I finally finished the 2018 Black Mirrors… but wikipedia says while I was postponing watching this season, they went and made another season, oh no. So, only three episodes to go, not counting Bandersnatch, then I guess Charlie Brooker is gone, and we’ll see if the show continues without him.


USS Callister

Opens in a space exploration simulation run by the very Kirk-like captain Daly. Jesse Plemons is kind of a Phil Seymour Hoffman type with a Matt Damon face (haha, he played Hoffman’s son in The Master). Outside the sim, he’s the genius programmer at a gaming company run by Jimmi Simpson (lately from Under the Silver Lake), but inside, Daly’s the omnipotent tyrant boss, Jimmi his lackey, and the new girl at work (Cristin Milioti from Fargo the series) is his latest sexy captive, via some DNA-scanning tech (saliva from a drinking glass also includes the person’s consciousness, hmmm). While he’s messing up his job focusing on the simulated game-world, sim-Cristin contacts her outside self to turn the tables. Mostly this episode is notable for its fun retro Star Trek vibe. Directed by a Dr. Who vet and cowritten by a Stranger Things producer.


Arkangel

“This is your parental hub – I’m just pairing it with Sarah’s implant.” When Sarah is 3, she goes missing for a short time at the park, so her panicked mom agrees to a free trial, “completely safe,” of a permanent tracking implant that includes a sensory v-chip, keeping Sarah from seeing or hearing anything “troubling” (like her grandpa having a heart attack) for years. Not the first Black Mirror where people can be blocked like twitter trolls. When her mom finally turns off the filter, a kid at school shows her all the worst things on the internet all at once, haha. Mom (Rosemarie DeWitt, the bride in Rachel Getting Married) intervenes again when Sarah is 15, watching her experiment with drugs and sex as if her daughter is a streaming series, until Sarah finds out and smashes the surveillance tablet against her mom’s face. Directed by Jodie Foster!


Crocodile

Rob and Mia are returning from a rave when he runs over a biker on a lonely snowy road, and they throw the guy off a cliff (there are always nearby cliffs in movies) and move on with their lives. Years later, Mia (Andrea Riseborough, Mandy in Mandy) is an architect mom going to a corporate thing in The Future, when she catches up with Rob (Outlander‘s Andrew Gower), who is having major guilty thoughts about the past. She cannot deal with the past coming back to haunt her at this point in her career, so she chokes him and throws him in a room service cart, getting pretty confident about disposing of bodies. Meanwhile, an insurance investigator (Kiran Sonia Sawar of the new Riz Ahmed movie) hooks people up to a memory reading machine to find out how an orchestra musician got hit by a driverless pizza truck. Mia was a witness, and certain unwanted memories come to light during the scan, so she kills Kiran and her husband and their baby. I mean it’s kinda dystopian, but usually we get innocent victims and this time it’s “in the future if you do a murder, you’ll get caught.” Director John Hillcoat – after The Road, he made two crime movies that didn’t sound essential, and is supposedly working on a Witchfinder General remake.

Schoolkids of the Future performing a play of Hillcoat’s bootlegger drama Lawless:


Hang the DJ

The Netflix mind-reading device hidden inside our Roku knows that the Black Mirror episodes I think about most often are Video Game Horror Tester and Two Girls in Retro Land, so it gave me this right after USS Callister. Georgina Campbell (from the Geraldine Chaplin episode of Electric Dreams) and Joe Cole (of Green Room and Woodshock) go through the latest dating app, which puts expiration dates of extremely different lengths (from hours to years) on each relationship. Near the beginning, the two joke about being stuck in a simulation, and that turns out to be the case. A program exposing people to a series of experiences of different lengths to determine their precise individual tastes feels like a swipe at new Black Mirror overlords Netflix. It does finally play the Smiths song at the end, yay. Directed by Timothy “Master Ninja” Van Patten.


Metalhead

3 Scots drive a filthy car through a postapocalyptic landscape. Two are taken out quickly by the robot dogs armed with guns and tracking-device frag grenades that have decimated humanity, but Bella (Maxine Peake of this year’s Peterloo) fights back. Terminator-eye view as it chases her, but she knocks it off a cliff to buy time – there are always nearby cliffs in movies – and sets her tracking bug adrift in a bottle. Not sure I buy the resourcefulness of the murderdog, which replaces its lost limb with a kitchen knife, but I definitely buy that the security systems of cars and houses in The Future are programmed to let the dogs – presumably state security devices or Amazon delivery agents – have full access. Bella doesn’t make it. Slade made Hard Candy, hey, I was just thinking about that movie.


