Upload (2020) s01e10 – Freeyond

After ignoring the initial A plot but actually the B plot because Robbie Amell and Andy Allo are cute for eight episodes, this episode’s almost entirely about the mystery behind Amell’s death. And his missing memories. The ones he didn’t find out about until halfway through the season but didn’t care about because… bad writing?

Except the show wants to do some big twists, starting with Amell waking up after—presumably—getting his memories back as a side effect of a system upgrade. Think there’s a chance a show like “Upload” would pull some twisty shenanigan so it can split Allo and Amell onto their own subplots for a while before bringing them back together.

Except it runs twenty-four minutes so it’s like three minutes of the show, maybe four. If Greg Daniels had just written it out, he might have given Allo and Amell something sincere to perform (so obviously not) but it’s frustrating how lazy “Upload” gets.

Though there is a lot of action this episode. Daina Reid directs. She does a good enough job given the constraints. See, it’s time Allo to be put in actual danger. Season finale only has nineteen minutes to go and the show has three big changes it needs to get set up.

Instead of doing anything with its first season, “Upload” has done a “totally different season two” setup. I didn’t see some of the twists coming—mostly because they’re all pretty terrible—but I’m still not exactly disappointed. I didn’t have any hope for “Upload” to get to a good place with this season or to get set up well for next season.

Amazon ought to cancel this one and put Allo and Amell in something else, something with better writing. Zainab Johnson ought to get her own show, however. Then you’ve got all the best pieces of “Upload” in at least not this project. Because it’s not a good showcase for Allo or Amell.

Maybe I did expect the season finale to be better.

Doctor Who (2005) s03e06 – The Lazarus Experiment

What is this show’s problem with companions’ mothers? We briefly met new companion Freema Agyeman’s mom, Adjoa Andoh, in the season premiere and she seemed fine.

Nope.

She’s possibly even more annoying than previous companion’s mom Camille Coduri, which doesn’t even seem possible, but the episode manages it, with mystery dweeb Bertie Carvel warning Andoh against Doctor David Tennant. Even as Tennant is saving the world from literal monsters as well as explicitly saving Andoh’s daughters, both Agyeman and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Not to mention strangely henpecked son Reggie Yates. Tennant saves them all.

But Andoh doesn’t like him because he’s nerdy. Is Andoh okay with Mbatha-Raw’s creep boss, Mark Gatiss, who’s the villain and subject of the episode.

We open with Tennant bringing Agyeman home; she’s not his new companion, so she’s got to go home. And he manages to drop her off just twelve hours after picking her up, showing a far better control of time travel than he ever did with previous companion Billie Piper.

Of course, he’s also about to have conversations with Agyeman, which didn’t happen much with Piper.

Anyway. They see on the news how Gatiss is going to change the course of human history so Tennant decides to stick around.

They go to the presentation and Gatiss makes himself young—he starts in old age makeup—and then turns into a monster and decides to eat everyone. So Tennant has to save the day, while convincing the locals Gatiss is a monster—see, he can change back into his human persona after he feeds.

You think once he saves Andoh the second time she’s going to stop being so one-note but nope.

It’s strange the show had a first time writer—Stephen Greenhorn—handle establishing not just Agyeman’s supporting cast but also some kind of conspiracy against the doctor. Especially such a mediocre one. Greenhorn’s teleplay would do better if Gatiss were better—it’s a little much when he gets a Roy Batty moment just so he can artlessly mug—and Richard Clark’s direction’s fine.

Tennant, Agyeman, and Mbatha-Raw are all great.

And it’s significantly better than most Earth episodes, I suppose. Just imagine how much better it would be if the Andoh stuff weren’t bad and the monster didn’t look like mid-nineties video game CGI.

Enter the Fat Dragon (2020, Tanigaki Kenji)

Enter the Fat Dragon is about Hong Kong super-cop Donnie Yen (already in a pound of makeup before he puts on the fat suit, presumably to look more age appropriate for love interest Niki Chow) who goes too far one too many times and finds himself busted down to the evidence room. After Chow dumps him—they’ve been together ten years and just now about to get married and he ruins their engagement photo shoot with his opening action sequence (it’s a bigger deal because she’s an actress whose profession he doesn’t respect)–Yen hits the junk food hard, which is clearly a big change for him since he started the movie junk food shaming subordinate then boss Louis Cheung for eating a slice of pineapple. Pretty soon he’s put on a hundred pounds; Yen started the movie at a cool one-fifty, because it’s in the opening narration.

