Life Rants, TV Reviews

If 10th Kingdom Had Been Made Today, It Would Have Been a Viral Sensation

The cancellation of Community.  Airing the American version of Prime Suspect.  The inexplicable, enduring popularity of Friends.  There have been so many NBC decisions I’ve found unacceptable from a cultural and personal standpoint.  Perhaps the one I will carry to my grave is the failure of the 2000 mini-series 10th Kingdom to gain traction–or to get the fucking sequel it deserved!

10th Kingdom was a fantasy/adventure show based on the premise that fairy tale characters live in another dimension and occasionally cross over to our world.  When the great-grandson of Snow White arrives in New York to escape his evil stepmother, waitress Virginia and her father Tony decide to help him.  As they are transported to the fairy tale kingdoms, all Virginia and Tony want to do is get home, but trolls, dwarves, wolves, and huntsmen stand in their way.  Will our heroes win out against evil schemes or is happily ever after a thing of the past?

It’s been close to 20 years since the show first aired and, rather than move on and become a productive member of society, I will cling to this injustice and air my grievances in the form of a blog post with a rather click-baity title, as internet conventions dictate.  (Internet conventions probably dictate that I tweet about this, but I just can’t.  Word limits cannot contain me!)

In honor of this series, which will forever live in my heart, let’s examine some reasons this timeless classic still deserves a second part…and some ways it maybe hasn’t aged so well.  Prepare for lots of SPOILERS ahead.

10 Reasons 10th Kingdom Deserves to be a Viral Sensation with a Million Sequels

  1. The cast!  Holy shit, the cast is incredible here.  Dianne Wiest, Rutger Hauer, Ann-Margret, Warwick Davis, Camryn Manheim, Siegfried from All Creatures Great and Small…I could go on!
  2. Once Upon a Time borrowed so many pages from this show’s formula.  Should we not reward it for actually being creative and not just a vehicle for Disney to further expand its empire?  Whereas OUAT took itself overly seriously and cranked up the angst, 10th Kingdom was always fun to watch and wove together different fairy tales much more seamlessly.
  3. Dianne Wiest!  I know I already highlighted the cast, but Dianne Wiest as the Evil Queen is everything in this.  She’s incredibly calculating, cold and thorough as a villain.  Yet I deeply relate to her schemes to turn more people into adorable golden retrievers and poison all of her party guests.  GTFO, everyone.  Also, true story:  I used to quote her lines to telemarketers in the days before caller ID.
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  4. Camryn Manheim as curvy Snow White — a casting decision that certain corners of the internet would still find offensive to their sensibilities.  In addition to being gorgeous, this Snow White is wise AF, and her spirit just kind of hangs around ice caves dispensing advice?  I’m on board with that.
  5. The dog!  One of the main characters is turned into a dog fairly early on, and he’s so so so cute!  The dog is ridiculously well-trained to cover his face with his paws, stand regally on his hind legs, and throw side-eye.  I’m not even a dog person and I’m obsessed with this dog.
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  6. The landscape — quite a lot of this series was shot in France, Austria, and the English countryside, and it makes for some gorgeous scenery.  The series could’ve just been our main characters wandering around Europe for 7 hours, and it still would’ve made for a decent show.
  7. Wolf’s mannerisms — probably one of the reasons I loved this show so much as a pre-teen was Wolf’s behavior:  closer to a puppy than a garbage 2000s man.  Boys, who needs ’em?
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  8. The swears!  I was sooooooooooooo cool that “what in the fairying forest?” and “suck an elf” made it to my regular rotation (at least in my internal monologue).
  9. The theme song!  It’s so very early ’00s, and I’m here for that.  You can call it cheesy all you want; I know full well it secretly gives you goosebumps.
  10. It’s just fun!  Admittedly this is maybe a reason 10th Kingdom wouldn’t work today; it’s much more committed to being a fun romp than getting overly dramatic and serious.  As much as I love a gritty drama, I appreciate the sweetness of this show and dedication to world-building that’s not always there in a sci-fi/fantasy show.

