Tacoma FD: Some Broken Lizard Alums Have a Show – HBO Max Review

I didn’t hear anything about this show for two seasons, so I’m spreading the news.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you made a Super Troopers TV show… well, keep wondering, because that’s not exactly what this is. However, if you’re wondering what would happen if you took some of the minds behind Super Troopers and gave them a TV show about wacky people working at a fire station, then wonder no more. This show was created by Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme, two of the members of Broken Lizard, and in addition to writing and directing most of the episodes, the pair star as the leaders of the firehouse Chief Terry McConky and Captain Eddie Penisi. While both characters have the exaggerated qualities you might expect from Broken Lizard, they’re toned down a bit and humanized more, allowing for some episodes to actually have decent emotional moments. McConky is a bit of a blowhard but loves a good time and wants to be liked and Penisi wants to be having a good time, all the time, which usually gets him in trouble.

They’re the best in the business, but no idea which business.

The rest of the cast are similarly flawed and yet funny characters: The medic who is often a bit of a cynic, Granny Smith (Marcus Henderson); the part-time stripper and full-time lunkhead Ike Crystal (Gabriel Hogan); and the shy and insecure Andy Miyawani (Eugene “Pillboi” Cordero). After a few episodes, they’re joined by McConky’s go-getter daughter Lucy (Hassie Harrison) and the show explores a lot of the nature of sexism in firefighting through their interactions. Despite clearly having to work harder than many of the guys in order to get respect, Lucy also often chooses to play harder than them as well. 

When you get dosed while putting a fire out at a rave…

Part of the central gag of the show is that Tacoma, Washington has such a moderate climate and high rate of rainfall that fires aren’t much of a risk. Most of the time the calls that the firefighters are responding to are bizarre incidents involving things like Alpacas, raves, popcorn fires at a haunted house, and the occasional sex shop arson. However, a lot of what the show explores is how all of these people deal with their downtime and the bureaucracy of a mid-sized city. The show’s greatest strength is in reflecting how frustrating it can be to try and deal with the less-glamorous aspects of certain jobs and giving the characters ways to vent those frustrations in hilarious scenes. The humor is a little less stoner-y than in most Broken Lizard films, but it’s still pretty zany. If that’s not your taste, you probably won’t like it, but at least you’ll find out pretty fast. Personally, I think the characters are all pretty great when they’re interacting and the dialogue and situations are amusing.

Ah, the bachelorette party fire. Classic.

Overall, give it a try. I think this show does a good job of giving us a more emotionally relatable version of Broken Lizard’s comedy.

In The Heights: How to Do a Musical Adaptation – HBO Max Review

If you’re not familiar with In the Heights, it’s the musical that first brought Lin Manuel Miranda to the attention of all of the people who watch the Tonys. In 2008 it debuted on Broadway and, much like his later, better known play Hamilton, it managed to combine elements of traditional musicals with hip-hop. It tells the story of the mostly Hispanic neighborhood in the Bronx called Washington Heights which is slowly being gentrified out of existence. Miranda grew up in Inwood, which is the neighborhood right next to Washington Heights that also is part of the Little Dominican Republic. Miranda himself played the lead role of Usnavi on Broadway, but, being that 13 years have passed since then, the role wisely went to Anthony Ramos, who played the role later on, in this screen adaptation. Ramos, who grew up in Bushwick, another mostly-Hispanic neighborhood in New York, perfectly portrays the nostalgia for the old days when speaking as the “older” Usnavi that narrates the events of the film. Miranda plays the guy selling Piragua, which is basically a Puerto Rican snow-cone.

While Anthony Ramos is technically older than Usnavi, he still looks the part.

My assumption has always been that the “musical” parts of the film are derived from Usnavi’s memory being recolored by the rhythm of the streets he remembers, with the music encapsulating the spirit of the people who lived there. Usnavi, the owner of the local bodega, naturally sees everyone on their way to start their day. We’re introduced to them all at the beginning: Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz), the elderly matriarch of the neighborhood; Kevin Rosario (Jimmy Smits), the owner of a local dispatch company and whose daughter, Nina (Leslie Grace), is back from Stanford; Benny (Corey Hawkins), Kevin’s chief employee and Nina’s ex; Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), Usnavi’s crush; the “Salon ladies” Daniela, Carla, and (film-exclusive character) Cuca (Daphne Ruben-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz, Dascha Polanco); and Usnavi’s cousin and sole employee Sonny (Gregory Diaz IV). While Usnavi is the narrator, as the film’s title suggests, it’s a story about the neighborhood. I don’t know if it’s the New York setting or the fact that it takes place during a heat wave, but I often find myself comparing it a little to Do the Right Thing, in the sense that the main character is only there to give us an excuse to experience the entire community.

