10 Shows That Nailed The Finale – Joker Op-Ed

How you start is important to getting popular, but how you finish is the key to being a legend. After all, who wants to sit through 75 hours of a show for a giant letdown? Here are ten series that managed to really stick the landing.

Runner-Up: My Finale (Scrubs)

The Show: John “J.D.” Dorian (Zach Braff) is a doctor at Sacred Heart Hospital with his best friend Chris Turk (Donald Faison), Turk’s wife Carla (Judy Reyes), his girlfriend and fellow doctor Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke), his mentor Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley), the head of the hospital Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins), and his nemesis the Janitor (Neil Flynn).

The Finale: Okay, this is only a runner-up because I am not willing to deal with people sending me messages that say “technically, the show had another season,” followed by me slapping my face in frustration and saying “Then why did they call it Scrubs: Med School? How come it changes location, most of the cast, and central character?” But, the DVD release still says Season 9, so… fine. It’s not the “finale.” That’s particularly sad because I think it would be a strong contender for the number one spot here if it was. Unlike many great finales, this one didn’t rely on any kind of subversion or loss. Instead, this episode gives its main character, J.D., the exact send-off that we probably hoped he’d get. 

A vision of a good life ahead.

It probably stands out because of the last 5 minutes of the episode, when J.D. starts to walk out of the building, and the show, and is suddenly surrounded by every guest from the show’s run that they could manage to fit and afford. As he walks down a literal memory lane, he finally stands at the exit, and we see a projection of the future he’s headed for, filled with love, happiness, and friendship. It’s a happy ending that never feels too cheesy or overdone. 

10) The Last Show (The Mary Tyler Moore Show)

The Show: Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) is a single woman who is an Associate Producer for WJM’s 6 o’clock news, starring Ted Baxter (Ted Knight). She works alongside Executive Producer Lou Grant (Ed Asner), and head writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod). Mary’s best friend is Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper), Rhoda’s nemesis who is also Mary’s friend is Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman), and Mary’s friend who works at WJM is Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White). The other main character, introduced later, is Georgette Baxter (Georgia Engel), Ted Baxter’s girlfriend.

Betty White has murder in her eyes.

The Finale: For a show that contains what I consider to be the single best episode of all time, it’s pretty impressive that it managed to end with what was, for a while, considered the “gold standard” of finales. It was a regular exhibit in screenwriting courses. The creators of Friends said it was a major influence in how they wrapped their show. The key is that it really is an ending for the characters as well as the show. When a new station manager (Vincent Gardenia) takes over WJM, he decides he wants to fix the 6 O’clock News ratings. Unfortunately, he determines that the only person worth keeping is Ted, the person who repeatedly causes the show to tank. Everyone else is fired, devastating Mary. To cheer Mary up, Lou Grant arranges for Rhoda and Phyllis to visit her (both now had spin-offs), with both offering vastly different methods of support for Mary (and hatred for each other). Ultimately, Ted tries to do a sincere send-off, but instead quotes the song “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” Everyone says goodbye, resulting in a group hug that no one wants to break, giving rise to the hilarious image of the entire team moving together in order to get tissues. Mary ends up smiling at the good times and turning off the lights on the set.

Yes, you could drink at work back then.

The key to this ending is that everything goes wrong for all the right people. Everyone who has spent years cleaning up Ted’s mistakes gets fired because of Ted, but because they kept making him look good, Ted keeps his job. He tries to protest the firings, but ultimately backs down when threatened, leading to Murray saying “When a donkey flies, you don’t blame him for not staying up that long.” When Lou tries to cheer Mary up, she calls in two of her friends… who hate each other and fight viciously. When Ted tries to be sincere, he just quotes a completely unrelated song. That’s what made the show great, watching people deal with all of life’s crap and unfairness with a laugh and a joke. It was the best way to end the show.

9) Come Along With Me (Adventure Time)

The Show: Adventure Time follows the journeys of Finn, the last human (Jeremy Shada), and his adopted brother Jake the dog (John DiMaggio), through the land of Ooo. They usually are accompanied by Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch) and Marcelline, the Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson), and sometimes the Ice King (Tom Kenny). 

Plus a lot of supporting cast.

The Finale: The last episode of this show takes place far in the future from the normal timeline and the show now apparently stars two new characters named Shermy (Sean Giambrone) and Beth (Willow Smith), who appear to have a similar relationship to Finn and Jake. They go to meet with the King of Ooo, who is revealed to be BMO (Niki Yang), Finn and Jake’s AI game system. BMO tells them the story of the “Great Gum War,” what the show had been building to for a season, then tells them of the coming of GOLB, the anti-God of that universe. Ultimately, the war is averted and the world is saved, and Shermy and Beth take up the mantle of Finn and Jake.  

Behold the coming of GOLB, he who needs a manicure.

The reason this is on this list is mostly because it contains three great elements. First, the Great Gum War is literally averted, rather than fought. Finn ends up convincing both sides of the war to stand down, and does so by forcing each side to view the situation from the other’s point of view. This represents the culmination of Finn’s growth from a boy to a man, finally realizing that violent solutions propagate violence, but that forgiveness can bring true peace. Afterwards, Shermy, now representing young Finn, complains that he thought the War would be more important, like the end of the world, only for BMO to casually say “no, that’s what happened next.” Second, after the apocalypse is averted, Shermy and Beth, acting as audience surrogates, ask BMO what happened next, only for BMO to respond with “Eh, y’know. They kept living their lives.” I think this may be one of the most perfect summaries to end a show. It’s not a bland “happily ever after,” but it is a way to tell everyone that, even though life goes on, this story has hit the end. However, the true ending is Shermy and Beth taking the pose that Finn and Jake take in the title screen, meaning that the adventure will always continue. Lastly, we see Marceline and Princess Bubblegum finally become a couple. Given how much crap the show had gotten in the past for even hinting at this, I love that they decided “we’re at the end, let’s go for it.” This finale summed up everything that was good about this show.

8) One Last Ride (Parks and Recreation)

The Show: The series follows the lives of all of the people who work for or are associated with the Parks Department of Pawnee, Indiana: Idealist Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), her husband Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), her Libertarian boss Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), her coworkers Tom (Aziz Ansari), April (Aubrey Plaza), Garry (Jim O’Heir), Craig (Billy Eichner), and Donna (Retta), as well as April’s husband Andy (Chris Pratt), and Leslie’s best friend Ann (Rashida Jones) and her husband Chris (Rob Lowe). 

So. Much. Talent.

The Finale: By the end of the series, everyone is leaving and no one works for the Parks Department anymore. However, Leslie asks everyone to help her when a man asks them to fix a swing near his house. As they work together to navigate the bureaucracy to repair the swing, the show flashes forward and shows how almost every characters’ life progresses. We see Garry get a happy ending after being the sad sack for most of the series, Donna turn her success into helping children with her husband (Keegan-Michael Key), and Tom become a celebrity through writing a bestseller. Ron is shown to retire from his business to run a major park with Leslie’s help. April and Andy start a family and Leslie and Ben both become successful politicians, with one of them implied to eventually be president. 

My money’s on Leslie.

This episode should be terrible. It’s saccharin beyond anything else the series had done up to this point and it’s little more than an extremely elaborate “and they all lived happily ever after.” However, the way in which their flash-forwards are told give us a real picture of how all of these people, despite drifting apart, are always bonded by the events of the show. Even though they live in different parts of the world, they’re still a family and they always will be. Moreover, the world we see in the future is a hopeful and just one, with Leslie, who has always been thwarted by the stupidity of Pawnee, becoming governor of Indiana. We see a world where, despite still having problems, we find a group of people who are fighting for the right thing, even if they all disagree on what that is. To drive it home, Leslie even quotes Teddy Roosevelt’s line “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is to work hard at work worth doing.” We see a future where that kind of dedication is celebrated, and that’s what really makes this episode work. 

7) Basil the Rat (Fawlty Towers)

The Show: Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) and his wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) run a hotel in England. Basil is an angry jerk obsessed with class mobility, always trying to become one of the elite, but his own incompetence usually dooms him. His staff includes the sensible Polly (Connie Booth) and the hapless Spanish waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs). 

Cleese was married to Booth for season one, divorced by season two.

