A Star Is Born: Fourth Time is Not Quite the Charm, But Still Works (Spoiler-Free)

I’m gonna go ahead and give up my man-card at the beginning of this review by admitting that I’ve seen all of the previous versions of this film except for the Bollywood Remake, which is on my to-do list. I’ve seen the original from 1937 by David O. Selznick starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, the 1954 version with James Mason and Judy Garland, and, of course, the 1976 version which features Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. All of them share a lot of plot elements and general structure, basically forming a screenplay Mad Libs that the writers plug different scenes into, but one that usually produces a decent film.

… Gets less use than this one, though.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper) is a famous country singer who is a serious alcoholic and drug addict. After a show, he wants a drink, so he pulls up to the closest bar, which happens to be a drag club where he witnesses a performance by Ally (Lady Gaga), a waitress with the voice of Lady Gaga. He spends the night trying to seduce her before hearing her sing a song she wrote. The next day, he sends his driver to bring her to the show, where he brings her onstage to perform with him. She wows the crowd and, as the title of the movie would indicate, a star is born. The two start a romance as her career gets hot, but at the same time his career starts to go into decline. Some stuff happens involving music and alcoholism and urination.

Can we just mention that they are both super talented for a second? Because they are.

END SUMMARY

This was Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut and, I’m sad to say, it kinda shows. There are a lot of pretty things borrowed from other movies, but a bunch of the techniques used don’t necessarily fit with what the shot was supposed to convey to the audience. A big one that bugged me is that the back of people’s heads keep taking center frame. In most films, this represents the audience being excluded from the conversation or something being hidden. In this film, it just feels like someone stepped in front of the camera. There are a lot of cuts and camera angles and scene framing choices that just had me going “was that supposed to be art, or did someone accidentally hit the camera?”

A notable exception, however, are the music scenes in the movie. He nails almost every scene involving someone performing, which, fortunately, is a lot of the movie. You feel like you’re there, right next to the singer, feeling them pour their heart out into the song, which is impressive given how much variety there is in the music, particularly compared to the Streisand version.

And, my God, do they rock the hell out.

The acting by Bradley Cooper is phenomenal and his singing was surprisingly amazing. I’d say that it’s unfair for one person to have that much talent, but he’s standing next to a musical prodigy. Lady Gaga’s acting is good. She’s no Streisand or Judy Garland or Janet Gaynor, but she doesn’t get completely overshadowed by Cooper’s performance either. Her singing is best described as “come on, it’s Lady Gaga, you know her singing’s phenomenal.” Her broad range of compositional and musical talent gives her character a lot of credibility by proxy when it comes to what she can do on stage.  However, nothing can really help the fact that I kind of hated both of their characters.

Cooper’s character is every stereotype about the drunk, drug-addled, always-indulged rock star, including the tragic backstory. Gaga’s Ally is weirdly immediately on board with almost all of Cooper’s terrifying dysfunctionality which made me think either she has no self-esteem (which the movie implies at several points but doesn’t really explain) or that she is just using him to get famous (which doesn’t really match any of her actions). I think the movie’s trying to say that she just loves him, but she apparently doesn’t love him enough to address the fact that he’s a literal fall-down drunk.

You guys get Marge isn’t the best model, right?

I mean, absolutely no one tries to stop his substance abuse or his constant impulsive bad decisions. It starts to get ridiculous, even for celebrities, because all of the people around Cooper are old friends and family, not just roadies and executives. Johnny Depp is apparently killing himself as we speak, but that’s because the only people around him are people he pays. Hell, two of the people who most lament his condition but never do anything for it are his brother (Sam Elliot) and his best friend (Dave Chappelle). But Gaga’s character really doesn’t seem to care at all until it becomes inconvenient for her.

Let me put it this way: SHE DOES LESS TO TRY AND HELP HIM STOP BEING SELF-DESTRUCTIVE THAN THE WOMAN IN THE MOVIE FROM 1937. 

