Mini-Review : Countdown (2019 Film) – For Everyone Who Thought Final Destination Was Too Exciting

This movie is an uninspired knock-off and I hate it.

SUMMARY (Spoilers, but who gives a crap)

There’s an app that tells you when you’re going to die, down to the second. However, even if you try to avoid your fate, it ensures that you die, because the “user agreement” specifically says that you can’t use the information to avoid your fate.

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What a normal looking loading screen for an app that does 1 single thing. 

Quinn (Elizabeth Lail) a nurse with a harassing boss, a dead mom, a somewhat estranged sister, and no personality, downloads the app after a patient tells her that it’s real and then he dies. She finds out that she’s set to die in 3 days. She tries to remove the app from her phone and meets Matt (Jordan Calloway), who conveniently has a slightly shorter countdown and is also freaked out. They go to see a priest who tells them that the app is actually a demonic curse by the demon Ozhin, who gets to torment them until their deaths because they tried to avoid their fate… by an app that Ozhin apparently created. The curse can only be broken by proving the app wrong, which Quinn does by killing herself in a way that allows her to be revived, but then there’s a sequel hook anyway because f*ck this movie.

END SUMMARY

Remember Final Destination, a film series containing a number of entertainingly elaborate deaths designed to ensure that people can’t really cheat their fate? Didn’t you wish that most of those deaths had been sudden or simple and off-screen? Then this is the movie for you. Rather than elaborate death traps, we occasionally get flashes of a demon in cameras or mirrors, but nothing he does is ever really that scary or creepy, unless the victims participate in it. Even then, that’s like 10 minutes of the movie, max. Most of the film is just people trying to figure out how to get into the phone and seeing if altering the code changes your fate. There are like 3 different pointless subplots which seem cobbled together so that the runtime could reach 90 minutes, including Quinn trying to kill her boss so that his app is wrong, because he’s a sexual harasser. I mean, I wouldn’t mourn him, but the fact that she finds out that hell is real and then plans to commit murder kind of suggests she isn’t smart. Maybe go get a blessing and baptism from the priest and enjoy eternal paradise, cuz apparently Catholicism is incidentally the correct religion?  

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The moral is to read User Agreements.

The biggest problem is the premise: The App tells you you’re going to die, but if you try to avoid it, you just get killed at the same time as you would have died if the app never existed in the first place. In other words, you’re not cheating anything or getting any benefit. Apparently, Ozhin created this just because it gives him the ability to mess with people. Not to drag them to hell or to steal their souls, just to mess with them. So a demon creates a very popular application which exposes the fact that apparently Heaven and Hell are undeniably real and that’s just to mess with a handful of people who were going to die anyway.  It’s just so damned dumb.

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VelociPastor: Cancel the Oscars, the Winner is Here

WATCH THIS MOVIE.

The Joker On The Sofa

There’s a movie about a Priest with dinosaur powers fighting ninjas and it’s everything that description would promise… and more.

SUMMARY

I’m sorry, did you need more than a PRIEST with DINOSAUR POWERS fighting NINJAS?

Look, here’s the trailer.

You’re welcome. You’re. Welcome.

For those of you who can’t watch it now, here’s the gist:

Doug Jones (Greg Cohan) is a Priest whose parents are killed by a car bomb. To deal with the hit to his faith, he heads to China, where he finds a relic that causes him to turn into a dinosaur when he’s really angry or hungry. After returning to America, he saves a hooker named Carol (Alyssa Kempinski), who convinces him to use his powers to kill evil people. It turns out that some of those people are ninjas. Also, Aurelio Voltaire is in it and I’m told that means something.

END SUMMARY

This…

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Oscar Review – Missing Link

The studio behind Kubo and the Two Strings, ParaNorman, and Coraline brings us a story of a lonely sasquatch. 

SUMMARY

 It’s 1886 and Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) is a cryptozoologist (minus the scientist part) who dreams of being in the “Society of Great Men.” He makes a bet with the head of the society, Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry), to prove the existence of the Sasquatch. Frost journeys to the Pacific Northwest and quickly finds the Bigfoot (Zach Galifianakis), who reveals he sent a letter to Frost asking for help. The Bigfoot is lonely and asks for Frost’s aid in finding more of its kind in the form of Yeti (Emma Thompson). They are aided by Frost’s ex-girlfriend Adelina (Zoe Saldana) and chased by Piggot-Dunceby’s minion Stenk (Timothy Olyphant). 

