The Nevers: Steampunk Female X-Men… Well, Okay Then – HBO Max Review

It hasn’t quite gotten its footing, but it has promise. 

SUMMARY

It’s the end of the 19th Century and England suddenly finds itself to be populated by the “Touched,” a group of people, mostly women, who develop superpowers, ranging from being gigantic in size to pyrokinesis. Naturally, society immediately rejects the Touched and threatens them. These people can find a safe haven at St. Romaulda’s Orphanage run by Lavinia Bidlow (Octavia Williams). The two main agents of the Orphanage are Amalia True (Laura Donnelly), who can see glimpses of the future, and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), whose ability to see energy flow allows her to invent incredible technology. The two have to navigate this new world and help stop a group of rebel Touched run by the serial killer Maladie (Amy Manson), while dealing with other threats. 

They dress fancy at times.

END SUMMARY

The idea of a steampunk group of superpowered people fighting crime and dealing with discrimination naturally seems like a slam dunk. This show comes really close to that, but unfortunately it also suffers from a big problem with balancing a large number of subplots. There are so many plots going on throughout the show that it becomes difficult to remember what was happening in each one when the next episode picks them back up. It doesn’t help that many of the characters just kind of jump between the plotlines so you can’t even be sure that seeing certain characters means you’re dealing with a certain story. Also, there are sometimes scenes where the action sequence or character centerpiece takes your focus which makes it even harder to keep track of which story you were watching. Oddly, this wouldn’t be as much of a problem if this used the streaming model of releasing the entire season at once. 

Following Maladie’s arc isn’t too hard, but she’s like 1/10th of the show.

The positives for the show are that most of the performances are excellent, particularly Laura Donnelly as Amalia True, someone whose power frequently moves between “gift” and “curse” in a relatively believable way. Many of the supporting or recurring characters are interesting, like Nick Frost as the “Beggar King,” a brutal crime boss whose allegiance is, naturally, just himself. The show’s portrayal of the social and political implications of the sudden appearance of superpowers is well done (particularly when dealing with British imperialism). They also do a good job of using superpowers in interesting ways (and killing people in interesting ways with superpowers). 

Beggar King is looking very fly.

Overall, while the show still is a bit of a mess, it has a solid basis to work with.

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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Infinity Train (Season 4): WHY WAS THIS CANCELLED?? – HBO Max Review

Infinity Train’s last season goes back in time to show us why it’s such a great show.

SUMMARY

Min-Gi Park and Ryan Akagi (Johnny Young and Sekai Murashige) were best friends from a young age who aspired to be in a musical group together. Unfortunately, before their first gig, Min-Gi has a panic attack and the two end up separating. While Ryan goes on the road in a van, Min-Gi works and plans for college according to his strict parents’ wishes. A while later, Ryan returns home and the pair reunite, only to find themselves drawn onto the Infinity Train, a place where people dealing with problems can work through them. They quickly become acquainted with Kez (Minty Lewis), a sentient concierge bell (yes, really) that has a terrible relationship with most of the other denizens of the train. Together, the trio have to figure out how to get through a train that is hunting them… and that is about to become under new management.

The bell has issues.

END SUMMARY

I’ve mentioned this show repeatedly as one of the best examples of animation in recent years. While I don’t know that I put it up with Gravity Falls or BoJack Horseman, it’s not much below that. The show has a strong agenda compared to many shows, but it’s an important one: You can always work through things. This doesn’t just apply to the myriad puzzles on the train but to the emotional problems facing the people who get brought onboard. Yes, the show skews more towards children, but children are the ones who most need to hear that lesson. Once you’re set in your ways, you likely won’t be changing unless you’re forced to, unless you are raised to accept changing yourself. 

Also you have to enjoy modern art.

I will admit that the fact that Season 4 of the show is a prequel actually makes it all the sadder that the show is ending. After the first three seasons kept building on the events of the first season, which is to say the fall of Amelia, this show actually takes us back to immediately before Amelia overthrows the train and we get a picture of the ways in which the train was different beforehand, including that One-One might not have had a split mind back then. Unfortunately, this also means that the shocking end of Season 3, in which ***SPOILERS*** Simon has his life force sucked out by a ghom is basically the furthest we’ve gotten in the series. No idea if Grace ever gets off the train or what happens to Amelia long-term. 

