Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities – 6WH

Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities is a 2022 horror anthology series that was released on Netflix during the week leading up to Halloween. Certainly appropriate timing, but I never managed to fit it into last year’s marathon. I figured I’d just save it for this year, and have been working my way through the 8 episodes since the start of the 6 Weeks of Halloween. As with all Anthologies, it is a bit uneven, but I’d say it coheres better than, say, Masters of Horror (which this series, with its focus on auteurs, bears some resemblance to). There are a couple of rough entries here, but MoH had some real stinkers. Each episode starts with Guillermo del Toro providing an introduction whilst manipulating a literal Cabinet of Curiosities, which was a nice touch and provides a little structure and consistency to the series (that’s been lacking in a lot of other anthology series since Tales from the Crypt). Certainly worth a look if you’re into this sort of thing.

The Six Weeks of Halloween: Week 3.5 – Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities

S1:E1 “Lot 36” – A crotchety army vet buys old storage units hoping to sell off their contents to settle debts that he owes to some unsavory folk. His latest purchase shows some mysterious potential, and once he consults a spooky antiques appraiser about a strange spiritualist object, things take a more dangerous turn. Rock solid, straight down the middle anthology stuff here, reminiscent of a Tales from the Crypt episode (or any of the anthologies that take inspiration from the old EC comics run) where a bad man gets in over his head and earns an ironic comeuppance, with a hint of Lovecraftian terror for good measure. Tim Blake Nelson plays the army vet with his usual flare, and Sebastian Roché oozes sinister tension (but Nelson isn’t very observant). Director Guillermo Navarro is mostly known as a cinematographer, but he’s clearly learned some things from del Toro, as this episode comports itself rather well. It’s not the most original or groundbreaking episode, and it’s all stuff you’ve seen before, but as an intro to an anthology, it works well. **1/2

S1:E2 “Graveyard Rats” – A grave robber must contend with a mysterious labyrinth populated with ravenous rats in his latest attempt to secure treasures. Sort of a Victorian-era reflection of Lot 36, actually, these make a good pairing. This one is directed by Vincenzo Natali (probably still most famous for Cube), a director I’m always excited to see, and this episode is a pretty good indication of why. He’s got a good eye for visuals, and he knows how to keep the pace snappy, even for a relatively straightforward story like this one.

Cabinet of Curiosities: Graveyard Rats

It helps that David Hewlett is giving the lead performance (also a frequent Natali collaborator), as he can carry the rather simple narrative by himself. Along the way we’re treated to more spooky Lovecraftian horrors and, naturally, rodents of unusual size. Certainly in the running for my favorite of the episodes. ***

S1:E3 “The Autopsy” – A seasoned medical examiner is called in to examine a mysterious body discovered in the woods. As he pieces the story together, he begins to suspect something more sinister at play. Director David Prior’s The Empty Man was dumped during the pandemic (also in part due to the Disney/Fox merger), and I was worried that he wouldn’t get more opportunities because that movie shows a lot of promise. Fortunately, this episode marks another success on his ledger.

Cabinet of Curiosities: The Autopsy

Led by F. Murray Abraham’s performance as the medical examiner, this episode is reminiscent of The Autopsy of Jane Doe, only this has more of a narrative drive and an actual ending. Another favorite of this series, and I go back and forth between this one and Graveyard Rats as my favorite episode from Cabinet of Curiosities. ***

S1:E4 “The Outside” – A mousey bank teller wants to fit in at work, so she starts using a beauty regimen that seems to cause an allergic reaction, but which is actually auguring a disquieting transformation. Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, this one is filled with psychological subtext (er, perhaps just straight text, actually) on beauty and the desire to fit in. Kate Micucci is perfectly cast as the awkward protagonist, and Martin Starr puts in a great supporting turn as her (rightly!) concerned husband. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really get on its wavelength. It feels weird to say that the 64 minute runtime felt too long, but after the first three episodes, this felt a bit more repetitive and sloggy. The mild body horror was reasonably well done, but never really took hold, and I felt like I knew where it was headed the whole time. Ultimately, I find this to be more of an interesting failure that’s still well made and worthy of respect, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. **

S1:E5 “Pickman’s Model” – An art student meets an older artist whose art has an uncanny quality that he can’t shake. Based on one of my favorite Lovecraft short stories, rife with his usual baroque style and a nice stinger of a twist ending, this adaptation was a true disappointment. In fairness, there’s not a lot of meat on the bone of the original story (it’s a short one, after all), but in their attempt to flesh things out, they’ve well and truly removed any mystery or surprise at what is actually going on here. Ben Barnes is a little flat as the art student, but does fine, and Crispin Glover is his usual wacky self, but none of it really fits (and I don’t even know what they were thinking when it came to whatever those accents were supposed to be). There’s an element of goofy so-bad-its-good energy that Glover brings, but it’s at odds with the rest of the story. *

S1:E6 “Dreams in the Witch House” – Determined to rescue his dead twin from the afterlife, a man discovers a drug that seemingly allows him to travel to the other side. The only problem? An infamous witch sees an opportunity to trick him into freeing her. Another adaptation of a Lovecraft story, and… another disappointment. This one stings a bit because Stuart Gordon already did an adaptation for Masters of Horror a while back, and that was one of the better episodes of that series (I would recommend seeking that one out, rather than watching this one). Directed by Catherine Hardwicke (of Twilight fame), this has the annoying tendency to rely heavily on blunt exposition that explains the most obvious parts of what’s going on, while simultaneously leaving the weirdest stuff unaddressed in any way (there’s a rat with a man’s face? Sure, why not, no need to figure that one out). There’s the bones of a good story here. Going to rescue someone from the afterlife only to attract the attention of a notorious witch? A good premise! The witch design is actually quite nice! But man, they really fumble this one. It doesn’t even look very good, and is the episode most festooned by the flat, overly dark cinematography that has sadly become more common over the past few years. I’m not super familiar with the original story, but I get the impression that this takes some major liberties. Probably my least favorite episode from Cabinet of Curiosities? Combined with the previous episode, this represents a brutal one-two punch (the original release strategy was two episodes a day for the week leading up to Halloween, so these two Lovecraft adaptations were meant to be a double feature, yikes). *

S1:E7 “The Viewing” – A wealthy recluse invites four accomplished guests to his estate for a mysterious viewing. Of what? No one knows, but I think you can guess that said viewing does not go as expected. Another anticipated entry from an interesting director, it’s fascinating how idiosyncratic Panos Cosmatos’ style seems after having watched six episodes of more conventional approaches that mostly take inspiration from Lovecraft, Poe, or Victorian spooks. The relatively short runtime reigns in some of Cosmatos’ more extreme slow-burn tendencies, making this probably his most accessible work yet. Of course, he still takes his time getting to the real horror, which doesn’t really start until the third act hits. That said, he crafts a good hang out atmosphere of the first two thirds of the episode, replete with catchy visuals and his usual synth-pop soundtrack. The cast helps here too, with Peter Weller nailing the uncanny rich dude vibe, accompanied by a solid ensemble consisting of Charlyne Yi, Eric Andre, Sofia Boutella, Steve Agee, and more. Once things start to get weird and, um, gloopy, I was fully onboard. Great creature effects here. Even if the ending is a bit too open ended for my tastes, I still found it to be one of the better entries in the Cabinet of Curiosities, and well worth checking out. ***

S1:E8 “The Murmuring” – Married ornithologists move into an eerie house with a tragic history that reminds them of their own grief. Jennifer Kent’s long anticipated return to the horror genre (after 2014’s The Babadook), I have to admit that this is another one that didn’t really connect with me at all. A big part of this is that it leans heavily into the grief/trauma themes that have been dominant in the horror genre since, well, around the time that The Babadook came out. This is the sort of episode that fans of “elevated horror” might love, since there’s very little actual horror here. It’s much more concerned with the drama and grief of a couple who has lost a child. As these things go, it’s well done, but I when I see something like this, I can’t shake the notion that the filmmaker really just wanted to make an intense drama about losing a child, but couldn’t get any funding for it unless they included some horror elements. I dunno, this is another interesting failure that is well made and worthy of respect, but I bounced off of it (though I will note that I appreciated the ending, which was somewhat unexpected). **

So by my count, I’ve got three really great episodes, one solid entry, two interesting failures that are nonetheless thought provoking and well made, and two mild stinkers. As these things go, not a terrible batting average, and I really appreciated most of the talent they went after for the series (on both sides of the camera). Would definitely like to see another season of Cabinet of Curiosities!