That’d be the year before women were considered “People” for minimum wage purposes.

I realize that giving a female character agency just for the purpose of using it to help a man isn’t great, but it’s worse that I still think the film from the Great f*cking Depression actually gave the woman more agency. Ally just seems to go along with whatever Jackson wants until, again, she decides it’s inconvenient for her to deal with his shenanigans. That’s not love, that’s f*cking enabling. Hell, *MINOR SPOILER* Ally doesn’t even get a last name in the movie until the end. *END SPOILER* She also gets pushed around a lot by her manager, who she only stands up to in the form of compromise until he tries to put her in an untenable position.

So, ultimately, here’s my breakdown of the film:

Music parts are great. Acting is very good. Direction is okay. Characters are poor. Ending is solid, but it’s the same as it is in all the other versions of the movie, so if you’ve seen those, you already know it.

It’s still worth seeing, if only for the performances and the soundtrack, but don’t inconvenience yourself too much for it.

And now, I have a horde of angry fans coming for my blood and must build fortifications around my house. Fun times.

It’s a start.

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

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Doctor Who Season 11 – Ep. 2 “The Ghost Monument”

We go straight from the intro to a pretty classic episode of Doctor Who, complete with spaceships, running, beeping alarms, and, of course, the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) trying to get everyone out alive.

SUMMARY

E2 - 1Space
Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. – A Doctor Who Writer.

Picking up immediately where the previous episode left off, with Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) floating in space. They’re rescued by Angstrom (Susan Lynch), a pilot who is in the middle of an intergalactic race. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Yas (Mandip Gill) have been picked up by another racer named Epzo (Shaun Dooley). While Angstrom is doing just fine and lands safely on planet Desolation, Epzo’s ship is out of gas and taking hits, resulting in the Doctor having to help him make a crash that they can walk away from.  Epzo and Angstrom trade barbs as competitors, before the group reunites and heads to meet with the race’s organizer Ilin (Art Malik).

E2 - 2IlinEpzoAngstrom.png
Ilin is very fancy. 

Ilin says that they’re supposed to finish the race by reaching the “Ghost Monument,” an object that apparently phases into reality every 1000 days. The Doctor quickly realizes that the Ghost Monument is the TARDIS, so the race is on to get to the TARDIS before it phases out again. The four catch up to the two racers and are forced to share a boat ride with them across the flesh-eating oceans of Desolation. It turns out, naturally, that Epzo and Angstrom both have dark backstories that forced them into this race.

E2 - 3Boat.png
Backstories of Genocide and Parental Abuse. How cheery!

After crossing the ocean the group reaches a deserted city guarded by robots. Ryan tries to take them out by running out and shooting them, only to hilariously be forced to flee when the guns don’t do anything to the robots. As he screams in fear, the Doctor uses an EMP to disable the enemy. They rejoin Epzo and Angstrom and find an underground base. It’s revealed that the Stenza (the race of the Predator knock-off from the last episode) used this planet to research weapons, including the Remnants, which are psychic creepy-voiced (Ian Gelder) clothing-looking entities which clear up the wounded from battlefields while also squeezing people to death and causing terror to enemies. The Remnants hint at something in the Doctor’s background that even she doesn’t know before the team defeats them.

E2 - 4Remnants.png

The next morning, they make it to the victory tent, where both Epzo and Angstrom claim victory together. Ilin allows this, but, apparently angry at the Doctor, only teleports Epzo and Angstrom off planet, leaving the Doctor and companions stranded. Fortunately, the TARDIS briefly phases in. The Doctor is able to stabilize it back into normal reality and the pair are finally, joyfully reunited. The Doctor finds that the TARDIS has reconfigured not only the outside (slightly changing the appearance of the police box) but also the inside, taking on a more crystalline appearance. The new companions properly pay respect to the ship’s awesomeness and the Doctor takes off, intent on taking them all home.