Black Museum

Nish (Letitia Wright, the techno-sister of Black Panther, who was nominated for an Emmy for this) is driving alone through the usual wasteland, stops at a gas station/museum, and lets proprietor Douglas Hodge (Pennyworth in the new Joker, film debut was Salome’s Last Dance) lead her around and tell overlong stories about the horror artifacts within, Nish claiming ignorance even though she’s here for revenge. Three long sections follow… first, doctor Daniel Laplaine (who played Handsome Internet Expert in Double Jeopardy) gets a transmitter so he can feel the pain of his patients, but becomes addicted to feeling sensation without any bodily repercussions and goes on a torture/murder spree. Then, Alexandra Roach (young Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady) falls into a coma and her husband Aldis Hodge (who just made waves in Clemency) agrees to let her consciousness cohabitate in his brain – but she gets annoying and he has a pause button (shades of the White Christmas episode). Both of these stories implicate the museum owner, who came up with the dodgy technologies that made them possible, but fired from the hospital after the mad doctor incident, he opened this museum with its main attraction: the VR consciousness of a condemned killer (Babs Olusanmokun of Where Is Kyra?) whom visitors can pay to electrocute on an endless loop – until Nish turns the tables, ends her dad’s torment-loop and throws in Hodge instead. Colm McCarthy also made The Girl with All the Gifts – really an all-star director slate this season.

Dr. Driller Killer:


Bojack Horseman season 3 (2016)

The one where Bojack thinks he was oscar-nominated for Secretariat, but was not… Princess Carolyn is fired as his agent… and they kill Kristen Schaal, oh no. Loved the wordless underwater episode, dug the Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard reference.


The Good Place season 4 (2019)

They try the neighborhood thing one more time, Shawn and Michael square off, the Judge lets them redo the points system instead of rebooting Earth, and in exchange for their help, our heroes go to the actual Good Place… for a while.


In other TV news, I’m savoring my Cowboy Bebops and waiting for Rick & Morty season 4 to return from hiatus. Avenue 5 and Final Space didn’t seem like my thing, need to check out a few more new shows before Search Party s3 comes out and dominates my time.

The Tick season 2? 1B? (2018)

The Tick has amnesia in this series, but sometimes has vague memories of past adventures, with offhand references to Lady Justice and “spoon” (also a random “science ain’t an exact science” quote from 12 Monkeys). Playing larger roles in this season: Superian (Brendan Hines of MacGyver Remake), The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley), and Dangerboat (voice of Alan Tudyk). I basically love the look of this show, and the actors are good, and I laugh every time they say “big bismuth” (so about 1000 times), and apparently ten more episodes came out back in April.


Veep season 5 (2016)

Whew, this didn’t lose any steam after Armando Iannucci left. Selena torments her VP-elect Hugh Laurie during her doomed campaign to remain president after an electoral college tie. Jonah runs for a house seat against his former 2nd grade teacher, and for a while Jonah becomes assistant to his ex-assistant Richard (Sam Richardson of Detroiters)… Catherine makes a War Room-style documentary… Selena’s secret service agent (Clea DuVall of Carniv├ále) quits because she and Catherine are in love… Selena is sleeping with John Slattery… Dan is sleeping with Amy’s sister Mary Garrison (Begin Again)… Mike and his wife want kids, interview Portia from Search Party as a surrogate. Selena and Hugh Laurie and the lot of them are out in the final episode, and Laura Montez frees Tibet on her first day as president, which having just been to the Carter Center, seems like a reference to the Carter/Reagan Iran hostage crisis.


Portlandia season 2 (2012)

Still funny… now with Jeff Goldblum, Kristen Wiig, Tim Robbins, Kumail Nanjiani, Edward James Olmos, Jack McBrayer, Penny Marshall, Eddie Vedder, St. Vincent, Joanna Newsom.


Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories season 1 (2014)

I guess I’m 15-ish years late, but… these guys are good. Absurd comedy Twilight Zone-ish anthology series. Eric’s new neighbor is extremely intimidating. Bob Odenkirk plays a toe-removal doctor pursued by detective M. Emmet Walsh. T&E and Zach Galifianakis live and work in a bathroom. Eric is obsessed by an androgynous high-school musician. Jason Schwartzman does a product placement gig while unconscious. “I’m a legitimate cool guy indie actor – I don’t do commercials.” John C. Reilly gets all his stuff taken away by a 1-800 scam. Eric is cured of his diaper addiction but has to become a sauce boy for the mob – that one ends with a Bonnie Prince Billy song! Finally, Zach Gilford wants to date his coworker but That 70’s Dad is a priest from his hometown who has conspired to have Zach’s testicles removed.