Continue to give Stephanie Beatriz work.

My opinion of director John M. Chu is a bit complicated. On the one hand, he did Step Up 2: The Streets and Step Up 3D, which are pretty decent dance films with terrible scripts. On the other hand, he did G.I. Joe: Retaliation, which was at least not as bad as the previous G.I. Joe movie but was still not good, and Jem and the Holograms, a movie that not only was terrible but went out of its way to hurt the fans of the series it was based on. Then came Crazy Rich Asians, which was flat-out great and well directed. So, going in, I was not sure if this was going to be a masterpiece or a trainwreck. Fortunately, start to finish, everything he did in this film works. 

Yeah, try this on stage.

All of the changes from the original play work well (admittedly, it was usually described as having a weak book), all of the numbers are done bigger and bolder than they could be in a theater, and the added visual effects make us feel more deeply what the characters are going through and dreaming of. We also get a number of shots of local residents which both add a level of distinction from the stage show and also drive home that this is the story of a community and their dream more than any person. It does exactly what an adaptation should do: Furthers the themes, enhances the visuals without destroying the focus of the play, and shows you things bigger than what you could have gotten on stage. In short, it’s exactly the things that Cats and Les Miserables did wrong. Someone needs to tell Tom Hooper to watch this… or force him.

Yes, they are dancing on the walls.

Overall, just a fantastic movie. Better on the big screen, but still great on the small one.

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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Mare of Easttown: A Great Crime Drama – HBO Max Review

Kate Winslet deserves another Emmy.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) is a detective in the small town of Easttown, Pennsylvania who was formerly a town hero for her basketball skills. She is ordered to reopen an investigation into the disappearance of a young girl, Katie Bailey (Caitlin Houlahan) after Katie’s mother, Dawn (Enid Graham), complains about the ineffectual police work. At the same time, another dead body is found and it’s connected to Mare’s daughter, Siobhan (Angourie Rice). While Mare tries to solve two different crimes, she is also weighed down by her ex-husband Frank (David Denman) getting remarried, her son’s suicide, and her heroin-addicted former daughter-in-law Carrie (Sosie Bacon) trying to take away her grandson. There are a huge number of supporting characters along the way.

Kate Winslet is a treasure.

END SUMMARY

I hadn’t really heard anything about this until it was four or five episodes in when some of my siblings told me to check it out. While I prefer comedies overall, this is a drama that you just can’t help but get sucked into. Kate Winslet’s performance is among the best in her career. Somehow she basically embodies the atmosphere of the show. She’s bitter, she’s miserable, and life keeps kicking her in the face, but she’s still working on a way to get through it all. She was the town’s hero, but much like the town she’s wildly past her prime. At one point I was legitimately curious how someone as unbelievably talented and constantly praised as Kate Winslet can so perfectly capture the feeling of having peaked. Then a female friend said “she’s an actress in her 40s, she’s probably constantly worried that she’s peaked.” Whatever she draws from, she’s perfect in the role. 

Oh, and Evan Peters is there, being all handsome.

The show’s not shy about directly addressing the drug problems that plague a lot of small towns in America, nor the effect it has on the families of addicts. A great scene early on involves a woman punching her brother for burglarizing her and admitting, privately, that she can’t handle his slow march towards destruction. Many of the people in the show are battling either addiction or someone with it and scenes like that are common. It helps that the show treats almost all of these characters as real people and perpetually defies TV drama stereotypes. 

There are some issues with police conduct, but they aren’t as focal.