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The bigfoot is the one in the middle.

END SUMMARY

So, most of the other films by Laika, the studio that made this film, have been fairly dark in tone, whereas this movie is notably lighter. I think that might have biased me a little bit against this movie, because I was constantly waiting for the boom to be lowered. While there are quite a number of fairly dark moments, including a number of near-death scenes involving firearms, it still was overall a lighthearted film. However, despite my expectations being subverted, I did find this movie extremely charming. 

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Far fewer soulless mask people.

First, the animation is exactly as great as you would expect from Laika, with so much attention to detail that I honestly don’t understand how this could have been done without driving most of the animators insane. According to the production notes, there were 110 sets alone for this movie, as well as scenes featuring rain, snow, and sand, all of which interact with the characters. Seriously, who has the dedication to make a film like this shot by shot? Laika, apparently, and it is amazingly well done.

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This is in a stop-motion film. Amazing.

Second, the movie has some good humor in it. Most of it is childish humor, but since it’s a movie for children, that tracks. Zach Galifianakis’s performance as Mr. Link the Bigfoot contains a level of innocence and yearning that somehow comes through when combined with the very elaborate visuals. Perhaps the funniest one-liners, however, come from the very disaffected and sarcastic Yeti Queen played by Emma Thompson. Several of them did have me laughing out loud. 

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She’s so sassy.

Last, while the plot is simple, the movie mostly focuses on the feelings of its main characters as they go through the adventure. We get a lot of good character moments which make them feel real to us, despite the fact that they are animated. The art style helps with this, giving everyone exaggerated features which allow us to more easily capture their feelings. Everyone has an arc, even if the arc is small or contrary to what we expect, and it allows us to feel like they were all really together on this adventure. It’s a basic tool of storytelling that Laika seems to understand completely and it helps. 

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There’s a lot of stuff about friendship and such.

Overall, solid film. I mean, it’s a kids movie and I don’t want it to win best animated film (I Lost My Body, which I’ll review soon, is better), but it’s still worth seeing if you have little ones.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Doctor Whosday – S12 E4 “Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror”

The Doctor and Fam meet with the Man Who Invented the 20th Century.

SUMMARY

Nikola Tesla (Goran Višnjić) and his aide Dorothy Skerritt (Haley McGee) are attempting to gain funding for a new project, but is interrupted by reports of a problem at the Niagara plant. After finding out that parts are missing, Tesla finds a small glowing orb and sees a humanoid figure attack him. He, along with Ms. Skerritt, are rescued by the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), who reveals that the orb is an alien device. The Doctor, Tesla, Skerritt, and the Fam (Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill), get attacked by the same figure, but they manage to escape. Following Tesla to his New York office, they find that Tesla is being protested by many people and spied upon by agents of Thomas Edison (Robert Glenister). 

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Hey, it’s image recognition on a Tesla that actually works!

The Doctor confronts Edison, only for the same mysterious figure to appear and kill everyone in Edison’s lab except the man himself. They manage to trap the figure, who is revealed to be a giant scorpion in a bodysuit. The Doctor tries to warn Yaz and Tesla of the threat, but they’re abducted. The scorpion creatures are revealed to be a race of interstellar thieves known as the Skithra, ruled over by a queen (Aniji Mohindra). They’ve been tracking Tesla to try and have him repair their ship, choosing him because he was the only scientist able to detect their signal. The Doctor pulls Tesla and Yaz back from the ship and uses Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower to shoot beams of electricity to drive off the Skithra’s ship. Yaz is saddened to learn that Tesla’s future is unchanged by the events of the episode, and that he still died penniless and mostly unappreciated. 

END SUMMARY

Much as how the last episode felt like a poorer version of “Voyage of the Damned,” this episode feels like a poorer version of one of the figure-centric episodes like “Vincent and the Doctor” or “The Girl in the Fireplace” and suffers from the exact same problem as the last one: Nothing ever makes the impact it should. The episode constantly feels like the team is running from place to place only for the Doctor to deliver a short exposition about its importance or the importance of the people in it. While the Doctor usually explains things to companions, this episode felt a lot like overkill in that department, mostly because she was talking AT the listeners like they were audience surrogates, rather than WITH them like they were characters in the same scene. 

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They literally run down all the stuff that exists in New York at this time period.

