The Mitchells vs. The Machines: Another Great Lord and Miller Comedy – Netflix Review

The guys behind the Lego Movie and Into the Spider-Verse bring us a funny family film.

SUMMARY

Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) is a college-bound aspiring filmmaker. Her brother, Aaron (Mike Rianda), is a dino-loving pre-teen, her dad, Rick (Danny McBride), is an outdoorsman, and her mom, Linda (Maya Rudolph), is an upbeat first grade teacher. After fighting with her dad the night before she is supposed to head to college, Katie finds out that Rick’s plan to make it up to her is to take a cross-country trip with the family. Unfortunately, this is the same week when tech guy Mark Bowman (Eric Andre) announces an upgrade to his digital assistant PAL (Olivia Colman), that results in the robot uprising that is determined to end humanity. Eventually, the only humans who are not captured are the Mitchells, leaving them, along with two broken robots (Beck Bennett and Fred Armisen), as the only force that can save humanity.

Don’t pretend you haven’t been one of these people.

END SUMMARY

As I have said multiple times in the past, I believe that the show Gravity Falls is one of the rare shows with no bad episodes. As such, anyone who worked heavily on the show should be assumed capable of delivering great work. Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe, who both co-directed and co-wrote this movie, were both writers on that show. Add in the fact that the producers (and apparently partial joke writers) of this film were Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, writers of The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and you have a recipe for a good time.

There’s a dinosaur with bombs. That’s how you make a movie, people.

Part of the success of this movie is that it balances sincere emotional moments with goofy comedy. You can believe that there is tension between Katie and Rick despite both of them often wanting to be on the same side. Katie is an artist who is constantly using computer technology in order to make films and Rick is completely computer illiterate and believes that filmmaking doesn’t provide secure employment. Their issues don’t feel forced at all because they both behave like a real parent and child, caring for each other but also not really understanding each others’ interests. Because of this, when the movie wants to tug at your heartstrings, it can do so in a way that hits you harder because it feels real. 

Their confusion over what to do in a crisis is also relatable.

As to the comedy, the movie has both the signatures of Gravity Falls and Lord and Miller, which is to say that it cashes in heavily on absurd lines that still somehow arise naturally. For example, and I’m only saying this because it was in the trailers, this movie genuinely manages to make a forty foot tall Furby shouting “LET THE DARK HARVEST BEGIN” in Furbish seem like a logical conclusion of a sequence of events. As the movie progresses, the humor gets more and more extreme and fast-paced, much like an avalanche of laughs. I’m not even positive how they manage to pull that off, but maybe that’s why I don’t have an Oscar. 

LET. THE. DARK. HARVEST. BEGIN.

The animation in this film is stylish, unique, and awesome. It’s an exaggerated use of cel-shading that I think is supposed to make the characters look like they were drawn in a 2-D cartoon style. Because the film is told from Katie’s perspective, the movie also repeatedly adds cute animations and musical cues that indicate her imagination is making everything more cinematic. It adds a nice touch, similar to the “pow” words and splash effects from Into the Spider-Verse

Commentary during the movie. Awesome.

The voice casting is naturally amazing. Abbi Jacobson pulls off a great emotional range. Danny McBride and Maya Rudolph are both amazing as the overprotective dad and the sensitive mom. Weirdly, though, I kept thinking that the characters seemed to be made for Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly (outdoorsman and sometimes flighty weirdo). Olivia Colman is a hilariously unexpected choice for an evil A.I. Eric Andre is perfect as the flighty Silicon Valley “tech bro” who clearly doesn’t think about his decisions very hard.

Behold, the fall of man.

Overall, this movie was amazing. Recommend it highly.

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.

Yasuke: A Not-So-True Version of a True Story – Netflix Review

The creator of Cannon Busters brings us the story of the only black samurai.

SUMMARY

In a version of feudal Japan populated by magic, mecha, and monsters, a former samurai, the only African retainer of Lord Oda Nobunaga (Takehiro Hira), named Yasuke (Jun Soejima/LaKeith Stanfield) has spent twenty years in hiding as a boatman. He previously watched the fall of Nobunaga to the forces of the Dark Daimyo (Yoshiko Sakaibara/Amy Hill), a powerful dark magic user. Now, a young girl named Saki (Kiko Tamura/Maya Tanida) who has magical powers is being hunted by Catholic Church operative Abraham (Shigeru Ushiyama/Dan Donohue) as well as the forces of the Dark Daimyo. Yasuke must help keep the girl safe from robots, werebears, mutants, and madmen.

