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Binge Blog: Initiating trimester one

"Raised by Wolves" and "Monster Factory" are this week's selections.

Amanda Collin as Mother in "Raised by Wolves." Photo source: HBO Max.
Amanda Collin as Mother in "Raised by Wolves." Photo source: HBO Max.
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The round-up

I decided to take part because why not. I chose "In Bruges," "Annihilation," "Wild at Heart" and "You, Me and Dupree." I have written about three of those in Binge Blog before, but not "You, Me and Dupree," and I feel like I need to clear something up. Do I think that movie is good? Not by any objective standard. But it does make me laugh a lot, mostly thanks to Owen Wilson's line deliveries and the fun little nonsequiturs peppered into the script. 

I can't explain why a scene like this sends me into laughing fits. I can't explain why a scene like this makes me cry. (Actually, the Coldplay song probably has something to do with this one.) All I know is, for a 2006 studio comedy, you could do a lot worse than "You, Me and Dupree." I stand by it. 

  • The trailer for "Synchronic," a new sci-fi horror/thriller from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead, hit the internet this week. This is notable for a few reasons. First, Benson and Moorehead are one of the more exciting duos in indie filmmaking, coming off 2017's buzzy "The Endless" and Binge Blog selection "Spring."

Second, Benson and Moorehead (and producer David Lawson) have explicitly told viewers not to go see their movie. 

Here's what they wrote on their Instagram accounts: “Due to distribution arrangements that are out of our control, the release of 'Synchronic' into drive-ins and indoor theaters has been confirmed for Oct. 23. But we want to be very clear: At the time of writing this, we personally wouldn’t go to an indoor movie theater, so we can’t encourage you to. To us, this isn’t only about feeling safe in a theater; this is also about the scientific community indicating that enclosed spaces like movie theaters are still a hazard for spreading COVID-19 to others.”

I can't remember a director ever putting a statement like this out before. Hell, Christopher Nolan is out here doing the exact opposite. I like that the duo is using its clout to keep people as safe as possible, their own success be damned. They did later encourage going to a drive-in, so they're not totally shunning theaters, but still. If nothing else, it's fascinating business. 

  • Scott Tobias wrote a good article on Letterboxd and its film-loving community for The Ringer. If you're still on the fence about joining the (best) social media site, I think this is a good look at its positives and negatives. And follow me once you've made the correct decision to join. 
  • Binge Blog's creepy cousin, Cringe Blog, is set to make a return in October. If there's anything you'd like to see it cover, or if you want to yell at me about my candy rankings again, send me an email (or DM me on Twitter, or call me, I'm easy to find). 

"Raised by Wolves" (2020)

HBO Max, TV-MA, seven episodes so far, new episodes released each Thursday

One big (not so) happy family in
One big (not so) happy family in "Raised by Wolves." Photo source: HBO Max.

There are no actual wolves in "Raised by Wolves," sadly. I wanted to clear that up before anyone built up expectations. 

There are alien creatures though. And AIs. And lots and lots of blood. 

"Raised by Wolves" is about the ways parents mess us up even when they put their children's best interests first, and especially when they don't. In this world, Earth has been destroyed by a war between the religious half of the population — they worship a sun god — and the nonbelievers. The believers win. With the planet becoming uninhabitable, the nonbelievers send two AIs, simply named Mother (Amanda Collin) and Father (Abubakar Salim) to a distant planet armed with embryos, with the goal of restarting the human population there. 

Mother and Father reach the planet and succeed in producing 12 children of all different races, but they slowly start dying until only one, a boy named Campion, is left alive. The environment just isn't conducive to human life. Mother and Father start malfunctioning too. They need help, and that help arrives in the form of a group of believers scouting new locations. They're led by a big bearded man named Marcus (Travis Fimmel). 

When the believers realize Campion is being raised by androids — a practice the believers think is immoral — they attempt to get Campion to join them. 

It wouldn't be much of a show if Campion went with them and everything was hunky-dory, would it?

The believers are led by Marcus (Travis Fimmel).
The believers are led by Marcus (Travis Fimmel).

No. The confrontation kicks off a series of inventive and incredibly bloody sequences that reveal Mother to be much more than a simple android. It also sets the course for the rest of the show, though the believer/nonbeliever conflict remains a focus.

"Raised by Wolves" is fun for a few reasons. The show, produced by Ridley Scott, features a ton of compelling imagery, including a recurring one of Mother flying across the planet with her arms outstretched and her body encased in bronze as she goes berserk on whoever has pissed her off. It looks cool, and Collin does an amazing job of portraying a seemingly emotionless creature who, somehow, still has a semblance of feelings creep in there during emotional moments. 

Salim is fun too, with his character instinctively breaking into dad jokes whenever things get tense. The show can be a little heavy-handed at times, such ass when Mother literally howls at the sky in the pilot, and I don't know if it's saying quite as much as it thinks it is. But it's interesting and fun and is more than worth filling your weeknights, especially as the calendar turns to fall. 

"Monster Factory" (2015-present)

YouTube, unrated, 76 episodes, approx. 25 hours of content

Justin and Griffin even made
Justin and Griffin even made "The R—" uh, "The Pebble" once. Photo source: YouTube.

I don't feel like writing about anything else serious this week because I am tired, so I'm going to talk about "Monster Factory," a YouTube series hosted by Griffin and Justin McElroy of "My Brother, My Brother and Me" podcast fame (or "The Adventure Zone" podcast fame, if that's more your speed). The good boys started the show when they worked at Polygon, but now that they've quit the video game journalism business to focus on their familial digital media empire — which involves their brother, Travis; their dad, Clint; and all three of the brothers' spouses and also children? They just keep popping them out! — the show has moved to the McElroy Family channel. 

Anyway, "Monster Factory" is a dumb show where Griffin and Justin go into a given video game's character creation portal and make the most grotesque and/or silly character they can, then mess around, cause trouble and generally try to break the game as much as possible. They like to create a narrative for their characters along the way and also laugh a lot. Like, a lot

For good reason! Video game character creators let users do some extremely silly things — bulging eyes, footling chins, that sort of thing. They are in many ways the most wholesome form of entertainment, which Justin and Griffin then make as ribald as possible. You don't have to play video games to appreciate the series; in fact, maybe it's better if you don't. Again, I have to emphasize the genius stupidity at work here. 

It all comes together to make wonderful images like this one, when they tried to recreate Bart Simpson:

Just like Bart! Photo source: YouTube.
Just like Bart! Photo source: YouTube.

In general, though, still images alone don't do the series justice. You have to see it all in motion: the glitches, the body horror, the commentary. It's a joyous final product. The McElroys don't have a firm schedule for releasing new episodes, but on average I'd say there's one a month. It's absolutely worth following their channel to make sure you don't miss them. 

I have to go, but watch this video and tell me you're not sold: 


(Actually don't tell me, thanks. Have a good weekend.)



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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