What may upset me the most is that I was seriously anticipating this episode. Nikola Tesla was an underappreciated genius who either did, or was rumored to have done, some of the craziest stuff in the history of science. There is so much you could work with in an episode like this that would be both interesting and potentially scientifically accurate, but this time they focused instead on his relationship with Thomas Edison. Now, it’s hard to talk about Tesla without bringing up Edison, due to the confirmed occasions in which Edison screwed Tesla over, the most famous of which was not giving him a promised $50,000 reward mentioned in this episode. But it would have been so much more interesting to just focus on the mind of a mad genius, rather than have to bring up and explain an already-existing conflict and try to show it and also the alien plotline. Instead, we basically just get a pair of half-portraits of the good parts of Tesla and the bad parts of Edison. Rather than seeing them as people in the episode, they’re both just the archetypes the writers wanted to associate with them.

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Even while Edison is trying to help, he has to slander Tesla.

Now, Thomas Edison, while a giant d*ck, was not a total villain. He got his start in technology by rescuing a small child from a runaway train, leading the boy’s father to give him a job at the telegraph office, which allowed him to fund independent experiments in chemistry and electricity. He invented a ton of devices and was one of the first people to encourage funding of science for the sake of science. Unlike Tesla, Edison vowed never to make weapons or sell them, believing that non-violence was the only correct way to resolve conflict (something this episode directly contradicts).  Tesla, while he did have much more noble goals in regards to helping the world through his research, also believed in some less-progressive ideas, like eugenics. They both are extremely interesting people because they were so complicated.

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Reminder: The guy on the right tried to make a Death Ray, not a Hug Ray.

This episode just feels like another missed opportunity. I like the message that the episode takes against people like the Skithra who just use the work of others rather than producing themselves, but it gets muddled when you have to exposit it, rather than let us feel it. Despite the fact that Tesla was, in many ways, a sympathetic character, I don’t think they ever do more than have him try to get “genius” or “impressed” moments. You know, some people who were important also had things they liked outside of those things, guys, or they talked about them with passion and dedication. This episode just felt flat on that account. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Parasite – Eat the Rich: The Movie (Spoiler-Free)

This is just one of the best movies I’ve seen in awhile and the Oscars would be even dumber than they are to deny it.

SUMMARY (Not really any spoilers, but you should still probably go see this cold if you can)

The Kim family, composed of father Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), mother Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin), son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), and daughter Ki-jeong (Park So-dam), is destitute and stuck working part-time jobs to make ends meet. A friend of Ki-woo’s, Min-hyuk (Park Seo-joon), offers Ki-woo a recommendation to be the English tutor of the daughter of the wealthy Park family, Da-hye (Jeong Ji-so). Ki-woo uses Ki-jeong’s art skills to forge documents saying he’s a university graduate, only for the mother of the Park family, Yeon-gyo (Cho Yeo-jeong), to completely ignore them and base her decision almost solely on Min-hyuk’s recommendation, giving him the job. When Yeon-gyo mentions that she wants an art teacher for her son, Da-song (Jung Hyeon-jun), Ki-woo claims to know a famous art teacher who is really Ki-jeong. Ki-jeong manages to, in turn, recommend Ki-taek as a driver for the Park patriarch, Dong-ik (Byun Hee-bong), who recommends Chung-sook as a housekeeper. Soon, the entire Kim family deceptively works under the Park family, which only starts to make their differences much more pronounced. Eventually, the Kims make a discovery that leads to a more serious and dire conflict. 

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They manage to watch videos on folding pizza boxes to pay rent.

END SUMMARY

Bong Joon-ho, the director of this film, has previously been lauded for films like Mother (seriously, see this film), The Host (see this if you like monster movies), and Snowpiercer (also really good), but this film is the best thing he’s done yet. 

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It includes the most realistic scene, too: searching for Wi-fi.

In terms of visual storytelling, this movie is superb. Every shot and every performance tells you what is going on even if you don’t pay attention to the dialogue. You could watch this film without subtitles and you would still be able to follow the general story, even if you missed some of the details. The structure of the city in which the film takes place is a simple device, but it works: The Park family lives at the top of a very tall hill in a compound which has a lot of greenery whereas the Kim family lives in a semi-basement at the bottom of the hill. There is repeated dialogue about the fact that the Park family distinguishes the Kim family by their particular smell, which the Kims believe is related to them living in the semi-basement below ground. The film uses this as one of the many metaphors they put forth to discuss how the upper-class really feels about the lower-class. 

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Symbolized here by Mr. Park keeping his family separate from the Kims.