Rowing a boat in Feudal Japan apparently keeps you absolutely jacked. Makes sense.

END SUMMARY

So, I deeply suspect that this series was commissioned back when Chadwick Boseman was set to produce and star in a film adapting the life of the real Yasuke back in 2019. Unfortunately, as we now know, Boseman’s illness was winning and he was unable to make the movie in his lifetime. I think that’s why this version went ahead and took so many creative turns, including the over-the-top fantasy/sci-fi kitchen sink world, because it was assuming people would just have seen a terrific performance of the real story. 

Wakanda Forever.

The story of the real Yasuke is one of the more interesting historical oddities about Japan. Yasuke was, as the show depicts, an African who was in service of a Jesuit missionary who came to the capital of Japan. When the Daimyo Oda Nobunaga saw him, he supposedly didn’t realize that his skin was black, thinking that Yasuke was either very dirty or completely tattooed. This led, somehow, to Yasuke entering Nobunaga’s service and, eventually, fighting for the Daimyo during the war that would become his downfall. He usually is considered to be the only black samurai (although he probably didn’t actually have that title). 

He might even have been memorialized by this ink box.

Because the series veers so far from reality, it allows for incredibly creative powers, characters, and visuals. For example, among the mercenaries that serve Abraham are a Russian woman who is also a werebear (Hiroki Nanami/Julie Marcus), an assassin with giant scythes (Eri Kitamura/Dia Frampton), an African shaman who summons warriors (Kenji Kitamura/William Christopher Stevens), and a hilarious malfunctioning robot (Shunsuke Kubozuka/Darren Criss). Watching them fight a samurai is an amazing sequence that would be hard to put in any other medium and would be impossible to put in almost any other series.

Ah yes, the traditional Shaman/Samurai/Robot fight.

The voice acting is naturally great, regardless of the language. The soundtrack is amazing and is used to emphasize the story and Yasuke’s journey in a way that is reminiscent of James Gunn or Edgar Wright. The animation is very stylized and I’m a big fan of it. The biggest downside to the series is that it does require a lot of your attention to keep track of events sometimes, with major plot points being only a single line or two. To its credit and detriment, it is very short. 

Great visuals.

Overall, I thought this show was great. I recommend you give it a try. Just don’t expect it to be a true story of Yasuke.

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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Shadow and Bone: Solid Fantasy Series – Netflix Review

The series wisely combines a few books from the same universe and does so well.

SUMMARY

Ravka is a kingdom that is divided into East and West by the wall of darkness called the Shadow Fold. Inside the darkness, monstrous beasts devour anyone they can find, making travel between the two halves of the kingdom perilous. While on such a journey, cartographer Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) is attacked by the monsters and discovers that she has the power to create light which repels the darkness of the fold. It turns out she is a “Grisha,” a group of people who can manipulate various elements, and the only known one that can use light. Naturally, she is considered a valuable asset to the kingdom and its head of the army General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) and taken to be trained. Her childhood friend, Mal (Archie Renaux), worried about her, sets out to find her. At the same time, a group of mercenaries, the Crows, set out to capture her for their own ends. The Crows consist of: Kaz, the mastermind (Freddy Carter), Inej, the former acrobat and assassin (Amita Suman), and Jesper, the sharpshooter (Kit Young). All of these groups are now on a collision course with the future of this kingdom on the line.

She’s literally the light in the darkness. Subtle.

END SUMMARY

One of the things this show does correctly is that it assumes that the audience is already at least passingly familiar with this kind of setting. It’s a world where science is still at the beginning of the industrial age (there are trains and guns), but where certain people also have fantastic abilities that allow for other aspects of life to be completely different (mostly the military). Since you’ve probably heard of a setting like that before, this show wisely focuses on the aspects that are much more unique to this particular world and on the characters. It makes it feel like there was a lot more creativity in worldbuilding when a number of elements were just pulled wholesale from other series. It helps that, rather than being modeled after Western European kingdoms, the setting takes much of its cultural and fashion inspiration from Russian history.

At least it’s not Stalinist Russia. All the furry hats, less murder.