The supporting cast is amazing, but I would have to say that most of the members of Mare’s family are all brilliant. I particularly love Jean Smart as Mare’s mother, but then again I love Jean Smart in anything lately. Much like with the townspeople, the family all feel genuine and not like cookie-cutter copies of most TV families. It also helps that Mare’s relationships with all of them are distinct and it gives the show a number of moments of levity mixed with moments of bold sincerity. 

Hey, people aren’t supposed to sit on all sides of the table on TV!

Overall, give Kate Winslet another Emmy and give this show a shot.

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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Avenue 5: DS9 As Crewed by Idiots – HBO Max Review

A sci-fi comedy with some not-so-subtle commentary.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Avenue 5 is a luxury passenger ship captained by the acclaimed Ryan Clark (Hugh Laurie). During a routine cruise, the artificial gravity malfunctions resulting in the death of the chief engineer, as well as the ship’s course being altered by a few degrees. Unfortunately, those few degrees will extend the 8-week trip to over three years. Now it’s up to Captain Clark, the second engineer Billie McEvoy (Lenora Crichlow), head of mission control Rav Mulcair (Nikki Amuka-Bird), assistant to the owner Iris Kimura (Suzy Nakamura), and former astronaut Spike Martin (Ethan Phillips) to get the ship back to Earth. Unfortunately, they are generally hampered by the incompetence of the Billionaire Owner Herman Judd (Josh Gad), the head of customer relations Matt Spencer (Zach Woods), and entitled passenger Karen Kelly (Rebecca Front). It also turns out that most of the passengers are also complete idiots. 

This is an absolutely enormous ship.

END SUMMARY

I realize that the premise of a ship being massively off course and having to get back home, as well as the presence of Ethan Phillips, make this show more closely resemble the show Star Trek: Voyager, the fact that it’s set in a single location and doesn’t feature the crew stopping off at other spots makes it sometimes feel a bit more like Deep Space Nine or Babylon 5, after which it is probably named. Of course, either way, this show does not really feel like Star Trek as much as it seems like Idiocracy. Most of the people on Avenue 5 are rich (hence 5th Avenue) and most of the staff don’t really have any knowledge of how the ship works due to almost everything being automated. Even the crew are revealed to have almost no idea what they are doing, because the ship, like most things in the future, is better at flying itself than humans are at flying it.

Josh Gad is particularly dumb for a supposedly brilliant engineer.

The key to this show is that the cast are all pretty hilarious and great at playing characters who are out of their depth. Possibly one of the best running gags is that Captain Clark speaks with an American accent because people find it reassuring, but when he gets angry, or drunk, he reveals that he is actually British. Little details like this seem small at first, but the show actually accumulates them as the show goes on and, unlike many shows, actually has them all pay off in one absolutely hilariously dark episode. It’s not even the finale, it’s just the point at which the show really had to let everything come to a head or else it would have become stale. That’s another good aspect of the show is that it tends to let stuff simmer for just the right amount of time.

Not exactly starfleet.

Overall, I really recommend you give this show a shot if you like farces or sci-fi comedies. 

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.

Hacks: It’s a Funny Show about Funny Women – HBO Max Review

Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder bring us a series about the gap in comic generations.

SUMMARY

Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) is a legendary comedian whose 1970s sitcom with her husband defined much of modern comedy. Unfortunately, her husband cheated on her with her sister, the show ended, Vance lost her chance at being the first female late-night host, and 40 years later she’s now a longtime fixture at a casino in Las Vegas who is fairly estranged from her daughter DJ (Kaitlin Olson). After her ex-husband finally dies, Deborah is informed by the casino owner, Marty (Christopher McDonald), that he’s cutting her show dates. Deborah calls her manager, Jimmy (Paul W. Downs), who tells her she should hire a writer. While her manager, Marcus (Carl Clemons-Hopkins), is open to it, Deborah declines. Ignoring her wishes, Jimmy sends her Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder), a comic writer who has been a pariah due to a poorly-received tweet. The two don’t get along, but when they start verbally sparring, Deborah ends up hiring her. Now the two have to work together to get their careers back on track and maybe get them both to the top.

Forty years as a headlining comedian do give you a nice house, though.

