Criminals, sex and an archivist: movies and TV

The 2016 SUICIDE SQUAD left me unsatisfied but the 2021 sequel, SUICIDE SQUAD, works much better. As Amanda Waller, Viola Davis sends a team including Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Bloodsport (Idris Elba) and Peacemaker (Joe Cena) into a Latin American country with the mission to penetrate an ancient fortress and destroy Project Starfish, secret research that ties in to a certain gigantic alien invader …

This is much more a typical Suicide Squad mission than the first film and it plays out well, with plenty of twists and a solid cast. My only major complaint would be the Thinker as the evil scientist in residence. In comics the Thinker is either a cunning schemer or wears a psionic “thinking cap”; the movie guy is a generic villain who might as well have been called Evil McSciencePants.“Why would someone put penises all over the beach?”

While I associate British TV writer Nigel Kneale primarily with Quatermass, it’s far from his only accomplishment. THE YEAR OF THE SEX OLYMPICS (1968) is set in a Brave New World where the government has staved off the population explosion by broadcasting so much porn and erotica viewers have been desensitized into asexuality. The programmers (including Brian Cox, who played the first screen Hannibal Lector in Manhunter) are feeling pressure from the higher-ups over tanking ratings — viewers are getting almost too apathetic — so they give in to one restless young man who wants to experience something real. He, his lover and an orphan girl set up as a nuclear family on one of the Scottish islands, trying to rough it in the real world. But they’re not ready and it turns out there are plot twists they haven’t been warned about … Oddly prescient about reality TV and grimly effective in its drama. “They think the show’s over — now it gets real super-king!”

Netflix’s ARCHIVE 81 is an effective series starring Mamoudou Athie as Dan, a film restoration expert hired by high-powered CEO Virgil (Martin Donovan) to recover some old videotapes taken at the Visser, the apartment building where the rest of Dan’s family died in a fire back in ’95. Through the tapes he becomes familiar with the filmmaker, Melody (Dina Shihabi), who’s making a documentary at the Visser and discovering ominous things such as the cult that meets in the rec room. What’s going on at the Visser? What’s Virgil’s real agenda? And is Dan really alone in Virgil’s isolated corporate compound? This was a really good horror series but for me it didn’t stick the landing. It felt like a one-season-and-done arc but instead it ends on a cliffhanger. I found that unsatisfying, but I’ll still watch if it comes back for S2. “This mold is a manifestation of the divine.”

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders; cover by Murphy Anderson.

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