The plot of the season roughly equals the plot of the first Grisha novel, Shadow and Bone, but has the addition of the Crows from one of the other books set in the same world. This is probably the best decision the show makes, because it gives us a decent B-Plot that feels more original than the central plot, gives the show a lot of freedom to expand the world in fun ways, and, most importantly, gets us three of the most interesting characters before we would have gotten to them if the show followed the book releases. Jesper is personally my favorite character in the series, a gunslinger who is apparently a criminal with a lot of anxiety issues who becomes an unstoppable force when he’s calm.  

Also Jesper (left) has the best hat.

I’m not going to say this show is up there with The Witcher or Game of Thrones (pre-last season), but it tells an interesting number of stories that incorporate the more inventive elements of the world of Ravka. It showcases an interesting variety of powers of the Grisha, but also makes it clear that they’re becoming less important to the society every year as science grants people aspects of their abilities… and guns get better. The performances are all top-notch (again with a special shout-out to Kit Young as Jesper), the setting is elaborate, and the pacing is exactly what it needed to be.

They have some good visuals peppered throughout as well.

Overall, pretty good show. 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.

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.

Synchronic: Too Dense, Well Acted (Ending Explained) – Netflix Review

There’s a magic drug that sends you through time, and they really put too much into the “how.”

SUMMARY

Steve Denube (Anthony Mackie) is a paramedic who, along with his partner Dennis (Jamie Dornan), starts to get called into very strange crime and injury scenes. In the first, there’s a domestic violence injury that also has an archaic sword lodged into the wall. In the second, a completely burned body is found in a place that did not have a fire. In the third, there’s a bite from a venomous snake that hasn’t existed in the area for centuries. At the same time, Steve is diagnosed with cancer of the pineal gland, which his doctor notices is similar to that of an adolescent’s. At another call, they discover that one of the people present was Dennis’s daughter Brianna (Ally Ioannides), who has now disappeared. Steve realizes all of these cases are related to a drug called “synchronic.” It turns out that if you take Synchronic, it allows you to move through time… and get lost in it. Now Steve is going to use the last of the supply in order to find Brianna and bring her back.

They’re a pair o’ medics.

END SUMMARY

About 20 minutes of this film is taken up by Anthony Mackie attempting to mess around with the drug and explain how it works. The problem is that almost everything about the way the time-travel functions is kind of dumb, but, mostly, it’s not important enough to merit the number of scenes spent explaining it. The pill sends adults back in time as ghosts, but anyone without a calcified pineal gland goes back whole along with anything they’re touching. The amount of time you go back is directly tied to the physical location you’re in when you take the pill. This is explained by saying that time is curved and when you take the pill you move through time straight, but, again, they spend way too much screentime on this. This also results in a number of scenes of Steve testing places to move through time and what he can move with him, but his behavior during these sequences is also kind of ridiculous (and costs him a dog rather than, say, a gerbil which he could have used for like $5). It’s even worse because this method of time travel is actually kind of a cool gimmick, but the more you think about it, the more it starts to fall apart, so devoting more time to explaining it undercuts the effect.

Also, why can you only move through the periods where humans existed?

It also doesn’t help that the movie really has to keep fabricating reasons why the story has to be Steve trying to rescue Brianna. For example, there’s only a handful of Synchronic pills left in the world and Steve has all of them. This is explicitly told to him by the chemist who created them who, rather than collecting his Nobel prize for discovering TIME TRAVEL, kills himself so that no one can make more. Also, they make it so that Steve is basically the only adult without a calcified pineal gland (in reality, even if you’re in your 80s, you have about a 1 in 3 chance of having no calcification). Again, I wouldn’t have even thought about this except that the movie kept bringing it up.  

Also, cancer is mostly of no consequence.

Now, on the other hand, having the movie almost entirely focused on Anthony Mackie is a great decision. His character is going through so much in the film that it’s impressive how well Mackie portrays a man whose response to finding out he has cancer is mostly to dedicate himself to one project as a way of both ignoring his mortality and of trying to make up his mistakes to his partner. Steve, who is a clear ladies man that has been avoiding responsibility, has been leaning on Dennis throughout his career. Mackie manages to give a lot of emotional depth to the character by conveying all of these elements throughout the film, while also still bringing enough levity to keep it from getting bogged down. The visuals, also, were pretty great.