It’s weird for a fifty-seven year-old man to talk to you about his weight at the start of a movie but whatever.

He’s clearly only supposed to be thirty-five.

Anyway. Dragon is a movie from 2020 where star producer hyphenate Yen thought it was a great idea to put on a fat suit and do wire-fu on an absolutely fantastic Japanese street set. It took a while to realize it was a set, but once I did, I kept getting distracted with the great detail in the background cast. Whoever designed the set, built it, directed the extras, just phenomenal work.

Lee Kin-wai’s the art director, so maybe it’s Lee Kin-wai’s department.

There’s an okay fight scene on the street set, going on the rooftops and such. Tanigaki’s direction gets most of the martial arts action, but doesn’t do anything interesting with it. It doesn’t showcase Yen well, which might more be because he doesn’t get any close-ups in the movie because of all the make-up he’s clearly wearing.

And some of the other action is fine. It’s too rush—Dragon runs just over ninety minutes and hurries through subplots. But it’s obvious we’re not missing much.

After a while—and all the junk food in the vending machine—Yen goes to Japan on his redemption assignment, a prisoner transfer (throughout Dragon feels like a mix of an eighties action movies, James Bond, and whatever else I’ve forgotten—just never Enter the Dragon, outside some forced references). The transfer goes wrong thanks to dirty Japanese cop Takenaka Naoto and Yen’s stuck in Japan—he also loses his luggage, leading him to ex-Hong Kong cop Wong Jing. Wong—who also cowrote—is a big lovable dope who loves the restaurant owner (Teresa Mo) across the street. Together they’re basically joint foster parents to lovable teen orphan Lin Qiunan. Every Chinese person Yen meets in Japan is great and every Japanese person he meets in Japan is a villain.

The main villain is Joey Iwanaga, who’s more enthusiastic than the role needs or the movie seems to care. He’s Yakuza and behind Yen’s prisoner transfer problems; he’s also Chow’s new boss.

It’s never good—though there are a handful of great laughs, most of them exceptionally cheap because Enter the Fat Dragon is slapstick. Some of the way they “get away” with Yen being clumsy in the fat suit is having him be clumsy before the fat suit, when he’s just in that pound of make-up. Most of the slapstick’s not good.

The end is a large scale action finale; not good either. There may even be a Superman: The Movie nod.

Dragon’s bad slapstick with a lot of cheap jokes. Not the expected ones, but still cheap ones.

Yen’s not able to even make micro-expressions in his makeup so he hasn’t got much of a performance. The martial arts stuff looks good enough it’d be nice if the movie had a good director.

Chow’s eh. Even though they’re even more age inappropriate, Jessica Jann—as Takenaka’s Chinese national interpreter but not accomplice—and Yen have more chemistry than he ever has with Chow. It’s not her fault; she’s kind of a villain? She’s shallow because she doesn’t want him to be a super-cop, which somehow manages to become a subplot, though I guess you need it for the reconciliation arc.

The first act kept having… not exactly potential, but enthusiastic possibilities only it never takes them on. Instead—outside that great street set and some technical aspects of the finale–Dragon never really does anything. It’s milquetoast.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Tanigaki Kenji; written by Chan Kin-Hung, Lui Koon-Nam, and Jing Wong; directors of photography, Fung Yuen-man and Ishizaka Takuro; edited by Lee Ka-wing; costume designer, Lee Pik-kwan; produced by Connie Wong and Donnie Yen; released by Mega-Vision Pictures.

Starring Donnie Yen (Fallon Zhu), Niki Chow (Chloe Song), Joey Iwanaga (Shimakura), Jing Wong (Thor), Teresa Mo (Charisma), Lin Qiunan (Little Tiger), Louis Cheung (Commander Huang), Takenaka Naoto (Inspector Endo), Jessica Jann (Maggie), and Watanabe Tetsu (Grandfather).


Doctor Who (2005) s03e05 – Evolution of the Daleks

Last episode I went in pretty hard on the British actors playing Americans but I think I may have emphasized accents too much. Hugh Quarshie’s accent isn’t bad. His performance is bad, his accent is fine. Whereas Andrew Garfield’s accent is bad and his performance is bad.

