Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: My Childhood Dream is Real (Spoiler-Free)

SpoilerFree

The Dark Knight meets the Heroes on the Half-Shell and it’s just a great time all around.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Leonardo: Eric Bauza, Raphael: Darren Criss, Donatello: Baron Vaughn, Michelangelo: Kyle Mooney) come to Gotham City after they find out that their nemesis the Shredder (Andrew Kishino) and his army of foot ninjas have set up shop in the city. Batman (Troy Baker) discovers that high-tech thefts have been occurring involving ninjas all around the city. Batgirl (Rachel “Yes, that Rachel Bloom” Bloom) witnesses one of these thefts, but believes that the TMNT, who were there to stop it, are the culprits. Batman and the Turtles fight, then they unite to take down the Foot Clan and Batman’s Rogues’ Gallery. 

BatmanTMNT - 1Lineup
If this came out in 1994, it would have broken reality.

END SUMMARY

Crossovers aren’t new. They’ve been happening since Apollonius Rhodius decided to get an audience by going “hey, did you guys know there’s a story where Hercules, Orpheus, the Gemini twins, Achilles’ dad, some flying brothers, and a bunch of other heroes all went on a quest together?” The Argonauts were just the Avengers of Ancient Greece. I’d say Justice League, but I’m still smarting from that movie. 

BatmanTMNT - 2Steppenwolf
The villains in this animated movie look more convincing.

Crossovers are common in animation (Scooby-Doo has met just about everyone at some point) and in comic books (Archie has met the Punisher, the Predator, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Harley Quinn, and Vampirella), so this particular one was basically inevitable. Hell, apparently there have now been 3 different comic crossovers between these properties, including the one that forms the basis of this film. So, the team pretty much just had to deliver everything that’s good about Batman with everything that’s good about the Ninja Turtles. Since both of them have had SO MANY adaptations, they could reasonably give the two properties any number of qualities and they would still probably feel true to the source. 

BatmanTMNT - 3Crossover
I admit that I like the comic art much more.

Well, good news, the movie definitely gets across versions of both franchises. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that this movie is no more and no less than what it promised in the title. 

Here are the good parts:

The fight scenes in the film are pretty creative and they do manage to demonstrate the abilities of all of the parties involved. Special credit goes to the Shredder v. Batman fight, because it’s everything I wanted and more. It’s one of the few moments in the film where I was genuinely surprised at the quality. The fight between Batman and the TMNT is, likewise, awesome.

BatmanTMNT - 4Shredder
Seriously, this is one of the best fight sequences ever animated. 

The voice casting in the movie is amazing. I particularly like that Troy Baker voices both Batman and the Joker, giving the characters an appropriate level of mirroring that isn’t usually present. I also loved Rachel Bloom as Batgirl, though that might be because I just love Rachel Bloom. Each of the turtles has an appropriately distinct voice that lends itself to their personality, just like in most of the adaptations. 

BatmanTMNT - 5Batgirl
This movie almost makes up for Batgirl’s terrible Killing Joke animated prologue. Almost.

The writing is pretty good. Definitely more effort than you’d usually get from a direct-to-video film like this. Is it going to match something like Into the Spider-verse or The Lego Movie? No, but it does a good job not distracting you from the action sequences. Also, they definitely manage to get in almost all the cameos and interactions that you wanted from a movie like this without most of them feeling insanely contrived. 

BatmanTMNT - 6Penguin
Somehow this fight isn’t over in 2 seconds.

This film is one of the few to actually make use of a PG-13 rating. This movie is violent, far more so than most adaptations of Batman or the TMNT, harkening back to the roots of both series. 

BatmanTMNT - 7BW.jpg
Like how the turtles offered Shredder the opportunity to KILL HIMSELF.

The bad stuff:

Look, it’s a superhero crossover and those have certain things that have to happen. The heroes have to fight each other and then team up to fight the actual bad guy. It’s such a cliché that Watchmen mentioned it as something that typically happens in hero interactions back in 1985. The upside is that the film gets most of the adversarial stuff out of the way pretty early, so it’s not that big of a drain. The plot is meandering and kind of unfocused, but not distractingly so. 

BatmanTMNT - 8Mikey
The fight is entertainingly brutal and quick.

The art style is obviously subjective, but I didn’t like it. The turtles to me didn’t resemble any of their incarnations very well and Batman’s color scheme was closer to the one from Adam West than Tim Burton, which didn’t feel appropriate for a version with this much violence and death. Most of the villains, aside from Shredder, felt way too subdued until after *SPOILER* they get mutated. *END SPOILER*  It just never worked for me. 

Overall, though, it was a pretty fun movie that hit most of the notes that I would want for this kind of film.  If you like either of these franchises, this is a must-see. 