Ted Lasso

In the series finale of Ted Lasso, former journalist Trent Crimm (independent) has given a draft of his book about Lasso’s improbable turn as the coach of the AFC Richmond football team to Lasso (and Coach Beard) for review. Beard’s copy is marked up with hundreds of color coded stickies and notes, but Ted just says he loves it… except for the title. Crimm had named the book “The Lasso Way” and Ted writes something to the effect of “It was never about me.” Which is in tune with the humble nature of the character for sure, but I can’t help but think it’s also speaking directly to the audience (or at least, me) about season 3’s relative dearth of the man himself.

Ted Lasso

The first season emerged in the midst of the pandemic (during a particularly contentious election year in the US), and its radically nice, wholesome tone was desperately needed. It was a nice antidote for the cynical times we were living in, and it was about as good as a season of sitcom television could be. It was a “fish out of water” story about a fundamentally decent guy beset on all sides by suspicious critics who slowly, methodically wins them over. And it was extremely funny! Season 2 faltered a bit, but even if I didn’t like some aspects, the disruption of the pandemic on the production was obvious and excusable, and while I didn’t love the idea or how they treated him, I respected the heel turn of a specific character to set up season 3.

However, the wheels pretty clearly came off the bus in season 3. It was as popular as ever, to be sure, but complaints and grumblings were more frequent. There’s a clear lack of cohesiveness here, almost like they had a plan, but scrapped it midway through the season to do something else. Introducing new characters and ideas only to unceremoniously drop them with nary a care to resolve them (except in maybe the vaguest of nods, as in Zava’s avocado or Keeley um, hmm, I don’t think they actually resolved anything there.) And the heel turn they so carefully crafted in season 2 was almost immediately backtracked (though this path, at least, represented an arc through the whole season.)

Then there’s this desperate grasping for relevance and a sweaty need to tackle Important Subjects (capital letters), a problem whose roots appeared in season 2, but which has grown into a mighty oak in season 3. It’s not the content itself, it’s the didactic way in which it’s delivered. Look, they’re good at packing the jokes in even as the show declined, but it was like each episode had to stop and do something resembling a corporate training video. Those videos you have to watch for corporate compliance purposes aren’t excruciating because they’re wrong; they’re so brutally didactic and ham fisted because the whole point of such a video is to reduce corporate liability, and trusting the audience to get the point of a metaphor or illustrative example is too vague for such purposes. This is not an approach to emulate for actual fiction, but then, here we are with season 3 of Ted Lasso. Alright, it’s not quite that bad. They are well crafted didactic speeches, but you know, still didactic.

This approach also had the effect of bloating the episodes to absurd lengths. Part of season 1’s charm was it’s economical use of the 30 minute (or so) runtime. This continued into season 2, but towards the end, they started moving towards double-sized episodes. Season 3 started off with a 43 minute episode, but most episodes ran towards the one hour mark, with the finale reaching an almost feature length 75 minutes. In the conversion to longer episodes something was lost. Trung Phan wrote about how great the introduction to Ted Lasso is in the pilot episode; it only takes 157 seconds to introduce the character and establish him as a likable guy. It’s also a perfect demonstration of the storytelling rule of “Show, don’t tell.” One of the reasons season 3 drags is that they’re not content to show, they also feel like they need to tell.

Lasso himself was largely absent from the proceedings throughout the entire season. This sort of thing happens on a lot of shows. They build up an ensemble of colorful side characters who eventually take over. Often times, the main character is the most boring of them all… but not in Ted Lasso. At least, not in season 1. And yes, the “fish out of water” tack can only last so long, but to have your main character sidelined for most of the season was kinda brutal. The last episode does fare better because we do finally get back to Ted, and his story goes basically the only place it could. As much as they might try to inoculate themselves with the “It was never about me” note, it was about him, and they seemed to forget that for a while. Ultimately, I’ve probably spent much more time on the negative here than was deserved. The show was still funny and worthwhile, but it seems undeniable that it lost its edge somewhere along the way there. (Well, this post started as a Tasting Notes sorta thing, but I guess I got carried away with trying to put my finger on what bothered me about season 3 of Ted Lasso so this has grown into its own thing… stay tuned for moar!)

Tasting Notes

Just a series of quick hits and tasting notes on my media diet (and sometimes, uh, regular diet) of late:


Poker Face – This Rian Johnson led Natasha Lyonne starring mystery of the week TV series is great. Really enjoyable stuff, and while there’s some sort of overarching storyline, the episodes are mostly standalone mysteries. The Columbo-esque formula is also quite effective, with the first 10-20 minutes of each episode being about the crime, then flashing back to how Lyonne gets involved and investigates.

Natasha Lyonne in Poker Face

The “bullshit” conceit is a bit silly, but they don’t overdo it, and the mysteries are all well thought out and twisty in the best way (the one with the stage play was great, and when you find out about the cool old folks’ misdeeds, I laughed out loud). Since Lyonne is not playing a cop, the comeuppance is not always perfect (the race car one, in particular), but you still get the thrill of the solve (more of a howdunnit than a whodunnit, but still). Worth seeking out!

Andor – I don’t get it. Everyone says this is the best Star Wars stuff since the originals, but after slogging through 3 episodes that should have been about one single hour of story, I don’t get it. The third episode was markedly better than the first two, and everyone is telling me that it continues to get better as the series progresses, but I’m still annoyed at the first three episodes.

The Last of Us – The fungal zombie apocalypse gets a prestige TV treatment, to mostly good effect. It still feels a little like “prestige Walking Dead” and I was never a big fan of that show, but boiling it down to a mostly two character odd-couple buddy travelogue works reasonably well. It occasionally veers into the typical, bog standard zombie notes of “well, the fungus zombie just murdered my girlfriend, but the real monster is other human beings!” and it doesn’t have the gore quotient of Walking Dead, but it works well enough for what it is. I can see maybe one more season of this before it gets really grating. For now it’s enjoyable enough.


Knock at the Cabin – M. Night Shyamalan provides sturdy, tense craft behind a somewhat unsatisfying story that nonetheless has some thematic heft around the nature of sacrifice that’s worth exploring. Dave Bautista does exceptional work, and the rest of the cast is pretty good too.

Knock at the Cabin

The twist is that there is no twist, and the ending tries to split the difference between the book’s rather bleak ending (probably a no go for any actual filmic adaptation) and a truly happy ending, leaving us with a sorta bittersweet thing that works ok, but isn’t super satisfying. Again, lots of thematic stuff to chew on and Shyamalan provides the visually compelling craft, so this isn’t just a rote thriller, but it’s not exactly perfect either.

Infinity Pool – Brandon Cronenberg continues to follow in his father’s footsteps, adding a little more stylistic artifice to the body horror and weirdly new arenas of science that seem to populate these movies. I think this is perhaps a little more successful and approachable than Possessor, but they’re both of a piece.

Infinity Pool

There’s again some thematic heft here around doubles and existential crises and so on, but if you can get past some of the weird hedonistic parties and violence, it’s hard not to appreciate Mia Goth’s unhinged performance. Interesting stuff and Cronenberg is one to keep an eye on, but he hasn’t hit anything out of the park just yet.