Cool. We never hear any more about this.

This season, though, did focus on the best thing about this show, that the train is a mechanism for introspection. This is the first time that two people have ever known each other before entering the train and their fates are apparently tied together, making it even more crucial that they work through their issues. Ryan represents the boundless drive to shoot for the stars while Min-Gi represents safety and practicality. They both have their positive and negative points, but the key is that they each have traits that they justify against their own better judgment and they can each work on them. There’s also Kez, who is the epitome of a person who runs full steam so that her past can’t catch her. She basically has the biggest amount of character development at the end and it’s very satisfying.

This guy has an Oscar.

Overall, solid season of a solid show, and I really hope it gets brought back. Also, J.K. Simmons plays a giant Pig Baby. 

Mortal Kombat (2021): Well, It’s Definitely the Best MK Movie – HBO Max Review

It’s a decent adaptation, which means it cleared the previous bar by a mile.

SUMMARY

In the 1600s, ninja Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) was murdered by rival ninja Bi-Han (Joe Taslim). In the present, Hasashi’s descendant, MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan), discovers that he’s being hunted by Bi-Han, who now goes by Sub-Zero. He’s saved by Special Forces Major Jackson “Jax” Briggs (Mehcad Brooks) who reveals that Cole has been selected to take part in an interdimensional fighting tournament with the fate of the Earth on the line. Cole is assisted by the Earthrealm guardian Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), warriors Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Kung Lao (Max Huang), as well as Special Forces agent Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) and, surprisingly, captive mercenary Kano (Josh Lawson). They have to work together to stop the sorcerer Shang Tsung (Chin Han) and his minions from sabotaging Earth’s chances at the next Mortal Kombat.

Liu and Lao look lethal.

END SUMMARY

It first struck me as weird that in an adaptation of Mortal Kombat, a series that is absolutely overloaded with characters, they had to come up with a new main protagonist character. Eventually I got over it and focused on the film, but I’ll admit that it’s weird to just throw a new guy into the spotlight and, moreover, have him being a failed fighter. They also added the element that apparently Earth’s competitors in the tournament are marked by a tattoo (the MK dragon), which you can either get by killing someone with it or by being born with it. It’s a weird element and one that screws over at least one main character in the film. 

Oh good, I was worried we’d run out of IP.

The upside to this film is that, unlike the two previous Mortal Kombat films, this movie is actually pretty damned violent. The fight sequences are pretty brutal, if unevenly choreographed. Seriously, some of them are awesome, some of them are mediocre, but almost all of them are bloody. The moments when you see a fatality are pretty great, because watching a person actually being bisected vertically is exactly what I wanted out of this adaptation. Trying to take the blood out of Mortal Kombat is like trying to do a Street Fighter movie where no one can throw projectiles: Something we already saw and it mostly sucked (exception: Raul Julia).

Does Mileena imply that Katana exists? Not necessarily, but hopefully.

The downside is that it is a little rushed at times and, honestly, the plot actually makes less sense than Mortal Kombat’s already ridiculously complicated storyline. It’s not that it couldn’t make sense, in fact much of it does in retrospect, but it feels like they cut out a number of the scenes where stuff was given a moment to breathe, and where the audience could have caught up, in favor of more weird dialogue and punching. If you aren’t familiar with some of the elements before watching the movie, then you probably got lost a few times. The fact that they switched the associations of a few characters and the power structure of the bad guys doesn’t help. 

Also, apparently Goro wasn’t the champion? That’s some bullsh*t.

Overall, it’s still worth watching, just accept that it’s going to be a lot of over-the-top violence and try your hardest not to ask why stuff is happening. Also, no, Chun-Li is not in it.

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Judas and the Black Messiah: A True and Tragic Tale – Oscar HBO Max Review

Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya headline this story of an up-and-coming civil rights leader.