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.

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Spider-Man: Far From Home – Trust in Marvel and Ye Shall Have Your Reward (Spoiler-Free)

SpoilerFree

Spider-Man tries to have an ordinary Summer vacation until he’s dragged into a superhero conflict by Nick Fury.

SUMMARY (SPOILER-FREE)

Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is back following his resurrection at the end of Avengers: Endgame (No, you don’t get a spoiler warning for that, watch the damned movies in a reasonable time). Following the death of Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), he’s having trouble determining his place in the world of superbeings. When he goes with his school on a trip to Europe for the Summer, Peter tries to leave his superlife at home and focus on finally talking to MJ (Zendaya) about his feelings for her. However, things go awry when it’s revealed that Nick Fury (Samuel L. “Motherf**king” Jackson) needs him to help Mysterio/Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a superhero from an alternate Earth that is trying to stop the Elementals, a group of four supervillains. Peter has to deal with the threat to the planet while also dealing with a threat to his Summer romance. 

Tom Holland (Pending);Jake Gyllenhaal (Finalized);Numan Acar (Finalized)
Edna Mode just had a stroke looking at Mysterio’s costume.

END SUMMARY

One of the opening lines to this film is “how will we move on with the next phase of our lives? Without the Avengers, does anyone even have a plan?” That’s the question this movie knows the audience is asking. Now that the story arc which has been building since the first Avengers film is over and three of the original Avengers are gone (Captain America, Iron Man, and Black Widow), does Marvel even have a plan for what to do next? I mean, they gambled so heavily on this idea back in 2008 when they had Nick Fury mention “The Avengers Initiative” at then end of Iron Man, that it seems impossible to move past the Avengers after that bet paid off so well (as it’s likely to be the highest grossing film in history by the end of this year). Well, Spider-man immediately answers that question on behalf of Marvel: “[We] have a plan.” 

SpiderManFFH - 2Inhumans
But, like, a good one this time.

Yes, it’s a strangely direct metatextual moment, but I think it’s an important one. This film is about carrying on after a major upset to the world. Within the narrative, it’s the “blip,” which is what the MCU characters call the “Snap” from Avengers: Infinity War. To the audience, it’s the end of the initial phases of Marvel films. The movie decided to start everything off by telling the viewer: It’s okay, believe in Marvel, we have more in store for you. It sets everything at ease and allows you to relax your anxieties more, something that pays off well in the film.

SpiderManFFH - 3BlackSuit.jpg
Stealth-suit Spider-Man somehow is NOT a dumb idea in the context of the film.

This movie works perfectly as a transition to the new, still relatively unknown, future of the franchise. It mentions the multiverse (possibly because another Spider-Man film did it better), and even has characters point out that this is “what people need right now,” because it allows Marvel to start expanding beyond just the continuity we know, but this film mostly focuses just on the current storyline and assures us that things are still going to be going forward. Changes are coming to the world we’ve been watching, though, and some of them will be major, even if they’re not spelled out in this film.

SpiderManFFH - 4IronSpider.png
Iron-Spider says “It’s all good, people!”

But enough about that stuff, here’s what I can say about the movie:

Tom Holland is still great as Spider-Man. Nothing about that has changed. Jake Gyllenhaal makes a great pseudo-partner/big brother figure to him in the movie and their moments together are solid. The villains are amazing, and some of the sequences involving Spider-Man confronting a bad guy are among the best I’ve seen in a comic book film. The supporting characters are all great.

SpiderManFFH - 5Bros
“You’ll be good in the Donnie Darko remake, Tom.” “No one needs that, Jake.”

As far as the writing goes, this movie has the correct level of comedy for a Spider-Man film. It still has the dramatic moments, but it’s still Spider-Man, a character who has to wisecrack and be awkward or he’s just not fun. 

The plot is hard to talk about without spoilers, so suffice it to say that no matter what predictions you made or things you think you know about what’s going to happen from the trailers, you’ll be happy with the way everything unfolds. 

The mid-credits scene cannot be missed by anyone with any interest in this franchise. Do NOT go to the bathroom if you value your sanity.

There are no churros in the movie and that made me sad.

Overall, this movie told me upfront to trust in Marvel and that we’d be rewarded. They immediately followed that up with a solid and somewhat original superhero movie. Have faith, my people. Marvel’s still got some stuff to show us.