All Quiet on the Western Front (2022 and 1930) – I watched both of these because the latter one was nominated for Best Picture. Short story is that the original covers more ground and makes better anti-war points than the remake, which is a technical marvel, to be sure, but somehow covers much less ground in around the same runtime. Some of the really effective points in the original are contained off the battlefield, which the remake tends to downplay (while playing up the diplomatic stuff). It’s all still effective and it’s the sort of thing that the Academy Awards loves, so it’s not surprising or completely unwarranted, but I prefer the original. For some reason, the musical score in the remake seems to be getting a lot of buzz, which confounds me – the whole electronic nah nuh nuh thing took me out of the movie every damn time, it felt anachronistic and too slight. If you’re going to do that sort of thing, lean into it. Anyway, interesting movie, but certainly not the best of the year.

My Dinner with Andre – Literally two people sitting at a table in a restaurant having a conversation for two-ish hours. More interesting than that sounds, but some of the conversation also goes a bit too far up its own arse. But the saving grace is that towards the end, Wallace Shawn gets to push back on Andre Gregory’s wanking, and basically says something to the effect of “I don’t know what the hell you’re even talking about anymore!?” Both the characters contradict themselves throughout the conversation, which I think is part of the point. Anyway, more interesting than I feared, but not exactly a barn burner either. Glad I finally caught up with it.

The Wind and the Lion – John Milius wrote and directed this historical… adventure? It’s hard to peg this thing down. Sean Connery plays a Berber chieftain, which is a bit of a stretch, but then his starpower might carry the day. Brian Keith does interesting work as Theodore Roosevelt. Candice Bergen has good chemistry with Connery. The whole thing has a bit of an exaggerated air, a little hammy at times, but Milius’ trademark tough guy dialogue shows up here and there. An interesting, weird little movie.


The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie – Between last year’s spate of murder mystery movies and Poker Face, I’ve been getting into the mystery genre a bit and decided to start at the beginning of Christie’s Poirot series. This first Poirot book comports itself well enough, though obviously some of the twists and turns are not as surprising as they perhaps once were. That said, it holds up remarkably well for a 100 year old mystery novel. I also read The Murder on the Links (the second novel in the series) and Poirot Investigates (a short story collection with a bunch of great, simpler stories). A few themes have emerged, Poirot’s catchphrases of “little grey cells”, “a man of method”, and his habit of referring to himself as “Papa Poirot” are all pretty funny. Also, Captain Hastings is such a moron, it’s hilarious how often Poirot (or Christie) takes to humiliating him in an absolutely merciless fashion. Anyway, these are fun, I will be reading more of them (and probably branch out to Miss Marple or whatever)

Tales of the Black Widowers, by Isaac Asimov – When Asimov took a break from Science Fiction for a few decades, he did still write fiction, and this collection of short stories is actually pretty fun. These are also mysteries, but they distinguish themselves by being mostly about trivialities, rather than murder (though there was one involving a death). Asimov’s mysteries tend to revolve more around wordplay than anything else, but that’s an interesting contrast to Agatha Christie. So far, these short stories are all pretty fun, though I suspect things might get a bit repetitive over time. Still, as a short collection, it’s great stuff.

Earthblood and Other Stories, by Keith Laumer and Rosel George Brown – Started this in January as part of Vintage SF Month, but it turned out to be something of a slog. There’s a bunch of interesting stuff buried here about a long-lost Earth and legends of humans, but it’s caught up in an episodic narrative with poorly drawn action. Normally a galactic travelogue with carnies, pirates, and military intrigue would sound like a lot of fun, but none of it really panned out here. Every episode seemed simultaneously boring and slow but also truncated and the shifts happen suddenly. I just was not able to get on its wavelength, I guess. The “other stories” are marginally better, but despite some of them ostensibly happening in the same universe involving the same aliens, they are all completely disconnected and even conflicting in nature. Not especially recommended.

Archaeology from Space: How the Future Shapes Our Past, by Sarah Parcak – A look into the young field of satellite archaeology, this unfortunately doesn’t spend that much time on the space-bound nature of the exploration, and most of the book is about how satellites guide traditional, boots-on-the-ground archaeology. Which, when you think about it, makes a whole lot of sense, but the premise feels like it promised more than what we get. Interesting enough for what it is, but not exactly a must-read.

The Finer Things

Over at the Beer Blog, we’ve covered Revolution’s line of Very Special Old Jacket barleywines (exceptional!), an unlikely Geuze Cuvée from Lindemans, and a sampling of fine Oktoberfest biers.

We’re also about to embark on the annual beer slowdown, so I’ve got a few non-beer things lined up, including a local distillery’s 6 year old Rye. I was thinking of dipping my toes into the brandy world this year as well. Time will tell. Recommendations welcome!

That about does it for this round of tasting notes, stay tuned for moar!

Tasting Notes

Just a series of quick hits on my media diet (and sometimes, uh, regular diet) of late:


Obi-Wan Kenobi – Perfectly cromulent but completely unnecessary. It feels like a two hour movie drawn out to five hours, but I’ve always liked Ewan McGregor’s take on Kenobi and it’s fun enough hanging out with him. It’s a little weird that people being offed with light sabers seem to keep surviving and one of the things I’ve always been disappointed by was that all the Jedi were hunted down and killed by people other than Darth Vader. We do get some Vader though, and it’s all reasonably well done. Not disappointed that I watched, but again, it’s unnecessary.

For All Mankind – What if the Soviets landed on the moon first? This alternate history NASA chronicle is a little overheated and sweaty, a space program soap opera, but it’s quite entertaining. Now in its third season, having jumped through the space program from the late 60s through the 80s and now the 90s and with the race for Mars in place, it’s holding up reasonably well… except for an ill-advised subplot from the second season that they inexplicably doubled-down on in the third season (the weird Karen/Danny relationship is just cringe in the extreme, I can’t believe they are still trying to draw it out like this.) Recommended!

Only Murders in the Building – I initially resisted this, then when my Amazon firestick kept crashing during one of the first episodes (which I looked up and was apparently a known issue for several months at least) I kinda fell off the train. Once the second season rolled around I picked it up again and immediately binged the entire first season (I guess they fixed the bug). It’s quite fun, Steve Martin is great, Selena Gomez is fantastic, and they have a solid restraining effect on Martin Short’s excesses. The chemistry between them is unconventional but well done, and the story offers enough twists and turns and stylistic gambles that it all comes together in a balanced way. The second season is starting off alright, though I think Amy Shumer is a distinct downgrade from guest stars from the first season…

Stranger Things – Season 4 comports itself as well as ever, though the strain of characters and geography are starting to show. Too many characters being spread too far apart geographically is not helping, though they do manage to pull it off reasonably well. As usual, the Steve/Robin/Dustin thread is the best (perhaps because they quickly link up with Max/Lucas/Nancy), while the Mike/Will/Jonathan/Argyle crew is clearly the worst. Eleven is separated from most for the bulk of the season (leading to amusing “we usually rely on this psychic girl we know to fight these things” moments), but her story is illuminating and you can see the overall arc of the series taking better shape (maybe a little retconny, but still). The initial 7 episodes play pretty great and lead to a solid finale, but the next two feature-length episodes are perhaps less successful, in part because there’s so much maneuvering to get people back together for next season, but then, I’m looking forward to the next season, in part, because a lot of the characters are back together, in one place.


Hustle (2022) – Solid Adam Sandler Basketball movie (not a recipe guaranteed for success at Kaedrin HQ, to be sure, but they pulled it off). It’s got some fun little procedural elements of a basketball scout, and it’s largely set in Philly, which is always a plus. Not perfect, by any means, but a solid underdog sports flick that’s worth a watch. **1/2

The Princess (2022) – An inverted medieval take on The Raid‘s episodic, video-game-esque battle through a tower. There’s a bit of a fairy tale component to it and the whole story is cheesy, but the action sequences and choreography are great and quite entertaining. **1/2

Stone Cold (1991) – A last gasp of 80s action tropes that I’d definitely seen bits and pieces of back in the day, but had never sat down and watched from start to finish before. Totally ludicrous cops and criminals action genre comfort food. Brian Bosworth felt a bit hokey at the time, but looking back at his absurd excesses is fun enough these days, and boy, they don’t do car crashes and explosions like they used to anymore… ***

Electra Glide in Blue (1973) – A quintessential 70s movie, riffing on an inverse Easy Rider premise about a highway patrol motorcycle cop in Arizona angling to become a detective. Apparently derided in its time, it seems like it’s due for a revival. Really great filmmaking and visual style throughout, with set pieces ranging from an action car chase, to tense cops vs hippies confrontations, to a woman emasculating a corrupt cop at a biker bar.