SUMMARY (Spoilers if you haven’t heard the story)

In the 1960s, Bill O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) is arrested for hijacking a car while pretending to be a Federal Agent. FBI Agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons) agrees to drop the charges if O’Neal infiltrates the Illinois Black Panthers and spies on their leader, Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya). Hampton is one of the biggest threats on the FBI’s list because of his ability to persuade rival organizations to work together in advancing civil rights causes, a group he calls the Rainbow Coalition. Hampton is set up for taking ice cream bars to give to local kids (yes, really) and sentenced to two to five years (YES. REALLY). During this period, O’Neal rises through the ranks of the Black Panthers, eventually becoming head of security. When Hampton is released for his appeal, O’Neal is paid to drug him so that Hampton cannot fight back when the FBI and local police raid his home in order to kill Hampton in the presence of his pregnant girlfriend Deborah Johnson (Dominique Fishback). So ends the 21 year life of a man whose personality and charisma were so threatening to the establishment they had to execute him.

Daniel Kaluuya is a decade older than Fred Hampton was when he died.

END SUMMARY

I had originally declined to review this film not because it wasn’t great but because I only watched it 3 days before it left streaming and I didn’t want to go “THIS MOVIE IS AMAZING, SO WATCH IT IN THE NEXT 12 HOURS.” That said, this movie is amazing and you should watch it (at your own pace). 

I wouldn’t stab you in the back like that.

The murder of Fred Hampton is, much like the Tulsa Race Massacre, a thing that is incredibly horrible and also largely unknown to many people. Just as Watchmen and Lovecraft Country sought to bring the former event to the attention of the general public, this film and, to a lesser extent, The Trial of the Chicago 7 seek to bring attention to the fact that a man was murdered by law enforcement because he was seeking to stop racism and inequality. The fact that not a ton of (certain) people know about it is even more insane when you realize that it resulted in the largest settlement in any civil rights case and, as shown in this film, had a person literally testify on public television that he was hired by the Federal Government to help kill him.

The real Fred Hampton.

This movie, much like many retellings of the life of the Messiah, does a great job of splitting the focus between Fred Hampton as a figure capable of uniting a bunch of disparate people and O’Neal as the traitorous man who is constantly questioning what he is doing. The thing is, O’Neal always has a choice, but it’s also insane that the FBI was asking him to do this. While some of the events in the film are exaggerated or based on accusations that haven’t been confirmed, more of it is accurate than you would probably like to believe. For example, having an informant with a warrant that allowed the FBI to raid places where he hid is a horrible violation of civil rights, a tactic that actually mirrors a violation of the Geneva Convention if done in war, and also something the FBI probably did, but I don’t think we have any direct confirmation of it. 

It doesn’t help the government’s case that they literally had a spy planted.

The performances by Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya are phenomenal. Kaluuya makes Hampton human but also shows us the kind of charisma that a person would need to convince so many people to follow him. He’s always focused on getting people to join together rather than letting them be separated by petty differences. Lakeith Stanfield makes O’Neal into a person who clearly makes the wrong choices and doesn’t really try to change, which, if his interview is anything to go by, is probably accurate. Dominique Fishback plays Deborah Johnson as someone who is equally in love with Hampton the man and also the future he represents. 

It’s a cute moment.

Overall, fantastic movie. Really recommend 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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Made for Love: Technology is an Abusive Relationship – HBO Max Review

Cristin Milioti stars in this great show about a woman trying to escape her marriage.

SUMMARY

Hazel Green-Gogol (Cristin Milioti) is the wife of tech billionaire Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen), the owner of Gogol, a company that does not in any way, shape, or form resemble the name of any actual tech company. When developing his passion project “Made for Love” with its project leader Fiffany (Noma Dumezweni), Byron volunteers himself and Hazel to be the new test subjects. Made for Love is a chip which allows the users to sense each others’ feelings, to see through their eyes, and to hear through their ears. However, Hazel, already uncomfortable with how her husband monitors her life, escapes from their home, only to find out that Byron already put the chip in her head (and only her head), allowing him to track her every movement and see through her eyes. She goes to her estranged father, Herbert (Ray Romano) for help while she is pursued by Byron’s agent Herringbone (Dan Bakkedahl).

