Willy’s Wonderland: Nicolas Cage in Five Nights at Freddy’s – Amazon Rental Review

Nicolas Cage apparently needed money and I am so glad for that.

SUMMARY

A drifter (Nicolas Cage) runs over a spike strip in the middle of the road in a remote Nevada town.  He’s picked up by a local mechanic named Jed (Chris Warner), who tells him that he will only fix the car if he is given a large amount of cash up front.  No other payment will be accepted.  Unable to pay the man, the drifter is given an offer by wealthy local Tex Macadoo (Ric Reitz): spend the night shift as a janitor cleaning up the once successful but now abandoned children’s entertainment facility Willy’s Wonderland.  It turns out that the animatronics inside the building are evil and will kill anyone inside at night. However, it turns out that this silent drifter may be the only one who is prepared to really clean up Willy’s Wonderland.

It might be his birthday. We don’t know.

Unfortunately, earlier in the day, local girl Liv Hawthorne (Emily Tosta), attempted to burn the building down, but was stopped by her adopted mother Sheriff Eloise Lund (Beth Grant) and deputy Evan Olson (David Sheftell). Her friends, Chris, Kathy, Aaron, Bob, and Dan (Kai Kadlec, Caylee Cowan, Christian Del Grosso, Terayle Hill, and Jonathan Mercedes) free her and join her in her attempt to burn down the building. Damned kids will ruin everything if you let them.

END SUMMARY

I wish that I had been present at the pitch meeting for this film.  I can only imagine it went something like “Hey, the Five Nights at Freddy’s movie isn’t out yet. What if we rip that off so hard that it will basically be plagiarism, but add in Nicolas Cage?” Then, after taking another large hit of blow, everyone in the room applauded wildly.  And rightfully so, because, while this movie is a terrible adaptation of Five Nights at Freddy’s, putting Nicolas Cage onscreen against killer animatronics is just a brilliant idea.

Making him wear that shirt is even better.

I think if you’ve been reading this blog for long enough, you are aware of my opinion that Nicolas Cage is a national treasure.  I wrote that before I realized how terrible of a pun that is, so I will leave it out of penance.  In any case, Cage is one of the rare actors who has a tremendous amount of ability, but also a willingness to take absolutely terrible movies on which to squander it.  Sometimes, these movies are terrible.  Sometimes, these movies are awesome.  This movie is somewhere in between, but it is through no fault of Nicolas Cage himself.  Every scene in which he is on screen in this film is so much better than it has any right to be, that I can only attribute it to his unnatural screen presence.  Even though the movie doesn’t do a particular great job in designing the animatronics, watching Nicolas Cage dispatch them, and brutally at that, is just so enjoyable that you will forgive any of the other flaws. There may be no shot in film I’ve enjoyed more than when an evil possessed ostrich animatronic suddenly realizes that he has absolutely f*cked with the wrong man.

Or Nicolas Cage being uncertain if the ostrich is really going to eat his flesh.

Perhaps the biggest mistake in this film is that it isn’t just Cage versus the characters. Since Cage proves to be the kryptonite to these figures, mostly because he seems to follow some insane self-imposed rules about surviving the night (which are nonetheless apparently effective), there had to be other characters to get the body count up. Enter the teens, who, for the most part, do nothing except be stereotypes and die. While I realize that’s something that a horror movie needs, it’s still kind of a let-down in this film. It also hurts when they try to actually add some backstory to the animatronics. I know that the backstory is a big part of Five Nights at Freddy’s, but it’s all hidden throughout the games and, much like all of the information about the drifter, it would have been better to just leave everything in hints around the building.

Cage is in the robot-killing business and business is good.

Overall, though, if you want to see Nicolas Cage punch an animatronic ostrich to death, and you do, you should watch this. Maybe wait until it’s free, though.

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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Framing Britney Spears: The Darkest Side of Fame – Hulu Review

The New York Times brings us a documentary about the life of a trapped celebrity.