Beware, the dog has a rough scene.

Overall, while it could have benefitted from a little more “show, don’t tell,” it was a decent movie.

***ENDING EXPLAINED***

For some reason I see people online questioning whether Steve gets home. The movie already answered that, no, he doesn’t. Steve realizes that the location where Brianna disappeared was a stone that takes them back to the revolutionary war. The reason he realizes this is because he finds a message on the rock that Steve and Dennis believe is from Brianna. However, when Steve gets back there, Brianna doesn’t know about the message and then she goes home. This means, in order to complete the time-loop, Steve has to leave the message there and stay back in the 1700s. It’s likely that his cancer kills him soon after, but at least he did what he wanted to do.

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.

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

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

SUMMARY

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.

END SUMMARY

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.

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.

Infinity Train (Season 4): WHY WAS THIS CANCELLED?? – HBO Max Review

Infinity Train’s last season goes back in time to show us why it’s such a great show.

SUMMARY

Min-Gi Park and Ryan Akagi (Johnny Young and Sekai Murashige) were best friends from a young age who aspired to be in a musical group together. Unfortunately, before their first gig, Min-Gi has a panic attack and the two end up separating. While Ryan goes on the road in a van, Min-Gi works and plans for college according to his strict parents’ wishes. A while later, Ryan returns home and the pair reunite, only to find themselves drawn onto the Infinity Train, a place where people dealing with problems can work through them. They quickly become acquainted with Kez (Minty Lewis), a sentient concierge bell (yes, really) that has a terrible relationship with most of the other denizens of the train. Together, the trio have to figure out how to get through a train that is hunting them… and that is about to become under new management.

The bell has issues.

END SUMMARY

I’ve mentioned this show repeatedly as one of the best examples of animation in recent years. While I don’t know that I put it up with Gravity Falls or BoJack Horseman, it’s not much below that. The show has a strong agenda compared to many shows, but it’s an important one: You can always work through things. This doesn’t just apply to the myriad puzzles on the train but to the emotional problems facing the people who get brought onboard. Yes, the show skews more towards children, but children are the ones who most need to hear that lesson. Once you’re set in your ways, you likely won’t be changing unless you’re forced to, unless you are raised to accept changing yourself. 

Also you have to enjoy modern art.

I will admit that the fact that Season 4 of the show is a prequel actually makes it all the sadder that the show is ending. After the first three seasons kept building on the events of the first season, which is to say the fall of Amelia, this show actually takes us back to immediately before Amelia overthrows the train and we get a picture of the ways in which the train was different beforehand, including that One-One might not have had a split mind back then. Unfortunately, this also means that the shocking end of Season 3, in which ***SPOILERS*** Simon has his life force sucked out by a ghom is basically the furthest we’ve gotten in the series. No idea if Grace ever gets off the train or what happens to Amelia long-term. 

Cool. We never hear any more about this.

This season, though, did focus on the best thing about this show, that the train is a mechanism for introspection. This is the first time that two people have ever known each other before entering the train and their fates are apparently tied together, making it even more crucial that they work through their issues. Ryan represents the boundless drive to shoot for the stars while Min-Gi represents safety and practicality. They both have their positive and negative points, but the key is that they each have traits that they justify against their own better judgment and they can each work on them. There’s also Kez, who is the epitome of a person who runs full steam so that her past can’t catch her. She basically has the biggest amount of character development at the end and it’s very satisfying.

This guy has an Oscar.

Overall, solid season of a solid show, and I really hope it gets brought back. Also, J.K. Simmons plays a giant Pig Baby. 

Llamageddon: Best. Title. Ever. – Amazon Prime Review

Holy f*cking space llama!