If you’re doing this to get away from your husband, do NOT go back.

END SUMMARY

Okay, so Cristin Milioti was in a Black Mirror episode where she was escaping from a virtual reality created by an obsessive tech billionaire, so this is the weirdest case of near-typecasting that I’ve seen. Add in her having to escape from a time-loop in Palm Springs and she’s quickly becoming the new “escape from the Sci-Fi plot” go-to casting. I’m not against that if it means that Cristin Milioti gets more work, because I think she’s a hell of an actress, but it’s just an odd thing that struck me when watching this. 

Your head is filled with anger and some technology.

The show is interesting in that it both shows her life as pampered and also insanely controlled. She spends her days living in a beautiful and ideal location doing pretty much whatever she wants, except that everything she does is monitored, she has a number of scheduled things throughout the day, and that she is required to give feedback on her experiences. Yes, that explicitly includes sex. There’s literally a survey and a follow-up about her orgasms. And yes, the follow-up is in person and no, it’s not with her husband. If you think Apple is a pain, this is now that in your genitals. At the same time, she still appears to be doing crazy awesome stuff like full-wall gaming, being able to walk in VR cubes, and swimming with a dolphin. It’s a nice adaptation of the gilded cage.

Apparently dolphins are important in the book, too.

The humor in the show is pretty solid, as you’d expect from Cristin Milioti and Ray Romano. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Everybody Loves Raymond, Romano is still a solid comic performer. In this, his character is depicted as being an outsider in his town because he “dates” a sex doll. Interestingly, his relationship with the doll is contrasted with most other people’s relationship with their electronics, but so far the electronics actually seem to be more harmful, since it’s giving other people all of your innermost thoughts. It’s almost like this show is a revelation that “Gogol” already knows everyone’s secrets, but still wants to find something deeper to mine for revenue.

Meanwhile, Diane doesn’t tell anyone anything.

Overall, it’s a fun show so far. It’s got the majority of the season left, but if you are a fan of the Cristin Milioti (and you should be), maybe check it out.

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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Godzilla vs. Kong: It’s Good When It’s What’s On the Tin – HBO Max Review

The monsters are great, but the humans need work.

SUMMARY

Godzilla has been the unquestioned Alpha of the Titans (Kaiju) since his defeat of King Ghidorah, but now he’s starting to become wild and aggressive. Meanwhile, Kong has been in a protective covering on Skull Island to keep him away from Godzilla, as Kong would naturally have to challenge him as an Alpha. Kong is monitored by Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her deaf adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle). Meanwhile, Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), is a Titan conspiracy podcaster who is investigating the APEX corporation and its CEO Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir). Simmons hires geologist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) to convince the team monitoring Kong to take him to the Hollow Earth and, in the process, to allow Simmons’ daughter Maya (Eiza Gonzalez) to harvest a power source for APEX. Bernie is joined by Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), who is the daughter of two Titan scientists (one of whom tried to destroy the world in the last movie), and her friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison). The three discover that APEX is behind something that poses a bigger threat than either Kong or Godzilla.

There is no way that aircraft carrier could hold them. Its full load is about 100,000 tons and each one of them weights 90,000.

END SUMMARY

It hurts a little bit to try and determine whether or not this was a good movie because in some ways I worry that my enjoyment of the film was due to extremely low expectations. Not that I’m going to put it up for an Oscar or anything, and I’m pretty sure that the writing for the human characters (aside from Brian Tyree Henry who might have just been improvising) was literally pulled from a screenwriting manual, but I have to say this was pretty much the best kaiju fighting I’ve seen in a long time. If I were to describe what I wanted to see in this film, it would have been “I want to see Godzilla judo-throw a drop-kicking King Kong” and, well, that’s the kind of thing that this movie does right. The problem is there’s no way to do 90 minutes of that. 

There is a singing contest, of course.