The Finale: A health inspector (John Quarmby) informs Basil that the state of Fawlty Towers’ kitchen is below standard. If they don’t fix the problems in 24 hours, the hotel will be closed. At the same time, Basil discovers Manuel is keeping a pet rat, named Basil, in the kitchen, having been sold it as a “Siberian Hamster.” Basil tries to get rid of it, but Manuel protests and he and Polly hide it in the shed. After Manuel foolishly lets the rat back into the hotel, Basil the human poisons a veal shank in an attempt to kill the rat, but the shank gets cooked by accident. After every customer, including the returning health inspector, orders the veal, hilarity ensues. Eventually, the health inspector is handed the rat, but the cast attempts to cover for it as the episode ends.

Not enough rat in the diet nowadays.

The key to Fawlty Towers was the incredible combination of tight writing and amazing physical performances. Each episode typically took Cleese and Booth six weeks to write, which is probably why there are only twelve of them in two seasons over five years. This episode is the pinnacle of that, because all of the beats in the episode have to be precisely timed in order to keep the tension building. In the meantime, all of the characters have to keep scrambling and covering for their actions as they keep trying to find Basil the Rat. It also helps that this episode is the opposite of what Basil Fawlty had been hoping for. Rather than becoming an elite establishment, his hotel is almost closed down for being a dump, and at the end of the episode, it seems extremely likely that it will be shut down. Rather than a happy ending, we get a shot of Basil, having passed out from stress, being dragged unceremoniously from the room. 

6) Weirdmageddon (Gravity Falls)

The Show: Gravity Falls is a town filled with strange happenings and mysteries. When two kids, Dipper and Mabel Pines (Jason Ritter and Kristen Schaal), come to stay with their Great Uncle “Grunkle” Stan Pines (Alex Hirsch) for the Summer at his Mystery Shack, they get caught up in the town’s weirdness, along with Stan’s two employees Wendy (Linda Cardellini) and Soos (Hirsch). Their greatest enemy is a dream demon named Bill Cipher (Hirsch). 

Mabel’s sweater game is on point.

The Finale: The final episode begins with Bill winning. He has finally figured out a way to enter the real world in his true form and he immediately reveals himself to be one of the most horrifying villains ever to be featured in a show for kids. He and his gang start to wreak havoc upon the town, until Dipper, Mabel, and the surviving cast fight back. Ultimately, they’re able to trick Bill into entering Stan’s mind, which they then wipe, destroying him as Stan’s dream self punches the demon out of reality. Then, finally, the Summer ends and the kids have to go home in a tearful goodbye.

Bill does this to a character offering to help him. Again: KIDS SHOW.

The greatest strength of Gravity Falls was that it always focused on how the characters felt and what they were going through internally more than externally and this finale is no exception. The strength of the episode isn’t just in finally showing us the power of Bill Cipher and having the team overcome him, it’s that the last 20 minutes is just having a slow, sad, emotional goodbye from all of the characters to the two kids that changed the town so much. We see some nice flash-forwards explaining that most of the characters will be okay, and still be the eccentric oddities that we came to love, but also that everyone will be separated in their own lives. Maybe they’ll be together again one day, but it seems likely that this is the end of this story. It ends with a cryptogram that deciphers to: FADED PICTURES BLEACHED BY SUN. THE TALE’S TOLD, THE SUMMER’S DONE. IN MEMORIES THE PINES STILL PLAY. ON A SUNNY SUMMER’S DAY. I’ll admit that I still tear up reading that, because it’s just that adorably sincere. 

5) All Good Things… (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

The Show: It’s the 24th Century and mankind has spread itself among the stars, meeting new life forms and threats along the way, and forming the United Federation of Planets. The top ship among the Federation fleet is the Enterprise-D, captained by Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). Along with crew members William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Data (Brent Spiner), Worf (Michael Dorn), Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Picard explores the unknown along the Final Frontier.

Troi’s the one who isn’t in a uniform, which drives some fans nuts.

The Finale: Picard finds himself unfixed by time, his mind jumping between the present, twenty-five years into the future, and seven years in the past, just before the show’s pilot. These jumps are random, making people think he’s going mad. In the present, he goes to investigate a space anomaly. He then uses a jump to convince his future ex-wife Beverly to travel to the same anomaly, which is happening in the future as well. In the past, he declines to go to the anomaly so that he can have the encounter at Farpoint with Q (John de Lancie), an omnipotent being who threatens humanity. However, it turns out that Q is actually causing Picard to jump through time, telling him that solving the mystery of the anomaly is the only chance to save humanity. Picard discovers that investigating the anomaly is actually what causes it, and sacrifices all three different versions of the Enterprise to stop it. This is revealed to be Q’s test and that Picard passed, saving humanity. 

Q: All powerful and fashion forward.

It’s one thing to manage to tie in the themes of a show with the finale, it’s another to literally tie the entire series together into one single cohesive expression of what the show is about. Star Trek has always been about humanity at its best; challenging the unknown, exploring the unexplored, bettering themselves for the sake of being better. This episode reveals that the entire series, from the Pilot to the end, was a test of whether humanity can evolve, with Picard as its focus. Picard proves not only that he can solve a four-dimensional problem, but that he and his crew are willing to sacrifice themselves in three different time periods in order to save the universe. It proves again that humanity has limitless potential both scientifically and socially, if only we can evolve beyond our selfishness.

4) Meanwhile (Futurama)

The Show: I seriously do a review of this show every Friday, episode by episode, due to a vote by my readers almost two years ago. I’m not describing this series again. Read one of my reviews if you want a description.

Two. YEARS. Never again.

The Finale: Fry (Billy West) decides to propose to his longtime flame Leela (Katey Sagal), and uses a device that rewinds time by 10 seconds (and has a 10 second recharge time) to set up the perfect proposal. Unfortunately, he ends up breaking the device, trapping him and Leela in a frozen world. Together, they live a long and happy life, until they’re discovered by the Professor, who fixes the device. He warns Leela and Fry that when he undoes the time freeze, it’ll take them back to before the episode started, with no memory of the events. Fry and Leela agree that, while they enjoyed growing old together, they both want to do it all over again. 

I’m amazed Fry kept all his limbs.

This show gets bonus points because Futurama actually had four separate finales: “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings,” “Into the Wild Green Yonder,” “Overclockwise,” and then this one. Despite having tried to wrap the show up multiple times, I am always impressed that this one is, in my opinion, the best of the four. It’s not just telling us that Fry and Leela will ultimately find happiness, we get to see them being happy together, with each of them clearly influenced by the other for the better. It helps that so much of the episode is really funny before that. We see Fry messing around with time in a number of fun gags, a throwback to the pilot, and Fry dying multiple times to the point that Leela starts to get bored with it. It’s a solid set of comedic scenes that turn into a sincere and emotional third act, which is basically what Futurama did at its best. 

3) Goodbyeee (Blackadder Goes Forth)

The Show: Each season of Blackadder featured Rowan Atkinson as a different descendant of the Blackadder family. This one was a Captain in the British Army during WWI. He was commanded by the incompetent General Melchett (Stephen Fry) and his nemesis Captain Darling (Tim McInnerny). Each episode features his attempts to get out of actually having to fight, usually involving Blackadder’s incompetent aides George (Hugh Laurie) and Baldrick (Tony Robinson). 

Who doesn’t like a bit of Fry and Laurie?

The Finale: Blackadder finds out that there’s going to be a full-scale attack the next day, meaning that he, along with all of his soldiers, will be running all-out into No Man’s Land. Since all of them will likely die, Blackadder pretends to be crazy in order to get sent home, but it fails. He tries to contact the British High Command to get sent home, but it fails as well. Darling is sent to the front line, despite his attempts to protest, while Melchett sits miles back. George and Baldrick discuss their losses during the war in a humorous way, until finally George admits that he’s afraid of dying. Blackadder and the rest of the group go over the top and are killed, with the shot fading to a silent poppy field. 

This field grew from blood.

Some of you might be asking how this can’t be my number one finale since it’s in my top ten greatest episodes of all time. Well, the answer is that this is a better episode of television than it was a finale, but it’s still a great final episode. 