E2 - 5TARDIS.png
We’ll see how it goes.

END SUMMARY

Well, this is a solid continuation of the last episode. Honestly, it was much better than the premier, but it didn’t have the burden of introducing 3 new companions and the Doctor, so that’s forgivable. This is fairly dark, due to the levels of murder and genocide that is recounted both by Angstrom and also the Doctor when she discovers the history of the planet, but it still has enough fun and creativity in there to make it feel like a regular Doctor Who episode.

There’s an old screenwriting statement that the best friend to a writer is a ticking clock. Having time constraints on the story automatically gives the characters and the plot a sense of urgency that instantly elevates the tension without distracting from the story. Despite the fact that the main character has a time machine, Doctor Who frequently embraces this, putting a time-clock on the end of the world or something similar. This episode is a great example, because at first the Doctor has no reason to try and participate in the Death Race until it’s revealed that the final location is the TARDIS.

E2 - 6Ghosting.png
The Ghost Monument indeed.

Now, it would have been easy to make this into a true race, with the Doctor and companions trying to outpace Epzo and Angstrom, but they chose not to for a very good reason. One of the themes of the show in general, and seems to be repeated by this particular incarnation, is that people should work together. The Doctor herself even says it outright: “We’re stronger together.” It’s a solid message that really works within this episode.

A few notes about how Jodie Whittaker is portraying the Doctor. First, she is one of the more polite incarnations to her companions, even thanking them for not bothering her too much about the fact that she accidentally got them stuck on an alien planet. Second, she uses more direct methods at times than many of her previous incarnations, including using Venusian Aikido during this episode to easily incapacitate Epzo, something the Third Doctor (Pertwee) was fond of. Third, she does the dramatic almost Harry-Potter-spellcasting-esque draw and point with the Sonic Screwdriver, and I love it.

E2 - 7Accio.png
Plotholus conveniens fixus!

I haven’t quite determined how to feel about the rest of the cast. Yas doesn’t really seem to have found her niche yet. Ryan’s dislike of Graham continues, and I hope they eventually really get into why he doesn’t like him. Ryan’s dyspraxia is still an issue, although when running he also suffers from “Prometheus School of Running Away” disease.

The other big note is that we’ve now had two big episodes in a row featuring the Stenza. I have to think they’re going to be the big bad guys of this arc. I’m not a huge fan of the embedded tooth appearance, but the haunted clothes of death from this episode was excellent. So, we’ll see what happens.

DoctorWhoS11E1 - 3Tzim-Sha
Yeah, not a fan.

Overall, I thought this episode was a solid hour of television. I give it an A-.

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

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Rick and Mondays – S1 E11 “Rick-sy Business”

We’re at the end of season one; time to get wriggedity wriggedity wrecked, son!

SUMMARY

Jerry (Chris Parnell) and Beth (Sarah Chalke) are heading away to take a cruise on Titanic 2, a ship that reenacts the James Cameron movie Titanic. Jerry threatens Rick (Justin Roiland) with no more trips with Morty (Roiland) if the house suffers any damage. However, the minute they’re gone, Summer (Spencer Grammer) announces that she’s having a party. Rick tells her that she can’t, however, because HE is going to have a party. Morty worries that this is going to be the end of the adventure and objects, but they ignore him.

S1EB - 1JerryAndBeth.png
Jerry doesn’t exactly scream “authority” dressed like a drowned broke artist.

On Titanic 2, Jerry is super enthusiastic about reenacting parts of his favorite movie, but Beth mostly just wants to relax and read. She suggests that Jerry use a maid, Lucy (Alejandra Gollas), as a stand-in. Jerry’s a little disappointed, but Lucy is a huge Titanic fan and they begin to have a good time. However, the ship’s planned collision with an iceberg goes awry, resulting in the ship not sinking. This upsets Jerry, but Beth doesn’t care. Lucy takes Jerry below decks and shows him a version of the car in which Jack and Rose bang in Titanic, then reveals herself to be nude and desperate to reenact a love story like she’s watched so many people do before. Jerry refuses, but she pulls a gun on him and forces him to draw her nude, before threatening to rape him. Fortunately, Beth saves him. Lucy attempts to follow them home, but ends up being run over by their car.