On the surface, the Park family is generous and kind, but they are always about maintaining “the line” between the rich and poor. The poor can be employees, but never friends or peers. The line is frequently drawn between the upstairs and downstairs, or the front and back of the car. Even the daughter, Da-hye, who seems willing to be romantically involved with people of a lower class, appears to be doing it partially out of rebellion, showing that she is fully aware of the fact that her family views them as lessers. It’s never that the Parks are cruel to the Kims, in fact they pay them quite well, but the gap between the two must be maintained, whether by position or by walls.

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You have to be rich to be as gullible as Mrs. Park.

One of the things that the movie highlights is that the difference between the wealthy and the poor is that the poor can have all of their upward momentum crushed by a single tragedy, whereas the wealthy never have to contemplate that kind of loss. Mrs. Park is mostly concerned about getting her children good tutors so that they can get into top-level schools or live out their potential as artists, two things that the Kim children couldn’t achieve despite their apparently superior talents. The Kims are more concerned with things like the fact that they can’t afford to get the bugs out of their house and have to rely on public sprayers, or that their apartment can flood if it rains too much. The film subverts the usual tendency to try and portray the antagonists as angelic, by showing them realistically using underhanded tactics to get and maintain their “leg-up.” By showing their circumstances, however, we understand why they feel it to be necessary to do such things.

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Very sneaky, sir.

I will say that, while I don’t want to get into the second half of the film to avoid spoilers, the second half is the tensest hour of film I’ve seen in a long time. It starts off, appropriately, with a fairly comic scene featuring a discussion of the class divide, before descending rapidly into a thriller-movie atmosphere for a while and expanding on the class division theme massively. 

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Observe the corpse, which, like the Kims, has bare feet.

One of the aspects of the film that I like most is that it never feels tied down to the conventions of any one particular genre. There are comedy, drama, thriller, and even horror elements and they all fit within the scenes in which they appear. The cinematography, dialogue, and acting are all superior. The themes of the movie, while they were supposedly reflective of the state of South Korea, which has been suffering from a substantial debt crisis since 1997’s Asian Financial Crisis, pretty much work everywhere. 

This movie is amazing and everyone should see it.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Mini-Review: Sex Education (Season 2) – Relationships Are Complicated All Over

The British Comedy about the complications of teen sex returns with some relationship advice.

SUMMARY

At the end of the last season, Otis (Asa Butterfield) finally achieved arousal for the first time in his life after kissing Ola (Patricia Allison), who becomes his girlfriend. Having sexual impulses for the first time in his life, Otis quickly becomes addicted to masturbation. Meanwhile, at the school, an outbreak of chlamydia leads the school governors to hire Otis’s sex-therapist mother, Jean (Gillian Anderson), as a consultant on sex-education curriculum. Maeve (Emma Mackey), Otis’s partner in sex therapy, deals with both her return to the school as an elite academic and also the return of her drug addict mother (Anne-Marie Duff). Hijinks and issues ensue.

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So many plotlines.

END SUMMARY

While the last season of the show was mostly focused on overcoming personal issues to make the connections to start a relationship, this season goes into all of the effort that relationships take to maintain. Most of the characters start the season in a new relationship: Jean is dating Ola’s father Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt), Otis is dating Ola, Maeve is reuniting with her mother, Otis’s best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) starts dating the new student (Sami Outalbali), etc. Everyone naturally has their own issues: Otis has no sexual experience, Jean is used to her independence, Maeve’s mom abandoned her in the past, Eric still has feelings for Adam (Connor Swindells), etc. This gives everyone a number of interesting issues to explore and the show does a good job of covering all of them.

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She’s a strong independent woman and an FBI treasure.

One thing that the season, and the show, does well is try to handle both the obscure and the common issues that people have in relationships, particularly sexual issues. The biggest issue that every relationship faces is honest communication. It hurts sometimes to tell your partner what you really think, but failure to do it hurts you both and can be the downfall of a relationship. The season also does a good job of addressing several other issues ranging from sexism to sexual assault, resulting in a tragically humorous scene in which a group of girls realize that the only thing they have in common is “unwanted penises.” It does drive home the point that one of the things that can help friends get through their troubles is also communication and empathy. 

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Everyone has stuff that they need to talk about and friends who need the same.

The downside to the season is that it honestly just doesn’t feel as creative or original as the last one. It certainly explores different territory, but the dialogue never feels as fluid and the performances never quite feel as passionate. I will say that it gets better towards the end, but at the beginning I was feeling a little let down. The soundtrack did help me get through it, though, because damn does this have a great soundtrack.