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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Toy Story 4: Definitely the Worst Toy Story, but Still a Good Movie (Spoiler-Free)

Pixar makes a mostly unnecessary film, but it’s Pixar, so it’s still better than 90% of the movies out there.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and the rest of the gang from the last movie are still living with Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), the girl who inherited the toys from their former owner Andy (John Morris). However, on her first day in Kindergarten orientation, Bonnie makes a toy out of items found in the trash and names it Forky (Tony Hale). Forky ends up coming to life and having an existential crisis because he was made to be thrown in the trash, not played with. On a road trip with Bonnie, Forky ends up trying to throw himself out and Woody has to rescue him, running into the film’s “villain” Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks) and his old lost flame Bo Peep (Annie Potts). Stuff happens and you’ll cry at one point, probably. 

END SUMMARY

Okay, first of all, if I seem a little harsh on this movie, it’s only because Pixar has set a bar that is pretty much the highest of any studio out there. Aside from the Cars movies, which I personally didn’t care for much, Pixar’s pretty much churned out magic every time for me, including all three of the previous Toy Story movies. They made Wall-E, half of which is basically the perfect film, Up, which has one of the best openings in cinema, Coco, which is a visual masterpiece, and Inside Out, which has a scene that will reduce me to a broken mass of tears even upon thinking about itohgodBingBongshe’sgoingtothemoonIpromise. So, it is with that in mind that I say this movie was good, but not Pixar good. 

Here’s the good stuff:

The opening to the film is amazing. Really, despite being a flashback, it sets up a lot of layers of the characters of Woody and Bo Peep that they had only alluded to prior to this. It also foreshadows a difference in their internal philosophies that will end up being crucial to the movie. We then head to the present and find Woody’s life is not the same anymore, because he’s not Bonnie’s favorite toy. In fact, when Bonnie plays with the toys, she makes Jessie (Joan Cusack), the cowgirl, the sheriff, leaving Woody in the closet. And, again, we’re at a good point in the narrative set-up at this point, because when Forky comes along, it’s made pretty obvious that Woody is facing an existential crisis of his own and their parallels and differences are set-up to be explored.And then we enter the second act and Forky quickly just moves to accept his place as a toy and from there the movie did kind of start falling apart a little, but more on that in a second.

The animation in the film is so damned good. It’s just… so damned good. I just re-watched Toy Story because I’m trying to watch the AFI top 100 along with the podcast “Unspooled,” and it’s unbelievably amazing how much they’ve improved the graphics without having to re-do the character models. The eyes of all of the characters are probably the best representation, because in this film all of the eyes are clearly made out of different materials based on the nature of the toy. Also, the materials that make up everything are so detailed now, as opposed to the patterned surfaces from the original. Now, this isn’t to say that the surfaces in the original weren’t amazing, hell, they’re more impressive than most CGI movies that come out now, but the technology has advanced and Pixar has advanced with it and I want to celebrate that.

The antagonist is Gabby Gabby, a Talky Tina/Chatty Cathy surrogate, who lives in an antique store and never gets played with, something that breaks her heart. I will say, this movie did a great job with her because, even though she’s the villain, her motivations aren’t nearly as evil as Al from Toy Story 2 or Lotso from Toy Story 3. She never had a chance to do the one thing toys are supposed to do, play with children, so she’s spent her entire life trying to find a way to do that and, admittedly, has gone too far. Still, you definitely sympathize with her by the end.

Bo Peep’s character has changed and grown a lot since Toy Story 2 and I really appreciate how they’ve evolved her in the interim. Without a child to play with, she has had to find her own purpose and fulfillment and it’s really a great character arc, even if it mostly happened off-screen. 

Keanu Reeves is in the movie and while his character is only okay, he does deliver a trademark “whoa” and everything was right in the world for just a second. 

Lastly, small SPOILER WARNING here, the end of the film has Woody completing an entirely new arc for his character that somehow feels believable, even though it marks a major change. I have to give credit to Pixar for being willing to change a main character’s motivations in a believable way. Also, they never explain how toys come to life, and they even seem to flat-out tell us that they’re not going to explain it, and that’s awesome, because suck it Midi-chlorians.

Now to the Bad things:

This movie was completely unnecessary. There was nothing at the end of the third movie that suggested they needed to keep telling the story. I mean, technically at the end of Toy Story, everything seemed complete, but the nature of the premise of living toys always set the idea in the back of our minds of “what happens when the kid gets older.” At the end of Toy Story 3, we see multiple ways that toys deal with it, from going to schools for communal play to just finding a new kid. It answered the last question we really had. From the trailers, they seemed like they were going to answer the question that we probably shouldn’t have answered “how are the toys alive” and “when are things toys as opposed to something else,” but the movie makes a point of not answering that, so why did we need to have this film? The themes of the movie are pretty much the same as the themes in almost every other Toy Story, or even Pixar, film, so it’s not for those.

The plot goes in like 5 different directions at once and they don’t exactly mesh as well as they should. They also have characters change a little bit too easily when they need to get to the next stage in the film. The most blatant example is Forky who resolves his inner conflict the literal second that they find something else to move on to and it doesn’t feel natural.

