Couch Tomatoes is back: Rotten Tomatoes brand-new TV- and streaming-focused show has returned with its second episode. And since it s October, we re focusing on all things spooky. Rotten Tomatoes host Naz Perez sits down with a trio of horror experts — Collider s Perri Nemiroff and BuzzFeed Unsolved hosts Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej — to discuss the biggest breaking TV news and chat about the latest season of American Horror Story: the slasher-movie homage 1984.Who s the season s real villain? Will Coven s witches return? And is there a time travel twist? Watch our panel discuss these questions and more, plus share their current TV recommendations, from streaming horror anthologies to delightfully bingeable Japanese reality shows.With each episode of Couch Tomatoes, we tackle the hottest trending topics and biggest TV and streaming news and moments, dive deep into a major series or event, and provide Fresh picks of great shows to help you cut through the clutter and only binge the best.American Horror Story: 1984 airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.
Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol is one of the most-adapted tales in the history of the English language, and Steven Knight, creator of gritty period series Peaky Blinders and Taboo, is the latest talent to have taken on the task.We all know the story: crotchety miser Ebenezer Scrooge has a Christmas Eve night visitation from his dead former partner Jacob Marley, who warns him of three ghosts who will attend him as he walks through visions of Christmases past, present, and future.This new FX presentation, directed by Nick Murphy (The Awakening), stars Guy Pearce as Scrooge and Andy Serkis as a grumpy Ghost of Christmas Past and promises a darker take on the 1843 novella that made a superstar of its author: A Christmas Carol is a spine-tingling immersion into Scrooge s dark night of the soul, the promotional materials promise. It is a darker retelling. There s no question, Serkis told Rotten Tomatoes. It s a unique retelling in that respect because Scrooge in this is not some sort of old miser character. He s actually a tough businessmen who is in denial and doesn t want to really engage with his own moral relativism. We caught up with the stars to get a feel for the new adaptation — and it indeed feels scary. Here are five ways this Christmas Carol one-ups previous efforts.1. This Cool Scrooge Resonates With Modern Audiences(Photo by Kurt Iswarienko/FX)Scrooge is not as crotchety here as in previous interpretations of the character; in fact, the character may resemble more real-life people than ever before. Pearce offered a personal assessment of his character. They really wanted somebody this time who still had been affected in life the way that we know Scrooge has been, but that his demeanor and his presence in the world was more of a businessman, as a leader who is a kind of a cocky, confident, swaggering kind of asshole, basically, Pearce told Rotten Tomatoes. I think it was important for Nick, our director, and for Steven, our writer, to get away from the crotchety old man who exhibits on the surface the pain and damage that he s experienced in his life. And the fact that he s turned away from the world and plays somebody who s actually up front to the world and says, Come on, bring it on. Bring on your questions about who I am and what it is, because I ve got a really good response for you. And kind of like that, be a little bit more affronting and aggressive. And so, in a way, we still get to the point where we drag him through his past, and we make him look at the things he s done to people, and we crack open the soul that is a damaged soul. 2. This Ghost of Christmas Past Plays Dirty(Photo by Robert Viglasky/FX)But his Scrooge will face a harder fight in Knight s version, Pearce confirmed: It s a tougher journey because the Ghost of Christmas Past is a really hard nut to crack. The Ghost of Christmas Past is jaded, the character description offers. He’s been sent to make lost souls repent before, why should Scrooge be any different? He prods and pokes where it hurts, transforming himself into those known to his charge, finding a place of pain, shame and self-knowledge. But can he get Scrooge to recognize himself, and repent? 3. The Ghost of Christmas Present Has a Much More Personal Relationship With Scrooge(Photo by Robert Viglasky/FX)Charlotte Riley appears as the Ghost of Christmas Present, while Jason Flemyng is the Ghost of Christmas Future. Both ghosts are updated here with new twists on the characters. She plays my sister who has died some years before, Pearce said, and she has now come back as the Ghost of Christmas Present. And — particularly after the ruthlessness of Andy Serkis Ghost of Christmas Past, who shape-shifts into all sorts of characters through my past, and he s really tough on me — then she comes in as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and it s my long lost dead sister, so it s so emotional and so touching and painful. And then it s capped off with Jason playing sort of ruthless again, but silent like the silent-killer kind of attitude, as the Ghost of Christmas Future. 