This past weekend saw the release of the first, Fortnite-like trailer for Space Jam: A New Legacy, another “final” Avengers-like trailer for Black Widow with a new release date, and the 2021 Screen Actors Guild Awards. As if that weren’t enough, we watched a ton of movies, shows, and cartoons over the weekend!
Catching up on Amazon Studios’ newest animated superhero drama Invincible took up a large part of our weekend, as did sitting down for a MonsterVerse marathon of the films leading up to Warner Bros.’ latest Kaiju free-for-all, Godzilla vs. Kong; Better Call Saul; Gargoyles; and more. Here are a few of the shows and movies we’re enjoying watching right now, and what you might enjoy watching as well.
Late Saturday night, I spent 45 minutes perusing the Criterion Channel app trying to find something that my wife and I could agree on watching. By the time we settled on a couple of potential choices, it was bedtime for her. So on Sunday night, I did a complete 180° — I suggested that we check out Amazon Studios’ TV adaptation of Invincible, which she describes as her all-time favorite comic (she has the first eight Ultimate Collection hardbacks).
I knew very little about Invincible going in, so I was definitely not prepared for the level of gore in the premiere’s ending, which is the kind of thing I haven’t seen in animation since ... maybe when I watched Ninja Scroll in college? So far — we’ve watched the first two episodes — it seems like the show uses that kind of ultraviolence judiciously, as a way to demonstrate that (A) people with superpowers have the capacity to do some really messed-up stuff, and (B) it would be pretty awful to have to deal with alien invasions as a teenager, even a superpowered one!
Neither of us love the animation, which, as our own Joshua Rivera described it, “sits in an uncomfortable space between Young Justice-esque Saturday morning cartoon and elevated Flash web cartoon,” but the art style certainly looks just like Cory Walker’s work in the comic. And if Amazon is aiming for nothing more than an extremely faithful adaptation that doesn’t really go beyond the comic, well, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that. I’m definitely inclined to keep watching. But the producers will have to work hard to ensure that the 40- to 45-minute episodes (the same length as an hourlong TV show with commercials) don’t start to feel bloated. —Samit Sarkar
Invincible is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
And everything else we’re watching...
I spent a good chunk of my time this weekend revisiting the first season of Gargoyles on Disney Plus. Why? Because it’s awesome, that’s why. The animated series created by Greg Weisman (The Spectacular Spider-Man, Young Justice) centered on Goliath (voiced by Keith David), the surviving leader of a race of creatures who turn to stone by day — and reawakens alongside his small clan in the modern world after a century’s long spell — is one of my favorite shows from childhood. The series was a trailblazer thanks to a focus on serialized storytelling, strong characters, and fascinating storylines that interweaved nocturnal vigilante superhero tropes with characters and plot devices inspired by Shakespearean literature and European fantasy lore. Gargoyles also endured the test of time, and absolutely deserves a contemporary remake or continuation. “Gargoyles is still my baby,” said Weisman in an interview with Polygon last year. “Literally nothing would make me happier than to go back and do more Gargoyles.” Ball’s in your court, Disney. —Toussaint Egan
Gargoyles is streaming on Disney Plus.
All the MonsterVerse reboot movies
After watching Godzilla vs. Kong on Friday, I wanted to learn more about Kong and his relationship with the child that could communicate with him. My partner and I had not seen Kong: Skull Island, so we turned that on hoping to be informed. Well, that’s not what that movie is about. Instead, it’s set in the past, when Kong was smaller. Either way, it definitely goes into Kong’s relationship with humans. Like Godzilla vs. Kong, it’s a ridiculous movie — in a good way — that just hit right. That’s when we also decided to watch Godzilla and Godzilla: King of Monsters, too. If I had any foresight, I would have watched them all in order, but alas, that didn’t happen. And it ruled! There is something so satisfying about watching monsters punch each other. —Nicole Carpenter
All of the MonsterVerse Reboot movies (Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and Godzilla vs. Kong) are available to stream on HBO Max.