Overall, not a bad continuation, even if it dips a little for me. There is one thing at the end that did flat-out tick me off, but I’ll see how they handle it next season.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Mini-Review: Crisis on Infinite Earths – DC Tries to Answer Endgame

DC combines all of its current television shows, most of its prior ones, and many of its movies into one giant crossover that… was pretty awesome.

SUMMARY 

It’s literally impossible to summarize this in a reasonable amount of time. Let’s just say there are a lot of Earths (probably not an actual infinite number) which are being destroyed. All of the headlining heroes from the shows join forces to come up with a convoluted scheme to stop the destruction of the multiverse. The series features Supergirl (Melissa Benoist), Martian Manhunter (David Harewood), Green Arrow (Stephen “Dem Abs” Amell), Superman (Tyler Hoechlin and Brandon Routh), The Atom (Osric Chau and Brandon Routh), Batwoman (Ruby Rose), The Flash (Grant Gustin, John Wesley Shipp, and Ezra Miller), John Constantine (Matt Ryan), Black Lightning (Cress Williams), Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer), and so many more I’m really going to get lost. This is without getting into all of the cameos from actors who have been in old media, like Burt Ward, Tom Welling, and Kevin Conroy. Many of the actors play multiple roles.

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So. Many. Characters.

END SUMMARY

The original Crisis on Infinite Earths comic book was one of the most influential events in the industry. The multiverse had been DC Comics mechanism for explaining away bad or inconsistent writing or characters for a long time, but relying on it had gotten too difficult, since it meant that there was basically no official continuity for anything. When the Crisis happened, DC not only killed off the multiverse, but hundreds of characters, ranging from minor characters like Huntress to major characters like Supergirl and the Flash. It was one of the most successful comic book series ever released at the time and is used as a benchmark when discussing comic book continuity. It’s kind of a big deal, is what I’m saying.

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This image has been copied so many times by other people.

The reason why the comic Crisis on Infinite Earths worked is because all of the characters were well-established. No time was really needed to give backstory to Superman or The Flash because everyone knew who they were so well that we already had emotional investment in them. The reason the Justice League movie didn’t work was for the exact opposite reason: Nobody really knew or had any connections to any of the characters since only three of them had been in anything prior and only one of those movies was memorable in a good way. Also, Superman was dead for most of the movie, so that emotional connection was essentially cut. Now, you can replace emotional connections with spectacle, like Commando or The Expendables, but it’s better to have both. That’s what Avengers: Endgame did so well, spending the first two acts on emotional scenes and character moments, then spending the last act giving us the spectacle that we finally wanted. 

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Couldn’t even get seven members, the number that almost always forms the JLA.

This crossover actually mostly did it right.

First, almost all of the characters were well established. Yes, you might not have liked all of the series equally, but, by mixing-and-matching team-ups, almost every scene had something in it that you had a history with. Even more than that, by referencing all of the older shows and films that they’ve made, mostly just to have the characters we remember from them die tragically, the series was able to raise the stakes of the entire event while cashing in on nostalgia.

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Not that Robert Wuhl’s character in Batman was beloved, but it was a nice touch.

 

Second, the plot, while it does have a lot of fetch quests and convoluted elements in it, is pretty straightforward: Stop the bad guy. The thing is that the Anti-Monitor, the villain, doesn’t just have one plan to thwart, he has a ton of other plots that also have to be dealt with. The Anti-Monitor is also just too powerful and too above-it-all to really be punched to death by Superman, unlike certain other DC crossover villains, instead requiring actual sacrifices to gain the power to deal with him.

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Yes, not everyone lives through this.

Third, LEX. FREAKING. LUTHOR. My god, did they make a great decision in giving Jon Cryer this role and my god did they write him correctly. Lex is the single smartest character in existence but, rather than trying to save it, can’t resist using his power to try and kill Superman. Much as how Thanos is the one with the actual character arc in Avengers: Infinity War, Lex is the one with the biggest character arc and the series is all the better for it. 

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This was freaking amazing. You are a treasure, sir.

Are there problems with the series? Oh yeah, it’s still a mess trying to get this many characters to all have their “moments,” but I was genuinely impressed at how well they pulled it off. Since the nature of the entire TV multiverse is changed by the end of it, I’m looking forward to seeing how DC will handle their new continuity.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.