SUMMARY 

Britney Spears is one of the most successful pop stars of the last 20 years, being the highest-earning musical performer for two different years since 2000. Despite that (and an estimated net-worth of almost $60 million), Britney has been legally under the control of her father, Jamie Spears, since 2008, when she had a mental breakdown. This documentary tracks her life from her youth and her appearance on the Mickey Mouse Club to her current fight to have her father’s conservatorship removed. Along the way, we see the story of what fame and America’s obsession with stars has done to her life.

Pour your heart out for the public and they’ll just start eating it.

END SUMMARY

It’s honestly hard to watch this documentary at some points because it does a good job of bringing home how much America’s love of watching famous people fall from grace has caused this woman pain. She has lost control of her children and even of her own business decisions, because the press refused to leave her any amount of privacy. When a paparazzo, who made a career out of taking candid photos of Britney, is asked whether he feels guilty, he immediately tries to deflect it by saying that she never asked to be left alone (then has the ridiculous nature of this statement thrown back at him). It’s clear that these people knew they were hurting her, but that the amount of money they were making on it made them ignore it. Of course, the only reason they were being offered that much money was because the public was insanely obsessed with any information about Britney, but particularly with trying to destroy her wholesome image. 

Clearly someone who is begging to be photographed.

The documentary also does a great job of investigating the conservatorship, which is itself already a bit of an oddity, since conservatorships are usually for the mentally unfit or the elderly. It seems unusual that the conservatorship has been maintained despite the fact that, for most of the time since 2008, Spears has been performing publicly. If her fame and exposure have been making her mentally incompetent, then it seems like having her continue is inherently against the purpose of the conservatorship. It becomes even sketchier when the conservatorship is literally described as being “a hybrid business relationship.” That’s very much counter to the purpose of the conservatorship. However, Spears, not being competent to make her own legal decisions, has limited options to appeal or change it. It’s even stranger that the judge denied her initial request to have an independent third party administer her affairs, but I suppose there are reasons that might have happened. 

Also, you’ll want to punch Timberlake in the face at some point.

The film does a decent job of addressing many of the “#FreeBritney” people who think that Spears has been sending covert messages to the public so that they will help her escape her father. While it doesn’t endorse the conspiracy theories, it does point out that the situation in which Spears has found herself is not normal, is not healthy, and is only likely to change with public pressure. Fortunately, it’s gotten a little better since this came out, with an independent company now partially in charge of her conservatorship.

While we don’t know everything, they seem to be on the right side of history.

Overall, this was a really well-done documentary. I recommend it if you grew up in the early 2000s, especially.

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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Futurama Fridays – S7E21 ”Assie Come Home”

So it’s come to this: An episode about Bender’s backside.

SUMMARY

Farnsworth (Billy West) sends the crew on a weapons delivery to the gang planet Peoples α. Fry (West) and Leela (Katey Segal) sabotage the guns, surviving a gang war between the Blips and the Cruds, only to find that thieves have stolen Bender’s (John DiMaggio) body while they were gone. Now he’s just eyes and a mouth. Bender’s tracking system takes them to a chop shop, who provides a list of all of the people who bought Bender’s body parts. The crew proceeds to work on tracking them down, including finding a card shark cheating at poker with Bender’s arms and that Hedonismbot used Bender’s antenna for unspeakable acts that don’t really seem to bother Bender all that much. The only part they can’t find is Bender’s ass plate. 

These are the blips. Or the cruds. Either way, they got eaten by spiders.

It turns out Bender’s backside was on a spaceship that crashed against an asteroid in the Sargaseous Sea (which is actually a nebula). The cloud is so dense that ships usually can’t navigate it. Leela manages to find the nebula’s failing lighthouse, whose keeper, Tarquin (David Herman), assists the crew in recovering the ass plate. They soon discover that Bender’s ass is so shiny that it’s the only thing that can illuminate the nebula. Pointing out that it’ll save countless lives, Bender leaves his butt behind. While Bender starts to move on, the plate, which has a hindbrain, decides to return to Bender. The two are happily brought back together. 

Can we show this on television?

END SUMMARY

This is literally an episode about finding Bender’s shiny metal ass. I admit that some of the gags, mostly about finding Bender’s other body parts, are pretty funny, but overall I think it was going to be hard to make a good episode that seems to be entirely built around a title pun. It really hit home when, as the ass is (somehow) flying through space, it saves little Timmy (actually Johnny) who is caught in a gravity well, leading someone to actually say “thank you, Assie.” It hurt me on the inside parts.