The best Godzilla movies usually try to treat Godzilla as a force of nature or a metaphor. The original Godzilla was used as a metaphor for the Atomic Bomb and the most recent Toho film, Shin Godzilla, treated the character mostly as a threat for the purpose of establishing how Japan is treated by the Western world. When you treat Godzilla as something beyond humanity or as a consequence of humanity’s hubris, then it gives him an appropriate relationship to the characters as something almost inevitable or that can only be dealt with by sacrifice. While some of the Godzilla movies give him more character and emotion, but in those films he’s usually more isolated from the “real” world, so you don’t have to worry as much about how the humans are reacting to the kaiju. The American movies, so far, haven’t really gotten this right, including this movie, because Godzilla is still treated more like a monster or a wild animal than a force of nature (although they start to give him some emotion when dealing with Kong). However, since Kong usually IS treated like an emotional creature, at least the scenes with the giant ape actually come off pretty well. 

It is a little telling how unbalanced the fight is when you have to give Kong an anti-Godzilla weapon to make it fair.

The biggest problem with the movie is that the human characters, with the exception of Bernie and the absolutely adorable Jia, are mostly forgettable. There are too many of them and they’re often in completely separate plots throughout the film. Moreover, the plots range from “needless” to “insanely stupid.” At one point, in order to be present for the finale, three characters accidentally travel from Pensacola, Florida, to Hong Kong (it makes sense in context… no, it’s still insane). That said, once the film actually gets to having Godzilla and Kong going at it, it’s a hell of a fight and even has a few moments that were genuinely visually impressive. This film really put a lot of extra effort into lighting and framing shots as well as creative creature design and settings, so when it gets the plot and people out of the way, this is very enjoyable. 

The hollow Earth looks cool.

Overall, while this movie wasn’t what it could have been, it had enough fun visuals and a solid fight sequence to merit the viewing. 

****SPOILERS****

Also, it’s great that they had Godzilla win the fight. Like, there’s no question that Godzilla can kick Kong’s ape ass up and down Skull Island. I was worried they’d just avoid having a real winner by having them fight MechaGodzilla together, but they managed to do both. 

Search Party: Every Season a New Show – HBO Max Review

Alia Shawkat stars in this very broad-spectrum comedy.

SUMMARY

Dory Sief (Alia Shawkat) is in her late twenties and has no idea what she’s doing with her life. She’s a graduate of NYU who is in a mundane relationship with her boyfriend Drew (John Reynolds). Her closest friends, actress Portia (Meredith Hagner) and narcissist Elliott (John Early), don’t particularly offer any helpful advice. However, one day she sees a supposedly missing former classmate named Chantal (Clare McNulty) at a restaurant in New York and decides to track Chantal down. She gets help from Drew, her friends, as well as her ex-boyfriend Julian (Brandon Michael Hall) and investigator Keith Powell (Ron Livingston), and starts to both lose herself and find herself in the process. Along the way, she runs into cult of jewelry sellers, a blackmailing zoo worker, and a very friendly French-Canadian. The second season deal with the fallout from finding Chantal, the third season is a courtroom drama, and the last season deals with a kidnapping related to the court case.

Yes, they’re almost always dressed like that.

SUMMARY

I hadn’t heard of this show while it was on TBS, which is probably due to my not having cable anymore. When I finally watched it, I had no idea what it was about, but the first season got me hooked pretty quickly. Dory, and most of her friends, are all kind of lost, mostly due to their own selfishness. A recurring theme throughout the show is having a character see someone else go through a tragic event and say “but what does that mean for me?” Throughout the series, we see each of them change massively and mostly for the worse.

She’s not the best person, Maeby?

The best part of this series is that each season mostly feels like a completely different story. The style and wardrobe often seem to change accordingly. The first season is a mystery as Dory tries to find Chantal and it contains one of the funniest finales that I have ever seen. The second season is a thriller with some noir elements. The third season is a courtroom drama. The most recent season is more of a horror story related to kidnapping. No matter what the structure, though, it’s all done in a comedic style that is mostly based on the fact that the lead characters are all still the same broken, selfish, and dishonest people throughout. Rather than growing from their experiences, they often seem to become more focused on themselves as the show goes on, but, like the Gang in Its Always Sunny, they’re all so horrible that the only people who can put up with them are each other. 

