Tuesday 24 May 2022

What I'm Watching: May 2022

A recap of my month in movies, media and gaming, featuring Netflix's Ozark, Binge's The Flight Attendant and two recent blockbuster films; Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Morbius.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (In theatres)

Remember early 2020, when the whole world was in a tailspin? One of the last studio success stories in a pre-COVID world was Paramount's adaptation of the Sonic the Hedgehog games, which starred Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic, Jim Carrey as his bitter enemy Dr Robotnik and James Marsden as a small town cop who befriends the blue spiky speedster.

Just two and a bit years later and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 has arrived, this time with Sonic's mate Tails (Colleen O'Shaughnessey) and rival Knuckles (Idris Elba) in tow. I wasn't bowled over by the first film (probably because I'm not a preteen boy or nostalgic for the Sega Genesis), but I could see the appeal. It was bright and breezy with colourful action, goofy humour and a scene-stealing performance from Carrey. 

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is more of the same. It's silly and flashy, with some whizzbang effects and the occasional joke for mum and dad to appreciate. I don't know if it's as good as the first though, with the bland plot – about Knuckles and Robotnik both seeking the same gemstone that grants the ability to bend reality – stretched very thin over the 122 minute runtime. 

Morbius (In theatres)

After numerous delays, Sony's latest Spider-Man spin-off Morbius slunk into cinemas last month. In it, Jared Leto plays renowned scientist Dr Michael Morbius, a man who uses bat DNA to manufacture a cure for his rare and debilitating disease – only to find himself transformed into a bloodsucking vampire monster himself.

Look, I know it's cool to hate on Morbius (#MorbiusSweep) – which is why I'm going to do it. Sony's efforts to cobble together an interconnected universe of Spider-Man villains has been woeful thus far, and Morbius is the worst of a rotten bunch. Setting aside the terrible visual effects, bland narrative and atrocious editing (it's obvious this film was stitched together like a patchwork quilt in post-production), the central performance from Leto is pretty bad. It says a lot when the film's antagonist, played here with real swagger and malice by Doctor Who's Matt Smith, outshines the star. 

I know interconnected universes are all the rage right now, but Sony needs to let this one go. They're zero for three, and what's coming down the pipeline – Kraven, Madame Web (?!) – doesn't hold much promise, truth be told.

I'm not above a horribly obvious pun, so I'll just leave it as this – Morbius sucked.

The Flight Attendant season two (Binge)

Season two of this frothy HBO Max comedy/thriller sees Kaley Cuoco's titular flight attendant recruited by the CIA for some straightforward recon and reporting. But while on a routine job in Berlin, Cassie crosses paths with a dangerous woman who looks suspiciously familiar...

Season one of The Flight Attendant was a surprisingly good series; smart, sexy and filled some clever twists and turns, it was a fun mix of espionage and comedy that afforded Cuoco a platform to do something different to her familiar Big Bang theory schtick. But after those initial eight episodes, I wasn't sold on the idea of coming back for more. It felt like the story was done; why prolong it?

That hunch was pretty on point, as it turns out. Season two still has shades of the stuff that made the first such a hoot; but it's also lacking something to give it lift, and instead sort of taxis along without gaining speed.

Zosia Mamet, previously of Girls fame, is the MVP once again, as Cassie's wisecracking friend Annie. Her scenes are sparky and full of great gags. But on the flipside, you have some inert subplots that feel superfluous – just ask Rosie Perez, who gets lumped with a particularly thankless one. 

Ozark season four part two (Netflix)

The second half of Ozark's fourth and final season dropped at the end of April, and it's safe to say the show went out on a suitably dark and depressing note. 

I'm still digesting how I feel about the ending to be honest; while it didn't pan out how I personally would have liked, on reflection is does feel...authentic. The fact that certain characters were able to get out clean while others struggled and suffered (trying not to spoil anything!) felt like the right ending, even if it wasn't particularly comforting. 

The lead trio – Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Julia Garner – turn in three of the best performances on TV this year, while a returning Jordana Spiro is a welcome reprisal as Rachel. And the young cast – the two Byrde children, Sofia Hublitz as Charlotte and Skylar Gaertner as Jonah – have really come into their own in this final season, particularly Gaertner. 

At the end of the day, it's more about the journey rather than the destination, and the journey was a terrifically tense one. Season four part two started off with a bang, pulling the rug out from underneath the audience one again, before barrelling through seven intense episodes that kept us guessing right up until the nerve-wracking finale. 

Horizon: Forbidden West (PlayStation 5)

Okay, full disclosure – I started Horizon: Forbidden West back in February, picking it up on launch week. But the game is so expansive and rich and detailed, that it's taken me until now to reach the end of its sprawling main quest.

I'm glad I took my time though; this is the kind of game that rewards players who don't rush into things, players who take a moment to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. Horizon's open world, which as you might have guessed from the title, sees our heroine Aloy (voiced by Ashly Burch from Mythic Quest) venturing out into the vast western wild lands, where fearsome creatures and even fiercer tribes lie in wait. 

Of course, this being Horizon, there's a dense, convoluted sci-fi plot at its core that will be nigh impenetrable to anyone who didn't play the first game, Zero Dawn. I found myself bumping against the technobabble and jargon-filled dialogue trees, and instead found a more freeform experience of bouncing from side quest to side quest a more rewarding experience. That's not to say the storyline is bad – it's just so long, and punctuated with really lethargic cutscenes that are overlong and bogged down by an abundance of dialogue. 

Instead, I coasted by on the vibes. You're a skilled warrior in a post-apocalyptic world populated with gigantic machines with razor-sharp teeth and frickin' laser guns on their backs, armed only with bow and arrow, a tripwire and some throwing spears. In front of you lies a vast and varied environment; arid deserts, lush coastlines, thick forests, snowy peaks. Side quests galore, lots of secrets to discover – what's not to like?

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...