SUMMARY (Warning: Written while Drunk)

A llama (Louie the Llama) from a planet of llamas is sent to Earth to wreak havoc upon the masses. It lands on a farm in the middle of nowhere and, you know what, no, I’m not going to get into the plot of this film. It’s an evil llama. There are kids who party at the house near where it lands, it kills them, there’s blood and llama juice, and then there’s a teen who’s half-llama half-human and that’s a whole thing. Whatever, you didn’t watch Llamageddon for the plot. Among the people who were in this (almost all of whom used fake names or were named by parents who hate them) are: Dany Ambassa (also John Selmy, apparently?), Pinki Brainweis (trying to take over the world), L. Lean Burnside (Possibly a restaurant chain), E.B. Buxxner (clearly a porn name), James Earl Cox III (not a porn name, but could have been), Leona L. Dandee (OH COME ON, that’s a porn name), the Dewins (Algin, J. Align, and director Howie, who is very proud of himself), Papa Don (definitely a real name), Carter Fairfax (originally Carter Fairmail, but they changed it in the ninth century), Mary Haddilam (she’s very little), Sarah Hess (originally Sunshine Phoenix, but the stripper of that name sued), and Gooch Jesco III (heh… Jesco), Bradly Jonesy (similar to Brad Jones), Ki Ki Lang (… umm… pass?), Mama Lori (her grandkids love her), Lucy (in the sky with diamonds), Leanne Maira (Call me, Party Girl 1), Jared Marks (no points for you), Aaron O.O. Shanson (who pronounces it A.A. Ron), Erin Stacy (playing herself?), Dick Cymbals (too easy), and Chet Steadman (Gary Busey’s character in Rookie of the Year). 

No, no I did not.

END SUMMARY

As someone who has reviewed a ton of films based solely on the title (Bed of the Dead, Killer Sofa, Killer Pinata, Cheerleader Ninjas, Evil Toons, CarousHELL, Clownado… damn, I might have an addiction), I’m aware of the range of quality that can be associated with such films. They can be bad, they can be ironically bad, they can be so bad they’re good, and they can be so bad they’re a blight upon the very notion of the goodness of humanity. This movie is… mostly a joke. I mean, the people involved clearly knew they were making a schlocky horror movie for no money and with a cast of individuals who not only were not actors but mostly never aspired to be. Then, upon finishing the movie, they posted it on Amazon with a purchase price of $1 MILLION. 

Hot tubs cost money, man. Llamas need big tubs.

Clearly, this was just a way to have a good time for most of the people involved. It’s kind of hard to judge something like this, because if someone is intending to make something corny and weird and they make something corny and weird, does that mean it’s good or bad? Well, the answer is that it’s still bad, but you can appreciate the effort and, honestly, laugh your ass off at it. And, to be clear, by many standards of filmmaking, this movie is very bad (one person who watched it because I said I was going to claimed they will never forgive me), but it knows exactly what its doing. The characters are, intentionally, such exaggerated stereotypes that they may drive you a bit insane, particularly Floyd, the lead character, who is a mama’s boy until he gets laid and his voice literally drops. However, when you put a ton of stereotypical characters together with a space llama, it actually seems pretty hilarious. Particularly since the llama doesn’t JUST use its laser eyes to murder people, but comes up with other even more ridiculous methods.

But the laser eyes… those are big.

Look, I’m not going to say this movie deserves an Oscar, but, possibly thanks to about five shots of alcohol at the start, this film kept me laughing for quite a bit. If I lived in a state where it was legal, I’d say this was the perfect movie to get high and watch. Also, legitimate kudos to the animator, even though their scenes were few and far between. The planet of the llamas was awesome. 

Louie did deserve a Golden Globe nom, though.

Overall, if you love laughing at C-movies, this one will do the trick. Don’t take it seriously, because the people who made it didn’t, and you’ll have a good time. Also, I do want to see Llamageddon 2: ALPACALYPSE. 

Ted Lasso: A Show With Heart and a Lot of Laughs – Apple+ Review

Jason Sudeikis stars as an American coaching English soccer.

SUMMARY

Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) is the coach for an American NCAA Division 2 football team that has recently won a title for the first time ever. Rebecca Welton (Hannah Waddingham), the recently-divorced owner of the Richmond Association Football (soccer, all uses of football from here on mean soccer) Club, decides to hire Ted in the hopes that he will ruin the team, because that way she can spite her adulterous ex-husband Rupert (Anthony Head). Rupert’s only real love was the team, apparently. Ted, who doesn’t know anything about this kind of football, agrees and brings his assistant coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) along for the ride. Ted quickly finds himself at odds with the experienced team captain Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) and the new superstar Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), but is determined to see things through with his unyielding positivity. Other major characters include Rebecca’s assistant Higgins (Jeremy Swift), assistant coach Nate (Nick Mohammed), and Keeley (Juno Temple), Jamie’s model girlfriend who is much smarter than he is.