The big thing here is that the humor isn’t as good as it was in some of the other films. One running gag is that Buzz Lightyear is trying to listen to his “inner voice,” which just results in him pushing his own buttons and following their orders. Sometimes it’s funny, but most of the time it just makes me go “Buzz, why are you suddenly an idiot?” I mean, in each movie Buzz has some weird thing, like believing he’s not a toy or meeting a duplicate Buzz or being reset to Spanish, but he’s never been actually portrayed as this type of idiot and it just doesn’t feel real. He eventually meets Ducky and Bunny (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele), who actually are funny at times, but most of the time just seem to be pointless. I’m not saying there aren’t laughs, I’m saying that they weren’t quite as good as in the other films. 

The same is true of the sincere moments. There are moments in the movie that are touching and emotional, but several of them fall flat, partially because they’re just re-treads of other, better, scenes Pixar has done before. I do admit there are two scenes with Gabby Gabby that will give you some feels in your heart-holes, but aside from that it’s still lacking.

The last thing is that the movie REALLY REALLY REALLY REEEEEEEEEAAAAAAALLLY has to suspend disbelief in exactly how much people are oblivious. I mean, the toys do so much in the open in this film and it’s so obvious at times that you just can’t imagine that nobody notices. 

Overall, it’s still a good movie, but it’s definitely the bottom of the Toy Story hierarchy. And for those of you who are saying “isn’t that Toy Story 2?” I say “DID YOU EVEN HEAR WHEN SHE LOVED ME?” Still, if you liked the first three, you’ll like this. Heck, little kids might even like it more than the others, since it’s very kinetic and colorful. 

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.

Netflix Review – Aggretsuko (Season 2): Life Is Bleak and Horrible, But Also Unique and Adorable

Aggretsuko returns for a second season, addressing dating, co-workers, and the generation gap in the new millennium.

SUMMARY (SPOILERS)

Retsuko (Kaolip (Japanese); Erica Mendez (English)) is still working in accounting after breaking up with her boyfriend Resasuke (Shingo Kato; Max Mittelman) at the end of last season. However, her Mother has decided that Retsuko is not moving forward with her dating life enough and starts signing her up for matchmaking services, much to Retsuko’s annoyance. Soon after, a new hire, Anai, starts in Retsuko’s department and is revealed to be a slacker who responds to any implication that he’s doing something wrong by recording conversations and making them formal complaints, terrifying everyone. When Retsuko takes driving lessons so that she and her friends Gori (Maki Tsuruta; G.K. Bowes) and Washimi (Komegumi Koiwasaki; Tara Platt) can take a trip, she meets slacker white donkey Tadano (Griffin Burns), who she likes but thinks is a failure. Tadano drops out of driving school, disappointing her further. She does eventually run into him again and he asks her out, which she accepts due to her underlying feelings for him. However, it’s revealed that Tadano is actually a Tech CEO Billionaire, which delights Retsuko, but she realizes that they might not quite see eye-to-eye on some things.

Aggretsuko2 - 1Mom.jpg
Her mom is so freaking adorable but also I don’t want to be on her bad side.

END SUMMARY

Holy hell, this show doesn’t shy away from hitting at the problems of people in their late 20s and early 30s. I mean, if you have never worked with a crazy a-hole co-worker who tries to get you in trouble for doing things that you would never have imagined would be a problem, then you should consider yourself extremely fortunate. If you’ve never had a great relationship with someone that just didn’t work out because you were after different things in the long run, then consider yourself fortunate. If your parents have never called to ask how you are going to find Mister/Miss Right and you don’t really want to explain to them that dating has changed since they were single 40 years ago and not everyone is looking to have a family and buy a house and fill it with 2.5 kids, consider yourself fortunate unless it’s because your parents have passed in which case I am sorry for your loss. In this season, we see Retsuko deal with all of this at the same time, and it’s sometimes almost hard to watch due to the accuracy, even though it’s cartoon animals.

Aggretsuko2 - 2Anai.png
Anai is so very, very awkward even when he isn’t being a douche.

Most horrifying of all is that none of these people are actually “Bad” people. Retsuko’s mom just wants her to be happy but doesn’t understand that happiness doesn’t mean the same thing to Retsuko as it does for her. Anai seems annoying and mean, but it’s really just that he’s scared and hasn’t had experience dealing with people. That doesn’t mean he’s not an asshole, but it does at least give you an idea that maybe assholes don’t have to stay assholes. Tadano loves Retsuko, but he believes that marriage and children are bastions of the past that no longer need to be the default, something that Retsuko just disagrees with. Their breakup is sad, but he’s completely understanding about it, just like she is. They just don’t have the same future in mind.