A feature-length TV season, so every characters gets their moment, and it all feels squished and irrelevant, all “okay that’s out of the way, now here’s this.” Still mostly enjoyable, even for charlatans like me who quit the series after season 3.

Branson (the Irish chauffeur-turned-family-widower) is the star here, saving the king from assassination by Claire Foy’s husband, helping the princess (Kate Phillips of Peaky Blinders) figure out her marriage, and possibly falling in love with an heiress (Sense8 star Tuppence Middleton), the secret daughter of Imelda Staunton (great, her addition to the movie helps offset Elizabeth McGovern being reliably awful).

Eight years ago I introduced the characters – but where are they now?

Branson played Queen’s manager in Bohemian Rhapsody. Lady Mary starred in the series Godless, and was in that Jim Broadbent movie Sense of an Ending with her barely-in-the-movie husband Matthew Goode. Maggie Smith, who anticlimactically tells Mary she’s dying, is keeping it classy – after the Harry Potter and Marigold Hotel movies, she appeared in Sherlock Gnomes. I saw McGovern in The Commuter and she’ll star in a War of the Worlds miniseries with Gabriel Byrne. Lady Edith (pregnant again) is in another British period royalty drama series, and big daddy Hugh Bonneville is following Paddington 2 with a Christmas movie about a magic toymaker. Shaun’s mom followed The BFG with a Ricky Gervais series.

Bates (Mary Queen of Scots) and Anna (Bob the Builder) trick the royal servants so the locals can kowtow to the king personally, recruiting Carson (con-man movie The Good Liar) and Hughes (starring in Girlfriends with Miranda Richardson). Daisy (Iannucci’s David Copperfield movie) flirts with the plumber, is set to marry some footman. Thomas (netflix horror The Ritual) discovers a gay bar and gets into a side plot with some thudding dialogue, Molesley (plays a “ghost detective” on a British series) says some dumb things, and Patmore (an India-set period drama) does the usual. I was hoping the king and queen would be someone exciting, but she’s from Little Britain and he played Arthur Dent in the original Hitchhiker’s Guide, so, nope. The same writer & director made the dull-looking Elizabeth McGovern movie The Chaperone earlier this year.

I’ve already covered Random Acts of Flyness and Search Party – here are some others.


The Tick (Serafinowicz version) season 1 (2017)

We’re defining season one as ending on “Cliffhanger!” with Arthur kidnapped by The Terror; half-year hiatuses initiate new seasons in my TV episode accounting. After an episode each I wasn’t sure about either this or Dirk Gently, but this had shorter episodes so it won, and I warmed up to it significantly. I mean just rebooting the cartoon would seem easier, but if they’re gonna keep spending money to put funny actors in cartoonish suits instead, I won’t complain.

Griffin Newman (Arthur) is yet another Search Party actor who’s also in Fort Tilden, a movie I’ve already said I need to watch. Lint is from the Sean Bean remake of The Hitcher, Dot is from the Adam Wingard remake of Blair Witch, and Overkill is from the Reggie Bannister sequel to The Mangler.


Review season 3 (2017)

With only three episodes left to close things up, Forrest is beautifully gifted a chance to make amends for his destructive obsession with reviewing life experiences – and he blows it, left alone and clueless at the end of the show (and the Show).

It looks like Andy Daly has joined Veep, so I don’t have to start watching Silicon Valley to see him again.


The Good Place season 3 (2018)

The team goes back to life/earth, tracked by evil Adam Scott, while Michael visits Doug Forcett and investigates the point system. That’s a poor writeup, we should probably just watch it again.


Archer season 7 (2016)

The “Figgis Agency” season, the group acting as Hollywood private eyes hired by Patton Oswalt to protect a film star (Mary McDonald-Lewis, who played Lady Jaye in the 1980’s). Nice Sunset Boulevard intro scene.