Though even Garfield seems like a strong supporting player when taking main guest star Eric Loren into account. Loren’s the Dalek-human hybrid. He’s got a head with a single eye and tentacles—short, thick, dreadlock tentacles. He’s pink. He looks like a “Simpsons” or “Futurama” alien. It never looks real, because exposed brain tissue would be a lot real, but it also looks lifeless even if it’s absurd. It’s distractingly bad.

Like, afternoon local access kids’ show bad.

But even as bad as the mask and makeup and whatever… Loren’s performance is eye-widening terrible. Uncomfortably terrible.

You feel bad for the other actors terrible. And the rest of the actors—even Garfield, much less Quarshie—are sympathetic because they’re trapped in this terrible episode.

The episode seems like some kids’ variety show, partially because of the production design, mostly because of James Strong’s direction. Strong doesn’t do good work here. He does better directing than Helen Raynor does writing, but it’s still rather wanting.

The exciting conclusion to the Daleks trying to take over the planet from 1930 New York and somehow continuing the Dalek race. David Tennant very quickly goes from being anti-Dalek to pro-Loren hybrid Dalek, which is terrible for a couple reasons. First, it means more Loren, second it means Tennant’s just part of some other character’s plot line. Will the regular Daleks behave when their leader is getting all human-y?

Freema Agyeman gets to play gal pal to lovesick Miranda Raison, which is a big waste. Also a big waste of Raison, who gets downgraded from her Doctor’s love interest spot from last episode.

I knew this episode would be a slog and, no surprise, a slog.

Upload (2020) s01e09 – Update Eve

Turns out “Upload” is able to surprise me. This episode reveals the Horizon app where all the dead people live is getting an upgrade. Including having more than two seasonings, which is a heck of a long time into the show to reveal none of the digital dead people eating are tasting anything the viewer can imagine.

Of course, I shouldn’t have expected any episode-to-episode continuity—creator Greg Daniels is back to write the season finale two-parter, starting here—and we’re just now finding out reality can be upgraded. It’s like the season finale for a traditionally plotted sitcom season versus streaming tenner “Upload”.

Not only is the system upgrading, it’s also a chance for Robbie Amell to get his memories back because even though they’ve been stolen and hacked and erased, Andy Allo’s fairly sure if they break the rules and keep him awake during the upgrade, he’ll remember everything.

Everything like what? We still have no idea because the show’s done a laughably bad job establishing Amell’s supporting cast. So it’s going to be a surprise for the season finale. We’re just getting to that surprise, which involves Allo bringing causal sex partner Matt Ward to an office party no one had mentioned until this episode because of course they didn’t.

So Allo’s got to sneak around the office party to play with Amell on the computer while she’s supposed to be making out with Ward to keep boss Andrea Rosen from being suspicious (if Rosen were good, “Upload” would be a lot better, instead it gives her a bunch of time but no content). Meanwhile, Zainab Johnson is trying to convince her dead virtual ward—Kevin Bigley—to cheat on the Easter egg hunt for money.

They also don’t say Christmas in this future.

Because SJWs.

Because Greg Daniels is a rebel.

Anyway.

If “Upload” were good it’d be an Imagine Entertainment movie from the late eighties, like if Tom Hanks’s career went differently. Instead, it’s a middling, underdeveloped, underproduced—albeit occasionally charmingly casted. Hopefully it’ll get Johnson, Allo, and Amell better work in the future; and in that order only.

The Old Guard (2020, Gina Prince-Bythewood)

The Old Guard is better than any of the Highlander movies (to date, I suppose) but sadly not a success. It gets relatively close to passing at least, but then the epilogue is forced, predictable (screenwriter Greg Rucka’s really obvious, he’s really episodic and he’s really obvious–Old Guard is based on Rucka and Leandro Fernandez’s comic of the same name so the episodic makes sense. The obvious also makes sense (I’ve got many the Rucka comic under the reading belt). But the epilogue’s pretty bad. At one point during Old Guard, when I’d given up on this entry actually being good, I got hopeful for the sequel.

Epilogue kinds of ruins it.

But not as much as the soundtrack; Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O'Halloran are credited with the score, which I think is maybe three minutes of actual music. The rest of the time there’s the best accompanying song soundtrack Netflix was willing to pay for, which apparently was less than it would take to download some public domain recording of classical music.