4. Steven Knight s Take Is Indeed Chilling(Photo by Robert Viglasky/FX)One of the most unsettling features of the new story is how closely it hews to issues — and personalities — we face today, which is a very intentional choice. Serkis said he knew he was in for something special when he heard Knight was attached. When I heard that there was another version of Christmas Carol being made, I kind of thought, Wow, OK. Again? Another one?' he said. But as soon as I knew that Steven Knight was writing it, I knew that now, This is going to be an interesting take, because I knew this was going to be the beginning of a journey into his exploration of Dickens in other stories as well, which is the case. Knight and the stars had previously talked about stripping down the story, which Serkis expounded on for Rotten Tomatoes. When we say stripping down, it was more about not getting bogged down in the sort of tropes of a costume drama, Victorian drama, and allowing it to live afresh as a really contemporary piece of writing, he said. And therefore, and so, even though you re what you, of course, allowing the visuals, you do that work, you want to feel that the character is alive and very present and not sort of imagining what it might be like to have been alive in the 19th century. You re not doing that. You re actually saying these are people, people are people, and we still have the same issues, problems. We need to unpack the difficulties of the human condition in this, in a very modern way to make this story resonate with a fresh audience. 5. Serkis Costuming Challenge Continues Here Even If He s Not a CG-Enhanced Character(Photo by Robert Viglasky/FX)Serkis, known especially for his CG-enhanced performances like Gollum and Caesar in the Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes franchises, faced a different sort of challenge here. [The costume] was so heavy. It was like going from the sublime to the ridiculous. I couldn t possibly have more makeup or costume to bear, but it was great, actually. It was nice to play a character in the flesh, and it was a particularly challenging character, not least because it was like sensory deprivation actually wearing this costume. I had long locks of hair and an additional beard. I had an eye that I couldn t see out of. I had scars all over my face. I had long nails, so once I got into costume, I was able to kind of get into the character and stay there. I had to. To compound his costuming issues, they filmed in summer. It was pretty brutal at times, Serkis said. I just had to at least take the hat off and get the top layer off as much as I could. But — actor problems. A Christmas Carol airs Thursday, December 19 at 7:30 on FX.Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.
Behind the Zero(Photo by Lionsgate)When superstar YouTuber and world-class dumbass Logan Paul stumbled into the international spotlight last year for disrespecting a dead body he found in Japan’s Suicide Forest, adults of the world, for whom the kid-friendly world of YouTube performers like him is like a bizarre, inscrutable foreign language they do not speak, were once again flummoxed.They wondered how a toxic jock like Paul a quintessential Ugly American barely into his 20s and, as his Japanese misadventures proved, not the savviest character could amass a budding entertainment empire with millions of adoring subscribers.As parents of small, YouTube-loving children like myself can wearily attest, however, quality isn’t exactly an important criteria for the six-and-under set when they log on, looking for something to gaze at for a while. It’s usually enough to find something sufficiently broad to appeal to pre-critical minds desperate for loud noises, bright colors, and kinetic movements to fill their sensation-craving heads.(Photo by Lionsgate)This is where YouTube superstar Fred, as played by young actor Lucas Cruikshank, comes in. The astonishing and, sadly, enduring popularity of this character reveals the generational disconnect at the heart of YouTube stardom. To kids, Fred is a digital-age Pied Piper that small children apparently find endlessly amusing. The three-minute video Fred Goes Swimming has been seen over 70 million times. I imagine at least some of those views came from sadists using it as torture to extract information from unwilling sources.To adults, Fred’s nasal, nails-on-a-chalkboard whine is a buzzing, intense, nuclear-power irritant that’s unbearable even in short, manic bursts. Yet someone nevertheless imagined it would be a good idea