2022 Movie & TV Reviews: RuPaul’s Drag Race / The Northman / The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Everything was just shy of ‘great’ this week.

RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season 14

One of my favorite queens of the season, Willow Pill, comes out with a brilliant look that suggests a Predator went back in time and fucked Queen Victoria and they had a royal human/alien hybrid child that murdered the world.

For a season where every ten seconds or so, contestants are verbally reminding you of how amazing this season is and how amazing they all are, individually, the latest offering of Drag Race Proper is a bit of a letdown. Featuring some truly talented, but also somewhat underwhelming queens (in comparison to every queen who has competed on the show’s fourteen-year herstory), a clear frontrunner (Kornbread) who drops out three episodes in, and multiple games/Ru-sicals in desperate need of some re-tooling, Season 14 really shows you the brand’s age. When it comes to the more salacious elements of the progam, ie – THE DRAMMMMAAAAA, shit is super vanilla compared to The Kandy Muse Show last season. We get a hyper queen who can’t stop talking over people and a really tame villain whose biggest crime is being blunt AF without considering other people’s feelings. It all culminates in the worst Snatch Game ever played, with seven bad performances and one so mediocre it’s almost a crime it won. If this makes it sound like I disliked this season, I actually didn’t – a lot of the queens are super affable like Willow, Angeria, and Lady Camden, and while they never really reach the astonishing heights of past contestants like Bianca Del Rio or Bob the Drag Queen, they continually surprise you in little ways. I think the problem lies more with challenges that seem too out-of-step with modern drag. It’s a bit ironic that a reality show celebrating an art form that seems so intrinsically linked with the idea of reinvention and rebirth would constantly feel so old hat. Grade: B- (I had to buy the season from Amazon)

The Northman

Really takes me back to getting braces.

Caught somewhere in between a mainstream action movie and a Robert Eggers‘ joint, The Northman manages to be thrilling, visually inventive, and occasionally, quite funny in its satirical takedown of letting machismo dictate every decision of your life. It’s just interesting enough to make you wish it wasn’t so straightforward, from a beat-to-beat story perspective. The main issue is in a weird way a big strength of the movie which is a protagonist (the always solid Alexander Skarsgaard) who is not only quite unlikeable but near impossible to identify with. He’s not peppered with modern sensibilities or spurts of empathy to make him easier to take, he and his men slaughter children, rape women, pillage, etc. to get what they want. While I certainly appreciate this undoubtedly more realistic representation of the cold brutality of Vikings and just the ruthless, cold world they lived in, it always keeps us at arm’s length from an emotional standpoint. The Northman is a visual feast to behold, extremely riveting at times, and never boring, but I was never completely invested in the characters or the story. Besides the stunning cinematography, visuals, and just Eggers’ overall craft as a filmmaker, the cast is uniformly very good. Ethan Hawke and Bjork are compelling in small roles, while Willem Dafoe is brilliant and fascinating per usual as a shamanistic Fool character that sends the protagonist on one hell of a fucked up trip. Anya Taylor-Joy does what she can with a terribly underwritten role, and Claes Bang gives us a fairly complex baddie. The real gem of the cast is Nicole Kidman whose character seems like a bit of a throwaway at first but reveals herself to be perhaps the film’s most interesting character. If anything The Northman is compelling evidence that we should saddle unique and capable indie filmmakers with big budgets/projects. Sure, the end result might not be as singular or resonant as their low-budget work, but it will most likely stand head and shoulders above most mainstream explosion movies that tend to quite obviously be director-for-hire gigs. Grade: B (In Theaters)

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Not a great film by any stretch of the imagination but a consistently enjoyable one that offers two fantastic leading performances by Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal. Cage and Pascal play off of each other beautifully, and the movie is at its best when it’s about their relationship dynamic. Unfortunately, feeling the pressure of having to be an action film, it crams a bunch of shit into its narrative it has a difficult time balancing out. The weakest part of the film, besides its terribly confusing title (looking up info about this movie, always struggling to remember the title was my March, folks), is the screenplay. A lot of the gags seem to be lacking inspiration and much of the dialogue, despite being consistently sold by Cage and Pascal, is a bit awkward and sluggish – almost like anti-Tarantino in that it seems to have no flow. There is a fantastic Tiffany Haddish gag, that seems like it was improvised, where she startles herself with how loud an airport lounge’s echo catches her “fuck” while she’s on the phone. The Cage references are a bit pedestrian/vanilla for my taste (Face/Off, National Treasure, Con Air) with the exception of an ace Guarding Tess reference. Where are the Pay the Ghost, Knowing, or Bangkok Dangerous references? He doesn’t mention working with Herzog once in this movie?? Things wrap up fairly predictably – we get a super ehhh villain reveal, some nice bromance, whatever, but what we’re left with a really enjoyable time despite its flaws. Meta has been done infinitely better in several movies, but this is a worthy celebration of an important and truly interesting figure in the American film lexicon. Grade: B- (In Theaters)

Movies & TV Streaming & In Theaters

Everything Everywhere All At Once (In Theaters)

Severance Season 1 (AppleTV+)

The Gilded Age Season 1 (HBOMax)

Bad Vegan (Netflix)

Worst Roommate Ever Season 1 (Netflix)

The Batman (HBOMax)

West Side Story (Disney+ and HBOMax)

Licorice Pizza ($5.99 rental on Amazon)

The Worst Person in the World ($5.99 rental on Amazon)

Drive My Car (HBOMax)

Freddy’s Nightmares Season 1 (Screambox)

Euphoria Season 2 (HBOMax)

The Righteous Gemstones Season 2 (HBOMax)

Somebody Somewhere Season 1 (HBOMax)

The Tinder Swindler (Netflix)

Pig (Hulu)

Titane (Hulu)

Benedetta (Hulu)

The Beta Test (Hulu)

Flee (Hulu)

Nightmare Alley (Hulu and HBOMax)

Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar (Hulu)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: