For a filmmaker who purports to be foremost interested in realism, John Wilson has a knack for absurdity. In Friday night's “How to Track Your Package,” the superlative series finale of Wilson's show, a missing parcel first sends our hero to a shipping center. And when that fails, to a psychic. If you’ve been watching How To for the past few years, this will hardly strike you as an unusual detour. Wilson is the sort of guide who will turn the most straightforward task—say, appreciating wine—into an existential odyssey.
Throughout its three-season run, How To's unpredictability has been one of its greatest joys. (Editor's note: there may be some spoilers ahead.) In the process of investigating how to cover your furniture, Wilson discovered an effort towards foreskin restoration. Also, during an episode on memory, he chanced upon a man consumed with the Mandela effect at the grocery store. His camera is unparalleled at capturing small wonders. Be it a woman in the act of bagging a pigeon or a man dancing atop a moving subway train. Ultimately, How To can be understood as a detective show dressed up as a Kafkaesque tutorial. With Wilson, above all, searching for anything that will make him (and us) say, "Wow." And while the show’s wows often are born from little moments of unexpected comedy, more times than not they naturally lead Wilson back to the most profound subjects.
Like, uh, you know, mortality. How To has, from the start, had the tendency to encounter death in unexpected places—at MTV! Spring Break, for instance, or during Wilson’s quest to find a parking spot—probably as a result of Wilson’s worldview. “Thinking about mortality and grief is baked into the way I perceive things in daily life,” Wilson told me in a Zoom interview. This was following the finale’s premiere at Rockaway Film Festival last weekend. “I tend to take things to their logical extremes, an mortality is the ultimate question with no answer—and that's what I try to orient the show around.”
Fittingly, the finale gets to The End quite quickly. In a consultation about Wilson’s missing package, the psychic pulls the “death card". Then tells him that he has “commitment issues… a lot of commitment issues.” (It's a trait Wilson himself has mentioned in past episodes.) The psychic’s reading turns out to be portentous. A series of dada transitions brings Wilson to Arizona’s Organ Stop Pizza, home of the "largest theatre pipe organ ever created." There, Wilson meets a member of Alcor, a leading cryonics organisation.
How To loves nothing more than a gathering of niche obsessives. And as fate (or shrewd planning on the show's part) would have it, Wilson arrives in Arizona just as Alcor is about to have its 50th anniversary party. Wilson attends the celebration, where he surveys the various guests on why they want to be frozen. There is excitement for the future (“If you see the future as good, wouldn’t you want to be part of it?”), sci-fi fantasising (imagine your head on “a wardrobe of bodies”), and flat-out denial (''I don’t accept that,” one woman says of her father’s death). Many of the people Wilson interviews come off as comically eccentric—but the series, taken in full, gives them context. People, be they Avatar superfans or vacuum enthusiasts, come together and devote themselves to something for connection in the here and now. Also, perhaps, to cope with the ephemerality of existence.
And while Wilson wouldn’t himself pay to have his body and/or head frozen for eternity, he said that he connected with the impulse. The inclination towards preservation, after all, was the seed of his show. Long before he started making How To, Wilson felt compelled to use his video camera to document his surroundings. “Living in New York for so long, you become used to the tragedy of your favourite thing disappearing,” he said. “I just wanted to get ahead of that and preserve as much as I possibly could visually from my own perspective.”
In the grand scheme of things, Wilson’s archive is a narrow record. But more than truly preserving a period in time, these three seasons of How To are testament to how much there always is to marvel at so long as you have your eyes and ears open. After all, when Wilson first started the show, he worried that the magic moments he was capturing weren’t replicable. That he was catching lightning—or collapsed scaffolding, as it were—in a barrel. But by the show’s third season, he came to trust the process. That if he interviewed enough people and his team spent enough time on the street, they’d find gold. “Once we figured it out, it was just a numbers game,” Wilson said. Along the way, he found that actually, “it's much more common that people have a shocking history or obsession than that they're normal in any kind of traditional definition.”
So, near the end of the finale, when the Alcor member Wilson met at Organ Stop Pizza reveals that, as an adolescent, he castrated himself and “cut some nerves in the penis” to deal with unwanted sex drive, Wilson hopes viewers will empathise rather than gawk. “I feel like if you have a long enough conversation with anyone something like this might surface,” he said. “There are extremes in everyone's lives, and that's why the show speaks to a lot of people—because it's a bit of a mirror to their own eccentricities.”
Wilson, though, ever toeing the line between mischievous and sincere, said that he also hopes that that final interview will help fans of the show cope with How To concluding its run. “So much of the show is about the denial of satisfaction in the city because of whatever strange roadblock to getting what you want here,” Wilson said. “And especially with the show ending, that interview about castration, I felt like I wanted to give the viewers the tools to deal with [the impossibility of true satisfaction] in a way.”
“I never personally felt the urge to castrate myself, but if people are having a really hard time dealing with the end of the show, I gave them the tools to do it.”
Originally published at Esquire US
Given the popularity of the John Wick series and its mythos, is it any wonder there would be a spin-off? The trailer for The Continental was released. From the looks of it, it looks like it maintained the action-packed sequences the films were known for. Here's what we can infer from the trailer.
Set in the 70s, we follow a young Winston Scott (played by Colin Woodell). This is all before he became the owner and manager of the Continental New York. Tasked with finding his brother, Frankie (Ben Robson), Young Scott has to contend with some very bad people who are looking for him as well.
Set up as a three-part miniseries, we get to see a young Charon (Ayomide Adegun [RIP Lance Riddick!]), interesting characters like The Adjudicator (Katie McGrath) and—really to hammer home the fact that it's set in the past—the World Trade Centre.
Even more surprising is the appearance of Mel Gibson, who is playing Cormac the manager of the Continental New York.
Given that this is an expansion of John Wick, would we get a glimpse of the titular character? Given that this is a prequel, we may not see Keanu Reeves. But we didn't think there would be a John Wick: Chapter 5 but that has been greenlit so anything can happen.
Aside from The Continental, another spin-off that fans of John Wick can look forward to is Ballerina. Len Wiseman is attached to direct. As for the lead? Ana de Armas is rumoured for the lead. Another is a Sophia-led movie starring Halle Berry and that crossover with Nobody (starring Bob Odenkirk).
If you ask me, it looks like a world without John Wick (let the man retire) will do just fine.
The Continental comes out on Peacock (and maybe on other streaming sites?) on 22 September.
Killers of the Flower Moon took a while to be adapted. The rights to adapt David Grann's book started in 2016 but like any other project, the development of the film was halted due to the global pandemic. Still, the film was finally finished. It made its premiere at the 76th Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2023 and received a nine-minute standing ovation.
While we have to wait a few months to watch it, Apple TV+ unveils the trailer of Killers of the Flower Moon today.
With stirring Native American pow wow chants spliced with dubstep ("Stadium Pow Wow" by The Halluci Nation née A Tribe Called Red), the trailer brings across the palpable tension of a community gripped with terror.
The American Western crime drama (that's a mouthful) is based on the real-life murders that plagued the Osage Nation. Set in the 1920s, the epic is directed and co-produced by Martin Scorsese and stars an ensemble cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, Lily Gladstone and Jesse Plemons.
Given the subject matter, Scorsese involved the Osage Nation during the film's development. In a press release, Scorsese said, "We are thrilled to finally start production on Killers of the Flower Moon in Oklahoma. To be able to tell this story on the land where these events took place is incredibly important and critical to allowing us to portray an accurate depiction of the time and people. We're grateful to Apple, the Oklahoma Film and Music Office and The Osage Nation, especially all our Osage consultants and cultural advisors, as we prepare for this shoot."
In light of the current book bans and revisionisms in America, we are glad that someone made use of the medium to spotlight America's "hidden histories". (Another example was HBO's Watchmen which featured the Tulsa Race Massacre.)
America's history may not strike a chord with Singapore audiences but the cast and the dramatisation of a real-life event should be enough to get butts in seats.
Killers of the Flower Moon is tentatively slated to be in theatres on 6 October and later for online streaming on Apple TV+.
In the acting world, Corey Mylchreest is considered to be in the throes of infancy. He is a relative unknown as far as actors go, but his portrayal as King George III on Queen Charlotte has got him newfound fans and acclaim.
The spin-off from Bridgerton, Queen Charlotte follows the titular queen in two phases of her life. The elder Queen Charlotte is still played by Golda Rosheuvel from the original series, with the younger queen portrayed by India Amarteifio. Cast opposite her is Mylchreest, as the young King George III. The series focuses on their marriage and the effects of King George III's ailment.
Still reeling off from junkets and interviews, Mylchreest has to contend with one more: ours. Thus, a day before his photo shoot with Esquire Singapore, we meet over a Zoom video call for his turn on the hot seat. Mylchreest's hair has grown out, which softens the angles of his mien. He's relaxed, his posture slants, favouring his right, as he sits in what appears to be the nondescript room beneath the attic.
I congratulate Mylchreest on the success of Queen Charlotte and his performance in it and ask, not certain if the question puts him in a spot, because Queen Charlotte is a Bridgerton spin-off, how he feels about the hype around the sex in the series overshadowing the drama, the complex human nature and acting?
"In the eyes of the beholder, that's where the story lies," Mylchreest says. "But that is the point of all storytelling—it is for the audience, not for us. It doesn't really matter what I think; whatever the audience chose to focus on, that is success for the show."
While there were challenges in filming Queen Charlotte's intimate scenes, Mylchreest sees more difficulty in accurately portraying George's mental affliction without bordering on caricature.
"That was something that I was really worried about. We wouldn't be diagnosing King George and that brought a heightened importance to what I think is the antidote to caricature: specificity and detail."
For his role, Mylchreest dives deep into the sea of research. He spoke to a specialist about the script; on whether he was going in the right direction to highlight the moments where George transitioned from confusion to lucidity.
"There was a doctor's report," Mylchreest adds. "A sort of daily report that was sent to Charlotte. They were delivered later in his life but it was still useful to read. It was so factual, so black-and-white. It'd describe the days when George would talk non-stop for 12 hours and would start to foam at the mouth because he has been speaking for so long. Then, there was an entry that said, though his mind was still ravaged, George seemed physically at peace.
"It's very clinical, without emotions, these documents, but the pain of that moment seemed to scream out. By then I'd done a lot of research and it was then that my empathy peaked. I just wanted to hug him. He didn't have an easy life by any means."
Like Mylcreest's research into KingGeorge III, I've embarked on my own into Corey Mylcreest.
Search results on him reveal myriad interviews of him doing press for Queen Charlotte. There is only one social media platform that he's on—Instagram—and on his feed, his first post is dated 7 April 2022. The casting of Queen Charlotte was announced the day before, 6 April 2022. For a Gen Z, you'd think that he would be more active on social media.
"I have a private account," Mylchreest says, "but the last time I was on it was maybe four months ago, and before that, I wasn't on it for about three or four years. I think I jumped off it in 2019 because I find Instagram, or social media in general, a hotbed for procrastination. I don't think it's necessarily the healthiest place for people's mental health."
But Mylchreest sees benefits in getting on social media. It's a fantastic vehicle for getting the word of Queen Charlotte and any other projects he's part of out there. "If I was going to be on it, I'd want to make it limited in some way. Not only to protect my own privacy and the people around me that I love, but also to protect my own work ethic."
Is that part of the reason for privacy? That if the public were to know more about your personal life it would affect how you'd portray other lives on screen.
"That's a really good question," Mylchreest says. He thinks about this for a while. "I think that there's an inherent usefulness in the mystery of someone. Especially when you use your appearance like an instrument. Sometimes the less someone knows of you, the more powerful your character portrayal can be."
He highlights an example: people who have known him all his life, would watch a film that he is on, and then in the slivers of the act points out, That's Corey! I saw a glimpse of him. "For people who aren't initiated into my private life, I think those kinds of moments can pull you out of the story. To tell a story requires the audience to suspend disbelief. A forensic knowledge of the actor can break that."
But this is what he is willing to reveal about his life: he can't remember when it started but, as that old saw with any origin story of many actors, Mylchreest has always been interested in acting since young. "I remember doing plays at school and it was the most fun I'd have in that week. I gladly stayed on even when it was time to go home."
There's a quote from a composer that his mom used to tell Mylchreest: the thing that you should do in your life is the thing that makes the hours feel like seconds.