Even when they seem like they should learn… they don’t seem to.

Because of the nature of the characters, this show would absolutely not work if the performances weren’t all great. Since, with the occasional exception of Drew, you mostly have to dislike these people, it’s important to make them detestable in interesting ways. It helps that the supporting cast, which varies from season to season, are also usually populated by great characters. Probably my favorite cast is Season 3, where the attorneys involved are played by Michaela Watkins as the snarky prosecutor, Shalita Grant as essentially Elle Woods dealing with the worst client ever, and Louie Anderson as a washed-up and fairly checked-out older lawyer. Their interactions, while they will absolutely drive any actual lawyer nuts to the point of screaming at the television that this is not at all how law works (Yeah, me included), are absolutely hilarious.

Shalita Grant is brilliant.

Overall, I recommend this show highly. It’s rare to find a show that’s so willing to reinvent itself.

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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Zak Snyder’s Justice League: Released the Snyder Cut – HBO Max Review

We finally get to see what the fans have been begging for.

SUMMARY (Spoilers)

Thousands of years ago, an army of men, Atlanteans, Amazons, gods, and even a Green Lantern helped repel an invasion of “New Gods” led by the evil god Darkseid (Ray Porter). Following the death of Superman (Henry Cavill) in Batman v. Superman, ancient artifacts known as the Mother Boxes, which were used by Darkseid, have been awakened. Darkseid’s lieutenant, Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), is sent to retrieve them and use them to destroy the Earth. Batman (Ben Affleck), knowing an attack is coming, tries to recruit Aquaman (Jason Momoa), who initially refuses, and then successfully recruits the Flash (Ezra Miller) while Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) recruits Cyborg (Ray Fisher). Steppenwolf manages to find two of the Mother Boxes, but Batman, realizing that they are outmatched, uses the third one to revive Superman. Superman attacks the rest of the team until Batman reveals Lois Lane (Amy Adams), leading him to leave. Meanwhile, Steppenwolf gets the third Mother Box and takes them to his base where he will use them to destroy Earth.

Batman almost gets killed a bunch in the fight.

The team assaults the base and manages to get inside, but they cannot defeat Steppenwolf until Superman shows up and reminds everyone that he can go full HAM. They manage to stop the boxes from unifying (thanks to Barry Allen messing with time) and kill Steppenwolf. Darkseid indicates that his conquest of Earth will not stop there. The team separates again, with Batman proposing a headquarters in his childhood home. Lex Luthor (Jesse “Dear God Why” Eisenberg) breaks out of jail and meets with mercenary Slade Wilson (Joe Mangianello). 

This would have taken 2 seconds if Superman had been there. And that’s the problem.

END SUMMARY

I realize now that I never actually finished writing my review of the original cut of this film. I started this blog just after the film came out, but I was caught up doing television episodes at that point and decided against reviewing it at the time. Fortunately, my summary that I wrote for that version mostly works for this one. If I had reviewed that one, it would probably have begun with the phrase “this was a giant waste of time and money.” I did not care for the theatrical Justice League film, but, in fairness, I hadn’t liked Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, or Suicide Squad, so the DCEU was not exactly blowing my skirt up at that point, Wonder Woman aside. 

Cyborg was completely wasted in the original cut.

My biggest complaints about the original Justice League were that it had weak or no characterization, the plot was inane, and that the tone was wildly inconsistent. The good news is that this version does, for the most part, fix those problems. This is a fairly well-done story which, admittedly, relies on a lot of visual storytelling for a film that is often needlessly dark or saturated. In this, the characters are expanded upon sufficiently that we can understand their motivations and, even though they might take us to the same plot points as the original, the movements no longer feel random or stupid. I imagine this will be similar to how people will feel about the rest of A Song of Ice and Fire vs. the last season of Game of Thrones when George R.R. Martin finally finishes it. Yes, it’ll probably end up hitting most of the same points, but the journey will feel more full and natural if it isn’t rushed.