It was a tradition for each season of Blackadder to end with death, usually that of the entire cast, but it was always done in a comic fashion. This entire season had frequently played off the massive casualties of World War One as a dark joke, which set everything up to do a similarly humorous or absurd conclusion to this season, but instead, they played it perfectly straight. It’s a sad, somber, painful ending to the show. It’s a subversion of the nature of the series, but it fits the theme of the season, that war is hell. The show sacrificed its own cast to make sure that people remember that the price of war is blood and tears.

2) Felina (Breaking Bad)

The Show: Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a chemist who finds out he has terminal cancer. He decides to partner with his ex-student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to make meth in order to provide for his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) and his son Walt, Jr. (RJ Mitte). He does surprisingly well, eventually becoming a kingpin.

For some reason, Cranston isn’t Lex Luthor.

The Finale: Having managed to lose most of his money and betraying Jesse in the last season, Walt threatens former partners to leave a fortune to his son and decides to “make things right.” He rigs a machine gun to a mechanical arm and tries to make amends to his wife for all of his misdeeds, having a conversation in which she points out that his actions were always about him, never the family. Walt goes to meet the Aryan Brotherhood members holding Jesse hostage and uses the machine gun to kill almost all of them, with him and Jesse killing off the survivors. Walt is mortally wounded, but dies smiling surrounded by meth cooking equipment as Jesse escapes. 

He got shot where the cancer was. Fun.

This episode works on so many levels. First, the title is an anagram for finale and a reference to the song “El Paso,” which mirrors the events of the third act. Like the subject of “El Paso,” Walt dies in the arms of his beloved: Meth. Second, it mirrors the pilot, both beginning and ending with sirens headed for Walt. In the pilot, Walt declines to shoot himself, but here, he dies by a shot from his own gun. Walt even dies in the same outfit he wore in the pilot. Third, it provides a satisfying conclusion to a series that was constantly escalating tension by doing exactly the opposite, being a quiet denouement for Walt after one last blaze of glory. The show was always building towards his death, and Cranston’s final moments on-screen send the character off in exactly the right way. 

1) The Last Newhart (Newhart)

The Show: Dick Loudon (Bob Newhart) is a writer who moves to Vermont to run an inn with his wife Joanna (Mary Frann). While Dick is a relatively normal and sane person, the town is populated by eccentric people whose inability to operate within the bounds of reality constantly drives Dick crazy.

All of these people are crazy.

The Finale: After years of putting up with the locals, the entire town is purchased by a Japanese tycoon who wants to turn it into a golf resort. While Dick and Joanna make a show of wanting to keep the town the same and refuse to leave, literally everyone else takes a huge payout and vacates. Years later, Dick and Joanna now run their inn in the middle of a golf course. All of their former neighbors pay them a surprise visit, but quickly drive Dick crazy until he gets hit in the head with a golf ball. He then wakes up in bed… as Dr. Bob Hartley, the main character of The Bob Newhart Show, next to his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette). He reveals that the entire series of Newhart was just a dream he had, something that annoys his wife when he reveals that he was married to a beautiful blond. 

That feeling when you wake up in a different show.

This finale should be terrible, because the idea that the whole series was a dream would normally be stupid or seem like a cop-out. However, The Bob Newhart Show was a series about Bob Hartley questioning his own reality and Newhart was a series where everyone somehow played by rules that defied any established rules of logic, except for Bob Newhart’s character. It not only made sense that Newhart was a dream of someone who constantly questioned reality, it made MORE sense than any other explanation. Bob Hartley always defined himself as the “only sane man” in his life, so he still does that in his dreams. Bob Newhart essentially spent 20 years setting up this punchline across two different series and it served as a perfect finale for both of them. I think it’s telling that after Breaking Bad ended, Bryan Cranston did a “fake ending” where he wakes up as Hal on Malcolm in the Middle that was inspired by this. When the second best ending has to pay tribute to something, you know that thing has to be the best. 

Let me know if there are any others that you think I should have added by posting in the comments or on my Facebook or Twitter. 

Pixar’s Onward: The Quest for Emotional Clarity

Two brothers go on a journey to find a magic stone that will allow them to see their dead father for one day.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Once Upon A Time, there was magic in the world. Unfortunately, magic is really hard to use, so the world ended up picking science for all of their daily needs. Over time, magic pretty much faded from the world, even though it’s still populated by elves, pixies, centaurs, and manticores. In the “present,” Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) is a timid high-school elf who is regularly embarrassed by his hardcore role-player brother Barley (Chris Pratt). The pair lost their father (Kyle Bornheimer) to illness before Ian was born and are raised by their mother Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her centaur boyfriend Colt (Mel Rodriguez). On Ian’s 16th birthday, he and Barley are given a gift left by their father, revealed to be a magical staff which contains a magical resurrection spell, allowing him to see the kids for 24 hours. Unfortunately, Barley can’t get the spell to work. Ian later tries, and succeeds, but Barley interrupts him halfway through and breaks the crystal which powers the spell, resulting in only their father’s legs being brought back. The two go on a quest to find another phoenix crystal in order to see their dad again, encountering pixie bikers (Grey Griffin), a manticore (Octavia Spencer), and a host of other fantasy characters.

Onward - 1Van
They also have a van named Guinevere, which is pretty awesome.

END SUMMARY

So, from the trailer, I thought this would be a crappy story set in an interesting world. The images of Chris Pratt summoning his brother for a quest seemed kind of generic, but the idea of a fantasy world which has survived into the modern age might have been fun. It turns out that I was completely wrong. The world that this movie is set in wasn’t that interesting, even though a literal suburban fantasy should be inherently fun. Unlike Zootopia, we don’t really get any feelings that this world has particularly adapted to the different species or cultures, or how those different groups interact. The closest we get is seeing how a team of pixies work together to operate a motorcycle and doors, but since nothing about the world is actually adapted to work with them, it diminishes the worldbuilding. Even the puns in the movie aren’t particularly clever or interesting. It was genuinely disappointing that the world wasn’t particularly good.

Onward - 2Pants
I mean, they also didn’t really use the half-father that well.

However, the story is amazingly solid once it gets going.

Okay, warning to anyone who wants to watch it, it takes a while to get started. Honestly, 30 minutes into the film, I was just waiting to walk out. Then, all of the sudden, the movie shifted and it actually became more about the two brothers and their connection than the world in which the movie is set. I know that Pixar is basically built on knowing how to create strong emotional moments, so it shouldn’t be surprising that there ended up being a number of them towards the middle and end of the film, but that doesn’t change the fact that they managed to make me really care about the characters. While you start the film kind of pitying Ian and finding Barley obnoxious, over time the characters both start to develop in ways that are surprising and even admirable as the story progresses. Moreover, the story’s events actually perfectly represent their growth. 

ONWARD
Their bonding is pretty great.

Then there’s the ending. I won’t spoil it, but this is among the strongest endings in a Pixar film because it represents more than a happy ending. It shows that there are actual consequences to things in the movie, that sacrifices have meaning, and that there aren’t always workarounds to make everything perfect. It really works well. 

Onward - 4Staff
And a character learning magic is pretty much always awesome.

I’d also add that watching Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s and Octavia Spencer’s characters interact is amazing. Laurel is a suburban mom who is trying to make sure her kids are safe and Corey, the Manticore, is a retired adventurer who “sold out” and is trying to remember her glory days. Their banter is naturally kind of funny because of the juxtaposition of their positions, but it gets funnier when they end up having to work as a team. 

Onward - 5Corey
Yes, she’s wearing flair.

Overall, it’s not the best Pixar film, but it’s not the worst either. If they’d somehow given the world the kind of qualities of wonder that it probably deserves, though, this would have been a heck of a story. If you see it, just be prepared for a bit of a slog at the opening, but I do think it got a lot better as it went. 

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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Avengers: Endgame – The Power of Spectacle (Spoilers)

Before I start, I’m gonna have to get personal for a second. I wasn’t supposed to see this movie. As those of you who have paid attention or read the “First Post” page know, I started doing these reviews because I was diagnosed with cancer. That was in 2012. One of the first things that, in retrospect, I should have known was a sign of my disease was that I had extreme pain during watching the original The Avengers film. Despite that, I didn’t get diagnosed for a few months. By then, the cancer went from my neck down to my pelvis. Even after successful chemotherapy and radiation, when this film was originally announced in 2014, I assumed I would never live to watch it. I don’t know if this gave me a form of closure on this chapter of my life, but I do know that it was an odd realization afterwards. Now to the movie.

