It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week
Hello! How you all doing? Good week? Looking forward to springtime and being able to see other human beings again soon (albeit outdoors and at a distance)? That’s great!
But until then, let’s talk about what we’ve been doing indoors – watching streaming TV and movies. Of the usual things, I’ve been both slacking and catching up. Lovely wife continues to enjoy Young Rock (US: NBC), but I’ve given up on it. I might watch future episodes out the corner of my eye again, but it’s not what I’m going to be calling a regular.
Debris remains enjoyable for all the reasons I mentioned last week. This week, though, we got our first hint of how the alien tech works, as well as some of the darker sides of the various conspiracies going on. Enjoying it still! Yay!
However, For All Mankind (Apple TV+) seems to have put itself on the back burner, since I’ve not watched the latest two episodes. Bad TMINE. I’ll get round to them this week, I reckon.
But let’s talk about some ‘new’ things after the jump. In films, out last week was the ‘Snyder Cut’ of Justice League (2017), which is possibly the most different director’s cut of a movie you’ll ever see, as well as possibly the best superhero movie ever made (but probably isn’t).
Talking of superheroes, coming to Disney+ on Friday was the latest MCU TV series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which sees the two eponymous heroes dealing with PTSD, bank loans and finding purpose in life now that Steve Rogers/Captain America is no more.
And lastly, I realised I’d forgotten all about Superman & Lois (US: The CW)! Worse than that, I actually watched the first episode three weeks ago and then just forgot to review it! So I’ve been playing catch-up with that. We can talk about all four episodes after the jump, too.
But also, tell me what you’ve been watching, too, please
However, I have watched new things!
What TMINE has been watching
Justice League (2017): The Snyder Cut
Justice League (2017) really wasn’t a great movie, and there were internal and external factors at work that made it that way. The most obvious problem was that Zack Snyder, the director of the two main preceding ‘DC Extended Universe’ movies Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman (although not Wonder Woman), suffered the tragic loss of his daughter midway through filming. That resulted in his standing down from the project, leaving ‘trusted’ hand Joss Whedon to take over. Whedon made some radical changes to the story of his own, but was also instructed by the studio to keep the runtime down to something more manageable and on a smaller budget, as well as on a very quick time scale.
Needless to say, it wasn’t what Snyder – or indeed anyone – wanted. But there had been enough hints in preceding movies, as well as in Justice League itself as to what it should have been, that fans petitioned for Snyder to come back when he was good and ready and be given a chance to finish what he’d started.
And if it hadn’t been for Covid-19 coinciding with the launch of streaming channel HBO Max in the US, said fans and their march and petition would probably have been laughed out of town. Instead, bereft of blockbusters and new content, HBO Max decided “why the hell not?” and Snyder got given $30m to do what he could.
And to be fair, not only is it his best work but a country mile – equally to be fair, it’s not his screenplay, but Chris Terrio (Argo)’s – it’s possibly the best superhero movie yet made. It’s certainly light years better than Whedon’s efforts.
It’s also four hours long. It’s a sense it’s a must for the TV, something that everyone should have scrupulously avoided in the cinemas.
It’s interesting at several levels. Firstly, there’s hours of new content. There’s an almost entirely new score, as well as new characters, new background material and subplots for all the characters. In particular, the Flash and Cyborg get masses of extra scenes, designed principally to set up their characters for solo movies – and you will want to watch those movies by the time you’ve finished this movie. There’s an Epilogue – the film is interspersed with interstitials to separate it into no fewer than seven parts (IIRC) – that sets up the next movie, too.
There’s also alternative scenes to the ones shown that add drama and even comedy to proceedings. Scenes get longer, with extra dialogue that make the plot have more sense or simply add to the characters.
More intriguingly, from a film school perspective, as well as the different colour treatment for the whole movie to give it more of a portentous Snyder feel, some scenes are almost exactly the same, just edited differently. In particular, for example, the first fight involving Wonder Woman is almost identical, but it’s faster, slicker, more exciting, given you a greater sense of her power. But it ends with a 30 second inspirational moment with a young girl that is almost better than anything in either Wonder Woman or Wonder Woman 1984. It shows both that Snyder gets superheroes and respects them, but also that he’s a better visual director than Whedon.
Less obviously it shows how directors can remove little details to cut down on a movie’s runtime. A second here, a second there, can all add up to a shorter movie, but also a worse movie.