Maybe put a grate over the gravity well?

This episode probably came about because this seemed like the time that the show was really going to end, so they wanted to do an episode about each of the characters. Since Bender has been the focus of so many episodes prior to this, they likely didn’t have anything else they really wanted to explore, so they were stuck doing an episode based on “bite my shiny metal ass,” revealing that Bender’s ass is the shiniest thing in the universe. Of course, this stands in direct contrast to the literal first response to that phrase “it doesn’t seem that shiny,” as well as a number of other episodes, but whatever. 

Asteroids are not ever this close.

Overall, I think this was my least favorite of the episodes remaining, so it’s all good now.

FAVORITE JOKE

Here are three, only because I don’t like any of them enough to make them the winner:

3) Hedonismbot is a Senator

When they recover Bender’s antenna, Leela addresses Hedonismbot as Senator, revealing that a robot who lives to engage in debauchery is electable. Of course, reality told us this already.

2) Bender is a monster

When recovering his legs, Bender discovers that they’ve been given to Tinny Tim, the orphan robot, to replace his missing ones. Bender then not only steals his legs back, but also steals the skateboard that Tim used to get around.

1) I think of robot eels

The name of Tarquin’s boat is “Flotsam and Jetson,” a combination of the terms “Flotsam and Jetsam” (debris that was lost accidentally and debris that was intentionally thrown overboard) and the Jetsons. However, Flotsam and Jetsam were the names of the eels used by Ursula in The Little Mermaid, so this pun always makes me think of robot eels, which would indeed be electric eels.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 122: Calculon 2.0

NEXT – Episode 124: Leela and the Genestalk

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Lupin III: The First: An Amazing Anime Adventure – Amazon Rental Review

The grandson of the world’s greatest thief returns to thwart some Nazis.

SUMMARY

In the 1940s, French Professor Bresson was killed after discovering something that was sought by the Nazi think tank “Ahnenerbe.” His family was killed, aside from his granddaughter, Laetitia (Suzu Hirose/Laurie Hymes), who was adopted by the Nazi professor Lambert (Kōtarō Yoshida/David Brimmer). His famous research diary was lost for twenty years. Now, it’s the swinging 60s and the world’s most charming thief, Arsene Lupin III (Kanichi Kurita/Tony Oliver), is seeking to steal the Bresson Diary, which is the only treasure his grandfather failed to steal. Unfortunately, the Ahnenerbe group has survived the war and are seeking to beat Lupin to the punch. Along for the ride are Lupin’s associates: the sharpshooting Daisuke Jigen (Kiyoshi Kobayashi/Richard Epcar), the swordsman Goemon Ishikawa XIII (Daisuke Namikawa/Lex Lang), and the femme fatale Fujiko Mine (Miyuki Sawashiro/Michelle Ruff). As usual, they’re pursued by Interpol Inspector Koichi Zenigata (Kōichi Yamadera/Doug Erholtz). 

God, the characters are so well dressed.

END SUMMARY

I’m a big fan of Arsene Lupin, as I pointed out when Netflix released their show Lupin last year, but I am also a fan of Lupin III. While Arsene Lupin was the ultimate gentleman thief, Lupin III is a crass womanizer who is nonetheless the greatest thief in the world by virtue of his unmatched intelligence, gadgetry, and physical prowess. The series, created by Monkey Punch (the best pseudonym that doesn’t involve porn) was marked by its visual style, sense of humor, and frequent leaning on the fourth wall. 

Odd humor like having a random ramen break during a chase.

Having run for over 50 years and through six TV series and more than a dozen films, this film is a prime example of why the formula can still work. While Lupin is a criminal mastermind with skills to rival Batman, he always adopts the appearance of a rakish goofball who, more often than not, has a greater sense of morality than the people from whom he steals. Jigen is the more dour but ever-loyal partner whose ability with a gun borders on superhuman. Goemon can cut a building in half as long as the building has offended his honor. Fujiko, who is the focus of Lupin’s romantic efforts, will always stab them in the back if it benefits her, but will usually do the right thing in the end. Zenigata will chase them to the ends of the Earth, unless he needs their help to stop someone worse. This film gives the group a common enemy that everyone can focus on, because the bad guys are literally Nazis. 