Time's steady beat quickens as Mylchreest enrolled into Guildhall [School of Music and Drama]. Each Saturday, he would spent five hours learning advanced lessons like Stanislavski's acting techniques; discovering that there was method behind what you see on stage. It soon dawned on Mylchreest that drama school was a possibility. That there will be no half-measures in pursuing an acting career. "I didn't even try to go to the university. I knew this was going to be something that I wanted to do and I did for four years of training at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts)."
While incredibly supportive, his father professed concerns and suggested that he get a vocational degree as a backup. "That came from a place of love and concern," Mylchreest is quick to add. "I understand where he was coming from. Maybe if I were to have children, I'd do what my dad did."
His mother, on the other hand, championed his decision. She grew up in a working-class environment in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, and escaped on a full music scholarship. "She understood what it was like to have such love for the creative and the need and hunger to dive into it."
"I think that there's an inherent usefulness in the mystery of someone. Especially when you use your appearance like an instrument. Sometimes the less someone knows of you, the more powerful your character portrayal can be."Corey Mylchreest on keeping a private life
Mylchreest graduated from RADA in spring 2020: not the best time for launching an entertainment career when the world was ground to a halt. All things considered, the young actor was lucky; he already had an agent before the lockdown. The Sandman would pass his way. Mylchreest never read the comic series the show is based on but he met with casting director Lucinda Seisen and auditioned for the lead, Dream. After a few callbacks, Mylchreest was about to go in for a chemistry test when the decision came down the line that "he was too young". They had him read for other parts.
"And then, about four months later, I got an email offering me the role of Adonis," Mylcreest says. "I think it was a pity hire because they knew that I had auditioned many times and didn't get anything."
It was a role so small that if the character wasn't in it, it wouldn't have any ramifications on the story. But there are no small roles, Mylcreest reminds me. Only small actors. Mylcreest came up with a whole backstory for Adonis—why he was there that evening, why he needed to be admitted to see the Magus.
His appearance as Adonis lasted less than 30 seconds. He had two lines—"Oh, the Magus insists, does he?" and "Can we still come back tomorrow?"—which he captioned on his Instagram: "'Best two lines delivered on screen'—my mum".
Jokes aside, this foray into a multi-million dollar production would prove useful. In the past, Mylchreest acted on intimate sets of short films. For The Sandman, he is awed by the hugeness of it all. The scene was filmed at Joyce Grove, a Jacobethan-style mansion that Mylchreest pointed out was where Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, spent most of his childhood at.
"There was a rumour at the time that Harry Styles was going to buy the place, which everyone seemed excited by, but I just remember being completely racked with nerves." He was a speck in the grand scheme of things; surrounded by 60-70 extras, all dressed in 1920s ball gowns and three-piece suits. Restored cars from the era criss-cross in the background. Massive lights bathed the expanse of the set; cranes with attached expensive cameras swept and swivelled. A hubbub of different departments; cogs in the film machine, setting up for the shoot.
"But to be honest, by the time the camera started rolling, I was so nervous that all the backstory just flew out my head." Sheepishness creeps into the edges of his face. "I was just glad that I knew the lines. I was told to, at a certain point, turn and deliver my line but I could never quite see where the camera was and we had to do it a few times. I felt really bad for the director and everyone because we had to reset everything."
Regardless, this experience prepared him for his first day at Queen Charlotte. "I was incredibly nervous when I started filming Queen Charlotte but I'd have been even more so if I hadn't filmed The Sandman.
But his roles in The Sandman and Queen Charlotte are vastly different and the necessity for preparation and research into the latter warranted more attention.
On the set of Queen Charlotte, before shooting commenced each day, Mylchreest would run through scenes and ideas with India Amarteifio to make sure that they are on the same page. They would run the scene in the hotel they stayed at or over the phone or Zoom but what's important to Mylchreest is the preparation needed for a shoot.
"I say this with acknowledgement that I am just starting my career, so I know very little in comparison to others who have been acting far longer. On Queen Charlotte, I found it useful to know the scene inside and out. I would record the lines of the other person and run through a slew of questions for the scene."
This allows Mylchreest to figure out the "points of concentration". The process could determine his character's intention; where he might go to and come from; what the relationship with the other player is like. "What this [preparedness] allowed me was once to earn my own trust in the moments that matter. Once I got onto set I have this whole host of possibilities in front of me that I could then let go of because I've done them a million times. I don't have to worry about lines or where it sits in the story.