Ted, wondering how you can run for an hour and the score be 0-0. Kidding, he loves it.

END SUMMARY  (All uses of football continue to mean soccer).

I had not planned on watching this show because I didn’t have Apple+ and I’m hitting my limit on what I can afford to stream for this blog. Fortunately, the Faceless Old Woman who lives on my Sofa uses a Mac and for the first time I am glad for that. This show is one of my favorite watches in a while. We got through the entire series in 2 days and, while I am a binger, my counterpart is very much not. While this show is ten half-hour episodes, it goes down so smooth that you’ll think you just started as the last episode airs. This isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot of ground covered by the show, it takes almost every character on a large emotional journey, it’s just that the series is so funny and positive that it goes by quickly.

And you do not have to like soccer to like it.

Ted Lasso himself is an interesting character. He’s so upbeat and supportive and idealistic that he’s closer to Mr. Rogers than the typical image of a professional coach. There’s a running gag where the local football fans insult him to his face only for Ted to politely joke with them and thank them for their opinions. When confronted by reporters about the fact that he doesn’t know anything about football and will likely not be a good coach, he earnestly responds that his goal isn’t to win, it’s to make the people on his team into the best people they can be. The key here is the writing, which manages to show Ted as always being genuinely excited and supportive of almost everyone. While Ted has moments of weakness or anger or sadness, he always defaults back to being happy and caring. In one of the last episodes, he reveals that it stems from his constant curiosity. The world is full of so many interesting things and there’s always more to find, so why not be happy and excited about life and learning? It’s honestly one of the best philosophies I’ve ever heard.

Ted after being disappointed, probably.

The supporting cast are all amazing, but I’ll admit that I think there are three highlights. First, Hannah Waddingham as Rebecca not only showcases her amazing voice but also puts her in the position of the antagonist who doesn’t want to be. She does such a great job at this that you like her even when she’s doing things to sabotage Ted. Brendan Hunt, who is often a guy who pops up in various sitcoms, is amazing as Coach Beard. Beard seems to perpetually be on Ted’s wavelength, completing his jokes and answering his strange trivia questions, but also to be living a very exotic and extremely intriguing lifestyle off-camera. Then there’s Keeley. Dear god, I think it would have been so easy to hate this character, but Juno Temple and some quality writing manage to make her into one of the funniest, most interesting, and most developed characters on television right now. 

More Keeley, please. She’s amazing.

Overall, this show is amazing. It’s just genuinely fun and it wants to make you a better person. That’s the kind of stuff I love. 

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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Arlo the Alligator Boy: A Feature-Length Pilot – Netflix Review

It’s the set-up for a TV show, but it’s cute.

SUMMARY

Arlo Beauregard (Michael J. Woodard) is a singing and dancing anthropomorphic alligator who was found as a baby by a swamp-dweller named Edmée (Annie Potts). She raises him to adolescence, but finally tells him that he has a father named Ansel (Vincent Rodriguez III) in New York City. Arlo sets out into the world and meets a giantess named Bertie (Mary Lambert) who saves him from a group of hillbillies aiming to kidnap him: Ruff, Stucky, and The Beast (Flea, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Tatasciore). The pair then encounter a group of scamming wrestlers: Tiger girl Alia, pink furball Furlecia, fish-man Marcellus, and rodent leader Teeny-Tiny Tony (Haley Tju, Jonathan Van Ness, Brett Gelman, Tony Hale). Together, the whole squad heads up north to New York to try and reconnect Arlo with his father.

He’s got a warm heart for someone cold-blooded.

END SUMMARY

So, at the end of this film, it’s revealed that the entire thing was a pilot for a show called I Heart Arlo which apparently revolves around the cast of this film trying to revitalize a dilapidated neighborhood near New York. It’s not unusual for a show to do a feature-length pilot, usually a two or three episode arc, but this is the second one I can think of where a completely independent movie tells its own story just to set up the world and then the show takes it from there. The first was Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, which people seem to forget was a movie first. The world this film builds is sufficiently interesting to set-up a lot more stories, but it does it in a way that feels incidental to the story.

Like… are there other giants? Is she actually a giant or just a big person?