Maybelline

SUMMARY OF A SUMMARY (Full Summary at the end due to length)

Thanos won. Thanos destroys the Infinity Stones. Avengers kill Thanos. Avengers go through time to find the stones before Thanos destroyed them. Past Thanos follows them to the present. Avengers undo the snap. Past Thanos tries to take the stones back. All Avengers Assemble. Thanos loses. Iron Man dies. Captain America gets old. Thor gets Lebowski.

Endgame - 1Group
Oh, and there’s a raccoon.

END OF AN END OF A SUMMARY

Spectacle has always been a big part of cinema. A lot of critics will argue that the audiovisual medium enhances storytelling through reducing the distance between the audience and the material, and that’s true, but sometimes you just have to admit that reading about an epic battle scene will rarely be nearly as effective as watching one. That’s how it’s always been, too. The Lumiere Brothers famously marveled people by showing a train pulling into the station, something that previously had required going to a train station. Georges Méliès became acclaimed for showing people color films and a man in the moon. Let’s go more modern: Have you ever watched Ben-Hur? There are some good scenes in it, maybe 20 minutes worth of decent acting in the 212 minute runtime, but the main reason it’s regarded as a classic is just the chariot race. That scene has been ripped off repeatedly, but the actual size, grandeur, and just plain spectacle of the scene has never been duplicated. When I watch it now, even with all of the amazing cinematic advances that have happened in the 60 years since, I’m still amazed by it. The same is true of Jurassic Park, The Empire Strikes Back, The Lord of the Rings, or even Buster Keaton’s The General. These films all give you something that you can’t really get anywhere else. This film is another entry into this pantheon, although I know it will be much more controversial.

Endgame - 2Transformers
Transformers was mostly lousy, but still showed us something new. Then ran it ragged.

First, the negatives.

This movie truly is the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, meaning that you do actually have to have seen all of the films and remember a lot of elements of them for some of the scenes and plotlines in this to not feel out of nowhere. Captain America being able to wield Mjolnir, for example, is based on a less than 10 second scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The film also has cameos from basically everyone who has appeared in a film that’s still alive, including Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce, Taika Waititi’s Korg, and even James D’Arcy’s Jarvis from the TV Show Agent Carter. This movie, viewed in isolation, would probably just be noise. Now, is this inherently a negative? No, because this is a sequel, and sequels depend on the audience knowing previous information, but since this is a sequel to SO MANY films, it does make it tough on the audience to remember everything.

Endgame - 3Rumlow
Everyone remembers Brock Rumlow, right?

The first two acts of this movie are basically Marvel patting itself on the back and setting up the finales for many of the characters. I mean, the plot involves the characters visiting the first Avengers film all over again, even redoing some of the more iconic scenes and lines, as well as the iconic opening to Guardians of the Galaxy, and reconstruing some of the scenes from the worst-ranked MCU film Thor: The Dark World in such a way that it kind of redeems some of it. Then, it has an entire sequence that basically just gives Tony Stark closure and Captain America some incentive to try and regain his lost life. In any other film, these two things would be unworkable. It’s only because this film is so grandiose and has had so much build up that it feels somewhat natural. We’ve known this world better than any other fictional world in film, so we are a little more inclined to welcome nostalgia and character moments. Still, it does make it slow at the beginning.

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This scene was amazing the first time. The second time, it feels a little like pandering.

Also, the first twenty minutes of the film, prior to the time-skip, probably should have been the end of Infinity War. It would have been really dark, given that it basically doubles down on Thanos being, as he puts it, “inevitable,” but I think it would have been the best place to split the films. Still, it would require introducing Captain Marvel outside of her film, so I guess it didn’t work economically.

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Although, for the first 20 minutes all we’d need to know is “she flies and glows.”

Now the positives.

The third act of this film is basically everything I’ve ever wanted out of a superhero film. It starts with the three core Avengers fighting Thanos and, despite constantly pulling new and better tricks out, they keep losing. He’s just too strong for them. Then, when all looks lost, we get Falcon finally returning Cap’s great line “on your left.” When all of the sling ring portals opened, I basically squealed like an 8 year old girl in anticipation of what was going to happen. Then, finally, we get Captain America delivering the line that they’ve teased in multiple films before this “Avengers assemble.” He doesn’t even say it in a roar of defiance or a confident battle-cry, no, he says it simply and firmly, because they don’t need Captain America inspiring them, they just need to know it’s go time. What follows is a battle that is so grand in scale that it overwhelms almost anything in the history of film, but still gives all of the character cameos and interactions that we want, from Spider-Man using insta-kill mode to the female Avengers line-up aka A-Force. The pacing of the battle, too, is nearly perfect, with every attempt to actually end it being thwarted dramatically, until, finally, Tony Stark ends the threat by delivering the line that Robert Downey, Jr. improvised during the first MCU movie, erasing the concept of secret identities and changing the MCU forever: “I am Iron Man.”

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Disney started with a Mouse. Endgame started with a Stark.

All of the performances are great in the film, but let’s be honest, Robert Downey, Jr. always has a slight lead in that. Hemsworth, now that he’s allowed to be funny, is right behind him. The comedy in the film is exactly what you expect from the Russo brothers: It’s funny, it’s unexpected, it’s perfectly timed. The drama is also what you expect: When they want you to cry, you cry. The emotional depth in the film is really what surprised me, although it probably shouldn’t have. One big surprise plus is the way they handled Hawkeye. The scene of him losing his family is just ruthless and Renner’s portrayal of a man who’s just hurting people so he doesn’t hurt himself is great.

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“He’s a friend from work.” We needed 5 movies to get to that line?

The thing is, if you’re asking me if I thought this was a “great” movie, I’d have to say that I don’t know. It’s so different than almost any film in history that it’s hard for me to say what metric I would even use. However, I think it’s fair to say that this film provides a spectacle that you can’t find anywhere else. The film aside from the third act is still good, don’t get me wrong, but the third act just has to be seen to be believed. This is the Great Wall. This is the Hoover Dam. This is the Grand Canyon. You can describe it, but you really don’t envision the sheer scale of it without seeing it. So, see it.

SUMMARY (Hero names in quotes because… I don’t know, I felt like it)

Thanos (Josh Brolin) won. Half of the universe is gone. The surviving Avengers, now with Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers (Brie Larson) in tow and without Tony “Iron Man” Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), decide to try and mount an attack on Thanos’s new home. They quickly overwhelm the Titan, only to find out that he had almost killed himself destroying the infinity stones so that they could never be used to undo what he had done. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) beheads him.

Five years later, the world is still recovering from the snap. Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (Jeremy Renner) is now a vigilante, hunting down criminals and executing them out of anger at losing his family. Tony Stark is now married to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and has a daughter, Morgan (Lexi Rabe). Thor has founded a New Asgard and has been drinking and wallowing in guilt. Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is serving as an organizer while Steve “Captain America” Rogers (Chris Evans) is acting as a grief counselor. Bruce “The Hulk” Banner (Mark “The Man” Ruffalo) has managed to put his genius brain inside of the body of the Hulk, a form dubbed “Professor Hulk.”

Scott “Ant Man” Lang (Paul Rudd) escapes from the Quantum Realm following the events of Ant Man and the Wasp. Based on the fact that, for him, only five hours have passed, he believes that the Quantum Realm is the key to time travel. Banner, Lang, and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) work on it, but it fails until Tony Stark returns to help. They realize that they can send 3 teams into the past to collect the Infinity Stones while they still existed, travel to the present, and then undo the snap.

Banner, Rogers, Lang, and Stark travel to 2012 to the events of the first Avengers film. Rogers steals Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) scepter containing the Mind Stone by pretending to be a member of Hydra, but Loki steals the Tesseract containing the Space Stone. Bruce Banner meets with the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who gives him the Eye of Agamotto containing the Time Stone after telling him that they have to return all of the stones back to their places after they use them or reality will unravel. Stark and Rogers travel back to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters in 1970 where they steal Pym Particles from a young Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), retrieve an earlier version of the Tesseract being worked on by Howard Stark (John Slattery), Tony’s father, and avoid running into the love of Steve’s life, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).