Barry season 1 (2018)

It seemed like overkill to start watching a sadsack hitman comedy when I’m in the middle of Archer, but this show hits new levels of sadsack without ever losing sight of the comedy. Stephen Root as Barry’s handler is the secret weapon from the start, then Henry Winkler shows up as a minor celebrity turned acting teacher. Most unexpected success: the Chechens as Root and Hader’s enemies-turned-partners, especially Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank. It’s all dark as hell, introverted Barry finding new friends only to end up having to kill them when they discover who he is.


Nathan For You season 1 (2013)

“I graduated from one of Canada’s top business schools with really good grades.” Nathan is an advisor to small businesses, helping them gain customers by, say, promoting shoplifting, or offering a discount via a rebate that has to be claimed by climbing a mountain and answering a series of riddles. He also does public stunts that can’t be seen as promoting anything, like hiding inside a cigar-store indian to spy on a security guard hidden inside a video game machine, and eventually the show ignores the businesses and gets more about Nathan’s awkward loneliness, looking for love by creating a “fake reality show” inside his fake reality show, and performing a pants-dropping escape act (“I took the judge’s suggestion that I should expose myself to children”). I’ve long heard good things about this show, but didn’t start watching until the True/False connection, Nathan attending this year’s fest with an extended version of the series finale, which I guess I’ll catch after three more seasons.

Body doubles who look “identical” to Nathan:


Mystery Science Theater 3000 season 12: The Gauntlet (2018)

Preeeeeeetty nice.

It’s a good thing Criterion is releasing the slow-moving serious-art early Dumont films on blu-ray, because I need to catch up, and this also gives me auteurist justification for absolutely loving this goony miniseries where aliens visit the town of Lil Quinquin and start duplicating the residents. The twitchy racist cop is given more screen time than ever, but I’m into it this time. Random resident Mr. Leleu gets copied, then Coincoin’s brother Dany, his ex-girl Eve, D’nis, then the captain himself. The Captain and Carpentier find out about the clones, are on the case, guns drawn, with the kids at their side, and then instead of solving the alien mystery, the “Cause I Knew” girl returns as a zombie and the series ends with a full-cast singalong.

It becomes less random as the series goes on and sketches start calling back to each other or continuing from previous episodes. It is pretty random tho, also one of the most imaginative series I’ve ever seen. Seems like a high-budget Adult Swim thing, with sketches and animation and music and interviews – can’t believe it’s on HBO, or that creator Terence Nance (An Oversimplification of Her Beauty) landed a big-budget live-action cartoon on the heels of this.

Very many participants, including actress Dominique Fishback, the Ghanaian director of Afronauts, and Solange Knowles.

“Everything is gonna be okay. You know why? Because we’re good people.”

Our four sleuths head home from Canada victorious, with the rescued Chantal (Clare McNulty of Fort Tilden), but having left Keith behind in a shallow grave. They completely fail to act naturally or cover their tracks, evidence mounts against them over the course of the season and two more people end up dead, but they pull it off in the end? No they do not.

Dory’s ex Julian publishes an article about Chantal being a huge fake. Drew briefly dates Chantal and schemes against a coworker, Elliott loses all control and does not write his book, and Portia breaks up with her mom because her theater director Jay Duplass tells her to. Dory blackmails a politician (J. Smith-Cameron, Anna Paquin’s mom in Margaret) to get the money for her own blackmailer, crazy neighbor April (Phoebe Tyers, also of Fort Tilden, which I should obviously watch). Also, Judy Reyes (Scrubs) is Keith’s ex-wife who knows about Dory, Tymberlee Hill (The Hotwives of Orlando) is a cop investigating Keith’s murder, Dory sends an email from a dead man, and a Canadian fucks a tree. Season three coming soon!

Archer season 6 (2015)

Reboot season, back in their spy agency doing spy stuff. Dealing with Archer and Lana’s baby (and their getting back together towards the end), the return of Barry and Katya and Christian Slater, lotta betrayals and fuckups – the usual. As always I tried to watch an episode a week, then one a day, then six all at once. Enjoyed the attempts to bring back retired catchphrases – this show has the best writing. Cheers to Jared and Mike and Ron and the others.