All of the action sequences in Old Guard have a really annoying, not well-chosen song going with them. Maybe I just don’t like my ears to bleed, maybe the songs really are good, but then editor Terilyn A. Shropshire should’ve cut the action to the songs better. They’re not synced, it’s just accompaniment. So they apparently didn’t have to pay Bertelmann and O'Halloran anymore.

Highlander 1 had Queen and Michael Kamen.

The Old Guard has Bertelmann, O’Halloran, and the full versions of songs you can probably excerpt for free. It’s dreadful. Particularly because otherwise the action scenes would be good. There’s a solid fight scene for Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne; they’ve got to have their pissing contest after all. Old Guard follows the eighties action movie tropes well enough if it’d embraced them more it might’ve endeared.

Though it’s hard to endear with such a bad soundtrack. It’s really profoundly bad. It’s something else.

Anyway. Theron is playing Sean Connery, while Layne is the newest Highlander. She’s not Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod however, because Matthias Schoenaerts basically fits that part. Layne’s new and unexpected, the first new Immortal in two hundred years, which is ostensibly ominous but the comic’s got—sorry, sorry, the movie—the movie’s got profound logic problems. Rucka.

Theron has been alive since “Xena” times at least and has always battled on the side of good, saving this village or that village for thousands and thousands of years. But it’s 2020 and she no longer sees any evidence of the good she’s done for 4,000 years. Theron and her fellow Immortals Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari, and Luca Marinelli do nothing but fight. And in the last few decades, they’ve been mercenaries for the CIA, doing rescue operations. You know, all those rescue operations the CIA does with the good people. Thankfully there’s no government conspiracy for Rucka’s script to be naive about, instead there’s an evil big Pharma company out to steal the secret of immortality.

Harry Melling plays the head of the company.

It’s singularly one of the worst villain performances ever. Melling is playing the young Pharma bro evil mastermind only he’s dressed like Pee-Wee Herman (“Playhouse” not South Trail Cinema) and he’s so silly it’s hard to believe anyone could keep a straight face during the scenes. Though most of Melling’s supporting cast is bad. Actually, all of them.

Head of security Joey Ansah is a martial arts guy. He’s never good but at least he can do his fight stuff in the end. Whereas evil scientist Anamaria Marinca is just… bad.

What’s disconcerting is how the casting is otherwise good.

Layne’s fellow Marines—Mette Towley and Natacha Karam—they’re solid. Until that plot line goes bad—Rucka—a movie with them in it more had a lot of potential.

So the leads.

Theron’s as close to bad—due to abject disinterest in anything other than her hand-to-hand scenes, not even the gun fight scenes, which are fine other than that terrible soundtrack–that disinterest is even more concerning given Theron produced the film (which means she’s hit that stage of Eighties Eastwood stage of career)—without every actually being bad. She shows some personality a handful of times, but there’s really no call for it because there’s not really any significant character development because….

Rucka.

Layne’s got some really good moments and she’s always appealing but Old Guard isn’t supposed to be a pilot movie or even a TV movie to test out how Layne does on Netflix, it’s supposed to be a good part. And it’s not a good part. No one’s got a good part.

Well, Schoenaerts. Except his performance is the same Schoenaerts head-shaking and looking off into the distance thing he always does, just immortal this time. He’s likable though. Be fun to see in the sequel. Maybe.

Kenzari’s great. Marinelli’s fine. Chiwetel Ejiofor hopefully bought something nice.

Prince-Bythewood’s direction is fine. The action scenes would’ve been good without the terrible soundtrack. The Old Guard’s not her fault (I mean, I don’t know about the soundtrack but I sincerely hope it wasn’t her idea); the direction’s fine otherwise. The action scenes are anomalies. When scenes otherwise go wrong, it’s because of the script.

Though there are a handful of nice moments in Rucka’s script; until the third act, it really seems like Old Guard’s going to make it through. And then it doesn’t.

Because Rucka’s cheap and obvious, Melling is atrocious, and the soundtrack is painfully exasperating.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood; screenplay by Greg Rucka, based on the comic book by Rucka and Leandro Fernandez; directors of photography, Barry Ackroyd and Tami Reiker; edited by Terilyn A. Shropshire; music by Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O’Halloran; production designer, Paul Kirby; costume designer, Mary E. Vogt; produced by A.J. Dix, David Ellison, Marc Evans, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, Beth Kono, and Charlize Theron; streamed by Netflix.