Aggretsuko2 - 3Tadano.png
That feeling when the guy you like turns out to also be rich. I can’t relate.

No matter what happens, Retsuko keeps going, because she does know that it’s good to at least find out what you want. A lot of the current people in Retsuko’s generation, like her, feel like they’re drifting, because unless you are lucky you are likely looking for a job to help pay off the debt you had to accrue to get the degree you had to have to get the job. Even then, the job probably doesn’t pay enough for you to dig yourself out of your hole in any reasonable amount of time, but you also see all of the people out there on the internet doing so well and, even though you know it’s a curated image that they aren’t really living, it still makes you feel inferior and like you’re not making use of life, but you also don’t want to be irresponsible and the world’s possibly actually going to end in our lifetime and ohgodimsadnow. Somehow this show has more accurately pointed out much of the modern existential crises that this generation faces than almost anything else, and it’s a f*cking Red Panda that sings Death Metal.

Aggretsuko2 - 4Singing.png
Tadano mostly deals with the Death Metal revelation well. 

What’s particularly interesting is the gap between Retsuko, Puko, and Tadano. Tadano represents the people who are hopeful for the future, who want to bring about the grand social change that allows humanity to achieve self-actualization. He has a self-driving car, but hires a driver just so the driver can have a job. He is a developer of automation, but is doing so with the hope that it will bring about the end of late stage capitalism. He’s even developing the neural-net software that is intended to replace Retsuko, but wants to pay her to quit her job and do what she wants with her life. The problem is, his vision fails unless most of the other rich people also think it’s noble to pay people do do what they want. Even Retsuko ultimately turns him down because she prefers the independence that she gets from her miserable job from a life of freedom that’s dependent upon Tadano if he’s never going to be her husband. She’s not afraid of living within her current structure. Meanwhile, we’re shown that Retsuko’s flaky pink panther pal Puko (Allegra Clark) has opened the store she wanted to set-up during the last season and that it is slow and difficult due to her not being able to pay people for help and her employees ducking out on her. Despite this, she’s still happy because she’s doing what she wants, even if it’s hard.

Aggretsuko2 - 5Puko.png
She learns what it’s like to deal with her.

Despite all of this bleakness towards life and corporate wage slavery, the show does manage to present some hopeful moments, mostly coming from Retsuko’s small improvements that remind us that some kinds of change are within our grasp if we want them. Yes, the world sucks and you’re likely to spend most of your time on the Earth doing something that’s unfulfilling and horrible, but hey, at least you can sing with your friends or maybe write a movie review blog. Also, Red Pandas still exist, so we should fight for a better future.

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.

Amazon Prime Review – Good Omens (Season 1): It’s the End of the World as We Know It and this Show’s… Okay?

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s collaboration is brought to the small screen.

SUMMARY

In the beginning, God (Frances McDormand) created the heavens and the Earth. This is generally regarded as a bad move. God then created people, which is just a giant mistake, because have you met people? Although, it did give us Douglas Adams, so maybe that’s a push. Well, in any case, people quickly got kicked out of paradise due to being tempted by a demon in the form of a snake. That demon, named Crowley (David Tennant), was sent to Earth by the forces of Hell to stir up trouble. Meanwhile, his counterpart, the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen), who was supposed to guard the gates of Eden, is stuck on Earth opposing Crowley. Over the millennia, the two have grown fonder of Earth, and of each other, than they are of either Heaven or Hell. However, it turns out that the apocalypse is drawing nigh, so the two are determined to work together to stop the antichrist (Adam Taylor Young) from accidentally ending the world, along the way meeting one of the last witchfinders (Jack Whitehall) and a witch (Adria Arjona) following a series of prophecies by her own great-great-great-grandmother (Josie Lawrence).

GoodOmens - 1JonHamm
Also, Jon Hamm buys pornography poorly.

END SUMMARY

I always compared Good Omens to the song “Under Pressure.” It’s thoroughly enjoyable, to be sure, and the product of a collaboration between two absolutely brilliant minds, but it’s not the best product of either of the authors. That said, it’s still a really fun book and has a lot of amazing character moments that clearly arise by having the creations of two very different writing styles interacting. One thing that consistently works about the book are all of the fun intercalary passages depicting the strange things happening as the world approaches the end times and all of the fun prophecies put forth by Agnes Nutter.

GoodOmens - 2Agnes
She also has the hottest execution on record.