Electra Glide in Blue

It’s deeply cynical stuff, which usually isn’t my bag, but it’s well made and interesting in a lot of ways. Recommended for fans of that sort of 70s dusty crime road movie sub-genre. ***

What’s Up, Doc? (1972) – Pretty much the complete opposite in tone to Electra Glide in Blue, this is something of a screwball comedy starring a young Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, with supporting turns from lots of folks you might recognize, like Madeline Kahn and Austin Pendleton. The whole thing revolves around four identical suitcases and the various wacky schemes people are going through to get their hands on one or the other of these bags, only to find it’s been inadvertently switched with another. It’s really fun! ***

Mad God (2021) – Famous effects guy Phil Tippit spent decades hand crafting the stop motion animation for this sprawling passion project filled with visually spectacular imagery…

Mad God

Almost no plot or dialogue, but lots of squishy sound design and creative creatures and monsters and gross out body-horror-esque sequences. I generally prefer more plot or story meat on the bone, but it’s hard to deny the visually spectacular imagination at work here (definitely a shoe-in for the Most Visually Stunning Kaedrin Movie Award). **

Ambulance (2022) – Alright, who let Michael Bay get his hands on a drone? Pretty great action flick about a heist gone wrong with a few robbers hijacking an Ambulance and driving it all around LA to avoid the cops and so on. There’s some typical Bay style macho dudebro posturing, but Jake Gyllenhaal, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Eiza González are a compelling trio, and the action is the real standout here. Clocking in at 136 minutes, it maybe overstays its welcome a bit, but this sort of non-green-screen action is worth celebrating these days (and this was definitely underseen in theaters). Worth a look for action fans.


The Kaiju Preservation Society, by John Scalzi – The usual enjoyable Scalzi experience, snappy and fun, but clearly middle tier at best, perhaps in line with his Lock In or Head On offerings. Actually, that comparison is quite apt, as that series also had clumsy worldbuilding and a protagonist whose gender is unclear. The plot of Kaiju takes a while to formulate itself and relies on a cliched, shortsighted corporate CEO villain, but even when the story is bogged down in establishing various Kaiju protection schemes (ranging from mildly clever to outright silly), Scalzi’s page-turning ability, likeable, competent characters, and zippy dialogue keeps everything afloat. I still generally look forward to all of Scalzi’s releases and while this is hardly his best, it’s entertaining and fun.

The Broken Room, by Peter Clines – A young girl escapes from a government science project and enlists the help of a former CIA operative. Decent little thriller with some nice procedural spy business and a supernatural body-horror element that gets more pronounced as it goes. Nothing particularly new here, but it’s brisk and nimble with a few twists and turns and solid action.

Into the Black Nowhere, by Meg Gardiner – A minor improvement over Gardiner’s first Unsub novel, this is another serial killer thriller that strikes that page turning airport novel balance, but isn’t especially doing anything special. Still, it’s entertaining enough and I’m looking forward to Gardiner’s co-written sequel to Heat coming soon.

The Finer Things

I’ve recently been covering my annual hiatus from beer, including some thoughts on Pétillant Naturel wine, Mead, a local Southeastern PA wine, Bourbon, and just to show that it’s not all alcohol, all the time, I also reviewed a whole slew of August Uncommon Tea offerings.

Naturally, Beer is still on the menu, and most recent reviews include: Westbound & Down Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout (and thoughts on packaging size, sip tests, and New Coke) and East End Gratitude Barleywine (we put birds on things).

The Marathon Will Be Televised

While the Six Weeks of Halloween marathon is mostly about watching horror movies, it’s also nice to dip our toes into the realms of television from time to time. I suspect the whole “Golden Age of Television” thing has passed, but there is truly an astounding amount of great television to catch up with. Even for horror nerds, which is a little surprising. Every year, I watch some horror television shows just to switch things up, and this year I’m finally catching up with a few programs that have been on my watchlist for a while now…

The Six Weeks of Halloween: Week 3.5 – Horror Television

The Haunting of Hill House S1: E1-E4 – I watched the first episode of this back when it came out, and while I was mostly impressed, I never quite followed through to the rest of the episodes. That first episode is a good introduction though. There are a lot of characters in this show, and we move back and forth through time enough that things could get very confusing, but it’s all handled reasonably well. There’s some skillfully crafted horror sequences and a really great button on the end of the episode that sets up the rest of the series well.

The next few episodes are a little less successful. While we got a good introduction, the characters and timelines do get a bit fuzzy at times in the ensuing episodes. Still, there’s great atmosphere and set design; you’re constantly scanning the screen looking for things happening in the background… and often finding things that are worthy of our attention (even if they’re not noticed by the characters in the scene – we notice them, and that produces some tension in and of itself). After a good first episode, though, it does feel a bit like the series suffers from the typical Netflix disease of being a little too long for the story it’s trying to tell. Then again, as we’ll see below, this might all just be really good setup for the rest of the series.

Mike Flanagan is the creator and director of all the episodes, and he’s been doing a lot of unsung work in the horror genre for a while now. I’m glad he’s found something of a patron in Netflix, who has given him a bunch of great opportunities over the past few years.

The Haunting of Hill House S1:E5 “The Bent-Neck Lady” – I wasn’t going to give up on the series or anything, but it was starting to become something of a slog… until I hit this episode. I’ve been deliberately avoiding plot descriptions here, in part because it does get very complication, but also because I don’t want to spoil anything. Still, in this episode, a lot of threads that may have seemed random in earlier episodes start to get pulled together. It turns out that a bunch of the spooky scenes in earlier episodes aren’t just there to provide a convenient scare in the moment, but also build towards a larger revelation and narrative purpose.

The Haunting of Hill House

This is the episode that really hooked me. It being halfway through the series does seem to indicate that maybe there are too many episodes, but perhaps other threads will be tightened in a way that justifies the length further. As I reach further in the series it seems less bloated and more like a generous sharing of screentime for all characters. Anyway, this episode was good enough to justify separating it out from the rest of the pack though, so here we are.

The Haunting of Hill House S1:E6 “Two Storms” – And I’m separating this one out too, just in recognition of the technical achievement. The entire episode consists of three long-take shots. This sort of thing can be gimmicky and showy and maybe too much style over substance, but I think this episode warrants the effort and the result really is a compelling episode. It is, of course, not the most pleasant story we’re engaging with here, but it has its spooky moments as well as a few well-placed emotional punches. I’m looking forward to finishing off the remaining episodes.

Ash vs. Evil Dead S1:E1-E4 – In the spirit of perhaps finding something a little lighter and more fun, I fired this series up. It doesn’t quite have the same energy that Raimi brings, but it does an adequate job imitating that style. I generally like the character of Ash, so I think the initial view of the character that we get is a bit of a turnoff, but it gets better as the series goes on. Bruce Campbell is great, as always, though perhaps not quite the amazing physical talent that he was in the early films (not that anyone could expect that, but still).

As an overall narrative, I’m not entirely sold, but really, the story and plot are not what make the Evil Dead universe so much fun, so who cares? I’ve only watched a few episodes, so I’m not sure it can maintain and improve where its at, but I’m optimistic. I’m having fun with it, even if it’s not the most amazingest thing evar.

What We Do in the Shadows S1 and S2 – Speaking of amazing things, this show has really won me over in a big way. Like Ash vs Evil Dead this is a television spinoff of a movie, but one that seems to have really found its feet. The first few episodes of season 1 are a bit repetitive, featuring some of the same bits from the movie. But as the season progresses it slowly but surely starts to assert an identity of its own. By season 2, they’re really firing on all cylinders.

