2022 TV & Movie Reviews: Smile / Hellrasier / Reservation Dogs / Blonde / The Resort / Mad God

This week’s movies and television range from great to awful.


After Barbarian and Pearl, I had really high hopes for a premise as stupid as Smile‘s – a contagious smile that causes you to kill yourself and others. Unfortunately, it doesn’t lean into the camp nearly as hard as it needs to. It’s mostly a serious horror movie and not even an original one at that. It’s basically Drag Me to Hell or The Ring with a protagonist (Kevin Bacon‘s daughter, ya’ll – Sosie Bacon) given a week or so timeframe before she dies from this thing that’s haunting her. In this case, a case of the giggles. That’s not to say none of this works, there’s a spectacularly ridiculous and cringe-inducing birthday party scene that was the highlight of the movie, there are also competent performances from actors playing one-dimensional (if that) roles. The best actor in the movie dies during the cold opening though, so that’s shitty, but there’s never a point in Smile, no matter how derivative or predictable it gets that doesn’t chug along at a healthy pace. It does however commit a really annoying movie sin in that it pretends to be sensitive toward mental illness but spends the entire movie exploiting and making fun of mental illness. Jesus Christ. Wait for HBO. Grade: C+ (In Theaters)


The nicest thing that could be said about the new Hellraiser is that it’s not nearly as terrible as the direct-to-VHS sequels of the late 90s and early 00s. The second nicest thing that can be said about it is that Jamie Clayton‘s interpretation of Pinhead is refreshingly different and not a cheap impersonation of Doug Bradley‘s thing. However, because Hellraiser isn’t really a movie about Pinhead, she’s only in it for about 20 minutes or so. My biggest gripe with this trimmed and polished remake is how trimmed and polished it is. If any 80s/90s horror franchise needs to be grotesque, weird, and frayed around the edges, it’s Hellraiser. This new take, almost in the vein of the Platinum Dunes ultra-sanitized horror remakes of the early 2000s, is just too shiny and safe and dare I say, less gay. They try to grunge it up a bit by having the lead struggle with substance abuse, but it’s a really bland and vanilla character compared to the smorgasbord of twisted fucks the original two movies had — a homicidal adulterer bored out of her mind cause she’s married to a dumb ass, or a deranged children’s psychiatrist obsessed with body mutilation, etc. Almost all of that pain and pleasure in equal measure (the kinky sex stuff!) is completely absent, as well as the basic point of the original which is that people aren’t tricked into opening this puzzle box that raises hell – they choose to open it because they want to experience torture as some sort of religious experience. Here, it’s about some insane billionaire tricking people into opening the box so he can descend to hell as some sort of demon angel. He spends a good portion of the movie with a miniature grandfather clock or something sticking out of him and it’s dumb as shit. Overall, this movie has poorly rendered characters, mediocre acting, and a story that ultimately fails to grab you. The costume design of the cenobites is interesting though, especially Clayton‘s. However, it’s not nearly as interesting as provocative as the creature design in the 1987 original. Grade: C (Hulu)

Reservation Dogs (Season 2)

Coming in hot after a dynamite first season, Reservation Dogs somehow manages to up the ante with a deeper dive into the characters we’ve grown to love and an exploration of new characters that are just as complexly drawn. Following the Atlanta model of having each episode feel like its own contained little short film with no single cast member being in every episode, Reservation Dogs does a better job than last season’s Atlanta in creating a dramatically satisfying throughline for its central four cast members. However, it doesn’t dig quite as deep or as weird as Atlanta, and the finale feels a smudge ham-fisted. Those are just hypercritical gripes though because seven of the ten episodes the second season offers are about as perfect as episodes get. One episode is about the Auntie characters going to an Indian Health Service conference and treating it like a mom’s weekend in Vegas. It’s maybe the single-best episode of scripted television I’ve seen all year. Grade: A- (Hulu)



I can’t think of a more infuriating viewing experience this year than Andrew Dominik‘s Blonde, a sloppily strung-together episodes of rape, sex, and abuse that is in desperate need of a narrative and point-of-view. It’s almost amazing how little this near three-hour movie says, but here’s the gist – Marilyn Monroe was exploited and abused by basically everyone but MY GOD did she look sexy while it was happening! Gross. For example, early on in the movie, her second husband, baseball superstar Joe DiMaggio (Bobby Cannavale), comes home to beat her for being immodest in public and finds Marilyn just topless on the bed for absolutely no reason. He begins striking her in the face and she falls to the floor on her knees, topless and in her underwear, looking up at him like she’s about to start a POV blowjob scene. It’s probably the most reprehensible thing about this movie, the second being the way Blonde frequently tries to pass off unsubstantiated gossip as fact, like a polyamorous relationship with Charlie Chaplin, Jr. and Edward G. Robinson, Jr. There’s also an egregiously unnecessary scene where JFK forces a blowjob on Monroe while laying naked, wrapped in a girdle, on the presidential bed. He’s droning on the phone to his press secretary about an underage girl’s claims that he molested her. He loudly denies it while simultaneously ordering Monroe to perform on him and then criticizes her techniques, before violently finishing in her mouth. This climax is depicted in an extreme close-up, filmed from the top of her mouth up. It seems Dominik is just re-iterating his point about Monroe being sexually objectified over and over again, by literally sexually objectifying actress Ana de Armas. You can’t criticize sexualization by sexualizing your lead actress, and then you begin to suspect this whole movie is just some sort of misguided Passion-of-the-Christ endurance test. Shocking and tormenting your audience into caring for your lead. It’s a cheap trick, but hey, it fooled a lot of Christians back in 2004.