Starring Charlize Theron (Andy), KiKi Layne (Nile), Matthias Schoenaerts (Booker), Marwan Kenzari (Joe), Luca Marinelli (Nicky), Harry Melling (Merrick), Natacha Karam (Dizzy), Mette Towley (Jordan), Anamaria Marinca (Dr. Meta Kozak), Joey Ansah (Keane), and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Copley).


Backcountry (2014, Adam MacDonald)

Backcountry is all about this young couple who need a weekend in the woods to realize why they’re wrong for each other. She’s a lawyer who’s interested in playing on her smartphone with her friends. The movie’s from 2014; maybe it’s supposed to be Candy Crush? Is 2014 too early for Instagram?

Missy Peregrym plays the female lead.

Her Romeo is Jeff Roop, who acts like he once had an acting coach who really believed in him but it turns out was dead wrong about Roop’s abilities. Like, Peregrym’s flat. There’s a moment, late in the film, when she’s supposed to be on the brink of collapse, run through more than she ever thought she could survive, and she’s sort of scowl-peering like she’s trying to see what director MacDonald’s telling her to do. It’s even worse because we know by that time in the film… MacDonald (hopefully) isn’t giving his actors any direction.

The script he gets them to perform is bad enough.

Roop is a failed landscaper or something. He’s maybe going to get a friend of his to sell him a share in his successful landscaping firm or something. But he lives off Peregrym, obviously.

They’re going up to a provincial park–Backcountry isn’t ashamed of its Canadianity (I mean, it’s got “Da Vinci” Nicolas Campbell cameoing and it tries to pretend very American Eric Balfour is Irish)—but they still don’t draw too much attention to it. They never mention Toronto, which I vaguely recall was always the eighties giveaway.

Now, MacDonald’s got a problem with perspective. Almost throughout. But he maybe gets some first act forgiveness because most of it is him doing these rote montage sequences. The beginning is a bunch of shots of the car driving out of civilization into the wild—the Backcountry. Neither Roop or Peregrym’s likable during their car trip (it’s scary to think they’re supposed to be) and once they get to the park, we find out Roop’s got something special planned for their trip.

He’s very obviously going to propose.

Very obviously.

To the point it’s almost a surprise Peregrym isn’t supposed to know about it and just have ignored it while playing Candy Crush, which is what MacDonald thinks lawyers do. I mean. Sure, but she’s supposed to be a movie lawyer. She doesn’t seem lawyerly enough for “Night Court.”

Because she’s bad. It’s bad. Backcountry’s bad.

I mean, are the gore effects good?

Sure. MacDonald doesn’t know how to direct them—or anything else—Christian Bielz doesn’t know how to light them (though he’s better than expected during daylight scenes, nighttime no), and editor Dev Singh doesn’t know how to cut them. The editing is the least competent part of Backcountry but you can tell it’s MacDonald’s idea. Singh clearly had terrible footage to work with.

Vince Nudo’s score, which is kind of an eighties synth thing but restrained (Tangerine Dream meets Vangelis), isn’t exactly good or even interesting but it’s peculiar in a not bad way.

And peculiar in a not bad way is something special for Backcountry, which is otherwise entirely unremarkable in its badness.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Adam MacDonald; director of photography, Christian Bielz; edited by Dev Singh; music by Vince Nudo; production designer, Pierre Bonhomme; costume designer, Ginger Martini; produced by Thomas Michael; released by IFC Films.

Starring Jeff Roop (Alex), Missy Peregrym (Jenn), Nicholas Campbell (Ranger), and Eric Balfour (Brad).


Doctor Who (2005) s03e04 – Daleks in Manhattan

So… Nicholas Briggs does do the Dalek voices in this episode. He’s been doing all of them, which is weird because the Dalek voices this episode are terrible and so… I figured it was other actors.

But no.

It’s Briggs.

And he’s terrible.

I was waiting for the Daleks to show up—they’re trying to take over 1930 Manhattan, using the Empire State Building’s construction to do something. It’s not particularly interesting, mostly because even with the potentially interesting setting, the episode plays more like a college stage production, where British actors get to try out their American accents while acting in front of green screens.

Including future Spider-Man Andrew Garfield, who plays a Tennessee(!) youth who encounters the Doctor (David Tennant) and Martha (Freema Agyeman) as they hang out in Hooverville to solve disappearances among the Depression-ravaged residents. Hugh Quarshie plays Black king of melting pot Hooverville, which seems a little… I mean, it seems like it needs to come with citations if they’re going to do it. Because otherwise it seems like it’s painting in some inclusivity where there wasn’t any.