What We Do In The Shadows

A lot of this is due to an incredible core cast of five actors. Every single one is perfect for their respective role and you quickly fall in love with them. This is an overall more comedic treatment than Ash vs Evil Dead but its parody comes from a place of love (whereas a lot of this sort of thing could be mocking its subjects). It’s really just nice to have a show that has some vampires but isn’t an existential slog of angst and ennui or overly gory, dark violence. If it touches on such topics it manages to do so with a comedic bent that really helps. Recommended!

Up next on the horror television docket (once I finish Hill House) will be Dark, a show that I’ve heard great things about (but which will apparently require every ounce of attention available and is, um, probably quite thematically dark.) And then, of course, there’s also The Haunting of Bly Manor, a sorta anthology-like follow up to Hill House by Flanagan and team (apparently being released this weekend). The cup truly runneth over with good horror television shows.

Tasting Notes

Just some quick hits on my media diet of late…


  • Watchmen – I was skeptical; who was really hankering for a sequel to the Watchmen graphic novel? I may be biased because of my general distaste for sequels, but I gave the series a shot, and it’s steadily been chipping away at all my reservations about the show. It hits a lot of “prestige TV” notes and starts off by just dropping you into a world that isn’t quite familiar (even if you’ve read the comic book). A lot of it still feels unnecessary, but it’s actually quite good and getting better as it goes. Will it continue to pick up steam and end strong? I still have doubts, but this show has earned a place on my increasingly crowded watching schedule.
  • The Mandalorian – I’ve already posted my initial thoughts on the first two episodes and am genuinely curious to see where it’s headed. It’s quite good, but it hasn’t achieved greatness yet. Still, tons of potential and it’s hitting the non-prequel, low-ish stakes, and new character notes that most recent Star Wars has been missing. Baby Yoda is indeed great and cute, and so far, the whole “never taking off the mask” thing hasn’t bothered me as much as the show’s critics.
  • The Good Place – If you haven’t seen this, I highly recommend watching through the conclusion of the first season. Spoilers for what follows! One of the things about the show that you kinda have to buy into is that its vision of the afterlife is, well, kinda dumb. One of the great things about the conclusion of the first season was that there was a really good reason why the afterlife was that dumb – it was all a ruse. They manage to keep up the quality in the second season pretty well, but by the third season, it was definitely running out of steam. Now in its fourth and final season, it’s almost completely out of juice. Of course, I still love the show, it’s got a high joke density that lands most of time, and the characters are so likable and endearing that I still want to keep watching, but I’m glad this is the final season. It’s kinda on hiatus now until it finishes up early next year, but I’m kinda interested in the overarching story again because it’s kinda become canon that the system at the heart of the series is flawed and, well, kinda dumb. I have no idea how they’re going to resolve that though…


  • The Irishman – Martin Scorsese’s latest epic gangster flick is an unwieldy 3.5 hours long, which is probably at least a half hour too long. Look, I get it, De Niro’s character slowly but surely sacrifices everything good in his life for the sake of his mafia friends, who clearly don’t care, and it happens bit by bit over the course of decades, such that he doesn’t even realize it’s happening until it’s far too late. The last hour of the film, once he realizes what he’s done, is devastating and heartbreaking… I dunno, maybe it needs to be that long in order to get to that place, but pacing matters, and while I was never bored or anything, this didn’t quite have the energy that sustains Scorsese’s best efforts. As a result, I don’t see myself revisiting this the way I do with Goodfellas, Casino, Wolf of Wall Street, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, etc… (geeze, this guy’s made a lot of great movies, I could easily list five more that I’d rewatch tonight…) The best mafia movies are able to balance the romantic, attractive side of the life with the darkness and despair that inevitably follows. Goodfellas, in particular, is fantastic at this. The Irishman is more subtle and more calibrated around the darkness and despair, which doesn’t exactly make for a pleasant viewing. Anyway, De Niro and Pacino are great, definitely working at a level far above where they’ve been lately, but the real star is Pesci, who is really fantastic here. Side characters without much time even manage a big impact, like Anna Paquin and Stephen Graham, who are both standouts despite not a ton of time onscreen. Definitely worth a watch and maybe even one of the best of the year; it’s actually grown on me in the last few days, so maybe it will continue to expand its influence in my mind as time goes on…
  • Prospect – Neat little SF thriller set on an alien moon, where a teenaged girl and her father are trying to prospect for naturally occurring gems. Naturally, there are competitors and unfriendlies that complicate matters and turn the whole venture into one of survival. There’s some heavy reliance on tropes in the worldbuilding, but it gets better as it goes. Interestingly, since the environment on the moon isn’t particularly friendly to human life, they spend most of the movie with their space suits and helmets on, something a lot of movies wouldn’t bother with, but which adds a bit of verisimilitude that serves the movie well (and the filmmakers seem to view the limitations of this approach as a benefit, rather than just a challenge to be disposed of). Apparently this will be eligible for the Hugo awards, even though it premiered last year – it will be on my ballot.
  • Dolemite Is My Name – When I was younger, my brother and his friends came home one day with a tape from a video rental place. The movie was The Monkey Hustle, starring one Rudy Ray Moore. For some reason, we became obsessed with this dude and watched a bunch of his other movies, including Dolemite. They aren’t strictly good in any objective sense, but they’ve certainly got an energy about them. So this new film, Dolemite Is My Name, is a love letter to Moore and his particular brand of raunchy comedy. It’s kind of a biopic, but it focuses pretty narrowly on one portion of Moore’s career, so it doesn’t fall prey to all the cliches usually associated with the sub-genre, and it’s a whole boatload of fun. Eddie Murphy is fantastic, certainly the best thing he’s done in, um, decades? Jeeze. Great supporting cast as well, particularly Wesley Snipes. It’s a pretty fantastic example of the “I’m pretty sure it didn’t happen this way, but who cares because this is really fun!” style movie. Well worth checking out.


  • Delta-V by Daniel Suarez – A billionaire hires a bunch of adventurer/explorer types to man his deep space mission to mine an asteroid; hijinks ensue. Pretty solid SF told in Suarez’s breezy style. It scratches the hard SF itch while being pretty entertaining, but it doesn’t really approach the true sense of wonder that marks the best of the genre either. Still, I really enjoyed this, quite a bit more than a lot of recent SF that I’ve read.
  • Zero to One Notes on Start-Ups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters – Peter Thiel is a famous tech entrepreneur who was one of the founders of Paypal. Blake Masters was a Standford grad student who took a class taught by Thiel and eventually came to work with Thiel to publish a book on Thiel’s ideas. This post can’t really do justice to Thiel’s ideas, but he has some interesting thoughts on monopolies, competition, and what he terms “indefinite optimism”. It’s at its best when he’s waxing philosophical on topics like this, though the bits on the nuts and bolts of operating a startup work too (they’re just necessarily more mundane). It’s actually very short, and could probably use a bit more fleshing out, but lots of food for thought here. As a fan of Science Ficiton, I thought Thiel’s framing of the indefinite/definite and pessimism/optimism would make interesting axis for SF – the definite optimism of the golden age yielding to indefinite pessimism of the new wave (maybe not the best description, but the general idea of SF becoming more pessimistic over time is pretty clear), etc… It could be interesting, but it’d be a topic for another post.
  • Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell – By this point, you should already know what you think of Gladwell, and this book most likely won’t change your mind. I tend to enjoy his style and think he’s good at articulating certain things. For its part, this book seems to me to be a warning of the dangers of being hyper-vigilant. Sure, you might catch a Bernie Madoff earlier on and maybe the police can clean up a crime-ridden neighborhood, but applying that same hyper-vigilantism to other, more trustworthy areas can be disastrous. The book meanders a bit and Gladwell’s focus isn’t necessarily on hyper-vigilantism, but that was the most relevant piece for me, and you can see it all over the place (i.e. obvious places like politics, but also social media and smaller scale communities, etc…). Again, if you’re not a Gladwell fan, this won’t change your mind, but if you are, it’s solid stuff.


