As usual, the gulf between my ambitions and the practical realities has been vast. I had a big list of things I wanted to review but my Monday and Tuesday work schedules told me something different, which is why it’s three weeks later and I’m only just about to write something. All the same, there has been viewing going.
First up, I went to the theatre. Yes! A theatre! A local production of Photograph 51, in fact. It wasn’t exactly the West End but it was theatre and I actually thought it was really good, in terms of both the writing and the production values, serving science, history and Rosalind Franklin well.
From the regulars pile, I’ve been watching Loki (Disney+), Evil (US: CBS), Superman & Lois (US: The CW) and Mythic Quest (Apple TV+). I’m a bit behind on Loki, so I’m two weeks behind, but I’m enjoying the new female Loki (or is she?) and will be sticking with it. Evil… has got a bit silly. The fun of Evil was that it was horror with smart humour; now it’s gone the way of The Good Fight and is downright implausible. That said, the arrival of an archangel in episode two was really very good. All the same, I might well abandon it because it’s not what I signed up for.
Superman & Lois is on hiatus right now but ended with a broke up with a doozy an episode, the cliffhanger of which is still haunting me, but in itself, was a lovely trip through Superman history while simultaneously giving us a dark mirror image version of it, as well as a two-fingered salute to John Cleese.
Meanwhile, Mythic Quest, which has arguably been a bit pedestrian this season, both went out on a high and managed to come up with an in-story reason for its own insipidness. Equally arguably, that wasn’t a real explanation since the show’s main problem this season is that it had little to say about games, much to say about the problems of having good ideas and writing well.
In terms of new things, it’s largely been about movies. Movies on streaming and at the cinema. Ooh! Remember those?
Kevin Can F**k Himself (US: AMC)
But I did try the first episode of Kevin Can F**k Himself (US: AMC), which stars Annie Murphy as a woman with the usual overgrown manchild husband you’d expect of a studio-filmed sitcom. Except Murphy is only in a studio-filmed sitcom when he’s around; whenever he leaves, she’s suddenly in a bleach out single-cam real-world of impoverished working-class Massachusetts life, having to deal with all the indignities of life without the safety net of comedy writing conventions.
However, that’s a very positive spin on what is basically just a miserable show about people with miserable lives. The high concept doesn’t really work – there’s no explanation for it, no real consistency in its use and it’s not even a good critique of bad sitcoms. Murphy is fine, but the other actors are having to deliberately mug for the imagined conventions of the sitcom, so she’s effectively the only one.
Black Widow (2020)
The highlight of the past three weeks’ movies has undoubtedly been the much-delayed Black Widow, the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, serving as a sequel to Captain America: Civil War and a prequel to Avengers: Infinity War with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) on the run but brought back to the spy game she threw aside by her ‘sister’ and fellow Red Room graduate Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh).
It’s an oddly standalone piece that is more background story for Natasha, taking in everything spyish from The Bourne Identity through to The Americans. Despite its plot arc and big bads somewhat mirroring Captain America: The Winter Soldier, without quite having that movie’s directorial power, and despite never really giving its heroine a chance to truly shine, it’s a really enjoyable affair that has a lot to say about the abuse of women. The Russian elements are a little Rocky and Bullwinkle at times, but the script manages to throw in some genuinely nasty moments, some drawn from the Black Widow comics and you get a real context for Natasha’s character. The end-credits scene is genuinely moving and given both the movie’s dramatic and box office success, you do hope that somehow, we’ll still get to see more of the Black Widow.
A decent second place is Nobody, written by the guy who wrote John Wick and essentially John Wick again, just with Bob Odenkirk being funnier and doing fewer fights. Odenkirk is a nobody – and a Nobody (cf The Odyssey) – who breaks bad and returns to his former violent ways when his house is broken into and his daughter’s Hello Kitty bracelet is stolen. He then obviously has to go and fight some Russians, using the very special skills he’s built up.
It’s not in John Wick’s league by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s actually a lot of fun, Odenkirk is surprisingly plausible and an unstoppable death machine and the fights are decently executed.
The Tomorrow War (2021)
Coming unquestionably in third place is Amazon exclusive The Tomorrow War, a sort of horrendous mismash between Starship Troopers and The Edge of Tomorrow in which soldiers from the future arrive in our time to draft the current generation as soldiers against a nasty species of aliens that have invaded the Earth. For some reason, only 40somethings are suitable for drafting – something to do with paradoxes – and former special forces soldier turned science teacher Chris Pratt gets enlisted. In the future, he then has to team up with Yvonne Strahovski to take on the nasty things and maybe find a way of defeating them once and for all.
And it’s daft. Very, very daft. Pratt struggles, unable to do anything but his usual routine, but he doesn’t struggle anywhere as much as the script does as it tries to convince us that a 16 year old volcano obsessed nerd is our best hope for saving the human race. The third act weirdly is more like The Thing (From Another World) that what went before it, and actually better than the non-stop CGI firefights that preceded it. But it’s very far from engaging or exciting, even when emptying an entire magazine into your face.
That’s what I watched. But what did you watch?