He also inevitably steals the heart of someone during the heist.

The action and theft sequences are among the best in the series and the animation style not only matches the feel of the original but enhances some of the faster-paced scenes. The humor is classic Lupin, which is to say the right balance of irreverent jokes and brilliant slapstick. The soundtrack is an updated version of the original series. The plot is, surprisingly, actually pretty solid and contains a lot of decent twists and even the occasional sincere emotional moment.

And one genuinely epic pose moment.

Overall, just a great movie and now I want to take a month or three to rewatch the rest of the series. 

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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Bliss: It Never Quite Finds Its Feet – Amazon Prime Review

Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson bring us a new take on simulated reality.

SUMMARY

Greg Wittle (Owen Wilson) is a recently divorced office worker who spends his days daydreaming. He gets fired and accidentally kills his boss, Bjorn (Steve Zissis), before covering up the murder and heading to a bar to try and hide. He meets Isabel (Salma Hayek) a seemingly homeless woman who tells Greg that she created this world and that he is one of the few “real” people in it. She offers him some crystals that give him telekinetic powers. The two soon start spending time together, with Isabel warning him not to associate with any people who are not “real,” which includes Greg’s daughter Emily (Nesta Cooper). Eventually, Isabel pulls the two of them out of the simulation and reveals that they actually live on a utopian future Earth. However, Greg cannot remember any of his former life, and instead only remembers his life in the simulation. 

They’re homeless because reasons.

END SUMMARY

This movie has some fun elements to it, but ultimately cashes in on none of the potentially interesting ideas. The idea of “simulated reality” has been used repeatedly since The Matrix became a massively successful hit, but that means that a movie that just says “what if reality is fake” doesn’t really count as innovative. While the idea of being the only two real people in a world of fiction or a real person having beliefs that he has a real daughter in a false reality might be good, the film barely touches on them. Instead, it mostly features some odd scenes of the pair messing around with their powers (which are weirdly dependent on drugs for some reason) and a bunch of exposition that, like Matrix Reloaded, is mostly more complicated than the ideas that it’s trying to convey. It’s like someone audited a first year philosophy class, watched The Thirteenth Floor, and then churned out a screenplay.

And apparently lives near a roller rink.

About halfway through the movie, the film changes completely by heading to the futuristic world that is supposedly the “real” one. In it, humanity has entered an enlightened golden age thanks to science, making almost everyone on Earth desire to be an artist or an engineer. Also, Bill Nye and Slavoj Zizek are there, which raises so many questions about who they would be in a world that has largely moved into a completely different kind of existence. However, since Greg doesn’t remember it, he has to learn everything anew, which is good for the audience, but no one seems bothered by the fact that he has essentially been replaced by a new person. It’s an element that seems obvious and is completely overlooked. 

Also, the future is cool, but not cool enough.

Overall, it’s just not that great of a film. It seems like this should, at least, have some stuff to contemplate, but instead it’s just a waste of time.

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 Map of Tiny Perfect Things: Groundhog Day, Teen Romance Edition – Amazon Prime Review

I feel like I’ve seen this movie over and over again.

SUMMARY

Mark (Kyle Allen) is stuck in a Groundhog Day Loop that’s 16 hours long and has been there for long enough that he can roughly predict the events of the morning: His sister, Emma (Cleo Fraser), will call him a loser, his father (Josh Hamilton) will do a crossword puzzle, his friend Henry (Jermaine Harris) will lose at a video game, and a girl named Phoebe (Anna Mikami) will need directions. After being stuck for a while, Mark asks Henry for advice. Henry suggests that, like in Groundhog Day, Mark needs to get a girlfriend. While trying to find a loop that makes Phoebe fall for him, Mark is interrupted by Margaret (Kathryn Newton), a girl who is also stuck in the same loop. Together, the pair come up with an idea to escape the loop: Find all of the tiny, perfect moments that life has to offer.

The awkward car ride is not one of them.