Phillip Noyce made a name for himself with high-tension thrillers like Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Saint. But in 2002, the Australian director turned his camera toward home to tell the gut-wrenching story of his home country’s Indigenous people. Based on a memoir by Doris Pilkington Garimara, Rabbit-Proof Fence chronicles the lives of three young girls who are incarcerated by British officers for being “half-castes.” In the early 1930s, mixed-raced children were locked up by imperialists who hoped to breed the Aboriginal race out of existence. Knowing there’s no future in the half-caste commune, the three girls break out and embark on a 1,500-mile journey across Australia to return to their families. Their guide is a rabbit-proof fence, built east to west across the entire continent as a way of keeping out rabbits — a species accidentally introduced into the Australian ecosystem by, you guessed it, colonialists.
Like Noyce’s previous films, Rabbit-Proof Fence is built like a straightforward thriller. Sir Kenneth Branagh, speaking volumes by accepting the role, plays the British dolt in charge of the social engineering with cold insidiousness. He barks orders to his silent child hunter, Moodoo, played by celebrated Yolngu actor David Gulpilil. But most of the action plays from the perspective of those on the run, the children, which Noyce casts to perfection. Everlyn Sampi is a discovery as the oldest sister and de facto protector, summoning a tangible bravery during key moments of the heart-racing, unimaginable trek. For someone who did not grow up with much insight into Australian history (and by anecdotal accounts, actual Australians may not know the extent of this harrowing moment in time), even the A-to-B-to-C-to-D plotting of Rabbit-Proof Fence hits hard. It’s a powerful film simply by existing. —Matt Patches
Rabbit-Proof Fence is available to rent on Amazon and Apple.
Better Call Saul season 5
I had missed the Breaking Bad prequel series when it first aired, and have been catching up over the past two weeks. I’m not going to say Better Call Saul is better than Breaking Bad, I’ll leave that argument to the ages, but I’m ecstatic to find they’re at least equal in stature.
And this is the season it all seems to go to hell. Jimmy has finally ditched his given name for the guise of Saul Goodman, and the show’s other star, Goodman’s sort-of-law-partner-sort-of-girlfriend-sort-of-only-friend Kim Wexler is realizing that she can’t keep splitting the difference between hard-working corporate lawyer and part-time con artist while also taking pro bono cases on the side. After the past four seasons, we’re finally starting to see their alliance take them places that might do real, lasting damage.
Better Call Saul has been the perfect show to watch as I get ready for my second dose of the vaccine and think about re-entering the world. This is a series about who we are, who other people expect us to be, and who we’d like to become. We know where many of these characters end up, we saw their end in Breaking Bad, but I’m still hoping that Kim is somehow able to escape Goodman’s toxic gravity. She still has the chance at a good life. I’m not sure about anyone else on Better Call Saul. —Ben Kuchera
Better Call Saul is streaming on Netflix.
Young Justice (again)
A month ago in this space, I wrote about finally digging into the belated but welcome season 3 of Young Justice. After so many 10- or 12-episode miniseries, it’s been strange jumping back into something that’s a full 26 episodes long, but the creators certainly do a lot with that runtime. I kind of lost focus on the show about a third of the way through — as I said at the time, the season seemed to lack a central plot, and while I praised the sprawling and detailed cast, the show kept adding more and more characters, until none of them seemed very important. But around 18 episodes in, the season’s intentions suddenly become clear: It’s about a youth cultural revolution.
In a pretty pointed echo of current American politics, Young Justice’s adult world has become hopelessly mired in hypocritical political spin, self-serving agendas, and partisan gridlock. (Which is mostly supervillain gridlock.) But idealistic young people can get around all that by streaming their heroics to social-media sites and directly inspiring their peers, making an end-run around the media and politicians painting them as vigilantes. Kinda corny, except for the part where similar non-super tactics have repeatedly worked in the real world. Just seeing the show pull itself out of the malaise of “We can’t get anything done because politicians won’t let us” has been a relief. Also, this happens, when Beast Boy goes into a fugue state because of the hypnotic commands in a pair of VR goggles, and hallucinates a musical Teen Titans Go! / Doom Patrol crossover. —Tasha Robinson
Young Justice is available to stream on HBO Max.