Both will have a Night King, though.

This isn’t to say that this is a perfect movie. For one thing, it’s four hours long and even the good parts feel pretty slow when you’ve sat through this much stuff. I’d recommend watching it as a mini-series if possible, because trying to do it in one sitting was tough. And, for another, it’s still not a great movie. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty good and some of the action sequences, particularly the ones involving the Flash, are excellent, but overall, it’s still not a great movie. It still has a lot of very awkward lines, a lot of scenes that seem to be based more around setting up further properties than progressing the story, and, mostly, it doesn’t have a ton of scenes that really stand out as memorable. I mean, this is supposed to be our first meeting of the live-action Justice League and there just doesn’t feel like enough spectacle was put into it, despite being mostly visually well-done. I dunno how to explain that seeming contradiction, but I feel like it’s the truth. I just watched this movie, and there are only a handful of shots that stick out in my mind. Meanwhile, I can remember tons from Tim Burton’s Batman or the Christopher Reeve Superman

It doesn’t help that this Superman always seems about 10 seconds from going Brightburn.

Overall, it’s not that this is bad, it’s just not what it needed to be. I do hope that DC recognizes that it does have some good things and uses future movies, like Flashpoint, to get rid of what doesn’t work and focus on what does.

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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Prodigal Son: Family Drama can be Murder – HBO Max Review

The son of a serial killer becomes a criminal profiler in order to stop other murderers.

SUMMARY

Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne) is a criminal profiler who works for the NYPD. His father, Martin Whitly (Michael Sheen), is a world-class doctor… and a serial killer known as “the Surgeon” who killed at least 23 people. Martin was arrested when Malcolm was a child and has since resided in an asylum. Malcolm’s sister, Ainsley (Halston Sage) is a TV Reporter while his mother Jessica (Bellamy Young) is a successful businesswoman and more successful alcoholic. Along with Lt. Gil Arroyo (Lou Diamond Phillips), Det. Dani Powell (Aurora Perrineau), Det. JT Tarmel (Frank Harts), and medical examiner Edrisa Tanaka (Keiko Agena), Malcolm uses his unique insight into the mind of a serial killer to track down murderers, sometimes with his father’s advice.

I kinda buy the family resemblance.

END SUMMARY

I had not heard anything about this show during its first season on Fox, but when the show came on HBO Max, I was told to check it out. I’m not going to say that this show is a game-changer or anything like that, but it is a nice take on the idea of having someone touched by evil being gifted at fighting evil. Malcolm is frequently depicted as being able to envision what the killer did by placing himself in their mindset, something that often seems to damage his psyche a bit. Due to his father and these tendencies, most of his colleagues are at least hesitant to work with him. He has a history with drugs. He also is shown to have insomnia and violent night-terrors. His trauma, while he is able to use it, is still affecting every aspect of his life. I find this to be much more interesting than many other series where the person is just depicted as “dark and brooding.” 

He also gets into some very dark situations.

Michael Sheen is absolutely captivating as Martin Whitly, something that helps sell the belief that he is a psychopath. Whitly is not your typical Hannibal Lecter-esque mastermind. Instead, he’s a blatant narcissist who twists everything to his own glorification. He constantly praises his history as a doctor, claiming himself (accurately) among the best in the world, and says he’s a great father, but he often refuses to acknowledge being a serial killer. Despite that, when it comes up, he suggests that serial killers are better than normal people, making outlandish claims that are often easily rebuffed by those he is talking to. It feels fairly original and potentially more accurate to how such a person might be.

And here I thought he was an angel.

The supporting cast in this show is excellent. Lou Diamond Phillips plays the detective who both employs Malcolm and arrested his father. It gives him a strange relationship to Malcolm and his mother, bordering on being a surrogate father in some ways, but also distanced because he did still technically break up their family. Phillips does a great job balancing the elements. The rest of the team has their own relationships with Malcolm, but my favorite is Keiko Agena as Tanaka, who has a terrible crush on Malcolm and is hilariously awkward around him. 