to extend Fred’s widely and rightfully hated shtick to feature length. Because the small, undiscriminating children who constitute Fred’s disturbingly vast fanbase are not professional film critics, generally, the end result, 2010’s Fred: The Movie, earned the dreaded Zero on Rotten Tomatoes.Here’s a quick tip: as fellow The Zeros entry Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie illustrates all too vividly, if something has to tell you that it’s a movie in its title, it’s probably not much of a movie. Fred: the Movie is no exception, but it’s also a failure and an embarrassment on every other level as well.The Zero(Photo by Lionsgate)The film opens with a flurry of Fred’s patented fourth-wall-breaking, squealing-directly-at-the-audience shenanigans as he introduces us to his world, which is suffused with loneliness and despair at a level seldom seen outside Todd Solondz films. Understandably friendless high schooler Fred spends his days stalking crush Judy (visibly embarrassed British pop star Pixie Lott), getting relentlessly bullied at school, pining for the return of a dad who abandoned him but who appears in fantasies as a muscle-bound, endlessly aggressive John Cena (who seems to be playing himself, although that’s never established explicitly), and doting on a sloppy, alcoholic mother (Saturday Night Live’s Siobhan Fallon) who is perpetually hungover, bleary-eyed, and in need of a nap after another regrettable, drunken one night stand.The film centers on its protagonist s Quixotic attempts to win the heart of his crush by finding a way for them to sing together, a process that mostly involves Fred screaming semi-coherently while talking compulsively to a camera that he rightfully treats as his only friend.Fred: The Movie deviates so dramatically from the template of even the flimsiest, most perfunctory children’s movies that it threatens at times to devolve into an avant-garde stream of consciousness. It doesn’t feel like we’re being entertained by an exuberant, if divisive, goofball. Instead, it feels like we’re being given a window into the tortured psyche and feverish, myopic imagination of someone genuinely unhinged. This isn’t a geek’s fun adventure to track down the girl of his dreams; it s a nervous breakdown in cinematic form, a waking nightmare from which Fred can never escape.Fred seems incapable of processing reality. When Judy and her parents move, he thinks she’s been kidnapped by Asians. When a man talks to him in Spanish, he assumes the stranger is a space alien and that he’s gone insane and is no longer able to understand human language. Every misunderstanding sparks yet another helium-pitched tantrum that’s drawn out sadistically to get this baby just barely to feature length.(Photo by Lionsgate)As played by Cruickshank, Fred’s baseline is screaming, writhing, look-at-me hysteria. There’s no way that could be sustainable over the course of a feature film. It’s not even sustainable over the course of three minutes.Nevertheless, the filmmakers assume audiences won t tire of Fred yelling at the top of his lungs about whatever he’s freaking out about at any given moment. The character’s popularity on YouTube unfortunately backs up that assertion when, in fact, Fred’s obnoxiousness leaves you pining for supporting characters that might provide even the briefest respite from the titular abomination.As if to acknowledge that even Cruickshank himself and the target audience for Fred: The Movie will grow weary of Fred, Cruickshank plays a dual role as a vaguely metal-head burnout named Derf, who’s more appealing and less annoying than Fred pretty much by default. Fred is so insufferable that he not only requires a strong comic foil, but an entire world of characters who are not him, just to be bearable.Fred: The Movie isn’t completely worthless, though. There’s a germ of a good idea in the weird fantasy sequences involving John Cena. It’s the only time the film’s half-assed surrealism and lazy absurdity pays off. The wrestling superstar commits to this silliness, and to incongruous bursts of paternal concern, with a deadpan commitment that foreshadows his unexpected evolution into a sought-after comic actor later in the decade.The movie would be easier to take if it had any underlying sympathy for its protagonist. But it sure feels like the film itself would shove Fred in a locker, give him a wedgie, and subject him to all manner of good-natured and not-so-good-natured bullying if it had an opportunity to. Fred: The Movie is a weirdly sour, misanthropic endeavor that takes unseemly delight in piling one humiliation after another onto its obnoxious protagonist.(Photo by Lionsgate)The movie really hits a nadir when Fred finally makes it to Judy’s party and, after being humiliated by bullies in front of his mocking classmates, proceeds to vomit profusely on Judy’s chest before fleei