Rocket and Thor travel to Asgard in the year 2013 during the events of Thor: The Dark World to retrieve the Aether which contains the Reality Stone from the body of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Thor speaks with his soon-to-die mother, Frigga (Rene Russo) and regains his confidence when he summons his original Mjolnir to himself, taking it with him back to the present while Rocket retrieves the Reality Stone.

Romanoff, Barton, James “Rhodey the War Machine” Rhodes (Don “I retweeted the Joker” Cheadle), and Nebula (Karen Gillan) travel to 2014, during the events of the original Guardians of the Galaxy. Romanoff and Barton go to planet Vormir, where Natasha sacrifices herself to give Clint the Soul Stone guarded by the Red Skull (Ross Marquand). Nebula and Rhodey knock a young Peter “Starlord” Quill (Chris Pratt) unconscious and take the power stone, however, Nebula is stopped from returning. It turns out that her cyborg consciousness interacts with a cosmic version of the internet which has been discovered by the Thanos of that time. 2014 Thanos discovers that he will win, but that the survivors will all fight to reclaim their lost loved ones. He captures the present Nebula and sends 2014 Nebula back to the future in her place.

After everyone returns to the present, Stark puts all of the gems into a gauntlet and Banner snaps it, injuring himself severely but bringing back all of the people that Thanos killed. At the same time, the Nebula from the past brings Thanos and his entire army through the time portal to reclaim the new Infinity Gauntlet. Thor, Stark, and Rogers battle Thanos, but even with Thor wielding two hammers, and eventually Captain America wielding the original Mjolnir, Thanos still wins the fight. Just as everything seems lost, a reborn Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict “Burmberderb Cabbagepunch” Cumberbatch) returns, opening gateways all around the galaxy, and allowing all of the reborn heroes to join the fight, as well as the armies of Wakanda, Asgard, and the Ravagers from Guardians of the Galaxy. Thanos, realizing that he might be at a disadvantage, tells his ship to fire on the battle, but his ship is soon downed by the returning Carol Danvers. Everyone on the battlefield works to get the Infinity Stones into Scott Lang’s van which contains the portal to the Quantum Realm, but eventually Thanos reclaims it, only to find that Stark had stolen the stones and put them on another gauntlet. Stark snaps away all of the bad guys, but dies in the process.

After the funeral, Thor joins the Guardians of the Galaxy and Rogers goes back in time to return the stones, but ends up marrying Peggy Carter and living to old age. As an old man, he bequeaths his shield to Sam “Falcon” Wilson (Anthony Mackie).

END SUMMARY

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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The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – Everything’s Still Awesome (Spoiler-Free)

The Lego Movie, the movie that should have been crap but instead was a masterful meta-commentary, got a sequel which should have been crap, but instead was a masterful meta-commentary. I wonder if they actually help sales.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s been five years since the events of “Taco Tuesday” depicted in the first movie. Duplo/Mini-Doll aliens from the Systar System have repeatedly invaded and destroyed Bricksburg, occasionally taking people and things away with them. In response, the citizens now live in “Apocalypseburg,” a Mad Max-esque desert wasteland. Emmet (Chris Pratt) is the only person who has maintained a positive attitude about their circumstances, something that annoys Wyldstyle/Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), who wants Emmet to be more gritty and dark. Emmet, however, is troubled by a dream of “Ourmomageddon,” which has all of the Lego citizens sucked into a void.

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Apocalypseburg does have some solid architecture going on.

One day, the town is attacked by the General Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), who abducts Lucy, Metalbeard (Nick Offerman), Batman (Will Forte), Benny the Spaceman (Charlie Day), and Princess Unikitty (Alison Brie) and takes them to the Systar System to meet the ruler of Systar, Queen Whatevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish). Emmet takes off to rescue them, with the help of Rex Dangervest, a raptor-training space cowboy archeologist who has chiseled features under his baby fat (Also Chris Pratt).

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Saying “Galaxy Guarding” would be too much, clearly.

Also, the whole thing is actually a metaphor for the imagination of some kids.

END SUMMARY

So, up front, you have to see the first movie for this one to really work well. This movie goes straight into the meta-narrative that was sort of the big “twist” of the last movie: Everything that’s happening is both part of the narrative (i.e. the Lego World) and also a representation of the meta-narrative (i.e. what’s happening in the Real World). Stuff that happens in each one actually impacts the other, however, which almost makes this a pataphysical movie… something that is really unbelievably complex for a children’s film and impressively done so well that this movie is actually really easy to follow.

Lego2 - 4Queen
The Queen, Whatevra Wa-Nabi is pretty straightforward, admittedly.

Unlike the last movie where the revelation is pretty late, this movie makes it pretty explicit up front that the “Systar System” is a representation of Finn’s (Jadon Sand) sister, Bianca (Brooklynn Prince). In fact, if you don’t get that pretty quickly, I’d actually say that the first few scenes don’t really make sense. For example, in the opening battle against the Duplos, the Duplo monsters respond to being shot with lasers with “okay, I eat lasers” and to being hit with batarangs with “you missed.” Anyone who has ever tried to play an imaginary game with a small child will immediately recognize this interaction. What’s great is that you could analyze almost every scene from both the normal and meta levels and both work perfectly. I’m not sure how Lord and Miller keep doing it, but I’m damned glad they are.

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These guys do good work. Weird, good work.

The messages of the movie, and yes there are several, similarly work on a bunch of levels, both as the lessons learned by the characters and also the lessons learned by the kids through the characters. Everything is a pretty wholesome moral, ranging from the value of family to the nature of maturity to the fact that it’s easier to be a judgmental dick than it is to genuinely keep opening yourself up to people and hope for better. No matter who you are, there’s something to get out of this movie.

Lego2 - 1Mayhem
Sweet Mayhem provides great commentary on gender roles in film.

The music is just as fun as the last movie, particularly the movie’s signature song “Catchy Song” which is such an earworm while also being a song about how the song is an earworm. I also would give credit to all of Tiffany Haddish’s songs, which are hilarious and awesome, as well as Lonely Island’s song with Beck and Robyn.

Last, I have to complement how well the movie handles references, much like its predecessor. Unlike the last one, where most of the characters that pop up are just there because Finn’s dad (Will Ferrell) owned the kits, in this one, you can actually figure out why Finn and Bianca themselves would have these figures and the reasons range from funny to borderline profound. My personal favorite is ***MINOR SPOILER ALERT*** the fact that Finn keeps seeing Bruce Willis in ducts… because his dad showed him Die Hard and, as a teenager trying to be “mature,” that’s a movie that you tend to focus on ***SPOILER OVER***.

Overall, I loved this film. It definitely has a few slow scenes which tend to make more sense from the meta-level, but most of the movie is just so clever you’ll forget about 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.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – Why?

JOKER’S INTRODUCTION

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I really wanted to review this film. I did. I was so excited to see a new Jurassic Park film that I was positive I would enjoy it, regardless of other critical opinions.

For the most part, I try to be as positive as possible when reviewing films. I think that pretty much all movies have something redeeming within them, even terrible ones. However, I have decided to give this movie to my partner for this review, because I think it would be difficult for me to be as positive as I would normally want to be in this particular case.

Thus, take it away Grouch.

GROUCH’S REVIEW

I say this with all sincerity:

F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. F*ck this movie. I’m so pissed off that you’re making me censor my f*cks right now, because I really want to say f*ck this movie.

In my head, I hear this being chanted to the “Hallelujah Chorus” as a choir of angels massage every second of this film out of my head.

Little bit of background:

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This single shot has more awesome than most movies.

I love Jurassic Park. I had the toys, I played the video games, I read the book, I watched the movie in theaters, on VHS, on DVD, on Blu-Ray, even in 3-D. I consider the moment when the T-Rex first steps out to be the moment when I first believed films could be f*cking magical. It’s a movie about people experiencing something awe-inspiring and terror-inducing at the same time. The T-Rex and raptors are amazing to see both for the people in the film and for the audience, while being terrifying at the same time when you’re reminded of just what they are. It’s a monster movie, just about majestic monsters.

