Pop Culture Roundup: Lazy February Edition

I have been busy. And by busy, I mean spending a lot of time on my couch eyeballing things. None warrant their own post, so here's a roundup! Spoilers for the two horror films and also the financial crisis of 2008.

Me lately.

Me lately.

Housebound - This weekend I was in the mood for a scary movie. I found this guy on Netflix. It had so may stars! I have to say, I recommend this for a scary movie to watch by yourself. It was jumpy-scary but also that special brand of Australian/New Zealand horror where you're laughing as often as screaming. There isn't anything incredibly original about the film but it was fun and entertaining and was exactly what I needed.

Goodnight Mommy I first heard about this film from the Pajiba review and immediately needed to see it. I trust them at Pajiba! Last night, after Housebound, I was looking for something to rent. I found Goodnight Mommy as one of Amazon's newer movies for streaming. I quickly went back to Pajiba, reread the review, made sure we were talking about the same movie, and rented it. 

I enjoyed the film but it is absolutely not for everyone. I've read a few reviews and the phrase 'torture porn' gets thrown around, though the gore is tame compared to something like the Saw films. Still, it is a very tense, hard to watch film. As for what I enjoyed about it... A good horror movie requires building a certain mood and creating tension. While Housebound accomplished that (you laugh instead of scream too often), Goodnight Mommy excels. Every shot, from the introduction in the corn field, sets just the right mood. The audience never feels comfortable with the mother or her two sons. The dialogue is bare, with most of the scenes totally silent and the film takes full advantage of these moments. The setting is perfect - a sleek, modern house in the middle of nowhere. There is a plot twist, though it's hardly a twist. There are hints from the first scene and the filmmakers don't seem interested in keeping it from the audience. The twist isn't what's important but how the story is presented. The ending is bleak but also fitting with the move that precedes it. Finally, on Pajiba, someone referred to this movie as birth control. I couldn't agree more.

Soapbox side note: In 2014, I started using Pirate Bay. I used it for about a year, off and on. I'm not any more. Not only does it usually come with shit to screw up the laptop, but I officially feel guilty. Sure, movie studios might be ran by villainous greedy assholes but if I enjoy the thing I should pay the people who created it. So only legal consumption of pop culture for me from now on! And honestly, there isn't a reason not to: between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, and HBO Go, you can get whatever you need. And I can download stuff from Amazon Video and Google Play, so I purchase something, download it, and then watch it when I don't have internet access. AKA planes and trains. Yay! /steps off soapbox.

Too Big to Fail - After The Big Short, I wanted to know more about the events of 2008 on Wall Street. So I stumbled upon this film on HBO Go earlier this week. While The Big Short tells the story of the guys betting on the financial collapse, Too Big is the other side. The collapse has happened and the Treasury and Federal Reserve are trying to save the big banks to prevent another Great Depression. As a brief overview of the actions following the Reserve's Bear Stearns rescue, the film was effectual. As an actual piece of entertainment, not so much. The acting was very mixed. HBO got names to play the various Wall Street CEOs (Bill Pullman, Tony Shalhoub, and James Woods, among others) and its mostly distracting, especially Shalhoub's accent. Evan Handler (Harry from Sex and the City!), as Goldman Sachs' CEO, was the only one who felt remotely authentic. Luckily, the rest of the cast is great, especially Paul Giammati, Billy Crudup, Cynthia Nixon, and Topher Grace (seriously). In addition to casting, the film doesn't think much of its audience. There are several exposition dumps where the characters explain various aspects of the crisis to each other. Each time this happens, it wrecks whatever drive the film is building and is obviously for the audience's benefit. It doesn't feel natural and makes the characters look dumb. Finally, the film bangs the audience on the head with the ending. Look at how greedy the banks are! Look what they did with the tax payers' money! We know. We saw the rest of the movie. Also, the movie came out in 2011. No one was coming in here expecting them to be remorseful and grateful.

Grey's Anatomy - It came back this week! It's one of those gimmicky episodes that don't really advance much of the plot outside of that episode itself. Though I guess it did give us a reason to skip ahead a few months... But here is where I admit that I like gimmicky episodes. I like it when they explore alternative timelines (Greys did this a few years ago, though Friends has the most famous example). Or when the show suddenly becomes a musical. Or when it's all real time. And here's this one - Meredith is beaten up by a patient and the episode covers her recovery. She can't talk or hear so the majority of the episode is silent. And it's effective. Grey's may be on its last legs but it can still be good occasionally. And I really don't think we're missing Derek (Yang, always). Finally, I really like Jackson and April...

Finally, I'm starting the HBO John Adams miniseries, so maybe something on that later. That Hamilton effect.