END SUMMARY

I think I would have liked this movie more if I hadn’t seen Palm Springs last year. This movie is somewhat original in its use of the trope, but it just gets completely overshadowed by the darker and better-written version. While the characters are implied to have been in the loop for a while, they have not yet hit the nihilist period that often defines all of the films with this premise. As such, this film doesn’t ever feel like it explores its characters as fully as other movies using this trope. We also don’t really get any idea of how long the characters have been in the loop, but it feels much shorter than most other films like this. Hence, we don’t get the same feeling of character growth that we usually would.

Then again, teens might not be big on character growth.

The two leads both do a great job of conveying their confusion, mixed with excitement and worry, about their situation. They’re at a vulnerable time in their lives so they don’t immediately treat the time loop as an opportunity to do insanely dangerous or adventurous things like many people in such films. When they meet, they were both completely unaware of each other and the only thing they have in common is the situation. Their relationship feels natural even though they don’t have the kind of chemistry that makes us feel like they instantly connect. Even when it seems like they’re getting along, they never have the kind of passion we expect from these films. Instead, it’s a growing friendship that doesn’t necessarily feel like it needs to become romantic and that’s refreshing to me.

Partially because she starts off wearing Alex Mack’s wardrobe.

The thing that bothers me most about the film, though, is that they propose that finding all of these nebulous “perfect” moments might end the loop. They then spend the rest of the movie trying to somehow scientifically justify this solution. It’s kind of ridiculous and, while I do understand that it adds a little meaning to the film, I also just couldn’t quite get over it. 

Also, she’s trying to be an astronaut. She should know how science works.

Overall, though, it’s a pretty good movie. Just not Palm Springs good.

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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Resident Alien: Darker Than Expected, But Still Funny – SYFY Review

Alan Tudyk brings us a new show about an alien trying to fit in.

SUMMARY

Alien Captain Hah Re (Alan Tudyk) crash lands on Earth during a mission and ends up killing a Colorado doctor named Harry Vanderspeigle. When the doctor in the nearest town is murdered, the alien is forced to take his place, having taken on the doctor’s appearance. He is assisted by the doctor’s former aide, Asta (Sara Tomko), but quickly draws the suspicion of the town’s Sheriff, Mike Thompson (Corey Reynolds), and the ire of Max (Judah Prehn), the son of the mayor, Ben Hawthorne (Levi Fiehler), as Max has a genetic anomaly that allows him to see Harry for what he really is. Harry befriends the local bartender D’arcy (Alice Wetterlund) as well as Deputy Liv (Elizabeth Bowen) and Ben’s wife Kate (Meredith Garretson). While Harry mostly finds humans interesting and enjoys interacting with them, he also is trying to fix his ship and save his mission: Killing every human.

Behold, the end of all things.

END SUMMARY

The show is significantly darker than I had expected.  I mean, I suppose the concept of “alien has to pretend to be human, hilarity ensues” has been played to death, so this is a fun way to try and breathe some life back into that very specific genre.  Harry frequently finds things to like and even love about humans, but he also is painfully aware that we are, in all likelihood, a blot on the universe.  While this first season is only about halfway done, so far Harry appears to still be committed to the plan.

The sheriff is not prepared for this.

I’m not going to say the show would not work without Alan Tudyk, but a lot of the humor really only works because the man is so perfect with his delivery.  He can make almost any line that he delivers sound funny, which is a thing that you desperately need in a show where the main character is supposed to be a genocidal figure and also humorous.  Harry frequently contemplates or even does things that would shock most people, and would likely be too dark if the main character were supposed to be human.  For example, he frequently attempts to either kill or otherwise remove Max in order to cover his identity.  In most shows, the main character attempting child murder would probably be the end of the series.  Here, it’s a fun running gag, and it’s almost entirely because Alan Tudyk makes it seem like harmless tomfoolery, despite being completely serious.

That damned face is so charming.

The rest of the cast is also pretty great.  This series is supposed to take place in a relatively small mountain town in the middle of Winter, and you do get the feel that all of these people know each other and are deeply involved in each other’s lives, which makes Harry an outsider on two different levels.  However, it also creates an environment in which Harry’s eccentricities are able to be overlooked and even accepted, because these people live in a situation where they have to get along with each other.  Also, D’arcy is one of my favorite characters because she frequently mistreats people and then reveals that they’re actually the kind of friends where that’s acceptable.