But then there’s not many bars Helen Raynor’s script clears. It’s a fairly bad script. Like, jarring, getting worse as it goes along. The Dalek dialogue seems like it’s just not written with the right ear (in addition to whatever’s going on with Briggs).

The episode introduces another female interest for Tennant—showgirl Miranda Raison, who sounds as New Yawk as Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk gets. So after having all this momentum with Agyeman and Tennant as a team, the episode keeps them together but gives Agyeman a lot less to do.

It’s disappointing. Though the episode looks like it was shot on a camcorder—maybe because there are so many period sets? Like, bigger the production, worse the video “stock”? So it always looks disappointing. Then it just disappoints overall.

The show’s quickly run out of goodwill with the Dalek episodes. They’ve gone from being a gem of a trope to a trope’s trope.

The Books of Magic (1993-2019)

Books of Magic v1Books of Magic

Original series and recent “Moveable Type” trade paperback

Back in 1991, DC decided to let one of their successful new writers, Neil Gaiman, fresh from his success with The Sandman, an opportunity to play in the sandbox with a bevy of their silver age B list characters, weaving them into the origin of what they hoped would be a new success, The Books of Magic.

It concerned the big four of these lot, and their concern and involvement on what the universe handed them was a new disciple of the mystic arts, and whether he was up to standards and was either to be allowed or eliminated, depending on this trial phase.

Books of Magic introduced Timothy Hunter, a young English lad thrust into a world of magic and mysticism, that would later perhaps influence another English writer into “inventing” a similar character, with similar attributes, with an owl familiar with whom most of you know of already. That DC’s parent company, Warner Bros., would have huge success producing a series of movies based on the best selling books of the later incarnation, would give us the pathway of what turns the money world and how it forms decisions at a corporate level. If Tim Hunter were privately owned by Gaiman and not work for hire, Harry Potter’s place in history might have turned out to be a very different story.

Warner Bros.’s handling of the situation is illuminated well by the almost thirty years that have passed since his first published tale.

Books of Magic, a four issue, prestige formatted book given four different and highly talented artists, was indeed a good vehicle for keeping Gaiman busy and happy at DC, an exercise in giving him reign over some of the mystical “heroes” and incorporating them into Timothys story, allowing him access to, and eventual “certification” to belong and influence events in this portion of DC’s universe.

The books themselves took young Tim on a journey throughout each book, with the b list characters leading the way, showing him bits and pieces of what came before him in the DC supernatural mythos, and whether he wanted to or even could assume his place among them.

Here is Gaiman’s strong suit as a writer of comics, his love of English fictional lore, and his ability to take previously invented characters and weave them successfully into the tapestry of the DC Universe, yet still giving him some freedom to pick and pull at the characters, reinventing them for a new modern feel, giving them relevance they really didn’t have before as B listers of the past.

And weave them he did, much like the Sandman before him, Books of Magic, while not reinventing the wheel, provides a decent respite from the previous ham fisted depictions of magical lands and environment that had escaped DC before. Each of the four comics more or less completes a chunk of Tim’s introduction, along with the weight of deeper roles Gaiman obviously enjoyed depicting.

By the series end, Gaiman brings it all around, and with the help of the artists, completes a grand tale that pretty much satisfies the hunger of readers of such things, and more importantly, brings forth and refreshes another portion of the DC portfolio to explore and publish stories about.

While I must confess, fairies and mythical monsters aren’t my sort of thing, but I got the set of them cheap at a comics fair during my hunts, and wanted to see what the fuss was about in a manner that allowed me to sample them inexpensively. All in all, I thought it was a successful series, imbued with solid visual storytelling skills from the artists (the Charles Vess issue is outstanding), and Gaiman’s writing, while not my cup of tea, kept me interested, and by its finish, I felt none the worse for having read it. My time invested didn’t exactly enhance my experience with comics, but I didn’t feel there was a couple of hours of my time wasted either.

Many years later, DC Comics would move its offices from New York where it had been since the invention of comic books themselves, to the west coast, incorporating itself fully both in it’s physical and etherial presence within the sconces of the Warner Bros facilities proper.