Review season 2 (2015)

Forrest loses his new girlfriend after blackmailing her, experiences a glory hole, loses his next girlfriend trying to join the mile high club, burns down his dad’s house pretending to be a little person, loses his next girlfriend to a dangerous cult that he started, gets the perfect body, gets shot by his dad “doing a William Tell,” gets lost on a rowboat and buried alive, kills a guy, gets in a violent prison pillow fight, watches his imaginary friend get murdered, continues to get in trouble with his ex-wife, and finally “believes in a conspiracy” that his producer Grant (James Urbaniak) is trying to destroy his life, and rushes him off a bridge to both of their presumed deaths, but we’ll see in season 3. I enjoyed it more than season 1, this time knowing from the start that Forrest is massively deluded about the importance of his show and will sabotage himself and everyone he supposedly cares about for the sake of a review.


Bob’s Burgers season 2 (2012)

Home sick and unable to do much of anything, this made me forget all troubles for a while. Bob is involved in two hostage situations, buys a food truck and gets addicted to video gaming. The kids get lost in an abandoned taffy factory, avoid schoolwork and sabotage Bob’s guest segment on a local talk show. Too many big guests to list, but Megan Mullally stood out as both Linda’s sister and a knockoff Tori Amos.

Looking up the directors on IMDB I discovered a Mike Judge show called The Goode Family, which sounds intriguing, and makes me wonder why I’ve apparently never looked up Mike Judge on IMDB… oh no, he cowrote the new Johnny Knoxville movie.


Dream Corp LLC season 1 (2016)

A dream therapist (Jon Gries, Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite) runs an extremely ramshackle operation, recruits his patient from the first episode (Nick Rutherford, a SNL and Axe Cop writer) to be another “doctor”. There’s a patient-of-the-week and various operational and interpersonal problems and low-rent sci-fi scenarios, with rotoscoped dream sequences, and it’s all pretty wonderful. Also featuring Stephanie Allynne (One Mississippi), Ahmed Bharoocha of Comedy Central show Dead Kevin, Mark Proksch of The Office U.S., and original Office writer Stephen Merchant as the robot. Guests included Mary Lynn Rajskub, June Squibb (Nebraska, About Schmidt), Dan Gill (Creative Control), and the voice of Liam Neeson as itself.


Who Is America? (2018)

“37 percent of lesbians dress like Charlie Chaplin. Why? We don’t know.” Sacha Baron Cohen has a new set of disguises, waves a beeping pervert detector at Roy Moore, makes murder jokes with OJ Simpson, and gets a GA state rep to resign. Essential television.


Mystery Science Theater 3000 season 11 (2017)

Good to have the show back. I watched while falling asleep over about 70 separate nights, so it’s all half-awake fragmented bits, and I was already thinking of rewatching but hey look, season 12 just came out. I don’t find the voices distinctive enough, and someone rightly pointed out that they’re overly chatty and could stand to cut a few jokes. Callbacks to jokes from the classic episodes, nice guest appearances and host segments, with at least one all-timer musical number (“every country has a monster”). Movie highlight was probably the two-part Wizards of the Lost Kingdom.


Apocalypse: a Bill Callahan tour film (2012, Hanly Banks)

Either this is one of the best concert docs I’ve ever seen, or I was just in an extremely Bill Callahan mood. Watched the night he performed at Hanukkah, then again the next day – an Apocalypse-era concert, each song (for the first half?) with a different visual treatment, and short interview or tour-life segments between songs.


Flight of the Conchords: Live in London (2018)

Another fine musical hour – coincidentally, Bill Callahan doc director Hanly Banks worked on the Conchords TV series. I’ve conveniently forgotten most of the songs from the show and albums, so they all seemed new to me.


Documentary Now season 1 (2015)

Such a weird niche idea, I can’t believe it’s allowed to exist. The writers/directors, including lead actors Armisen and Hader, mostly come from SNL.

A Grey Gardens knockoff devolves into found-footage horror. A 1980’s TV doc about the true story of a Nanook-like early doc uncovers some Forgotten Silver-like cinematic inventions. A Vice-like publication keeps sending clueless reporters to their deaths seeking a Mexican drug kingpin. A Thin Blue Line-like investigation into a botched murder trial includes fabulous slow-motion re-enactment footage. An Iceland town holds a quaint Al Capone festival (this was actually filmed in Iceland). Finally their masterpiece, in the vein of A Mighty Wind or the Josh Fenderman story, soft-rock legends The Blue Jean Committee.

Kunuk Uncovered:

The Eye Doesn’t Lie:

Nicely put-together doc on Mr. Rogers, the fascinating man, his underrated show, and its legacy. The school of critics who claim Paddington 2 as the best film of 2018 have highly recommended this one – you’re supposed to weep from start to finish at the reminder that there used to be such goodness in this world.