The characters are surprisingly well-crafted for a movie like this, mostly due to the fact that the majority of them are foils for Arlo’s outgoing nature, optimism, and innocence. I mean, there aren’t a lot of kids films where they introduce some of the heroes as people who are faking losing a deathmatch in order to scam people for money. Also, the fact that Furlecia, who is a giant pink furball, is the wrestler just makes it that much better. We don’t get a full picture of all of their backstories, but we do get a fairly clear image of who they are, and that’s enough for something like this.

The bad guys are sufficiently creepy, too.

As far as the plot, it’s a pretty straightforward odyssey going from the swamp to the Big City. It’s been done before, so the focus is mostly on the feelings of the people involved rather than the plot. The musical numbers are pretty great. They vary in style throughout the film, but many of them are akin to big Broadway numbers which are in line with the movie’s New York setting. The character designs are excellent as are the settings. 

The fish guy still creeps me out.

Overall, not a bad movie, but the fact still remains that it holds back on a lot of stuff just to save it for later. I’m sure the show will be fun for kids.

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.

Stowaway: The Coldest Equations… are Massively Contrived – Netflix Review

This movie took everything cool about The Martian and flipped it.

SUMMARY

A two-year mission to Mars is launched with a three-person crew: Captain Marina Barnett (Toni Collette), biologist David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim), and medical officer Zoe Levenson (Anna Kendrick). After takeoff, it is discovered that a launch plan engineer, Michael (Shamier Anderson), has been trapped inside of a vent after being knocked unconscious. The three start to bond with their unexpected guest, who is understandably pissed about not seeing his wife or kids for two years. However, it’s determined that Michael’s accident also broke the CDRA, the device that removes Carbon Dioxide from the air, meaning that everyone on board is going to suffocate unless they can find a way around it… or sacrifice someone. 

Guess which one.

END SUMMARY

This film feels like yet another attempt to adapt the 1954 short story “The Cold Equations.” In the story, a young girl stows away on a rocket to a colony, unaware that her added weight on the ship throws the fuel off so much that, if she stays, the ship won’t be able to land and they’ll kill everyone in the colony. She sacrifices herself after the pilot realizes there isn’t enough time to teach her how to fly. The point of the story is that space is cold and unforgiving and, most of the time, you are subject only to the laws of physics. Since its publication, it’s been mandatory reading for most aeronautical engineers, which has led to so many people proposing solutions and pointing out the ridiculous nature of having such thin margins for error that it’s literally shaped how spaceflight missions are staged. This film, unfortunately, suffers from the fact that space travel has advanced so much since the premise was created that the plot has to keep screwing the crew over to keep it going.

There’s a usually not this much hiding space in these adaptations.

First, they have to miss a literal person being in the ship during inspection. Moreover, during inspection of one of the most crucial elements in the spaceship. That’s a stretch, but sure, let’s say someone’s lunch ran long and they phoned it in. Human error and such. Then, since the movie already concedes that the ship could sustain a fourth person easily (because they put so many spare parts on the ship in case of emergency), they have to have him break the carbon dioxide scrubber in the process so that there’s an actual issue. Also, they can’t have a working spare. Now, if having an issue with a CO2 scrubber sounds familiar, that’s because it was a plot point in the film (and real-life story) Apollo 13, in which Nasa had its engineers figure out how to adapt a CO2 scrubber from spare parts around the ship. It literally was held together by duct tape, but it worked. This film keeps having their solutions fail (mostly because they’re not great solutions) so that they actually have to have the debate over the ethics of sacrificing someone. It constantly feels forced to me, particularly when compared to The Martian or other films where smart people overcome impossible situations.

In real life, they managed to use duck tape, socks, and spare parts to put a square peg in a round hole.

The performances, particularly Anna Kendrick as the lone voice of dissent against sacrificing anyone, are all great, but that really doesn’t change the fact that it’s trying to force a problem into a movie that seems like it shouldn’t have one. Then there’s the pacing, which is extremely slow for a film that seems to be depending on some kind of urgency. The dialogue isn’t bad, but it doesn’t save the long, boring scenes. Cinematography is, admittedly, pretty great, as is the set design, but not anything that takes it beyond other, similar movies.

Beautiful film, but you’ve seen much of this before.

Overall, I just couldn’t get into the film enough to really care about the stakes. I know what they were going for, but I don’t think it worked this way.

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.