  • Watchmen: Volume 1 and Volume 2 (Music from the HBO Series) – As I was watching the series, I was thinking that the music was great and a little familiar and look at that, it’s Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Great stuff, and good background for working…

The Finer Things

  • The Kaedrin Beer Blog is still going, though posting has dropped off quite a bit. Still, we’ve entered barrel-aged stout season and I’m working my way through BCBS variants (best so far is the Reserve Rye) and the more local, independent Free Will Ralphius variants (so far, the Vanilla and Double Barrel-Aged are the best variants, better than most of last year’s for sure).
  • The Annual Egg Nog Tasting this year was of moderate size. Not much to cover that we haven’t covered before, but a couple of newish entries this year, including the semi-local Kreider Farms Eggnog (which was my favorite) and Promised Land (which the majority voted as best).
    The 2019 Egg Nog Tasting

    Wawa always places well too, but I think people are so used to it that they just vote for something new and good whenever it’s available. In terms of worst-in-show, someone brought eggnog flavored creamer, which was… not good.

And that’s all for now folks…

The Mandalorian

Disney+ launched this week with the expected archives of Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars goodies, but also some new series, including The Mandalorian. It’s about a bounty hunter, well, hunting bounties. He looks a lot like Boba Fett, but that’s only because Boba Fett wore Mandalorian armor (despite not being a Mandalorian). Still, he’s a strong silent type; think Sergio Leone’s Man with No Name trilogy of spaghetti westerns, but in space. So far, there’s only been two episodes, but some assorted thoughts are below (Spoilers ahoy!):

  • I’m enjoying it. It’s not perfect, but there’s lots of potential, and we’re finally getting new Star Wars that isn’t hyper-dependent on what came before. It’s true that we get little references and “I recognize that thing” pretty frequently, but they’re mostly minor fan-service and the series appears to be making good use of the extended universe beyond characters we know.
  • I guess they’ve generally decided that the opening crawl is a numbered-entry thing only going forward, but it’s weird, I feel like this series (or at least the first episode) could have made good use of it. Dropping into the story the way we did is fine, to be sure, but the opening crawl could have maybe better contextualized things.
  • The series basically had me within 5-10 minutes when it did the whole iris door gag, which I’m not going to spoil, but which was eye opening for sure.
  • Funny that in Empire the whole carbon-freezing process was untested and no one was even sure if a human being would survive, but now it’s standard practice for all bounty hunters or something? Darth Vader: great innovator and technology disruptor.
  • Werner Herzog is always welcome and his speech cadence just works in situations like this, but it’s a short scene. Hopefully we’ll get more of him.
  • The first episode drags a bit in the middle and appears to be almost literally a video game when he first gets to the planet and must figure out how to ride a Blerg. I swear I’ve played this sequence a hundred times in a hundred different games. The Blergs don’t exactly look great either, but they’re a small part of the episode.
  • The best part of the episode is the appearance of the IG bounty hunter droid (presumably not IG-88). It’s great to see him in action, and there’s some humorous bits with him attempting to self-destruct. I was kinda hoping that he’d be a recurring character and that he’d always be triggering his self-destruct mechanism at even the faintest obstacle. This clearly won’t happen, but I suspect we’ll see other IG droids.
  • The “reveal” at the end is pretty good. I wasn’t expecting it, but it’s not exactly a surprise either.
  • The second episode is only 33 minutes long, which is interesting. It doesn’t really progress the story much, but it’s still entertaining, and we learn more about baby-Yoda-alien-thing. It also has a very nice Lone Wolf and Cub vibe that works well.
  • Basically, I’m quite entertained. It mostly meets the needs I set out in my Humble Star Wars Wishlist: It’s not a prequel, it’s got completely new characters (though it still relies on the worldbuilding of the movies), and so far, it’s relatively low stakes. As mentioned above, it’s got a lot of potential. I’d love to see some process-dork stuff about bounty hunting, but so far, that’s been a bit sparse. The action is reasonably well done and the acting is good, especially given that our hero has not taken off his mask (and probably won’t).
  • Disney+ is pretty good so far, but right now it’s basically just “The Mandalorian” service, as the other interesting original content doesn’t come until next year and the year after. It’s great to have most of the MCU movies archived, but it’s not like they weren’t widely available before. Ditto Star Wars and Pixar. Some of the older Disney animation stuff is cool, but there’s some inexplicable stuff too, like what they did to The Simpsons (which is abysmally cropped, but also somehow feels stretched?) All in all, I’m not sure if this service is a keeper or not, but for now, it’s decent… I’d probably recommend waiting until the Mandalorian is finished, and binging during the free week or first month or something.

And that covers my initial thoughts. Really interested to see where we go from here…

6WH: Week 3.5 – The Marathon Will Be Televised

During last year’s Six Weeks of Halloween marathon, I watched a record 61 movies. Part of that came at the expense of watching horror related television, despite some good stuff happening there. Since I’ve already been thrown off my pace this year by travel and other happenings, I might as well switch gears a bit and check out some new shows. I haven’t delved particularly deep just yet, but I’ve been watching some stuff that I found interesting, so I figured I’d share some thoughts:

  • Creepshow S1:E1 “Gray Matter/The House of the Head” – Shudder’s new Creepshow series is dropping one episode at a time for… six weeks (culminating on Halloween itself). It looks like each episode will feature two segments (each about 20-25 minutes long). This first episode starts a bit slow but ends strong. The first segment, “Gray Matter”, is based on a Stephen King short story, and it takes place during a big storm. A kid shows up at the local convenience store to pick up a case of cheap beer for his father, who has been drowning his sorrows in alcohol since his wife died. But grief has turned him into something altogether different… Some nice atmosphere and decent creature effects, but ultimately kinda straightforward. Enjoyable, but not going to light the world on fire. The second segment, “The House of the Head”, is altogether more successful and effective. A little girl plays with dolls in her dollhouse, but a mysterious severed doll head shows up, and her dolls start moving on their own.
    The House of the Head

    The head has murderous designs on the quaint family the little girl built up in the house, and she must figure out a way to help them. Now this is the stuff. You never see the dolls move, but the still shots you see are very effective and menacing. The little girl makes some interesting attempts to solve the problem, but because this is Creepshow, they don’t really work out. Not exactly a bummer, but very creepy and entertaining…

  • Creepshow S1:E2 “Bad Wolf Down/The Finger” – A platoon of American soldiers gets trapped behind enemy lines and takes refuge in a local police station. It appears that the Germans in the station have been slaughtered by some sort of wild animal. Surrounded by enemy soldiers, the Americans find a novel way to fight back. It’s silly and fun and pretty much all you could ask for out of this one. “The Finger” is a little less successful, though it has some nice moments and the idea at its core works well enough. A man finds a finger on the ground and brings it home to research where it came from. Then the finger starts to grow, at first another finger, then a whole arm, then a whole little gremlin thing… that likes to watch soap operas and eat popcorn. Ultimately it just sorta peters out, but it comports itself well enough. As per usual, these anthology series are a bit uneven, but each story is short enough to keep interest going. I’m looking forward to watching more of these as the season progresses.
  • The Twilight Zone S1:E1 “Where Is Everybody?” – I’ve obviously seen lots of episodes of the Twilight Zone, but I thought it might be fun to go back and start from the very beginning with this 1959 episode in which a man finds himself in an empty town and slowly grows crazy in the isolation. A neat little tale, not one of the best episodes to be sure, but short and sweet, and pretty indicative of the types of stuff we’ll see in the rest of the series.
  • The Twilight Zone S1:E2 “One for the Angels” – A street salesman (i.e. a pitch man) comes home one day to find that Death is waiting for him, sez he’s scheduled to die that night, gives him time to set his affairs in order. The salesman attempts to appeal, settling on the idea that he’d like to make a really big pitch before he dies, you know, “one for the Angels!” Death agrees, but when the salesman attempts to welch on the deal, Death tells him that he’s going to have to take someone else’s life instead, and chooses a local neighborhood girl. Will the salesman be able to find a way to save the little girl? This is a really nice episode. I don’t normally think of The Twilight Zone as being heartwarming, but this episode strikes the right balance. Great performances here too, which certainly helps sell the experience.
  • The Twilight Zone S1:E3 “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” – A western about a town drunk and former quick draw champion whose past catches up with him, with a little help from the personification of Fate. Another neat little episode with a happy ending, but no less effective because of that.
  • Evil S1:E1 “Pilot” – This new show from the creators of The Good Wife is about an investigator for the Catholic Church looking into reports of possession and miracles, etc… The first episode involves a defendant trying to use insanity/possession as a defense against murder charges. There are some effective little bits here and there, and I like the debunking aspects of the episode, but it also feels like they’re trying to have their cake and eat it too. This sort of thing could potentially be worked out over time though, so maybe this will end up scratching that X-Files monster-of-the-week itch. It’s an easygoing show akin to your typical CBS procedural, but with a more supernatural flair. Some bits are perhaps too on the nose, but it’s a decent enough start. I’ll probably watch more of this.