In the meantime, Books of Magic had gone on to an aesthetically successful run of seventy five issues and numerous appearances in the DC comics canon. I noticed while attempting to acquire a collection of this run through my local library that a collected book of the most recent series published after their move was available, so I reserved it and read it.

Now according to the cover blurb, Tim is published under them banner along the top as part of the “Sandman Universe” with the Vertigo imprint still used as a differential label to distinguish itself from the rest of their mainstream properties. Gaiman’s name is listed as a co creator, but really none of his presence other than utilizing his regurgitated universe seem to show evidence of his presence here.

The six issue mini series that is collected here pretty much goes through the tropes of once again revisiting and reintroducing the characters, perhaps to make it more accessible to a new audience, which is a solid goal for these things. The problem is, after reading it, I’m no closer to actually reading an actual story than I was when I started. We seem to be going through the chore of not just reintroducing characters, but one of plot as well. You can checklist this book entirely through its more or less stereotyped events that comics of this sort have already demonstrated; sadly this comes off as if you’re watching an old rerun of a television show you’ve already seen many times. Worse yet, after six issues and almost identical page count to the earlier saga, we are woefully short of an actual story and no closer to one by the series end. It has served merely as a prologue to a larger event that continues on in what I imagine will be the next volume.

Now this is where some modern published comic books seem to have hit a wall, both in terms of garnering a new audience, and giving value in the time spent reading it. The creators here, I imagine through no fault of their own, shall remain nameless because a creative person needs to work. They have turned in what looks entirely like an editorially mandated exercise, checking off the points it needs to hit, along the way to offering a product that lives off its own previous success. It doesn’t provide any new creativity or invention, and is produced to seek out the most common denominator in finding a customer, giving them the impression something is actually going on here, hooking them into investing themselves in the next volume to continue or perhaps complete the story.

At short of twenty dollars with tax included, readers would be better served by studying and referencing other comic stories and creators, an easy task these days with as much access to information as we have, and searching out material that has been vetted and written about to give inspiration to find such things.

This current volume of Books of Magic isn’t about introducing the reader to a new fascinating character and mythology, but more about the numbing of creativity, franchising a copyrighted product and fooling its consumer into buying something that looks like the real McCoy, but sure doesn’t taste like it, akin to eating a fast food burger and wishing it were made with real ingredients by someone that puts creativity, invention, and love into it. Sadly, the hour it took to experience this book gives neither satisfied taste buds, and the impression my time could have been better spent elsewhere. The dearth of invention displayed here makes it look like an undernourished imitation of the version that came before it. How sad.

Sorry Harry, oops, I meant Tim.

Better luck next time.

Upload (2020) s01e08 – Shopping Other Digital After-Lives

The episode opens with Robbie Amell getting Andy Allo in trouble for their relationship. Except she can’t let him know she’s in trouble so when she gets sent home… he assumes she’s still at work. Only it’s her boss, Andrea Rosen, who shuts him down. See, he’s ready to commit to their romance.

He gets so upset at the rejection, he decides he’s going to leave the afterlife he’s in and shop around. He never wants to see Allo again. Also there’s the whole “fiancée Allegra Edwards pays for Amell’s afterlife and he wants to be independent” thing, which gets a lot of talk but never figures into much.

Until Edwards finds out Amell has left the afterlife of her choice and she teams up with Allo—who’s flown across the country (only a half hour though, right)—to let Edwards know about Amell “checking out.” So they confront his mom, Jessica Tuck, and try to get everything sorted out.

Even though there’s some shady person following them.

Sadly there’s no subplot involving Zainab Johnson. Instead it’s just Edwards, who’s not good, and Tuck, who’s not good. Edwards messes with Allo, Tuck messes with Amell. All the show ever tries to have going for it is Amell and Allo being cute together, looking like catalog models. Well, unless it’s Johnson. Then it seems to know it can do more.

But this episode isn’t just thin, it’s thin for “Upload.” It’s memorable because of the character team-ups, but we never really get to see anything interesting. When Allo starts perving on real-life and dead for a while now Amell’s clothes? The show doesn’t know how to make Allo cute when she’s creepy.

Because the show doesn’t really know how to do anything.

For “Upload,” it’s an engaging episode. It just never delivers on the comedy or the romance. And it really just puts the latter in a “do-over” position… the episode’s fairly pointless overall.

“Upload” would do better with less episodes.

Scroll to Top