"There is only the way forward."
Mylchreest tasked himself to read Andre Roberts' bio on King George III and accessed 20,000 of the king's personal writings. There was another avenue of exploration into King George III that Mylchreest could venture into and that is the portrayal of the king by other actors before him.
The depictions of King George III are many and mostly unkind. He's been played by Jonathan Groff in the musical Hamilton; Nigel Hawthorne in The Madness of King George; Tom Hollander in the mini-series John Adams... the list, albeit short, goes on.
"I wasn't sure whether [watching another actor's portrayal] will be a good idea because sometimes you can start overthinking your own performance. I saw some clips of Lin Manuel's Hamilton and The Madness of King George and both of those depictions feel like they exist in completely different worlds to the George that we see in Queen Charlotte. If anything, it gave me confidence because I knew that I was going in a different direction with him. There would be almost no comparison."
Queen Charlotte delves more into the king's hobbies of gardening and science, with a focus on astronomy. He's known as Farmer George; the king has an assemblage of scientific equipment and wax lyrical about the constellated wilderness.
A crown too heavy for his head; his head full of stars, the mind of King George III belies more than just "madness".
Still, his mental health is a lightning rod which provides conflict to Queen Charlotte's narrative. There are swaths of text about King George III's manic episodes—he would often repeat himself; his vocabulary became more florid and complex; he shook hands with a tree because he believed it to be the King of Prussia—these and other instances baffled doctors of the time. Ranging from bipolar disorder to porphyria, there wasn't a conclusive diagnosis of the nature of the king's malady.
In Queen Charlotte, the character experiences bouts of lunacy and the show is careful not to define it. Near the end of episode three, taken by mania, George removes his clothing in the silence of his garden. A smattering of stars lights the night sky. Arms raised and eyes bright with awe, George calls out to Venus, "I knew you would come." We do not see what George saw that evening but his frenzy is evident.
In another interview, Mylcreest mentioned that before his scene, he'd listened to the theme song from Succession to get into the role of King George III. Given his familiarity with the HBO drama, how did he find the finale?
"I haven't watched it. I started watching [the series] about a year and a half, two years ago... which is already very late, I know. It was the final episode of season one where [Jeremy Strong's] character (Kendall Roy) had this look of resignation where he realised that he has to return to be under his father's wing. There was an immense sense of claustrophobia; this feeling of being trapped and then this track came on.
"I paused the scene, screenshotted it and taped that image on my character book." Mylcreest picked a notebook off-screen of the Zoom call and brings it into frame. He points to an affixed image of a crestfallen Kendell Roy. "I saw that and I thought that's George or, at least, that's an element of George."
And because Mylcreest's process was to listen to his playlist on repeat when he does his research, he's unable to watch any more episodes of Succession. "It's very important for me that the song didn't remind me of anything else if I was preparing for a scene. I needed to subconsciously make that song be just for that." So, he stepped away from further updating himself on the Roys' shenanigans until recently, after Queen Charlotte wrapped, Mylcreest resumed catching up on Succession. He's halfway through season two if you must know, so no, he doesn't have a take on the finale but he sums up the series in a word: "phenomenal".
In any project that Mylchreest takes on, the result is a collaborative effort. "It takes a village to raise a child and every piece of art is a collective baby. If I feel invalidated for my work, then that's not a great feeling but I don't feel that way at all. I understand that the actors are the face of the show but there are hundreds, if not, thousands of people who work on it—remove a few of them and the entire thing falls apart."
He recounts a piece of advice that his acting teacher imparted: "When you're in a scene, be selfish to be generous". It is an old game of improv, the basic tenets of creation between two parties, where, via generous contribution and its genial acceptances, a scene blossoms.
This give-and-take makes for a stronger scene. To paraphrase a certain quartet of musical scousers—"the love you take is equal to the love you make."
And these exchanges in Queen Charlotte are what gave the series its chewy centre—relationship dynamics worthy of viewers' investments; rapports that even spill over into the cast's personal lives after production has ended.
"I'm so proud of everyone's work in Queen Charlotte and, truly I mean, this from the bottom of my heart, I have friends for life."
