia Goth really standing out to no surprise. Kid Cudi is also really funny in this role as well as the always reliable Brittany Snow and Martin Henderson. It’s shot really well, lit really well, technically proficient on all levels. X isn’t a great movie, but it’s interesting. It’s more more entertaining to talk about than to actually watch, but hey, at least it’s trying to do something. Grade: B- (In Theaters)
The Gilded Age
I really loved the pilot of The Gilded Age, and having never watched Downtown Abby, I was a bit intoxicated by the rude yet playful rapid fire banter of these old-timey rich assholes. Mostly because they set it up as this great rivalry and battle of wits between Christine Baranski and Carrie Coon. The show really doesn’t develop into that and we have our two most sassy and aggressive characters bouncing their shady remarks off of opponents who can’t cleverly toss it back. Ok, so the show isn’t what I thought the pilot was promising it to be – big deal! But I expected it to be something equally as gripping and I found myself more and more disengaged every week. The problem was besides a handful of characters – the Van Rhijn sisters, Bertha and George Russell, Peggy – everyone is a bit dull on the show. A death curse for an ensemble driven drama. However, these five characters make up about 65% of the show, and that 65% was usually pretty solid. Christine Baranski and Cynthia Nixon have an incredible amount of chemistry, and watching Carrie Coon be so devious and mean every week, that she’s basically a Marvel villain, was a true delight. Denee Benton is the real standout as Peggy though, creating a wonderfully dynamic character and providing constant relief from these WASP dickheads. The boring characters subplots involve a miscast Taissa Farmiga‘s basic daughter, a bald butler, a real Karen of a housekeeper, a loud rich woman who likes games, a pretty boy social climber and countless other instantly forgettable two-dimensional archetypes. It looks gorgeous, there’s some great performances and individual scenes, but as a whole it’s a bit of a snooze. Kinda like Mild Cheddar Succession. Grade: B– (HBOMax)
Reminiscent of so many other Netflix true crime docs released this year in that it’s about some manipulative liar using ridiculous made up stories to suck money out of people. However, this one has a REAL edge because the con artist’s made up stories are so beyond the realm of ridiculous you have a physical reaction to it. Whether you stand up and shout “WHAT?!” or leap from your couch in disbelief, this doc series has more than one of those moments. I guess that makes it worth watching? Purely shock value. You also get a really compelling portrait of a successful and talented restaurateur who got completely taken advantage of and brainwashed by some asshole she met through Alec Baldwin. You feel horrible but you began to wonder, when all was said and done and millions of dollars were stolen and dozens of lives were ruined, how much of the fault lays with her. Bad Vegan wisely never answers that and displays a wide range of viewpoints from the victims about that. They also show how the majority of journalists and tweetists focused on the more salacious and inconsequential aspects of the story. Bad Vegan has some gallows humor slyly weaved into the narrative, but coming from documentary filmmaker Chris Smith ( the superb American Movie) that’s to be expected. It opens with a taped phone conversation of the villain of the story shitting all over Netflix, probably the funniest, laugh out loud part of the series in the opening twenty seconds. Grade: B+ (Netflix)
Worst Roommate Ever
A true crime anthology series that finally solves the problem of having dumb, cheaply produced and terribly acted story re-enactments distracting from the seriousness of the story. The answer is to just animate them, that way you don’t get a guy who looks sort of but not really like the real person. That’s not the only great thing about Worst Roommate Ever, bottom line – it offers us four stories in five episodes that are all incredibly gripping and unpredictable. If you like these types of shows you’ll like, if you aren’t a fan of true crime, maybe skip it? But for people who really love this stuff, this is one of the best produced iterations of a true crime re-enactment interview show I’ve seen. Nothing feels cheesy or cheap, and while it’s not terribly deep or innovative, it’s wildly entertaining. Grade: B+ (Netflix)