10 Things That Are Problematic AF about 10th Kingdom

  1. Lack of characters/actors of color — admittedly this problem hasn’t gone away, but the issue in 10th Kingdom becomes more pronounced in light of the increasing number of shows today written, directed by, and starring people of color.  The only characters of color are trolls, which is…uh, not a great look.  I also want some LGBTQ fairy tale characters in this.
  2. Jokes about women’s issues — when Wolf is on trial for murder, the argument Virginia sets up in court implies the victim was asking for it.  There’s a lot to unpack here surrounding victim blaming and rape culture.  There are also a few times when Wolf’s monthly transformation is compared to menstruation and it pisses me off.
  3. Representation of the Roma people — literally the only thing they’re here to do is tell fortunes and put curses on people.  It’s such a stereotypical representation (which probably wouldn’t be any different today, honestly) and most of the actors just appear to be vaguely Italian.
  4. Tony — I don’t even know where to start.  First of all, when he’s given 3 wishes, the first one is to enslave his boss’s family, and he feels totally fine hitting on his boss’s wife, who is hypnotized to believe she’s his slave?!??!  SO FUCKING PROBLEMATIC.  His character in general is insufferable in a ’90s sitcom dad kind of way, and he causes like 95% of the issues our heroes encounter.
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  5. The special effects are so bad.  Like, even for the time they were bad.  The human/dog transformation stands out as especially horrendous, but there are also some pretty tacky effects when certain characters are invisible or speaking through mirrors and other reflective surfaces.
  6. Virginia’s wardrobe!  Seriously, skirt + hoodie has never been a thing, so no early 2000s fashion excuses!  As a side note, it also feels extremely dated that Virginia is this sad loser who still lives with her dad at 21 since this seems to be much more common than not today.
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  7. The overacting — in particular, there’s a scene in which people are being poisoned that just hurts to watch.  And not because I feel pity for their plight; I just really want the cringey over-the-top acting to end.
  8. The weird sexual vibes — there’s a scene where Virginia is petting Wolf’s tail that I just don’t get (I mean, I do, but I wish I didn’t).  Also, there’s an awkward amount of attention given to Virginia being a virgin.  Wolf is a virgin too, but that gets so little time compared to the fuss that’s made over Virginia’s lack of sexual experience.
  9. No dragons!  This might not be as glaring if the series didn’t have an entire subplot based on finding Dragon Mountain where THERE ARE NO ACTUAL FUCKING DRAGONS.
  10. The singing ring.  This is absofuckinglutely unforgiveable.  Virginia receives an engagement ring with a pearl that SINGS about true love in an incredibly aggravating falsetto.  This is a dealbreaker as far as I’m concerned, though probably a really good way to annoy the fuck out of your coworkers.

    A CGI-animated pearl with a face sits in a gold and purple ring setting
    FUCK YOU, YOU SMUG LITTLE MOTHERFUCKER.

In spite of its flaws, in my heart I still feel 10th Kingdom deserves a sequel or at least some form of atonement for its vague, cliffhanger-y ending.  If we live in a world where Zoolander can get a sequel 15 years later that no one asked for, who’s to say it won’t happen for a beloved fantasy series with a sprawling, multi-talented cast that’s overly fixated on the sexual experiences of its characters and not quite as subversive as it thinks it is?  HBO, are you listening?

What TV cancellations have left you emotionally devastated and in all likelihood changed the course of your life irreversibly?

Blogging 101, Film Reviews

Hobo with a Shotgun (and Bear Sweatshirt)

The Film:

Hobo with a Shotgun (Appreciate that I was watching this in the middle of the day in a sandwich shop between shifts.)

Where to Watch:

Amazon Prime, Hoopla (shamelessly promoting the shit out of library resources)

The Premise:

A corrupt mob boss rules Scum Town through violence and terror until he encounters Rutger Hauer, the titular hobo with a shotgun (yeah, I know he’s in Blade Runner, but I always think of him as the Huntsman from 10th Kingdom).

The Uncondensed Version:

Our film opens with deceptively cheerful music accompanying shots of the hobo riding the rails, waving at the occasional car, and generally enjoying the sunshine and greenery he passes. All of this exists solely to provide contrast with the environment of Scum Town. There’s graffiti everywhere, street fighting (some of which has been staged for filming), litter filling the streets, and the sounds of nearby gun shots.

A man wearing a beanie hitches a ride on a train, looking serenely at the greenery passing by.
Yeeeeeeeah, there’s no way this movie is going to be about the simple joy of a life spent riding the rails.

The villain of this film arrives on the scene, a really obnoxious mob boss who calls himself “The Drake.”  He’s pursuing a guy with a manhole cover around his neck. After catching this guy, The Drake and his sons (Slick and Ivan) put him back in the manhole, attach a spiky rope to his neck, and drive, thus decapitating him.