S1EB - 2LucyDraw.png
Yes, just like one of his French Girls.

Back at the ranch, Rick invites a ton of alien friends to his party, including Squanchy (Tom Kenny), Bird Person (Dan Harmon), and Revolio “Gear Head” Clockberg, Jr. (Scott Chernoff), three of his friends from his past travels. Unwilling to pass up her own party opportunity, Summer still invites most of her class over in an attempt to increase her own popularity. The party is interrupted at first by Abradolf Lincler (Maurice LaMarche), a former experiment of Rick’s to combine Abraham Lincoln and Adolf Hitler. Morty initially tries to dissuade them from wrecking the house, but ends up trying to hit on Jessica (Kari Wahlgren). Eventually, he shows her the garage, where the pair accidentally activate an invention that sends the house into another dimension.

S1EB - 3SlowMobius.png
Slow Mobius adds the “Can’t Hardly Wait” effect.

On the new planet, Rick tells Morty he needs to find Collaxion crystals to get them back. Morty, Lincler, and Summer’s uncool friend Nancy (Aislinn Paul) venture out into the planet’s wilderness, eventually recovering the crystals at the cost of Lincler. However, it’s revealed that Rick just wanted to snort the crystals as a drug, before showing that he can take them back at any point. Morty, angry at being deceived, throws the crystals out. However, a talk with Bird Person reveals that Rick is actually a miserable person who is asking for help but is too proud to really ask. Morty ends up deciding he still wants to travel with Rick.

S1EB - 4Lincler.png
Technically, he should die by a bullet to the head, either way.

Jerry and Beth return, but Rick freezes time so that they can clean up the house. They goof around in the frozen world and watch Titanic. Morty remarks that Rick seems to be less tortured while spending time with him and Summer. Rick responds by undercutting it and turning on some music while celebrating the end of Season One.

END SUMMARY

Now, one of my favorite things about the episode is that Rick’s party is basically the same as most “wild” parties depicted in media, except filled with insane aliens instead of humans. My favorite is probably Gear Head, who is the epitome of that guy that people don’t want to actually talk to at parties, because they just drone on and on about crap no one wants to hear. Then, later, he’s also the guy who busts out the guitar to play a folk song. If you haven’t been to a party with those guys… well, you’re probably those guys.

S1EB - 5GearHead.png
This is his go-to move. Along with betrayal.

Some of the jokes in this are the most random and also funny in the season. I love most of Abradolf Lincler’s lines, particularly “Prepare to be emancipated from your own inferior genes!” It’s such a crazy line that it fits perfectly for a character who is, explicitly, the result of an insane concept. I also like that Rick takes the high road on Summer for trying to throw a party to get popular, with Rick stating that, like a mature adult, he parties to get wrecked because he doesn’t care about the other people’s opinions.

Beth and Jerry’s B-plot is entertaining, even though it gets a little dark towards the end. The idea that Jerry idolizes the romance of Jack and Rose from Titanic perfectly makes sense of the character, because that’s the kind of relationship that he wants without realizing the inherent flaw there: Jack and Rose only work because Jack dies. Jack and Rose were fiercely in love because Rose hated her life and Jack provided a release from that, while Jack loved Rose for being adventurous. That works for a short time, obviously, but how does a couple like that work when married for 20 years? People change, first of all, but also life has a way of eroding passion like that, which is why marriages and long-term relationships usually have to have something more at their core to sustain them. Jerry and Beth were clearly passionate (enough to get Summer, at least), but much of their story arc so far is them trying to determine if they actually do have something between them that merits keeping their marriage going. It’s like watching Titanic if Jack got his own plank.