This TV show is a solid adaptation of the material, but the material is difficult to adapt. The beauty of much of the writing of Good Omens is the almost lyrical language that the two authors carry into the narrative and the multitude of fun, well-developed characters.  Even with the huge amount of narration in this series, it’s still tough to get the humor to the screen without literally reading the entire thing. The series manages to do this well enough, mostly through having a lot of clever cuts and framing devices for different scenes. The fact that most of the characters are color coded and heavily distinctly costumed also helps to elaborate on their backstories without having to dwell on them. I particularly love what they did with the Antichrist’s friends, coloring them as the horsemen of the apocalypse. The thing is, though, they still can’t quite visually represent the same level of quirky humor and the endearing descriptions that are found in the novel. The show is definitely cute and funny, but only a handful of the scenes have any real staying power and only a few of the jokes really showcase the strengths of the source material.

GoodOmens - 3Hound
The Hellhound gag is still amazing, though.

There are a few highlights, though. First, Tennant and Sheen are just freaking magical in their scenes together. They really manage to convey “best frenemies” perfectly, with each of them clearly caring deeply for the other while making a show that they don’t. It’s pretty much summarized by a scene in the first episode where Aziraphale fiercely says “Get thee behind me, foul fiend,” before politely inviting him to enter the building, saying “after you.” One of the best sequences in the series is a depiction of their history from Egypt through the French Revolution.

GoodOmens - 4AngelDemon.jpg
The Crucifixion was awkward, much like in real life.

Another highlight is that some of the characters are really well designed, particularly the demons. Almost all of the demons who are associated with flies are found with some type of insectivore living on their person, which is just funny. The angels are similarly depicted as being fussy and obsessed with order, particularly Gabriel (Jon Hamm), who loves human suits.

GoodOmens - 5Suit
Something he’s never done before.

The side-stories aren’t quite as good visually as they were when being described, mostly because a lot of them were just designed to be quick jokes that just colored the world, whereas the TV format kind of forces a little more time on them just to justify the expense of setting up the scene.

GoodOmens - 6Horsemen
Granted, if you get the four bikers of the apocalypse in costume, you use them.

Overall, it’s not the best show on TV, but it is definitely a pretty solid one. It’s fun and that’s about all it needed to be. I’d say give it a try if you have the time.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time 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.

Pokémon Detective Pikachu/Brightburn: Darker Sides of Lighter Worlds, or the Power of the Proof of Concept (Spoiler-Free)

I saw two movies and I noticed a common element to both of them: They both were only okay films, but they definitely served as evidence that a better film of that type could be made.

SUMMARY

13 years ago, Elizabeth Banks found a spaceship containing a small Pikachu named Ryan Reynolds. Finding that the Pikachu has amnesia, she and her husband who didn’t end up marrying Pam on The Office try to raise him and find his partner. The Pikachu grows up to become a sociopathic detective, but not the Beledirt Dumbershoot kind. He proceeds to solve crimes and kill people brutally until something something magic of friendship and genocide. Also, the kid from Jurassic World 2: Let’s F*ck this Franchise is in it.

OKAY, REAL SUMMARIES

POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU

Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is an insurance agent in the Pokémon Universe. He finds out that his estranged detective father has recently been killed and comes to Ryme City to collect his stuff. Ryme City is a unique place in the Pokémon world, as Pokémon battles are illegal there and Pokémon live as equals. At his father’s apartment, Tim finds a Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) wearing a deerstalker (the Sherlock Holmes hat) who can talk, but only to Tim. He reveals that he has lost his memory but knows that Tim’s father isn’t dead, so the pair set out to unravel the mystery of what happened to him. Also, Mewtwo (Rina Hoshino and Kotaro Watanabe) is in the movie and is basically a demi-god.

BRIGHTBURN

In 2006, Tori and Kyle Breyer (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) see a spaceship fall from the sky containing a baby boy. They adopt him and name him Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn). When the boy starts to hit puberty, he discovers that he has more than just new hair growing somewhere, he has superpowers. However, he also has some serious mental issues which quickly drive him to do bad things using his abilities… bad things like murder because he’s freaking Superman, so you’re not gonna stop him. Tori tries to find the good in him and convince him to change before he ends up destroying the world.

END SUMMARIES

On the surface, both of these films would seem to have nothing in common. However, both of them represent an important part of any industry: A proof of concept. Both of them are attempts to demonstrate the viability of a type of film, which is to say, a dark take on a typically lighthearted story. Pokémon Detective Pikachu, aside from having more teenage and adult humor coming from Ryan Reynolds’s Pikachu, also features a more realistic take on a world built around unbelievably powerful monsters that are constantly being imprisoned and pitted against one another. Brightburn, while it failed on some levels, showed us the idea of doing a horror film where the monster is just a perversion of a beloved figure (and if anyone says “isn’t that just an evil clown movie,” no, clowns are always evil).