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It’s not great, but… f*ck, some of these shots are still so good for my dino-lust.

When The Lost World came out, I actually kind of liked it. Was it Jurassic Park? No. But it had several scenes in it that I liked and it definitely tried to continue the first movie’s theme of how simultaneously beautiful and dangerous nature can be. It had some scenes that were stomach-turning (like gymnastics vs. a raptor), but it also had the raptors picking people off in the tall-grass, which I thought was genuinely horrifying.

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Can we just forget about the “talking” raptors? Please?

In Jurassic Park III, much of the film is terrible, but it A) is short, B) is full of dinosaurs, and C) has Sam Neil, Tea Leoni, and William H. Macy in it. It’s not a good film, but it seemed to at least try to deliver what a sequel-decline of Jurassic Park would merit. I’m still mixed on the Spinosaurus taking out the T-Rex, but at least they were trying new things, even if most of them didn’t work.

Jurassic World was a movie that is a rarity for me. I didn’t like most of it. The characters were bland and there were, somehow, almost too many plotlines running for a Jurassic Park film, with several of them seeming pointless, especially Vincent D’Onofrio’s wasted talent. However, no matter what I felt at certain points during the movie, I never felt cheated by the film, because the Raptor-Rex-Rex fight gave me all the cinematic joy I felt the ticket price merited. If you had just told me that was the movie, that 10-12 minutes, and asked me to give you $20 bucks for it, I’d have handed it over so fast it would have caught fire. Any franchise that can produce something as awesome as a raptor running up a T-Rex’s back to attack another dinosaur deserves all of my money. In a franchise that thrives on instilling a feeling of awe in the viewer, that scene made me a kid again.

 

JurassicWorld2-4JurassicWorld
… Yes. Forever yes.

Then, there’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It makes me feel like a kid who thought the stranger would have the best candy.

FireflyEp7BadJoke

SUMMARY

The movie starts a few months after the last one with some guys collecting a bone from the Indominus Rex. Almost all of them get eaten by the mosasaurus which, despite the fact that it’s in a tank which has a clear sea-wall, is still alive somehow, but a few escape with the bone. A blue whale has to eat over 3 tons in a day, but, sure, the mosasaurus has been surviving on stuff near the tank, I guess. And apparently it’s undetectable, despite the fact that the mosasaurus, like most if not all aquatic reptiles, still had to surface to breathe. Also, its gate gets stuck half-open, so it escapes into the ocean. This will be the start of things that piss me off.

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Spielberg, you could have stopped this. You could have. 

Three years later, Isla Nublar, the island which had the original park and Jurassic World, is going to be destroyed by the volcano on the island that apparently everyone had ignored until now. Spared no expense? How about putting it on an island that doesn’t have a volcano on it?

JurassicWorld2-6JohnHammond
Whoopsie.

The US Government asks Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to testify about whether or not the dinosaurs should be saved. To tell you how enthused Goldblum was by this performance, he doesn’t play Ian Malcolm. Jeff Goldblum, who has played Ian Malcolm in a half-dozen non-Ian-Malcolm roles since Jurassic Park, doesn’t bother to put enough effort into his 4 minutes on-screen to seem like he’s even the same iconic character. It hurt me physically. Also, Malcolm says “let them die.” The government agrees.

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He’s in less of this than Drew Barrymore was in Scream.

Meanwhile, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), has a group of conservationists who are trying to save the animals. Yes, they’re trying to save genetically engineered dinosaurs and are seriously upset that the dinosaurs are going to be “extinct again.” Site B apparently was destroyed several years ago to replace dinosaurs at Jurassic World. The movie itself will point out the obvious stupidity of this several times when it reminds us that these dinosaurs are genetically engineered and lab-grown and thus easily replaceable. They can clone animals perfectly from dead cells, meaning NOTHING can actually go extinct in this world. I appreciate when a movie quickly renders the plot pointless, saves me the trouble of caring.

Claire meets with a rich guy who worked with John Hammond named Sir Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who is stated to have created the cloning process with John, but never been mentioned before now. He and his aide, Eli (Rafe Spall), say that they want Claire to get a bunch of dinosaurs to move to an island sanctuary, but they can’t get the velociraptor Blue, because she’s too smart. They need Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), Blue’s trainer, to help. They then spend 15 minutes on pretending he’s not going to go, because this movie was written by chimps who were fed copies of Save the Cat!, the guide to predictable screenwriting.

JurassicWorld2-8OwenGrady
*Screams internally*

Claire takes Grady, IT guy and comic-relief coward Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), and paleoveterinarian and tough-girl stereotype Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda). Rodriguez was originally supposed to be revealed to be a lesbian ex-marine, but that was cut due to the movie being produced by a 1950s housewife who thought she just needed “the right man.” They meet up with a bunch of mercenaries (oh, that’s always a good sign), led by Ken Wheatley (Ted “I’m Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, so there’s no way I’ll be a bad guy” Levine). They manage to find Blue before Wheatley shoots Grady with a tranquilizer and reveals that he’s just taking these dinosaurs to be sold by Eli. Wheatley takes Zia to look after Blue’s injuries and locks Claire and Franklin in a bunker that has an allosaurus. Also, the volcano conveniently starts erupting.

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To be clear, they did nothing wrong. It was the movie.

Owen wakes up to find himself about 3 feet from lava, which he starts to slowly crawl away from and somehow doesn’t die. He meets up with Claire and Franklin who managed to avoid the killer dino and the lava (which, apparently, doesn’t burn very much if it’s not plot-relevant), then get attacked by a Carnotaurus, which is attacked by the T-Rex, which is truly a heroine, as all the dinosaurs start to flee the island. The humans manage to get onto a boat departing the island, while the mercenaries somehow capture several of the animals we just saw running away from f*cking lava. In a scene designed to be a cheap emotional grab, we watch a brachiosaurus die from the volcano as it cries out in pain and fear. It’s still a pretty good scene, but it really is just a “okay, we need you guys to feel now” shot that the movie didn’t earn yet.

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Okay, this is actually pretty touching. Poor thing.

Onboard the ship, they hijack some T-Rex blood to transfuse into Blue, which somehow works. Back at Lockwood’s Estate, Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie (Isabella Sermon) finds out that Eli and a black-market auctioneer named Gunnar (Toby Jones) are going to sell off the dinosaurs to finance the Indoraptor, a hybrid of the Indominus Rex and a velociraptor which was designed by Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) to be a weapon. They need Blue to be the mother to the next generation of them so they’ll obey humans, which the initial Indoraptor doesn’t really. Maisie tells Lockwood, but Eli kills him and somehow shatters his mosquito-filled amber cane. It’s also revealed that Maisie was a clone of Lockwood’s daughter and apparently that was why Hammond kicked him out of InGen. This is supposed to make sense, despite Maisie clearly being so young that Hammond was dead before she would have been born and that her mother’s death, the impetus for her cloning, would also have been after Hammond was dying in The Lost World.

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Continuity? What’s that?

The dinosaurs, as well as Owen and Claire, are caged at Lockwood’s house, which conveniently has brontosaurus-sized indoor cages. Eli and Gunnar auction off the dinos to all manner of bad guys before demonstrating the Indoraptor. Owen tricks a stygimoloch (which is a species that even the movie’s paleontology expert pointed out probably doesn’t exist, but that actually doesn’t bug me much since it’s genetically engineered) into ramming through walls and letting them out, before having it wreck the auction. Wheatley gets tricked by the Indoraptor into letting it out before it goes on to kill multiple people including Gunnar. It then stalks Owen, Claire, and Maisie through the house in the most ridiculous sequence in the film.

The Indoraptor seems to be more interesting in theatricality than actual effectiveness, something that’s particularly interesting not just because it’s an animal, but an animal that was created specifically to be a weapon. At least the Indominus Rex was just supposed to be a sideshow attraction, and this thing is supposed to be the SMARTER version. Instead, it gets tricked by Owen turning the lights out, even though it’s mentioned to be able to smell targets a mile away.

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Granted, raptors have trouble killing kids. It’s well-established.

