No Sudden Move: Decent Tension, Great Acting – HBO Max Review

A blackmail plot goes way off of the rails.

Sometimes solid performances and a few good added twists can elevate an old set-up back into interesting territory. This movie could have fallen on its face, because a lot of the elements are old tropes reheated, but giving Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro the lead and having a cast full of excellent supporting characters really manage to keep this film thoroughly enjoyable. It helps that Soderbergh’s pacing is pretty tight, moving from one source of tension to another without making it unbearable on the viewer. 

Great costume design, too.

Curt Goynes (Don Cheadle) is an ex-convict who is desperate for cash. He is contacted by mob recruiter Doug Jones (Brendan Fraser) and agrees to help babysit a family as part of a blackmail scheme. He’s joined by fellow crooks Ronald and Charley (Benicio del Toro and Kieran Culkin) and they break into the house of accountant Matt Wertz (David Harbour). They hold Matt’s wife, Mary (Amy Seimetz), and his children hostage while forcing him to get a copy of a document for the mob boss Frank Capelli (Ray Liotta). When Matt returns, without the real document due to it being removed, Charley decides to execute the family and Matt, but Curt shoots him in the head to prevent a massacre. Now Ronald and Curt are both wanted by the mob and the police, but they both decide to try and steal the real document and use it to buy their freedom. 

Everyone buys Ray Liotta as a mob boss. Everyone.

This movie has just the right number of moving parts introduced at just the right times, because as the plot builds, it ends up having a large number of characters and subplots colliding but you never really feel lost. It helps that, by having so many talented supporting cast members, the characters are more memorable. Aside from those listed above, other supporting characters are played by Jon Hamm, Bill Duke, Matt Damon, and Julia Fox, all of whom keep you focused on their actions better than expected. The film also keeps the focus on the fact that Curt and Ronald are at the mercy of any number of people, because anyone can want to turn them in for a reward. In a way it changes the heist film formula from being two parts getting in to one part getting out and instead makes most of the plot about getting away with the goods. Thankfully, Soderbergh is very used to these types of films and can handle this shift in the structure.

You may be cool, but you’re not Bill Duke in that outfit cool.

Overall, good movie if you like crime films.

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

Kate Winslet deserves another Emmy.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

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

Kate Winslet is a treasure.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

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

This is an absolutely enormous ship.


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

Josh Gad is particularly dumb for a supposedly brilliant engineer.

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

Not exactly starfleet.

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

They really play off of each other well.

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

They dress fancy at times.


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

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

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

Beggar King is looking very fly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The real Fred Hampton.

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

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

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

It’s a cute moment.

Overall, fantastic movie. Really recommend it. 

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

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Made for Love: Technology is an Abusive Relationship – HBO Max Review

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


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

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


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

Your head is filled with anger and some technology.

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

Apparently dolphins are important in the book, too.

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

Meanwhile, Diane doesn’t tell anyone anything.

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

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

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

The monsters are great, but the humans need work.


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

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


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

There is a singing contest, of course.

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

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

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

The hollow Earth looks cool.

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


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

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

Alia Shawkat stars in this very broad-spectrum comedy.


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.


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

She’s not the best person, Maeby?

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

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

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

Shalita Grant is brilliant.

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

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

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