However, possibly the big changes are what’s taken out. Of which there’s lots. There’s an entirely different ending that removes all the stock Eastern European character Whedon had left over from Avengers: Age of Ultron, as well as that mid-credit Superman v Flash competition. Some of that, I miss: there was a delightful quality to Superman’s dialogue in Whedon’s cut that made you love Cavill’s character; here, he’s got much less to say for himself, even once he’s alive. He’s clearly a much more likeable Superman all the same, but I liked those qualities that Whedon brought.
Perhaps the biggest improvements from removing Whedon’s material are the removal of certain scenes and even shots involving Wonder Woman. Slightly dodgy shots of her arse? Gone. Stupid scene with Aquaman sitting on her lasso? Gone. Stupid scene of Flash falling on her and his face in her breasts? Gone.
I’d be very happy with Zack Snyder directing Wonder Woman 3 – as long as didn’t write the screenplay – since he’s clearly respectful enough of her character not to include that kind of nonsense.
If I were to have one big complaint – and it’s not that Amber Heard is apparently doing an English accent throughout the movie for some reason, even though she doesn’t in Aquaman – it’s that the inclusion of Darkseid in this cut means we have too much of the nonsense from the comics. Justice League (2017) refreshingly lacked a lot of the nonsense from the comics, but now we have the Anti-Life Equation and more. Even I didn’t get what was going on.
All in all, though, while I’d still watch Captain America: Winter Soldier over the Snyder Cut for a bit of fun, this for me at least is the best superhero movie I’ve seen, balancing fun, action and awe in equal measure. It’s by no means perfect, but if you love a superhero treated respectfully, you’ll love this:
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Available on Disney+
Captain America’s two best friends (now that Black Widow is no more), Falcon and Bucky Barnes (aka the Winter Soldier), were last seen in Avengers: Endgame waving goodbye to Steve Rogers as he handed over custody of his shield to Falcon. We’ve moved on a bit now and we’re seeing what happens next: Falcon is off flying secret missions for the government and trying to help his sister keep the family business afloat, while Winter Soldier is atoning for his past crimes while seeing a therapist.
And that’s basically the first, under-exciting episode of the show, which relies heavily on the goodwill built up about the characters – as well as the occasional very decent action scene – to keep us watching what is really a double character piece about a 106-year-old man with PTSD coming to terms with the fact he has nothing left in his life, while another tries to juggle being a superhero and being a black man who can’t get a bank loan (cf The Banker, ironically). The actors are doing their best and clearly enjoying being the centre of attention (perhaps a little too much), and it’s great to see them, but I was hoping for something a little more from episode one.
There are references to MCU movies, including cameos from the likes of Don Cheadle (getting his own TV series soon) and the Algerian guy from Captain America: Winter Soldier, but as of yet, nothing really to commend this to anyone without much interest in the MCU. I’ll keep watching, since I imagine it’s going to hot up in later episodes, but it’s clear this isn’t going to push the envelope in the same way WandaVision did.
Superman & Lois
Available in the US on The CW
Remember way, way back in 2016 how I loved Tyler Hoechlin’s version of Superman so much, it actually overshadowed Supergirl with how good he was – and how I’d much rather be watching a show with him as Superman than Supergirl? Clearly, The CW thought this was a good idea, because that’s what we’ve now got.
And it’s beautiful.
What’s interesting about the show is that this is a grown-up Superman. This is a Superman who’s been a superhero for such a long time that he and Lois Lane have got married and have moved back to Smallville to raise their teenage sons. The whole show is therefore really something that works at two levels: the trials and tribulations that beset even the world’s best parents when dealing with teenagers; and what it’s like to have Superman for a dad (possibly if you have your superpowers as well).
Something for the young people, something for the old. We have Lana Lang, of course, so there’s Supes having to deal with his first love – someone who clearly still has feelings for him, thanks in part to an obviously unhappy marriage. Smallville is also not the small town it used to be, with unemployment, destitution, drugs and more. This is clearly older people going back to things they used to know with wiser eyes.
So on the one hand, we have something that is actually emotionally lovely. Just watch the first few minutes and see if you have a hard heart afterwards.
I cry buckets every time I watch that.
But we also have something that is also a proper superhero show – with proper superheroics and fight scenes that actually are as good as those in the movies.
I’ve watched four episodes so far and while there’s starting to be a touch of the Smallville – on no, kryptonite is to blame again this week! – it’s clear this is leagues ahead of the rest of The CW fare and is up there with Disney+’s new shows, too.