Eventually, Zia releases Blue, who goes to defend Owen and kills the Indoraptor by dropping it through a glass ceiling onto a triceratops skull in an act that definitely isn’t completely bullshit. Meanwhile, all the dinosaurs are being killed by poison gas, allowing Owen and Claire to, again, choose whether or not to let them die. They choose to let them die, but Maisie releases them because she’s also a clone and therefore thinks they’re the same as her. In return, the T-Rex kills Eli and destroys the Indominus Rex bone, allowing it to be the hero again. The film ends with the dinosaurs starting to interact with civilization as Jeff Goldblum narrates that humans and dinosaurs may now need to learn to co-exist.

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Wait, now you’re letting the Dinos loose? Why wasn’t that just the movie?

END SUMMARY

So, you know the Joker’s thing about “a movie can ask you to suspend any disbelief, it just has to be consistent in it?” Yeah, this movie shoved that up its craphole about thirty seconds in when the mosasaurus eats a submarine unnoticed and apparently that’s just fine.

The biggest problem in the movie is that everyone’s motivations are stupid. Not just stupid, but really stupid. Claire, Franklin, and Zia are all about conservation, which would be fine if these weren’t animals that can be easily re-grown. Hell, in Jurassic World, they WERE all grown. Conservation is supposed to be about eliminating mankind’s intervention, but the dinosaurs ARE the intervention. And at the end of the movie, there’s only one survivor of many of the species, meaning they’re doomed anyway unless… wait for it… we just grow more of them. It’s hard to feel like their cause is urgent when it was rendered pointless 4 movies ago. It’s made even more hollow when, later in the film, they all decide to just let the dinosaurs die.

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And yet, no one wants to bring back White Rhinos or such, even though it’d now be easy.

Eli’s motive is to make money to finance the Indoraptor by selling the dinosaurs on the black market, which seems dumb, considering he’s in charge of a multi-billion dollar fortune that he could easily use to just clone more dinosaurs to sell. Hell, they make the Indoraptor there and no one noticed until after it was fully grown. Why not add a couple of T-Rexes and someone will buy the juveniles for millions?

Wu’s motive is his love of mad science, but he’s barely in the film and even he thinks what Eli’s doing is stupid.

Owen’s motivation actually kind of makes sense, since he has a bond with Blue, but that means the most logical motivation in the movie is a guy wanting to save his pet. This is fine if the rest of the movie were John Wick, but, alas, it’s not.

The Indoraptor is stupid on so many levels. It is trained to attack a target that’s identified with a laser after hearing a sound cue. In other words, it can only attack targets that someone can point a laser at. Do you know what you can do if you point a laser at a target? You can shoot it in the head. We laser-guide missiles, but that’s because they’re taking out a huge area. The Indoraptor is only useful in attacking targets that don’t lock doors.

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And it can’t detect people hiding on the other side of things. Small design flaw.

The volcano set-up not only is cliché and stupid, it gives way to lava physics and, even for Hollywood, the lava physics in this movie are terrible. Not only can people be inches away from it with no ill effects but at one point, Chris Pratt is hit by lava and is apparently fine later. A dinosaur is doused in it and barely tries to avoid it. I suspect that this movie was created by someone who was writing Jurassic Park/Volcano erotica but couldn’t get Tommy Lee Jones into the movie.

There are also weird references to Donald Trump in the movie, including Gunnar’s wig, a line about the President not believing that there ever were dinosaurs, some lines about political megalomania, and Ted Levine saying Pineda was “such a nasty woman.” Guys, if you want to make political satire, either make it good or put it in a movie where it fits better.

But I could have overlooked all of these things, all of them, if this movie didn’t fundamentally miss what Jurassic Park and, to a lesser extent, its sequels were all about: Spectacle.

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You’re hearing the music. You’re feeling the love. Don’t deny it.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean cheap spectacle, I mean that Jurassic Park showed us something so new and so big that we couldn’t really get our minds around it and it did that by showing us characters that were experiencing the same sights with us. Even if you re-watch it, it holds up because it presents it through the characters, making us feel it. John Williams’s epic score manages to kick that feeling up to 11. Then, in the second and third act, where it’s more directly a monster movie, it still has surprises because we’re being reminded that all these amazing creatures are also horrifyingly dangerous. You can call it an analogue for the atomic bomb or some other destructive scientific advancement, but it could just as easily be for the iceberg that destroyed the Titanic or the stars themselves: Beautiful, amazing, mind-blowing stuff is also usually perilous.

This movie didn’t really show any of the beauty, partially because it almost never had the dinosaurs being dinosaurs (preferring to put them in cages or running from danger), partially because the people in the movie don’t seem particularly awed by the animals, and partially because THERE AREN’T THAT MANY DINOSAUR SCENES. Look, I’m sure someone is going to point out something like “There were technically more dinosaurs in this movie than any other” or some other fact like that to counter it, but it doesn’t matter whether or not there were a ton of dinosaurs in the background, the point is that most of the dinosaur scenes aren’t focused on the creatures themselves. They’re used as props, both literally and figuratively. There are a lot of great monster movies where the monster isn’t the focus, but the characters in this film really aren’t interesting enough to get by without the dinosaurs. Then, in the third act, the Indoraptor is just… f*cking awful. It’s so over-the-top corny, it even seems to have a Muttley-esque smirk when it’s tricking Wheatley.

It’s true that every time you show the audience something onscreen, the spectacle is lessened but, when you have the characters barely impressed that they’re interacting with dinosaurs, it’s even harder for us to be dazzled by it. I get that these people have spent time around dinosaurs but, seriously, half the time they treat them the way normal people treat dogs, which makes us more aware of how inane their decisions are. I mean, in the first movie, the T-Rex paddock turns into a cliff magically and NO ONE cared, because it was such an amazing scene that we were feeling it rather than thinking about it. Instead, this movie just made me think about how absolutely stupid much of it was, which is not what I want in a Jurassic Park sequel.

F*ck. This. Movie.

JOKER’S REBUTTAL

So, this movie is about 50/50 split. Unlike Last Jedi or other “controversial” splits, the split’s true for both reviewers and audiences. Some people liked it, some hated it. Even the positive reviews do seem to say it was “not great,” though. If you wanted to see some dinosaurs or are a fan of more traditional monster movies, this worked. If you really wanted to see Chris Pratt building a cabin, this was the movie for you. If you desired to see Claire and Owen suddenly get back together after basically no changes to their character since their breakup, then you needed this film. If you’re willing to just completely suspend disbelief, regardless of what the film is actually giving you to reward that suspension, then you had a good time.

Overall, if you liked it, I’m not gonna condemn you. If you didn’t, I’m not gonna blame you. I do like the set-up at the end, because there are a lot of great ways to take the next film.

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.

Greatest Valentine’s Day Episodes

Okay, so, I’m going to die alone, but for those of you who aren’t, here’s a list of some of the best Valentine’s Day episodes of TV. Or, really, just the first 5 episodes I could think of that were good. I didn’t think of this until Monday, so cut me a break.

Runner Up: Galentine’s Day (Parks and Rec)

Why is this a runner up? Because it’s not a V-day episode…  and although most of it takes place at a Valentine’s Dance, it’s mostly about breakups.

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Galentine’s Day is the 13th of February, and it’s a holiday made up by Pawnee, Indiana resident Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) to celebrate strong, independent women. Leslie’s widowed mother, Marlene (Pamela Reed), a guest at the Galentine’s celebration, tells the story of her first love, a lifeguard she met years before she met Leslie’s father, with whom she had a passionate affair before her parents made her break it off.

ValentinesGalentinesLeslie, with encouragement from Justin (Justin Theroux), a man she’s been dating, goes to find the lifeguard and reunite the lovers after all these years. Unfortunately, while Marlene grew up to be a civic leader, the lifeguard, Frank (John Larroquette), is just a barrel full of problems. He’s immature, unsophisticated, unemployed, and just generally is the worst. Marlene understandably wants nothing to do with him.

This leads Leslie to realize she doesn’t really like Justin. Meanwhile, her co-workers’ relationships are similarly dissolving. Tom (Aziz Ansari) is rejected by his ex-wife. April (Aubrey Plaza) breaks up with her boyfriend and his boyfriend. Ann (Rashida Jones) and Mark (Paul Schneider) are still together, but it’s clear Ann is looking to get out of the relationship… which leads Mark to get out of the show.