S1EB - 6Plank.png
See, he does end up letting go. It’s a metaphor.

This is a solid end to the season because it does show some of the growth that the characters have undergone through the series. Rick is slightly less miserable and self-loathing, having found some value in the time with his family. Morty is more assertive, being willing to stand up to Rick when Rick manipulates him. Is it a huge amount? Not really. But it’s something. Even in a show famous for trying to avert most typical character arcs, some amount of growth is naturally going to occur, if only because the writers themselves have grown during the course of making the show.

Probably the biggest change is Bird Person’s revelation of the real meaning of Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub as “I am in great pain, please help me.” Morty insists that Rick is only saying it ironically, but Bird Person seems confident that Rick is, in fact, in a state of internal agony and begging for help. The end of the episode seems to reinforce that, although the show itself sometimes goes back and forth on it.

JOKER’S THEORY CORNER

One question which seems to come up on the message boards (and the Rick and Morty Wiki) about this episode is why Rick would invite two members of the council of Ricks to the party. They’re only seen in the background throughout the episode, but, given Rick’s general disdain for the council, why would he invite them to his party in the first place? Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s because Rick is proud of making it to the end of his first season of television.

S1EB - 7Ricks.png
He’s right next to Daria.

Yes, Rick wanted characters from throughout the season to appear at his party, allowing him to use it as a surrogate celebration of getting through the first 10 episodes despite being an animated show based primarily around nihilism and alcohol. That’s also why he ends the episode by putting on “Shake that Ass Bitch” by Slack Pack and telling everyone that Season One is over. Even better, he ends the season with time frozen so we don’t really have to worry about any changes to the world between the seasons.

LEAVING THE CORNER

While this isn’t quite the level of some of the episodes leading into it, this was still a solid way to end the season. Everything is kind of wrapped up, but we still want more.

Overall, I give this episode a

B+

on the Rick and Morty scale.

Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.

PREVIOUS –  10: Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind

NEXT – 12: A Rickle in Time

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

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Futurama Fridays – S1 E13 “Fry and the Slurm Factory”

Well, this is the end of Season 1. It’s weird to think that I have already gotten here, but then it’s disturbing to think how much I have to go on this damned series. I could quit, but then the terrorists win.

SUMMARY

Fry (Billy West) has become addicted to the soft drink Slurm. The makers of Slurm announce a contest for a tour of the Slurm Factory to whoever finds a golden bottle cap in one of their cans, which will include a party with the drink’s mascot: SLURMS MCKENZIE!!!! (David Herman)

S1EC - Slurmz
He’s the original Party Worm!!!!!!!!! Whimmy-wham-wham-wazzle! Let’s party!

To find the cap, Fry and Bender (John DiMaggio) take Professor Farnsworth’s (West) new invention the F-ray (it’s like an X-ray that gives you more cancer but also sees through anything, including metal). They search cans all over the city, but never find the bottle cap, until it’s revealed that the can that Fry bought before they started had the cap in it.

S1EC - 2BottleCap.png
Seen here in Fry’s luscious esophagus.

The crew goes to the planet Wormulon, the headquarters of the Slurm Company, where they meet Slurms McKenzie, briefly, before they’re taken on a tour of the factory by Glurmo (West), a Willy-Wonka-esque worm. As he shows them the factory, they’re introduced to the Grunka Lunkas (DiMaggio and Phil LaMarr), who are a not-so-subtle parody of the Oompa-Loompahs, but their songs are more threatening. As the crew watch the Grunka Lunkas make the Slurm, they’re told that there is a secret ingredient added before the sodas are canned.

S1EC - 3GrunkaLunkas
Grunka Lunka Dunkity Ducked – if you don’t like this joke, you can get (bleeped).