Now, both of these films actually suffered from the same major flaw: They didn’t go far enough. I give credit that they did start to show us a Pokémon movie dealing with the actual ramifications of having unbelievably powerful creatures that we use for common purposes (Machamp can push a mountain and is seen directing traffic. Vanillish can reduce temperatures to near absolute zero and is working as an air conditioner. Squirtles are seen breathing water as firefighters. Hypersonic bird pokemon deliver mail), but they went out of their way to avoid most of the dangerous parts of that symbiosis (like when you tread on a Growlithe’s paw and it melts your face). The film has to obey the kid-friendly rules of “Pokémon are always kind and loving,” unless the plot demands otherwise, like Mewtwo. Hell, Mewtwo points out that humans routinely abuse, battle, and experiment on Pokémon, but at the end changes his mind because plot. If you’re going to dangle those threads, you’ve got to follow up on them! Give us the darkness and then give us the hopeful ending despite it! Go big or go home! Still, this film did at least give us a taste of that and it gives me hope that someone may take it further in the future.

Brightburn actually makes a slightly different error, but still part of the same flaw. In the film, Brandon Breyer is not evil because power corrupts and he’s f*cking Superman, but instead because nonspecific alien voices tell him to be evil. Sadly, that kind of removes some of the fun from the concept for me. Superman has always had a lot of great horror potential because basically none of us would be able to resist the temptation he faces every day. He has the ability to destroy almost anything if he really went all out, but he always puts himself at risk in order to minimize the damage to his opponents. Hell, in the animated Justice League, he gives a very angry speech to Darkseid explaining that he lives in a “world of cardboard.” When you can benchpress a star and melt someone’s head by looking at it too hard, you probably start questioning why you’re putting up with that asshole ranting on the radio, let alone why you’re intentionally avoiding killing the supervillain that’s attacking you. So, it’s really pretty easy to consider why Superman would become evil just from asking the question “why the hell not?” Instead, Brightburn just says “oh, alien possession monster stuff grrr.” It removes the actual depth of analyzing how easy it is to be evil when you have immunity from everything. But still, despite that, it manages to actually drive home some of what would be truly horrifying about an evil Superman: He’s always just toying with you. At any point, if he wanted you to be,  you’d be dead before you could do anything about it. You’re not an ant to him, because an ant could bite. You’re a slug and he’s holding all the salt in the world. It’s not quite cosmic horror, because he still at least acknowledges you before killing you, but it’s damned close to the realization that all of human endeavor means nothing in the face of a being who can destroy the world with one hand.

Both of these films got a lot of stuff right, but also failed because they didn’t quite push the envelope enough. Still, they’re both fun and they both establish that there is a much better version of them waiting out there to be shot.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum: Forced Creativity is Still Creativity (Spoiler-Free) + Weird Theory

SpoilerFree

John Wick is back and killing people, but this time he’s being hunted by an entire army of professional assassins.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Starting a few minutes after the last movie ended, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is now on the run from the “High Table” that apparently controls all of the mobs in the world after shooting Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), one of the members of the High Table who betrayed him in the previous film, while on sacred ground. The High Table has excommunicated him from all mob resources and has put a bounty on his head of $14 million, attracting every assassin in the world. John must figure out a way to get rid of the bounty while fighting off an amount of killers that makes it seem like most of the global population murders for money.

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Admittedly, after killing hundreds of other people, he might forget how to not kill people.

END SUMMARY

I loved John Wick. It was an amazing action movie that basically stripped down the story as much as possible without sacrificing emotional impact and providing a lot of worldbuilding with minimum exposition. Mostly, the long-take fight sequences provided a much desired counterbalance to the rapid cut and fast moving fights we see in most other action movies, particularly those in the MCU. It’s not that the other style is bad, but it definitely feels more dramatic to be able to just show the action in its completeness, particularly since it shows the real, and extremely impressive, skills of the stunt performers. It also allows for some more aesthetically creative fights without diminishing the brutality of the violence.

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Also, the use of color is… just amazing.

This movie continues all of that, but it becomes clear quickly that the filmmakers are realizing that they are running out of ways to keep making gunfights interesting without seeming repetitive, so they very cleverly figure out ways to force the fights to be different. Sometimes it’s by adding other people or animals, sometimes it’s by keeping John from having a gun and forcing them to improvise, sometimes it’s by reducing the effectiveness of John’s weapons, but the key is that every action sequence in the movie still feels original. Is it sometimes a little forced, like they have to go out of their way to avoid showing John having a gun or being able to just wreck all of the bad guys the way he previously has? Yeah, a little, but that doesn’t detract from the fun.

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I mean, he uses a horse as a weapon. That’s just neat.