Also, who doesn’t love a pint-sized nemesis?

Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised at how funny this show is, but more so about how the show has made itself feel unique even when using an old premise.  Also, some one give a Alan Tudyk a lot of awards.  He has earned them all.

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Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar: A Great Modern Farce – Amazon Rental Review

Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo star in a strange comedy about two women in culottes.

SUMMARY

Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) are furniture salespeople from the Midwest.  After losing their jobs and getting kicked out of their friends group, the two decide to take a vacation to Vista Del Mar, Florida.  They quickly become associated with a man named Edgar Paget (Jamie Dornan), who has been sent there by an evil super villain who is also his girlfriend (Wiig).  It will somehow be up to Barb and Star to stop the bad guys from unleashing a killer swarm of mosquitoes upon the unsuspecting citizens.  Also, hijinks will definitely ensue, some involving Damon Wayans, Jr.

And perhaps a musical number.

END SUMMARY

I did not know anything about this movie going into it.  Honestly, I had seen the ads and thought that it looked kind of generic.  There was almost no information about what was actually going to happen in the movie aside from what was in the title.  However, it did have two of the funniest women working today both onscreen and writing the film, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that this was actually a very good movie.

These two.

It was tough to find a movie to compare this to in order to even try and analyze it.  It’s not like the movie Airplane, where it’s mostly making fun of existing movies by just carrying everything beyond the point of rationality.  Instead, I think this movie is most comparable to the film Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, because it takes place in a world that runs on some sort of vague magical realism that just happens to be focused on our leads.  Sometimes, the things that happen are normal, but Barb and Star’s reactions are extremely unnatural, making them the weird element.  Other times, it just turns out that the world itself is ridiculous.  The main thing this film does well is use that inconsistency to constantly keep you on your toes.  At any given point in the story, it could play out in a way that is just slightly off from reality, or a crazy celebrity cameo could save everything, and you’ll be surprisingly invested in finding out which it is.

Also, Jamie Dornan is just hilarious in this. Great job avoiding typecasting, man.

There are also a ton of small details in this film that pay off as long as you are paying attention.  Many of the books have hilarious titles and quotes on them, as do almost all of the shops that people walk by, as do almost all of the T shirts.  These little details really helped to give this movie a fun atmosphere, particularly when combined with the film’s visual style.  I haven’t seen a farce done this well in a long time, because this movie understands that the entire point is that there is no point.  Everything just happens in a surreal way, and that’s all that the film needs to give us.

This crab is not voiced by Morgan Freeman.

Overall, I really recommend this movie.  It would have been way more fun to watch in a theater, but unfortunately it picked the wrong year to come out. Still, a good distraction.

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 Crew: A Netflix Algorithm Sitcom – Netflix Review

Kevin James, Gary Anthony Williams, and Sarah Stiles get thrown into a NASCAR pit.

SUMMARY

Kevin Gibson (Kevin James) is the crew chief for Bobby Spencer (Bruce McGill) Racing, a low-ranked NASCAR team. He oversees chief mechanic Chuck Stubbs (Gary Anthony Williams), chief engineer Amir Lajani (Dan Ahdoot), and office manager Beth Paige (Sarah Stiles), as well as idiot driver Jake Martin (Freddie Stroma). The owner, Bobby, retires and puts his daughter, Catherine (Jillian Mueller), in charge of the program. An Ivy-leaguer, Catherine’s more sophisticated and by-the-books management quickly gets on the nerves of the more traditional pit crew, but when Jake and the crew start winning, it turns out that maybe this was just what they needed.

Busch: Because you don’t want to watch this sober.

END SUMMARY

A while back, Netflix announced that it was using various computer algorithms to try and generate ideas for new shows.  Some of those shows, like House of Cards, ended up being fairly successful.  Some, like The Ranch, did fairly well with a targeted demographic, but didn’t receive critical acclaim.  This show will probably end up in the latter category.  It’s not particularly well written, nor is it very original, but it has just enough talents on camera to keep it going at just the right speed to be bingeable.  It’s like a slow drip of morphine.  You are not getting high off of it, you’re just getting numb for a little while.