What is ultimately the most frustrating thing about Blonde is how the visuals and acting are of such a high caliber you can’t completely write it off. Look, folks, I have to give credit where credit is due – it’s undeniable, Ana de Aramas is fantastic in this. She fully inhabits Norma Jean/Marilyn Monroe and very accurately and often poignantly captures the cold and isolating nature of being a celebrity. However, all her hard work seems to be for nothing, for a movie that thinks depicting Monroe‘s abuse by the industry with the most cringe-inducing detail is the same as having empathy for her. I need to wrap this up or I’m just going to rage for hours – the rest of the cast is fairly excellent from Bob “Bulldog” Briscoe (Dan Butler) as Marilyn’s agent, Bobby Cannavale, Adrien Brody as Arthur Miller and Mare of Easttown‘s Julianne Nicholson as Norma Jean’s mentally unstable and for some reason, constantly naked mom.

The cinematography is probably the most notable thing about the entire movie – there are a lot of neat tricks that happen, like turning white bedsheets hanging off a bed into Niagra Falls or turning Paparrazi into literal horror movie monsters. However, it’s all in service of this repetitive, pretentious, infuriating, and sickening slog of a movie. In an interview, Andrew Dominik said this is one of the best movies ever made. Some modesty might suit this dude. Grade: D+ (Netflix)

The Resort (Season 1)

High Maintenance‘s Ben Sinclair‘s exotic vacation murder mystery series starts out quite slow but quickly picks up the pace in its second or third episode and doesn’t let up until the end. Cristin Miliotti (Palm Springs) and William Jackson Harper (The Good Place) are Emma and Noah, a couple, who after ten years of marriage, are having major connection issues. They take a vacation to a gorgeous resort in the Yucatan region of Mexico, but neither is really feeling it until Emma finds a razor cellphone in the woods that belonged to a 17-year-old kid, Sam (Skyler Gisondo The Righteous Gemstones, Licorice Pizza) who mysteriously went missing 13 years ago and is presumed dead. Noah and Emma seek to discover the truth with the help of the resort’s head of security, Baltasar (Luis Gerardo Mendez), while the story shifts back and forth between a 2007 and 2020 timeline. The combination of dark, dry comedy and possibly supernatural thriller works pretty smoothly for the most part even if it never really quite reaches the heights in either genre. This is a good show, just not a great one, and although the performances are all solid with Luis Gerardo Mendez being the clear stand-out along with a phenomenal supporting performance from Ben Sinclair himself, it never really grips you the way you’re begging it to. It’s unclear whether or not there will be a second season, but I guess I’d watch it. Grade: B (Peacock)

Mad God

The kick-starter funded passion project of visual effects supervisor, Phil Tippett, who brought us Jurassic Park, Robocop, and Return of the Jedi. Produced over the course of thirty goddamn years and finally completed in 2021, this movie is an absolute work of visual art. The fact the narrative also feels like an allegory for a laundry list of American institutional problems from the healthcare system to labor laws is just the fecal matter icing on the solidified blood cake. This is really disturbing stuff and will certainly not be for everyone but for anyone who can look past it at the artistry, you’re in for the biggest treat. Grade: B+ (Shudder)



Barbarian (B+) – In Theaters

Pearl (B+) – In Theaters

House of Darkness (C-) – In Theaters & $6.99 rental on Amazon

On the Count of Three (C+) – Hulu

Bodies Bodies Bodies (B-) – In Theaters

Elvis (B) – HBOMax

Moonfall (A+/F/Whatever) – HBOMax

Malignant (A+/F/Whatever) – HBOMax

Old (C-) – HBOMax

Last Night in Soho (B-) – HBOMax

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (D) – Netflix

Don’t Look Up (C-) – Netflix

The Lost Daughter (B) – Netflix

The Power of the Dog (A-) –Netflix

Malcolm & Marie (D+) – Netflix


Harley Quinn (B+) – HBOMax

The Rehearsal (A+) – HBOMax

Barry (A) – HBOMax

The Staircase (A-) – HBOMax

The Flight Attendant (B-) – HBOMax

I Just Killed My Dad (B-) – Netflix

Stranger Things (B) – Netflix

Heartstopper (A-) – Netflix

Russian Doll (C+) – Netflix

Ozark (B-) – Netflix

Black Bird (B+) – AppleTV+

Pachinko (A-) – AppleTV+

Severance (A-) – AppleTV+

Only Murders in the Building (B+) – Hulu

Under the Banner of Heaven (B+) – Hulu


Deadly Cheer Mom (3) – Tubi

Death Spa (2) – Tubi

Head of the Family (4) – Tubi

Ice Cream Man (4.5) – Tubi

The Sand (1) – Tubi

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