I’m definitely planning to dive deeper into The Haunting of Hill House this year, and may check out some other series if time permits…

Tasting Notes

I used to do this thing where I’d do a series of quick hits on my media diet, but damn, it looks like I haven’t done this in about five years? Let’s rectify that situation:


  • The Good Place – I wasn’t expecting much, but then I burned through the entire first season in just a couple of days. It’s a fantastic season of television, very funny, great stakes, well paced (both in terms of individual episodes, but also in the way the series expands on its own world throughout the course of the season). There are some big twists that you might pick up on early in the season, but in general, the season works well as a whole. I’m somewhat wary of the forthcoming second season, but the writers managed to be pretty clever throughout the first season, so there’s a hope that the second season will work. But they’ll need to do something almost completely different with the premise this time around (otherwise, it could get very repetitive), which is a challenge.
  • Patriot – What a fucking bizarre show. It’s clearly aping the prestige TV tropes out the yin yang (i.e.

    Breaking Bad-esque cold opens, anti-heroes, etc…) and I can’t exactly say it’s planting any of its own flags, but I actually kinda liked it? I find it hard to recommend and when I break it down, it’s not super original and many of the characteristics of the show are things I don’t normally care for, but somehow it tweaked me just right. At least until the very end, which is an anticlimax (albeit one you can kinda see coming). It’s about a spy who goes undercover at a piping firm in order to travel to Europe and do some sort of deal to prevent Iran from going nuclear. Things immediately go wrong, and pretty much the whole series is an ever-telescoping series of crises built on top of crises. It has this ridiculous sense of deadpan dark humor (I think? Nothing about this show makes perfect sense to me…) that I don’t think I have any reference point for… It’s almost worth watching so that you can get to the Rock/Paper/Scissors game scene towards the end of the series, which is utterly brilliant. Again, a hard one to recommend though. It might be worth watching the first episode (it’s an Amazon Prime original though, so I think you can only see it there). If you’re on board with the ridiculous things that happen there, this series might be for you. I honestly still don’t know what to think about it, which probably means I think its good?


  • Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic is indeed a spectacle to behold, one of the best photographed movies of the year and definite nominee for Most Visually Stunning in the Kaedrin Movie Awards. Not a ton of dialog and minimal plot, and yet it’s propulsively paced and at times harrowing. It’s not your traditional crowd-pleaser, but nods in that direction far enough to keep interest up. I hope it continues to do well. It will likely make my top 10 of the year, though perhaps towards the bottom of that list…
  • The Big Sick – Delightful romantic comedy based on the true story of Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (who wrote the script), and you can see that heart up there on the screen. It deals a lot with family and culture clash in a sophisticated way, but it never drags at all, and is generally able to leaven the drama with comedy. Another film that will likely make my top 10.
  • Baby Driver – Edgar Wright’s latest is fantastic entertainment, a sort of hybrid musical that substitutes car chases for dance numbers. This works spectacularly for the first two thirds, but there’s some serious third act problems with the story (lots of inexplicable decisions and character turns), even though the execution of what’s there is still very enjoyable. Hitchcock’s refrigerator comes to mind here – it works ok when your watching it, but does not hold up to scrutiny. Not a shoe-in for the top 10, but will definitely be a candidate and it will certainly garner a Kaedrin Movie Award or two. Still recommended!


  • The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland – I’m about two thirds of the way through this book, which features witches, a quantum mechanical explanation for magic, and lots of time travel. And bureaucracy. I’m pretty much loving it so far, but as a long-time Stephenson fanatic, I think you could probably have guessed that, right? Really curious to see how it will play out (seems like a solid candidate for a Hugo nomination for me). More thoughts forthcoming in a full review…
  • Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space by Janna Levin – Non-fiction story of gravitational waves and the LIGO project – an arduous, fifty-year endeavor to measure gravitation waves from events like two black holes colliding… So far seems to be pretty excessively focused on the personalities involved and the hoops they had to jump through to get funded, etc… Interesting stuff, but not necessarily the most immersive story.
  • Killfile by Christopher Farnsworth – Trashy little thriller about a security consultant/spy who can read people’s minds. This is from the guy who wrote about the President’s Vampire, so we’re not looking for anything groundbreaking or anything, but it’s a fairly fun little story. I basically got this (and its sequel, which I didn’t like as much, but was basically more of the same) so that I could get a new President’s Vampire story (which I actually haven’t read yet and at this point, will probably save for the Six Weeks of Halloween), but these were an enjoyable enough diversion, if a bit formulaic and disposable…


  • Friday the 13th: The Game – This is an online multiplayer game (not my usual thing) that is set in the Friday the 13th universe (emphatically my thing). The technical term for this type of game is “asymmetrical multiplayer” because while most of the players are camp counselors running for their life, one randomly selected player gets to be Jason, whose job is to hunt down and kill all the other players. It’s a lot of fun, even though I suck and the game and am not really willing to put the time into it to get good at it (the last time I played as Jason, I only killed one counselor and spent a couple minutes chasing one person around a table).

    Worth checking out if this seems like your jam.

  • Dominion – This is a deck-building card game that I stumbled onto because some folks at work started playing at lunch. I don’t always get to play there, but once I got into it, it’s a really deep and fun game to play. There’s an online version (linked above) that works well enough, though it could use some updates (it’s relatively new though, and they’re still making improvements). I still really enjoy the meatspace version, and it helps that my friends have basically all of the expansion packs (which add a lot of flavor).

The Finer Things:

  • As always, I’m drinking a lot of beer and as you probably know, I have a whole blog where I keep track of this sort of thing. Recent highlights have all been IPAs, actually, like Tree House Julius and Burley Oak 100
  • Since it always takes me, like, 2 years to get through a bottle of whisk(e)y, I was intrigued by the concept of an Infinity Bottle (aka Solera bottle), which is basically when you take a bunch of nearly finished bottles and blend them all together into one super-whiskey. I started a bourbon based bottle recently, mostly Four Roses based, but with some Stagg Jr. and Bookers. Biggest problem right now is that the proof is excessively high (approximately 122) at this point. I need to find some low proof stuff with some age on it (am I crazy, or is this a job for an orphan barrel bourbon?) Still, it’s a fun little project and it should get more and more interesting over time (as more and more whiskeys join the blend).

Phew, that’s all for now. I will be on vacation next week, so posting is dubious, though you never know!

