"Devs" and, well, whatever else you need, are this week's recommendations.
Bad week for everyone. Bad week for the film industry.
After the release of "No Time to Die" was postponed until November because of COVID-19 concerns and closed theaters, as announced last week, more films have followed suit. This week, "Fast & Furious: F9" (April 2, 2021!), "A Quiet Place: Part II" (TBD), "Mulan" (TBD), "The New Mutants" (TBD), "My Spy" (April 17), "Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway" (Aug. 7), "The Lovebirds" (TBD) and "Antlers" (TBD) followed suit.
That's most of the major releases that were supposed to fill the next month or two on the calendar. There's more postponements on the way, I'd bet. Which as a fan sucks, but is in the best interest of everyone.
In the meantime, there are plenty of options waiting for you at home.
FX on Hulu, 50 minutes, three episodes available now
Last week I mentioned “Devs,” the new sci-fi show from creator/mad genius Alex Garland, was premiering through FX on Hulu, the dumb new line of branding that basically means FX is producing shows for Hulu, which will be the exclusive service to air them. I hadn’t yet watched the show, but I was stoked. After all, “Annihilation” is maybe my favorite film of the past five years, and “Ex Machina” isn’t that far behind. (In case you’re curious, my other five-year faves, off the top of my head: “Arrival,” “Baby Driver,” “La La Land” and “Hereditary,” with “Parasite” and “Widows” just missing the cut.)
Well, guess what? Through three episodes, I love “Devs,” too, even though I can only give you vague thoughts on what it’s about. Not because it would be a spoiler but because I literally can’t wrap my head around what’s happening sometimes. The basic idea is this: Lily (Sonoya Mizuno) works for a tech company called Amaya, in its IT security division. So does her boyfriend, Sergei (Karl Glusman), in the artificial intelligence division. One day, Sergei gets promoted to the Devs, or developers, division, the division that is only spoken about by employees in hushed tones. No one knows what happens within Devs. On Sergei’s first day in Devs, something happens to him — viewers only partly know what — after it is revealed that he had been hiding some secrets about himself.
The rest of the show, at least thus far, has been about Lily’s search to find out the truth — not just about what happened to Sergei but about who he was, what Devs is and why it exists in the first place. Along the way, viewers get treated to deep conversations about things like determinism versus free will and the workings of quantum mechanics and related theories.
To me, that’s exciting. Others might disagree. I think “Devs” will come together plot-wise and theme-wise by season’s end, but even if it doesn’t, it’s worth your time.
- The guy who runs Amaya, named Forest, is played by Nick Offerman. He puts people like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to shame. He has straight, oddly lengthed hair and a mangy beard. He is likely a billionaire yet drives a beat-up mini-van and lives in a one-story house in the San Francisco suburbs. He eats plain arugula by the handful for lunch. This man is objectively weird and could have been played for laughs, but Offerman plays him with a deep sadness, and sometimes a deep menace, that is still to be fully explored through three episodes, though there are glimpses into his past. It is a riveting performance.
- Garland’s eye for architecture is astounding. Look at this picture of the Devs office, awash in glimmering gold and natural light:
It almost looks like a stained glass sanctuary in a church — which is, perhaps, not a coincidence when the show also makes a point to get the shot of Forest you see to the right. It’s beautiful stuff, and outside the Devs office, the cinematography is just as lush, with California’s redwoods creating a backdrop that provides characters relief during the day and fear at night.
— Not to be forgotten, the show’s soundtrack is a monster in its own right. Geoff Barrow, who did the music on Garland’s previous projects, is back again, this time teaming with The Insects, a composing duo, and Ben Salisbury to create the show’s music. Thus far, it has a similar vibe to “Annihilation,” with metallic, squirmy sounds that are seemingly beamed in from another dimension, but it also has some fun needle drops of pop songs at key moments that differentiate it.
— One last thing. Amaya, the tech company that runs Devs? On its campus is a quite large statue of a quite young child. It looks like this:
Chilling. Absolutely chilling.
“Devs” is a good show.
Whatever makes you feel good
Yeah. I don't know. The world is real weird right now. Please take care of yourselves, and I mean that both physically and mentally. Think about how your actions are affecting others, but don't forget about numero uno. I imagine (and hope) a lot of you will spending a lot of time at home in the coming weeks, but go for a walk or a jog if you need it, grab a beer or a glass of wine after work, support small businesses and order your favorite local take-out food, and by all means, watch the things that make you happy.
That's what they're there for, after all. I can get caught up in award show drama and the value or importance of a given film/show like everyone else, but at the end of the day, these things were created to entertain and to keep us company when we need them.
Me, I love a good crime caper. In terms of semi-recent films, "The Nice Guys" comes to mind as the perfect mix of slapstick laughs and genuine crime intrigue. It's infinitely rewatchable. But maybe you don't want a comedy. Maybe you want a good cry, in which case last year's "Little Women" is available to purchase on most services, and "La La Land" is streaming on Amazon.
Comforted by cheesy 2000s horror movies? Go ahead and fire up "House of Wax." It's fine, I won't tell anyone. Or for a more sophisticated and sarcastic slasher experience, watch "Hot Fuzz." Want a large helping of family drama? "Big Fish" is right there, y'all. Go back in time if you want: There are not many comedies more wholesome than "What About Bob?" or "Defending Your Life."
Of course, you could also watch "The Princess Bride," the most perfect movie ever created. (There are a lot of perfect movies; the modifier stands.)
I get that social distancing is a hassle for people who had big plans the next few weeks, but it's not all bad when there's so many wonderful options to watch. The sooner we embrace the chance to curl into a ball and be couch potatoes for a bit, the more fun we'll have (and the sooner all this will be over).
Have fun, stay safe, wash your hands. I'll be back with you next week.