TV Review: Catch-22 Begins in a Nightmare and Spirals All the Way Down

The Pitch: The ostensible idea of military training is to break a man down. The normal end of that saying is “so you can build him back up,” but what Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel Catch-22 posits is that there’s no actual building up to follow. A man is given enough training to be fitted for a uniform and sent off to fight, and the war itself continues to break him down, and down, and down, until he’s either dead, a beast, or a walking shell with marching orders and a set of dog tags. However, Catch-22 is also a comedy, in the way that a novel about the bottomless sadism of warfare can be funny. Previously adapted as a film in 1970, Catch-22 now comes to Hulu in the form of a six-part miniseries. Where the novel inhabits numerous characters’ points of view, the miniseries specifically focuses on Air Force bombardier Yossarian (Christopher Abbott), a young man desperate to meet his mission quota and finally be sent home from the cyclical terror of his tour. After all, on the Mediterranean island of Pianosa, the men mostly just kill time in brothels, drink beer, and wait to die or go home, whichever comes first. Each day he wanders […]

Film Review: The Ranger Turns a Flashlight on Authority Horror

The Pitch: A rag-tag crew of crusty punks evade the law by leaving the city and heading out into the woods, where one of their friends has a secluded family cabin. Unfortunately for them, they’re not alone as they come face to face with the titular terror, who may or may not recognize said friend. Will these punks survive this sordid “Police Story”? Police On My Back: Okay, so it’s a little Green Room, it’s a little Evil Dead, and it’s a little Cabin Fever, but what really elevates this woodsy story from being, well, another woodsy story is its capitalization on authority horror. At a time when those red and blue lights have taken on an ominous turn, a villain like Jeremy Holm’s Ranger really works. It helps that Holm rips apart every scene with his bare hands, dialing back to ’90s DTV villainy in the most complementary way. Whether he’s swinging axes into people’s jaws or pressuring a snotty teen to tear their leg from a bear trap, he’s always grinning like an asshole, and you can’t help but relish every second he magically appears. Yet you also can’t help but shudder, either, no pun intended. Holm’s caricature […]

Saturday Night Live Highlights: Kit Harrington Watches the Thrones on a Mostly Enjoyable SNL

Hey, have you heard that Game of Thrones is coming to its end pretty soon? It’s pretty impossible to avoid the April 14th return (for six long episodes, anyway) of the HBO series that made labyrinthe fantasy storytelling cool by firmly rooting it in heinous body violence and frontal nudity. Everything from beer to Oreos is shilling Thrones these days, so it stands to reason that Saturday Night Live would likewise get in on the fun. In that spirit, series breakout and general know-nothing Jon Sn … Kit Harington hosted in a decent enough showing, one that kept the overall GoT references to a palatable minimum, with only the opening monologue and a single effective pre-taped sketch about HBO’s desperation to spin the show off into as many things as possible. Also, the monologue segment was mostly in the trademark SNL business of getting pops for other surprise famous people, but c’mon. Who’s ever going to get upset about seeing Samwell Tarly? [embedded content] So, Uh, About All That Joe Biden Stuff… [embedded content] I’ve written about this a lot in my share of this site’s SNL coverage, but ever since everything went tilt and Donald Trump became the goddamn President of the United States, the show has found itself at […]

SXSW Film Review: Stuber Thrives as an Action Movie, Not So Much as a Comedy

(Editor’s note: The following review concerns a work-in-progress cut of Stuber at SXSW 2019. As such, a final grade will be held until the film’s release this summer.) The Pitch: Hardened Los Angeles detective Vic (Dave Bautista) is supposed to be at home recovering from a recent LASIK procedure. But when Tejo (Iko Uwais), the drug lord who killed his partner six months earlier, is reported to be back in town, he disobeys doctor’s orders in an attempt to seek revenge. Because Vic is barely able to see, he ends up enlisting the help of a pushover Uber driver named Stu (a.k.a. Stuber, played by Kumail Nanjiani), to be his eyes, navigator, and reluctant sidekick. The tension between the unlikely crime-fighting team threatens to explode as the danger increases, and the two men begin offering unwanted advice about each other’s personal lives. Four Stars for Action: Taking a page from so many R-rated buddy-cop films of the ’80s and ’90s, Stuber refuses to pull its punches when it comes to the violence. The knockout opening sequence contains all the bullet dodging, spurting blood, and crushed bones you could ever want from two onscreen powerhouses like Bautista and Uwais. There’s an artistry in the […]