The world in which the film is set is expanded upon a lot, including showing us some more of the inner workings of the nebulous organization that the High Table oversees. The worldbuilding continues to be interesting and the characters that populate it are all compelling, even if they’re just a clever variation on an archetype, like the wise poor man or the shadowy ninja assassin. We also get a little more background on Wick himself, but not enough to remove the air of mystery and badass that surrounds him.

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Also, Halle Berry has amazing dogs.

Basically, if you liked the first two movies, you’ll like this one.

WEIRD FAN THEORY (Mild Spoilers)

John is actually Koschei the Deathless from Russian Mythology. Now, give me a minute on this:

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I mean, they even both have… beards… and skin?

John Wick’s motivation is that someone killed his dog and stole his car. At least, that’s the ostensible motive. The reality is that the dog was a gift from his late wife and the car contained one of the last mementos he had left of her. Thus, when John loses them, he is losing a part of her, the great love of his life for whom he moved heaven and Earth… or, more precisely, killed an absolutely enormous amount of people in one night, essentially accomplishing an impossible task in order to be with her. The rage that fuels John is the desire to retain the powerful love he felt for the woman he lost. Essentially, he’s doing terrible things because he no longer has his heart.

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Her C.O.D. says “Plot and Motivation.” Common for women in movies.

One thing that comes up repeatedly in the films is that John’s nickname is “Baba Yaga,” translated from Russian as “the Boogeyman.” However, at one point in the first film, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) points out that John’s not actually the Boogeyman, he’s the one you send to kill the Boogeyman. In other words, he’s the one that you would send to kill Baba Yaga.

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Believe the old Russian guy.

In Russian Mythology, Baba Yaga is a witch or a magical being that takes the form of an old woman. As with most figures in Russian Fairy Tales, her role can vary wildly, going from snatching children and eating people who fail her tests to being a kindly, maternal figure who feeds lost children and helps them find their way home. Universally, though, she’s extremely powerful and immortal. In fact, there’s typically only one figure in Russian Mythology that is capable of destroying her: Koschei the Deathless. Sometimes he’s her husband, sometimes her brother, sometimes just her male counterpart, but she often is stated to know that he’s the only one who might be able to kill her. Hence, if John Wick is the guy who could kill Baba Yaga, he’d be Koschei the Deathless.

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See? Here he’s even meeting Baba Yaga as Ted Theodore Logan.

While Russian Mythology tends to vary a lot, Koschei’s three main qualities are that A) he’s deathless (duh), B) he can kill anyone and is shown to be magically blessed with all weapons, and C) his heart/soul is gone. The reason why he is immortal (deathless) is because his heart is gone, and typically the only way to get rid of him is to find it. His heart is usually depicted as being hidden in some complicated nested form, such as: The heart is in a needle, the needle is in an egg, the egg is in a duck, the duck is in a hare, the hare is in a box, the box is in a log, the log is in a pond, the pond is in a forest, the forest is on an island. Essentially, it’s inside of a Matryoshka nesting doll. Without a heart, Koschei cannot die.

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Also, sometimes it’s a gemstone.

What do we know about John Wick? Well, 1) he’s Russian (established in this film and implied in the first one), 2) he’s specifically a Ruska Roma, or a Russian Gypsy, a people who are known more for their performing than for their combat ability, and who are, mostly through racism, associated with myths like Baba Yaga and Koschei, 3) his name is fake, but his birth name is likely also fake, with his revealed “real name” being the equivalent of John Johnson, 4)  before he had his wife, he was famous for killing people with a pencil and after he loses her, he similarly proves that he can kill anyone with anything, and 5) he can survive stuff that would kill even most action movie protagonists (particularly in this film). Note that John is only portrayed as being lethal and immortal when he doesn’t have his heart, which is to say his love, but when he is at peace (with his dogs to serve as his heart), he is beaten up by a group of two-bit punks and his house is blown up. If he doesn’t have a gaping hole to fill in his life, he’s not immortal.

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He even bears a token of a Russian bond.

What does this mean? Well, first of all, I’m not saying he’s literally Koschei the Deathless, so I’m not predicting that magic or old women in chicken-legged houses are going to be in the next one (sadly), but I’m saying his story is similar. Ultimately, the only way John Wick can end is the same way any story with Koschei always ends: With someone returning his heart to him and killing him. I firmly believe that it’s only when John actually finds something to love again that he’ll be allowed to die.

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Of course, I could be pulling this out of nowhere. It’s not like John Wick literally keeps one of his most treasured photos inside of a book of Russian Mythology depicting Koschei the Deathless in the New York Public Library, right? Oh, wait, that’s literally in the opening scene which I sadly can’t find a clip of online to place here. Your move, John Wick: Chapter 4.

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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