I do love me some LDP.

Overall, it’s a pretty solid show. I really recommend it if you’re a fan of detective shows. 

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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South ParQ: The Vaccination Special: This World Makes Us Crazy – HBO Max Review

The boys deal with the stress of a year of abnormality while President Garrison tries to return home.

SUMMARY

The voices are all Trey Parker or Matt Stone unless otherwise indicated. 

It’s been a rough year for the boys of South Park. While they did manage to help a group of scientists find the cause of Covid (it was a pangolin that Randy Marsh had sex with), the source was destroyed by the President of the United States, Mr. Garrison. Finally, though, vaccines have been approved and Garrison is coming back to South Park since he’s no longer the President. The problem is that the only ones who can get a hand on the vaccines are the elderly, putting everyone else even more on edge. Now that they’re back in school, Cartman and Kenny play a prank on their teacher, Mrs. Nelson (Elise Gabriel), much to the chagrin of Kyle and Stan. The prank causes Mrs. Nelson to quit unless she gets a vaccine, reasoning that she shouldn’t have to risk her life to teach a bunch of ungrateful children for a small salary. Unfortunately, this creates a teacher opening that is filled by Mr. Garrison, who everyone in South Park hates except the White family and their Q-anon cohorts. When most of South Park’s parents pull their kids out of school (due to not wanting them exposed to Garrison), the Q-anon members pretend to be tutors in order to indoctrinate the kids into the conspiracy.

Why not trust this guy with your children?

Due to the prank, Kyle, Stan, and Cartman have a falling out, with them trying to figure out how best to share Kenny. When the boys find out the only way to get Mrs. Nelson back is to get vaccines for the school staff, they steal them, only to be confronted by the new Q-anon kids trying to stop them. At the same time, Garrison is told the things that Q-anon believes by Mr. White, only to find that the “elites” who run the universe are, in fact, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who keep manipulating the show. Eventually, Garrison cuts a deal with the creators (and apparently Israel) to vaccinate all of South Park. Unfortunately, Mrs. Nelson dies of Covid right before getting the shot, making Garrison the boys’ teacher again. The four boys are still on the outs as the episode ends.

She was only here a brief while, but her candle burned bright.

END SUMMARY

I normally wouldn’t review just this one special, particularly since it really feels like it’s just part of Season 24 of South Park, but there are a few things that South Park can sometimes get away with saying or doing that most shows can’t, or won’t. This episode was no exception. The episode made a big point of trying to represent how America needs to deal with Covid before we can get back to “normal,” which they do by showing how the show can get back to the pre-Trump status quo. Unlike reality, however, the show acknowledges that the creators have the power to just make South Park normal again, and they just plain do it. It was a refreshing moment of allowing the viewers to feel like they, too, are starting to move back towards normalcy. However, that wasn’t the main thing that I noticed in the show. 

They got rid of the orange face and get rid of his security in no time.

Instead, there were a few exchanges about the battles between the Q-anon followers and the normal townspeople that stuck out. When the Q-anon people and the townsfolk are fighting, the on-site reporter for the South Park news mocks the Q-anon believers, only for the newscaster to respond that, if these people truly believe in what they say, this is actually the reasonable thing to do. After all, if they do think that vaccines are microchipped so that Satanists can track you, then you should want to stop them from getting implemented. The on-site reporter can only yell back that the newscaster is an asshole. This is similar to the problem people legitimately have with this movement: If you actually believe in what they say, then taking extreme action is justified. However, that also means that you’re so far removed from reality that it’s almost impossible for people to speak to you rationally. This part stuck out for me as the creators acknowledging that many of these people are not, themselves, evil. They’ve just been led so far away from reality that they can think they’re doing the right thing and are just completely wrong. Trying to treat them as bad instead of as sick is probably not going to help. It isn’t a position that most shows are willing to take right now.

This is what Qanon actually believes.

Overall, it’s a decent special and some of the jokes were really solid, but mostly it just allows the show to move past Covid and get back to entertaining.

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.