Message received: Love is a lie and everyone dies alone. Happy Galentine’s Day!!!

5) Operation Ann (Parks and Rec)

Okay, I had to make it up to Parks and Rec, both for lambasting Galentine’s Day and for not ever finding an episode of the show quite remarkable enough to get onto this list, despite how much I like the show.

Here’s the thing about Parks and Rec: Every single couple at the end of the show is basically perfect.

April and Andy (Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt), Leslie and Ben (Amy Poehler and Adam Scott), Ann and Chris (Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe), Tom and Lucy (Aziz Ansari and Natalie Morales), Donna and Joe (Retta and Keegan-Michael Key), Garry and Gayle (Jim O’Heir and Christie Brinkley), Ron and Diane (Nick Offerman and Lucy Lawless), even Craig and Typhoon (Billy Eichner and Rodney To). All of them are amazing. Which is why it’s so great to see where some of these relationships start to develop.

ValentinesBenLeslie.gifThis episode starts with Leslie having her first V-Day with a serious boyfriend, Ben. She makes an overly-elaborate series of puzzles involving multiple riddles that range from “weird” to “punishingly difficult.” Even Leslie admits, at one point, that it’s probably impossible for Ben to actually solve them all. In desperation, Ben asks Ron and Andy for help. Along the way, Ben finds out that Ron actually loves puzzles and riddles, despite his earlier objections to them. In the end, Ron intuits the final solution to Leslie’s riddle, saving Ben.

valentinesanntom.jpgMeanwhile, Leslie asks the office to help find a boyfriend for Ann, who is somehow single despite being sweet, smart, and looking like Rashida Jones (it actually gets explained later that she has some issues). At the same time, Chris, the perpetual optimist, is depressed because he has been dumped by his most recent girlfriend. At the end of the episode, Ann ends up hanging out with Tom, which proves to be a horrible mistake, and Chris realizes that he’s only single because he broke up with Ann for basically no reason aside from location. This leaves both of them in the position to get back together in the future, after they both grow a little bit.

Also, April and Andy are together, and they’re perfect, and I love them.ValentinesAprilAndy.jpg

 4) Anna Howard Shaw Day (30 Rock)

Much like Parks and Rec, even though I love this show it never made it onto the list. Only 2 episodes got nominated, and this is… not one of them, but it’s a natural fit to put it here. Too bad I don’t have a Leap Day list.

Valentines30Rock.jpg30 Rock is a show about putting on an SNL-like show called “TGS with Tracy Jordan,” which is filmed at NBC headquarters located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

30 Rock doesn’t have the perfect ending for everyone, but it has a solid happy ending for most of the characters. It also points out that, even if you don’t find love in another person, you can find it in your friends and family.

ValentinesLizLemon.gifAt the beginning of this episode, Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) has set a root canal on Valentine’s Day, which she calls “Anna Howard Shaw Day” after the female civil rights leader born on Feb. 14, but discovers that everyone else has plans and thus she has no one who can drive her home while she’s under anesthesia. At the same time, her boss, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), meets Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks), the ultra-conservative woman of his dreams. Jack tries to woo her, including planning a celebrity party where he invites Jon Bon Jovi (Music Guy), but ends up snubbing him because he’s interested in what she’s saying. Naturally, they bang, and agree to go out again on V-day. On Valentine’s Day, Liz gets her root canal, telling the dental staff that she’ll be fine to go home. On the way out, however, Liz hallucinates that the nurses are her ex-boyfriends, leading the staff to call Jack to help. Jack agrees, but Avery assumes that it’s just an excuse to dump her after they’ve had sex. Jack counters by offering to have her come along, which impresses Avery even more with his kindness. Liz passes out, but at least she knows she has a friend.

At the same time, Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) is depressed because her stalker appears to have lost interest in her. Kenneth the Page (Jack McBrayer) is confused as to why she’s upset that her stalker has moved on, only for Jenna to tell Kenneth that her stalker is her longest relationship. Kenneth proceeds to send her threatening letters to show that he cares.

Basically, this episode reminds us that friendship is a kind of love, too.

ValentinesAnnaHowardShaw

 3) My Funky Valentine (Modern Family)

Modern Family was a show about how there are different, viable models of family structure than just the traditional Nuclear Family. It covered one family in three households.

Household 1 is the Dunphy family. Goofy dad Phil (Ty Burrell), his wife Claire (Julie Bowen), and their kids Haley, Alex, and Luke (Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter, and Nolan Gould). Household 2 is the Pritchetts: Claire’s dad Jay (Ed O’Neill), his younger, hotter wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara), Gloria’s son Manny (Rico Rodriguez), and their baby Joe (Jeremy McGuire). Household 3 is the Pritchett-Tuckers: Claire’s brother Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), his husband Cam (Eric Stonestreet), and their daughter Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons).

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This episode’s main focus is Phil and Claire. Phil has taken Claire to the same restaurant for most of their history together, so this year he decides to rent a hotel and have the two of them roleplay for the evening instead. Phil is Clive, a businessman, and Claire is Julianna, a housewife. As they flirt at the bar, Claire goes to the bathroom and removes all of her clothes, returning wearing just a coat. As they make their way up to the room, however, the coat gets caught in the escalator. Claire cannot get out of the coat withouthaving to run to the room naked, and multiple acquaintances keep showing up… all of whom just tell her to get out of the coat.

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Jay and Gloria go to a comedy club at the same hotel, which is fun until the comedian starts making fun of Jay’s age. They leave and run into Claire… who Gloria quickly helps, having realized the situation immediately, since apparently it had happened to her before. Claire and Phil go to their room… where it’s later revealed Phil screwed up the entire evening somehow by mis-using oil.

Meanwhile, Mitchell is depressed because he broke up his and Cam’s Valentine’s plans due to needing to work on a case, only for the client to settle, preventing Mitchell from delivering the best speech he’d ever written. Manny, who they’re watching while Jay and Gloria are out, is also depressed because he wrote a Valentine’s Day poem for a girl in his class, and another boy took credit for it. Manny and the couple go to the restaurant and confront the boy, with Mitch delivering a version of the speech he’d written. Unfortunately, the girl actually likes the other guy more, so Manny’s still single.

I love this episode because it emphasizes the show’s message of “every couple is different.”

2) Three Valentines (Frasier)

Already wrote this one, not doing it again. Still hilarious.

1) I Love Lisa (The Simpsons)

It probably says a lot that my number one pick is an episode about a girl taking pity on a boy, him taking it the wrong way, her having to break his heart, and them ending up friends… but, that’s for my therapist. Here’s the winner:

This episode is one of the best episodes of the Simpsons, and that’s saying something.

It’s Valentine’s Day in Springfield and Lisa’s class (Yeardley Smith) is giving Valentine’s ValentinesChooChooCards to each other. Unfortunately, Ralph Wiggum (Nancy Cartwright), who is not the brightest kid in the class… nor the most sanitary, doesn’t get a single card. Seeing him heartbroken, Lisa feels pity for him and gives him a card saying “I choo-choo-choose you.” This leads Ralph to fall in love with Lisa, who does not reciprocate. At all. This is made worse when Ralph and Lisa are picked to play George and Martha Washington in the school play.

Ralph’s father, Chief Wiggum (Hank Azaria), gets them tickets to a Krusty the Clown Live show, which Lisa desperately wants to go to. Unfortunately, Krusty starts talking to the audience, leading Ralph to proclaim his love for Lisa on live TV… which Lisa responds to by telling him that “I don’t like you! I never liked you and the only reason I gave you that stupid valentine is because nobody else would!” Bart (Cartwright) later uses a recording of this to show Lisa the exact moment Ralph’s heart rips in half.ValentinesRalph

Ultimately, Lisa tries to apologize to Ralph for being cruel, but Ralph focuses on his role as George Washington, leading him to give a stellar performance and the interest of multiple new women. Lisa finally gives him an apology card with a bee on it, saying “Let’s Bee Friends.”ValentinesBeeFriends

This is an amazing episode, even if it’s a bit heartbreaking, because that’s really just how it is sometimes. The girl you like doesn’t like you back. The thing you thought was caring was just friendship. And that’s okay.