At this point the hobo lays low; he just wants to collect bottles and get enough money for a fucking lawn mower (seriously).

Later, the hobo follows Ivan and Slick into a seedy club with deadly bumper cars and other games generally involving blood and torture. The hobo saves a prostitute named Abby from Slick, making a citizen’s arrest and taking him to the police station. At this point, the hobo finds out the hard way that the police are corrupt; he is thrown into a cell. Later, Slick and Ivan arrive, carving the word “SCUM” onto his chest. That’s just rude.

Abby helps the hobo to her apartment and lets him stay for the night. She gives him a sweatshirt that rivals 3 Wolf Moon.

An older man in a warmly lit bedroom sits on a bed, smiling while holding up a sweatshirt with a roaring grizzly bear.
I guess when you’re a hobo, you probably aren’t too picky about the appearance of your sweatshirts.

Then the hobo tells us some facts about bears: They live in a magic circle; You should never hug a bear. It made me wish the movie were Rutger Hauer talking about bears.

In the morning, the hobo leaves the apartment and chews glass for the guy filming street fights. AT LAST he has enough money to buy a lawn mower.

Unfortunately, he arrives at the pawn shop as it’s being robbed. At this point, the hobo becomes the titular hobo with a shotgun, shooting the robbers and saving the people in the pawn shop. What we need now is a montage (even Rocky had a montage) to show the hobo shooting the bad guys and cleaning up the city. And we get it, along with the newspaper headline “Hobo Stops Begging, Demands Change.”

A man wearing a beanie shouts as he points a shotgun towards an unknown target in a shop.
HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN.

In retaliation, Ivan and Slick light a school bus on fire in case anyone is still confused about whether they have any moral scruples. Then The Drake tells the town to kill the entire town’s homeless or he’ll kill all the children. “Bring me that hobo” becomes a line that receives significant use.

The hobo saves Abby again after Ivan and Slick try to kill her in her apartment. Ivan likes to walk around on ice skates, which is a convenient set up for him being electrocuted with a toaster.

Abby ends up in the hospital, where the hobo brings her some flowers in a Dixie cup. He then gives the babies in the hospital the most de-motivational speech: essentially, some day you’ll all be prostitutes, drug dealers, or maybe a hobo with a shotgun.

At this point, The Drake unleashes the Plague (basically robot Nazis), who catch the hobo.

A person wearing a gas mask stands next to wall with religious iconography; in the background, a large tentacle rises up.
The Plague also has some kind of tentacle monster…? Maybe this script was written by Alan Moore?

Now the movie is Abby with a shotgun. She rallies the townspeople by forcing them to confront the nature of being homeless; what does homelessness mean? Who is truly homeless?

The Drake begins a public execution of the hobo, but Abby arrives in the nick of time with the shotgun and a hacked lawnmower. She threatens to shoot his son Ivan (Slick has already died), which doesn’t faze The Drake. He shoots Ivan, then grabs Abby and sticks her hand in the mower (total Romancing the Stone moment). Abby then stabs The Drake repeatedly.

Bizarrely, Abby kills one of the Plague robots; the other tells her she must replace him as a member of the Plague. When she declines, he just walks away.

A woman with a rifle and improvised shield stands confidently in a dark, dusty area outside.
I would have liked to see Abby join the Plague, honestly, if only to figure out what the actual fuck the Plague IS.

Meanwhile, The Drake is miraculously still alive and attempting to escape. The hobo is just about to shoot him when the police arrive and order him to stand down. He shoots The Drake, and then dies when the police open fire. Shortly after, the townspeople arrive and rebel against the corrupt police force, order is restored, etc.

The hobo’s last words: You’re riding shotgun.

The Critique:

This movie looked like it was shot in a 13-year-old’s basement. Maybe it’s supposed to.  Because this movie is a tribute to ‘70s exploitation films, the acting is soooooooooooooo bad; the dialogue is worse.  I don’t really understand how they convinced Rutger Hauer to appear in this movie.  The plot is really predictable except for maybe the sudden appearance of the Plague.  It’s still not clear to me what the Plague IS except for robot Nazis.  Do they work for The Drake or just generally anyone who wants to commit evil acts?  Are they evil fairy godmothers?  THIS IS AN IMPORTANT ISSUE THAT REMAINS UNRESOLVED.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther2/5 Pink Panther heads

Apparently this movie was based on the winning entry in a trailer contest. It probably should have just stayed a trailer.