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.

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 – Living With Yourself: Twice the Rudd is… Pretty Good (Spoiler-Free)

Netflix casts Paul Rudd in two roles in a new show and it really only works because it’s Paul Rudd. But it does work.

SUMMARY 

Miles Elliot (Paul Rudd) is a copywriter who has grown unhappy with his job and with his life. His wife, Kate (Aisling Bea), is an interior architect who has also started to become unhappy with his constant negativity and his refusal to actually participate in their fertility treatments. While at work, one of his co-workers, Dan (Desmin Borges), tells him to go to a new spa which helped him immensely. While at the spa, Miles runs into Tom Brady who claims it’s effective, because Tom Brady doesn’t mind giving himself an advantage using creative means. After paying for his treatment, something goes awry and Miles wakes up buried underground. He escapes back to his house only to find another version of himself there. It turns out that the spa secretly makes “superior” clones of people and dumps the originals. Now Miles and New Miles must figure out how to make their situation work.

LivingWithYourself - 1Clones.jpg
They both can crane their necks.

END SUMMARY

I don’t think this counts as a spoiler, but I’ll tell you that this show manages to blow by most of the clone tropes pretty quickly, which I appreciate. It helps that the clone in this case is not supposed to actually be Miles, but an improved version of Miles created through some sort of gene-manipulation mumbo-jumbo. Never mind that it’s ridiculous that they can somehow pull his memories from his DNA, they also somehow determine what genes are good or bad for his career and home life. Still, they do a good job of showing that, while the new Miles may be improved with regard to some things, he’s not necessarily truly superior in all areas. If this sounds slightly like an episode of Rick and Mortyyeah, it 100% is like that, only with longer-lasting implications and less Rick Sanchez. The plot doesn’t exactly go in the ways you think it probably would or should, which can be either refreshing, annoying, or both, depending on what you’re looking for.

LivingWithYourself - 2Fight
Yes, they might fight at one point.

The thing is, this show wouldn’t be as good without Paul Rudd. He manages to convey the two characters, who are supposed to be almost the same person, with enough nuance that you actually can keep track of which is which even when it’s not obvious from the circumstances. It helps that he makes you feel like each of them is on their own emotional journey, dealing with an almost impossible situation. Mostly, he’s just… really damned likeable as both characters. You don’t get the good/evil twin, they’re just both people trying their best. I will say that Aisling Bea does a great job of portraying a wife who was in a rough patch in her marriage and who suddenly finds herself getting an opportunity to both be with the man she loves and leave behind her baggage at the same time. The show does make her an eventual focus and her agency, subtle at first, becomes more pronounced.

LivingWithYourself - 3Aisling
Even a woman married to Paul Rudd can get bored.

The show has a habit of showing an episode from one Miles’s perspective, then doing the next episode from the other side, which only works some of the time, but when it works, it works. Most of the supporting characters do well in the show, although it is very focused on the three leads. I particularly like Alia Shawkat, AKA Maeby from Arrested Development, who plays Miles’s sister who takes the development of suddenly having 2 brothers in great stride, and Jon Glaser as her… husband(?) who, while only in it for a minute, is pretty funny. 

Overall, I enjoyed it, but… mostly just for the Rudd.

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 – Green Room: One of the Best Modern Horror Films (Spoiler-Free)

Due to not being able to run a 90210 DVD on my computer (someone requested I review an episode before Luke Perry died), I have decided to give you all a special treat and review one of the best films of the last 10 years, Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room. I’m choosing to make it spoiler-free because I really want to encourage people to see this film.

SUMMARY

Pat (Anton Yelchin), Sam (Alia Shawkat), Reece (Joe Cole) and Tiger (Callum Turner) are members of  the punk band the “Ain’t Rights.” While traveling through Oregon, they have one of their gigs cancelled and, to make up for it, local DJ Tad (David W. Thompson) tells them that he can get a performance through his cousin, Daniel (Mark Webber), at a bar outside of Portland. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes apparent that the bar is actually a Neo-Nazi skinhead bar. The group, half of whom are Jewish, having pure metal in their hearts, decide to play anyway, even opening with an amazing cover of The Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks F*ck Off!!!” They end up impressing the crowd and getting paid for the show.  

GreenRoom - 1AintRights.png
They truly do rock the hate-filled house.

On the way out, Sam leaves her phone in the green room. Pat goes back to find it and sees the body of a dead girl (Taylor Tunes), having been stabbed to death by a Neo-Nazi. Pat calls the cops, but two Neo-Nazis, Gabe and Big Justin (Macon Blair and Eric Edelstein), take the phone and hold the Ain’t Rights hostage in the Green Room along with the dead girl’s friend, Amber (Imogen Poots). What follows is a solid 70 minutes of horrifying tension between the band and the Neo-Nazis and their leader, Darcy (Patrick “I am the man” Stewart).

GreenRoom - 2Stewart.jpg
The old man is scarier than the big, tattooed guy.

END SUMMARY

This movie is one of the rare horror movies where no one has to be arbitrarily stupid to move the plot along. Do people sometimes make choices that result in bad things happening? Absolutely, but they only do when either A) they don’t have any way of knowing that bad things will result, B) they are forced to make the choice while under duress or pressure, or C) there are no good options available. Personally, nothing frustrates me more in a horror film than where the writer has to force the cheerleader to run up the stairs rather than out the door or the character with the baseball bat to just assume that they killed the masked slasher rather than keep beating until they’re sure. Are there movies where these actions are justified? Absolutely, the original Halloween does both of them well, but most of the time it’s just a sign that the writer had a great idea for another scene, but not the wherewithal to get there organically. This film avoids all of that.

GreenRoom - 3Gun
Like, for example, these guys actually get a gun.

Most of the film is tension developed from both of the groups trying to out-gambit each other while they’re on different sides of a door. It’s basically a super-high-stakes negotiation and, full credit to Saulnier’s control over the setting and interactions, as well as Sean Porter’s great cinematography, it always feels like everything is building up to something bad. Without ever saying it, every moment tells you that the film is not going to end well for someone, whether it’s the Ain’t Rights or the Neo-Nazis. It’s a movie where the sets are basically caked with dread.

GreenRoom - 4Poots
Even the lighting says “misfortune ahead.”

The performances are all top-notch, particularly Anton Yelchin’s Pat, who manages to maintain control over a situation despite often having a weak position, Imogen Poots’ Amber, who is dealing with PTSD from the beginning of her performance and only gets more stressed throughout, and Macon Blair’s Gabe, who acts as a perfectly rational counterbalance to most of the Neo-Nazis. Then, there’s Patrick Stewart. It’s so hard to describe how perfectly he plays this character. He’s a grizzled leader of a group of racists, but he views most of them only as easily-controllable grunts. It’s not even clear that he actually cares that much about the ideology, but is perfectly willing to exploit all of them. Mostly, he’s always completely calm and rational. At every point, he counters any attempts by the band to gain the upper hand, often by talking them into not taking any actions at all. The film only really works as well as it does because he always conveys an inherent wisdom, authority, and control from everything he says.

GreenRoom - 5Stewart
Possibly because he commanded a starship.

If you haven’t seen this film and you have any love for horror or just great performances, you should see it.

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

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.