END SUMMARY

I was advised to check this show out or I probably never would have even heard about it, and I’m glad to pass the message on. This show is a pretty solid generation-gap comedy, but with the added element of having both of the leads be women. Deborah grew up in the comedy world when the motto was “there is no line as long as it’s funny,” but Ava lives in the modern comedy world where comedy is expected to have a social agenda. She constantly has to come up against Deborah’s older humor base involving stereotypes about marriage, femininity, and female sexuality with Ava’s more modern sensibilities. However, while Deborah doesn’t particularly drive it home as much as she probably could, there’s always still the underlying knowledge that Ava would not likely even have an opportunity to be a comedian. Deborah suffered, clawed, and fought her way into a market that often refused to even acknowledge that women could be on stage, making a foothold that Ava is using to stand. 

She fought the Man for decades, she gets a helicopter ride.

It’s probably obvious, but the key to this show is that the two leads are both, independently, hilarious. Jean Smart, aside from being a lead on Designing Women, has been a mainstay of sitcoms for decades and has lately been tearing it up on HBO with her roles in Watchmen, Mare of Easttown, and now this series. She’s got a natural ability to play both the big, over-the-top moments and the small, quiet moments without ever feeling like she’s betraying the character. When Deborah is “ON,” then she is very on. When she is being real, she’s often contemplative and deeper than people expect. Smart makes this feel like one cohesive person with two sides rather than a person putting on an act. Hannah Einbinder, daughter of famed SNL cast member Laraine Newman, is just as new to the field of comedy as her TV counterpart, but she has a lot going for her. She was the youngest person to do a stand-up set on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at the age of 25. She’s got an absurdist touch to her comedy that makes it feel like her lines can literally come from anywhere and a delivery that makes even the most insane sentence sound funny.

They really play off of each other well.

Overall, it’s a pretty solid show.  I recommend giving it a try. 

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.

Those Who Wish Me Dead: A Bit Too Generic – HBO Max Review

Angelina Jolie plays a woman with a tragic past who has to redeem herself. Shocking.

SUMMARY

Hannah Faber (Angelina Jolie) is a smokejumper in Montana who has recently been given a more laid-back post in a fire tower after several kids and a colleague in a bad jump. Her ex-boyfriend, Ethan (Jon Bernthal), is a deputy Sheriff whose brother-in-law, Owen (Jake Weber), is a forensic accountant. Unfortunately, Owen has recently found incriminating evidence against mob boss Arthur Phillip (Tyler Perry) and is now being hunted by Phillip’s assassins Jack and Patrick Blackwell (Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult). After Owen is killed, his son, Connor (Finn Little), is found by Hannah and now the two must survive against the assassins, the elements, and a conflagration.

The kid’s trauma mostly gets overlooked in favor of hers.

END SUMMARY

Ever seen a protagonist who is tortured by a recent tragic loss that coincidentally is thematically similar to something that happens to them in the film? I mean, have you ever watched a movie where the main character or one of the major characters has a tortured past that they bring up repeatedly and have to overcome? Oh, you haven’t? Well, then you should probably be aware that motion pictures exist and about one-third of them have that trope somewhere in there. 

There are sometimes flashbacks to when the protagonists were young and optimistic.

So much of this movie felt so very generic. We have predictable statements about Hannah no longer really caring about her safety because she’s depressed, a ton of expository dialogue, jokes that are so canned that I believe someone stored them for the Winter during the great depression, and a plot you could probably predict from 10 minutes in. It makes this film feel like an absolute slog, which is really sad because some elements of it are actually pretty great. While they completely wasted Angelina Jolie throughout much of the film by sticking her with cliched traits, other characters were actually pretty interesting. The assassin brothers, while they are both kind of stereotypical assassins, come to life when they’re interacting with each other. Honestly, it might just be leftover Littlefinger, but it felt like Aidan Gillen was a complete and utter magnificent bastard in this. He sells the gentleman killer role perfectly, as well as the more responsible brother. Then there’s Ethan’s pregnant wife, Allison, played by Medina Senghore, who manages to avert almost every expectation you’d have in this otherwise fairly paint-by-numbers film. She’s a badass without ever having to resort to any of the traditional “tough girl” traits you find in this kind of movie. 

They both can’t hold a candle to Medina Senghore.

Overall, unfortunately, this just wasn’t worth the 100 minutes it takes to watch. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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