6WH: Week 4.5 – 80s Halloween TV Episodes

One of the dorky things I’ve been doing lately to ring in the season around my favorite holidays is to check out holiday-themed episodes of various TV shows. Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I decided to check out the Halloween episodes for a bunch of 80s shows. It turns out that I’m not the first dope to have this idea, but since I’ve already watched the shows, I figured I’d give my readers the skinny on a few of these shows (and there’s not total overlap, so there is that). It being the 80s, there are lots of recurring motifs and tropes that seem to have disappeared. Notably, many of these shows seem to feature a rational protagonist refusing to believe the seemingly supernatural happenings of the day and being vindicated right before having their legs cut out from under them by a piece of unexplained evidence. Most of the episodes follow this formula, and the ones that don’t tend to fall a bit flat. Anywho, enough preamble, let’s hop to it:

  • Quantum Leap – S3E5 – “The Boogieman – October 31, 1964” – First and foremost, the opening of quantum leap, where a disembodied female voice explains Dr. Sam Beckett’s predicament, is surprisingly effective and really generates empathy. I probably haven’t seen an episode of Quantum Leap in 25 years, but I was immediately back in the swing of things. It helps that this is probably the best of the Halloween episodes (though another one stuck out in my mind for reasons that will be discussed below). So Sam leaps into Joshua Rey, a horror novelist referred to as a second-rate H.P. Lovecraft (so… Brian Lumly? Zing!). He is, of course, dressed in a ridiculous getup and his house seems abnormally… Gothic.

    Sam Beckett as a second-rate HP Lovecraft

    It turns out that it’s Halloween and he’s working on Church’s haunted house and of course this is going to be the best one ever, right neighborhood boy? Right! Naturally, really bizarre things start happening and bodies are dropping like flies and a suspicious goat starts showing up and there’s a Black Mamba snake for some reason and Al and Ziggy are acting all funny and is the devil really the culprit here and oh look, all work and no play make Joshua a dull boy. This one has great Halloween atmosphere and thus makes for a good episode, and there’s enough tricksy stuff going on that you’re not quite sure what’s going to happen. Plus, we’re treated to two stingers, one about an unexplainable supernatural event, and the other a sorta cameo, both pretty good. I’m pleasantly surprised by how well Quantum Leap is holding up here. Not exactly “Golden Age of TV” stuff, but really fun and still emminently watchable. I’m told this fans consider this episode ccccurrrsed, as countless VCRs were destroyed in attempting to record or playback this episode. The author of that article mentions she had trouble with Hulu as well, but come on, it’s Hulu. Anyway, I had no troubles, and it’s worth watching.

  • Quantum Leap – S5E15 – “Blood Moon – March 10, 1975” – So this episode is one of the reasons I actually wanted to go through this whole rigamarole and watch these 80s shows. I have a very distinct memory of the stinger in this episode where the rational protagonist is suddenly confronted with something unexplainable. For some reason, I had attributed this in my head to MacGyver (more on him below), but it turns out that this Quantum Leap episode was what I was thinking of… Sam leaps into Nigel Corrington, who lives in an English castle and sleeps in a coffin and is thus, obviously, a vampire (Al is convinced, Sam is of course not). Indeed, it appears to be the night of The Blood Moon, a night that commemorates one of the earliest vampires, and Nigel is entertaining two visitors intent on observing the vampiric tradition of murdering Nigel’s freshly minted, commoner wife. Nice gothic atmosphere and an entertaining tale, also worth checking out. And that stinger is great fun!
  • Quantum Leap – S4E16 – “Ghost Ship – August 13, 1956” – Alright, so this one apparently isn’t an actual Halloween episode, but come on, Sam flies into the Bermuda Triangle in this one, and is there anything more 80s spooky than that? Of course the instruments go all haywire and Al has trouble maintaining contact with Ziggy (and, for that matter, Sam) and of course one of the passengers on the plan has her appendix burst, so it’s vitally urgent that they find their way to nearby Bermuda (and it’s hospital) rather than turning around and making the long trip back to the mainland. Again, nothing particularly Haloweeny about the episode, but it’s got the main formula in place, with plenty of spooky things happening and, of course, a neat little stinger that seemingly confirms the Burmuda Triangle’s bona fides. Another fun episode that is totally worth checking out.
  • MacGyver – S4E1 – The Secret of Parker House – This doesn’t explicitly take place on Halloween or anything, but it concerns a haunted house (and was aired on Halloween), so that seems like enough. So Mac is inexplicably friends with the rather daffy Penny Parker (played by Teri Hatcher), who has just inherited her aunt’s old mansion. It is, of course, rumored to be haunted. Some mysterious happenings, a convenient lightning strike, and a strange facial reconstruction later, and we find that it’s not quite haunted. It turns out that the house was built in prohibition days and had a hidden distillery, and a simpleton groundskeeper was hiding in there (and thus causing some mischief). It’s a decent little episode, and of course it turns out to be completely rational. Or does it! This doesn’t hold up as well as the Quantum Leap episodes, but it was a decent enough watch.
  • MacGyver – S5E6 – Halloween Knights – So this one actually does take place on Halloween and even features a costume party, but otherwise does not take on anything even remotely spooky. It turns out that one of MacGyver’s arch-nemesi, one Murdoc, wants to enlist MacGyver’s help in taking down his SPECTRE-like organization of killers (there’s a funny and goofy name for this that isn’t really worth looking up). Again, there’s a costume party and Mac gets dressed up in not one, but two costumes (including a Jester costume, which is fun), but the episode is frankly absurd. There’s this ridiculous obstacle course with motion detecting guns and of course Mac defeates this using SCIENCE, but whatever. The episode just kinda ends, no stinger, nothing spooky at all. Maybe a good MacGyver episode, but not a great Halloween episode…
  • Cheers – S3E4 – “Fairy Tales Can Come True” – It’s Halloween at Cheers, and the no-name regulars are giving Cliff a hard time because they never see him making the moves on women. But when he’s in costume as Ponce De Leon, he doesn’t seem to be as tongue tied or nervous as when he’s himself, and thus meets the woman of his dreams. Or something, as I don’t think she shows up again, but this is a nice enough episode, worth it for the costumes (but then, not really spooky either).
  • Cheers – S4E5 – “Diane’s Nightmare” – Diane dreams that “Andy Andy” has escaped from a mental institution and is coming to kill her (is he a guy from a previous episode? I don’t remember that, but it’s easy enough to follow.) Then she wakes up, and has to face “Andy Andy” again. It’s a neat little episode, not quite spooky but certainly on the spectrum and enough to make it a nice Halloween experience. These sitcom episodes don’t really follow the formula, but this one has a funny stinger at the end (albeit, not a supernatural one).
  • Cheers – S5E5 – “House of Horrors with Formal Dining and Used “ – Carla finds a great house in her price range. The only catch is that it’s built on top of a 17th century prison graveyard and the dead prisoners have vowed on their revenge. Being ever superstitious, Carla decides that if she can spend the night there without incident, all will be well, and Cliff helps out. A funny take on the tired premise, it works well enough for sure. No real reference to Halloween, but enough hints of murderous ghosts that it seems worthwhile.
  • Cheers – S10E7 – “Bar Wars V: The Final Judgement” – Another in a long line of prank episodes between the folks at Cheers and rival, Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern. This one involve’s Gary’s death and Sam’s refusal to believe it isn’t a prank, which it isn’t. Or is it? All the prank episodes are fun, and while this one takes place on Halloween, it only involves a couple of seasonal-related gags (albeit, pretty good ones). Good times, as usual with Cheers…

So there you have it. If you’re looking for some 80s Halloween chills, check out those Quantum Leap episodes (and there are a couple of others that I didn’t get to as well), as they hold up pretty well. MacGyver was less successful (though I didn’t watch the “Mac Wrastles Fucking Bigfoot” episode, so keep that in mind). Cheers is fun, but not particularly Halloweeny… I’m told there are lots of other 80s shows with great Halloween episodes, but I wasn’t able to get to them (maybe next year… if Netflix still has them)… Anywho, stay tuned for, well, I’m not sure what’s up for this weekend. Either old-school slashers or new school Blumhouse stuff… come back on Sunday to find out!