Admittedly, there are some fun scenes, usually when Kevin’s mad.

This is not to say that it doesn’t have its moments.  Kevin James, despite some of his career decisions in the past, does tend to make me laugh.  Gary Anthony Williams, who I have always found to be pretty entertaining, makes a decent foil for many of the aspects of NASCAR that tend to give it a whitewashed reputation.  The rest of the characters are mostly stock.  Amir is the neurotic character who is often the butt of many of the jokes, Catherine is the elitist who tries to steamroll everything into her own image, Bobby is the old Southern boy, Jake is the moron who gets by on his looks and natural talent, and Beth is the only woman inside a boy’s club.  I will admit that my natural fondness for Sarah Stiles, especially since she played Spinel in Steven Universe, made me enjoy the scenes with her character more than I might have otherwise, since I felt she was massively underwritten.

Sure, the NASCAR parts are sponsored by Busch, but the beer is unlabled.

Overall, though, this show just felt so generic that it genuinely seemed to have been written by a computer designed to churn out mediocrity and inoffensive jokes.  Skip it.

Futurama Fridays – S7E20 “Calculon 2.0”

Calculon is back from the dead just in time to ruin all of acting.

SUMMARY

It’s been a year since Calculon (Maurice LaMarche) killed himself trying to win an acting contest in “The Thief of Baghead.” Fry (Billy West) and Bender (John DiMaggio) hate his replacement on the show All My Circuits, so they decide to bring Calculon back from the dead. Bender exhumes his body and the pair get Calculon’s soul back from the Robot Devil (Dan Castellaneta), who has been driven nuts by Calculon’s presence. The Professor (West) and the cast bring him back successfully, but Calculon finds that he has not been missed. In fact, the network doesn’t want him back on television. He tries to win the audiences back by performing a one-man show, but it fails horribly. Depressed, Calculon decides to give up acting. 

Celebrity robot hell apparently doesn’t exist.

As he starts his new life of normality, he reflects humbly upon his mistakes and his delivery actually moves Leela (Katey Sagal), who hates his acting normally, to tears. She realizes that Calculon is showing real emotion for the first time, rather than his hammy overacting, and she tells him that if he could keep this going, he could actually be a great actor. He auditions for a bit part on the show, which turns out to be his old role. On set, Calculon quickly goes back to his old hammy ways, sabotaging a scene in which he is supposed to kill himself. Leela, enraged, yells at him and, depressed again, Calculon gives a moving and sincere performance, revealing his identity, before the roof collapses and kills him again. He is remembered now as a great actor, but is now torturing the robot damned with his ego again.

END SUMMARY

This episode mostly feels unnecessary. Calculon had a funny send-off that highlighted the character’s ironic inability to act and this episode just kind of does that again. However, it also undoes the previous joke that Calculon was actually a respected actor and a success despite his complete lack of talent. Apparently now that he’s dead almost everyone just decides immediately that he was a crappy actor. It just kind of feels forced. 

With a lot of throwbacks to past episodes, it does feel like a final send-off, though.

The thing that this episode does well, though, is the first act when they’re resurrecting Calculon. The Professor’s “process” for bringing Calculon back is hilariously depicted as a clear Satanic ritual, including sacrificing a goat, playing a recording backwards (which says “rise in the name of Satan”), and forming a pentagram. Despite this, the Professor constantly defends that it is purely scientific, even as the evidence that it’s basically insane mysticism mounts. 

Solid scientific methodology.

Overall, aside from a few moments, it’s just not a great episode.

FAVORITE JOKE

Calculon’s one-man show is called HAL 9000 and is a clear parody of the play Mark Twain Tonight. It combines the life of Mark Twain with the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, including a hilarious emotional breakdown to the tune of “Bicycle Built for Two.” The reason I really love this joke is because the author of Mark Twain Tonight, and the person who performed it for 60 years, was the great Hal Holbrook, meaning this is HAL Holbrook 9000.

Most of his performance is the bright red light.

See you next week, meatbags.

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