It's not every day that you see this level of graciousness. If there was ever a show of congeniality, it was usually virtue signalling. But in interviews and in behind-the-scenes videos, Mylcreest is a mensch. He is effusive about his co-stars and what they bring to the table, he's self-deprecating.
Needless to say, the landscape of Mylcreest's auditioning process has completely changed for him. Queen Charlotte has opened up doors that would have been very firmly shut to him. Mylcreest knows how indebted he is to the show.
As to what is next for Mylcreest? At the time of the interview, he empathically says that he doesn't know. He is, as he calls it, "in a state of unknown" at the moment.
"There are some things in the pipeline that I'm waiting to hear updates on," Mylcreest says. "I'm meeting people for something incredibly exciting." Then he adds this bit that catches me off-guard. "And even if the project moves on without me, the world will have some brilliant pieces of art coming their way."
This period of unknowability is a terrifying prospect but while others see only the damning absence; Mylcreest sees a space of possibilities, as countless as the stars above.
Photographer: Zoe McConnell
Photo Assistant: Carissa Harrod
Digi tech: Nick Graham
Stylist: Thea Lewis-Yates
Styling assistant: Jamie Fernandez
Groomer: Stefan Bertin c/o The Wall Group using 111 SKIN
Producer & Casting Director: Even Yu @ APEX Communications
Production Manager: Guoran Yu @ APEX Communications
Production Coordinator (UK): Kate Zhu
Location: Lordship Park
Broadcasted live from São Paulo, Brazil, Netflix Tudum unveiled previews for their shows throughout 2023 and beyond. Teasers range from the live-action One Piece to the announcement of Linda Hamilton joining the cast of Stranger Things' fifth season. We pore through the announcements made and present the ones that matter.
Remember the English live-action remake of Death Note? What about the English live-action remake of Cowboy Bebop? The last two adaptations didn't fair great but this is Netflix, damn it, they will perfect the formulae! And from the teaser above for the best-selling manga, One Piece. It looks to be brimming with... potential? We'll see when the full-length trailer drops next.
Speaking of adaptations...
The problems with the M Night Shyamalan-helmed movie were a-plenty: the whitewashing in its casting; the lacklustre bending; the grimdark tone of the film. Producers of the TV series will adhere more to the cartoon series... except that Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the co-creators of the original Avatar series left the TV adaptation over creative differences.
The ghost of Battle Royale returns with... a cast announcement. New players join the second season like Kang Ha-neul and Park Sung-hoon, along with last season's cast—Lee Jung-jae (hopefully without the new dye job); Lee Byung-hun; Wi Ha-jun. We did not see Jung HoYeon mentioned in the announcement. We know of her fate in the last series but a viewer could hope that through the magic of disbelief and a narrative loophole, Jung would return.
When the production of a real-life Squid Game was announced, there was a furore about the morality of staging a real-life showcase about capitalism and class systems. We doubt that Netflix's Squid Game The Challenge would kill off the losers (right?) the show came close to doing so. Reports about contestants' "inhumane conditions" came to light with some of them needing medical aid on site.
Still, we reckon there would be eyeballs to the real-life competition. But The Challenge has a steep hill to overcome as YouTube's Mr Beast came out with his Squid Game-inspired challenge a year ago.
Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer-Prize-winning book was adapted into a limited TV series of the same name. Directed by Shawn Levy (the director of Night of the Museum), we get a first look at the WWII four-parter about a blind French woman, Marie-Laure (played by Aria Mia Loberti) and a German soldier named Werner (Louis Hofmann), whose paths cross in occupied France. The series is expected to be released 2 November 2023.
A Terminator alumnus joins Stranger Things. Linda Hamilton, a badass who rivals the likes of Ellen Ripley, joins the cast for the fifth and final season of the ground-breaking series. No word yet on whom she would play but it should give the show a strong sense of female empowerment when it comes out.
Will this adaptation from Liu Cixin's seminal work redeem David Benioff and DB Weiss? Best remembered for their work behind Game of Thrones and the dead-before-it-was-made TV series, Confederate (an American alternate history where the slaves never got their freedom), Benioff and Weiss will finally make a comeback with this sci-fi series that will stream on Netflix.