Fry, who hasn’t gotten to drink any Slurm in minutes, tries to drink out of the Slurm river in the factory, but falls in. Leela (Katey Sagal) jumps in after to rescue him and Bender follows because he thought people were jumping in the water and wanted to fit in. They’re sucked down a drain and end up finding out that the factory was a fake. Finding the real factory, they discover the horrible secret: Slurm is actually produced by a Giant Worm’s butt, specifically the Slurm Queen (Tress MacNeille).

S1EC - 4Slurm.png
This is also how Apple Products are made! Kidding, that’s child labor.

The trio are discovered by the worms and captured. Bender is set to be made into cans, Leela is set to be turned into a worm queen, and Fry is given Super-Slurm, which is so addictive that he can’t stop eating it. Fry manages to drag the trough of Super-Slurm over to Leela, freeing her to save Bender. They flee, but run into Slurms McKenzie, who reveals that he doesn’t want to work for Slurm anymore, having grown sick of partying. The Slurm Queen follows them, but Slurms sacrifices himself by partying hard enough to cause a cave-in and stopping the queen. Ultimately, however, Fry decides not to reveal the secret to the authorities because he loves Slurm so much and the factory remains open.

END SUMMARY

This is one of my favorite Willy Wonka parodies, although I’m pissed they didn’t try to do a version of the super-weird tunnel scene. The Grunka Lunkas remain one of my favorite Oompa-Loompah rip-offs, particularly when they do their songs. They even use the songs fake words to make absurd rhymes, like “Grunka Lunka Dunkity-dasis” with “Need-to-know basis.” Fortunately, they only really do one song and try to do two more that get cut off by Glurmo. I do also love that Hermes (LaMarr) has a discussion with Glurmo about hiring Grunka Lunkas, who apparently do have a union, but the union is so bad they’re basically slave labor (which is what they clearly are in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

S1EC - 5Glurmo.jpg
Originally they were gonna name him Slurmy Slonka. That’s not a joke, that’s true.

The twist that the drink is actually made from a giant space-worm is solid, although the episode itself even points out that it shouldn’t be that shocking, with the Slurm Queen saying:

Honey comes from a bee’s behind. Milk comes from a cow’s behind.

I mean, really, it seems gross, but it’s not like humans don’t constantly consume animal products. The twist is supposed to be reminiscent of Soylent Green, which the show even calls out by saying that there is a soda made from people, Soylent Cola, which apparently causes no legal issues whatsoever. Perhaps more surprisingly, Leela has already drank it in the past.

I think this is one of the best episodes of Season 1 and was a real solid way to end the season… except that it aired as part of Season 2.

FAVORITE JOKE

This one’s tough. Since it’s the end of Season 1, let’s do a top three.

1. Bender’s Brain

When we see inside Bender’s Brain in this episode, it’s revealed that Bender runs on a 1980s 6502 CPU famous for being in the Apple II and the NES. The idea that Bender doesn’t need more processing power than a Commodore 64 will never stop amusing me.

S1EC - 6CPU.png
Sure he can’t run graphics well, but he can play Duck Hunt!

2. New Slurm vs. Slurm Classic

Another 80s reference to the time when Coca-Cola tried to switch recipes. Theories about why they did this abound, but in 1985 Coca-Cola stopped selling their original formula and offered up the much sweeter New Coke. Despite the fact that people in test groups liked the New Coke more than Coca-Cola or Pepsi, people hated it so much that Coca-Cola released Coca-Cola Classic a mere three months later, which led to Coke’s sales skyrocketing past Pepsi. In this episode, it’s implied that the Slurm Queen would do it just to stimulate market interest by forcing Leela to produce terrible New Slurm before they replace it with Slurm Classic.

S1EC - 7SlurmAd.png
Because “It’s Highly Addictive” isn’t driving enough sales.

3. Making Water

At one point during the episode, we see the Grunka Lunka’s making “pure water” by combining a container of H2 and another of O. Granted, it’s the future so they’ve probably figured out a way to avoid the explosion that would cause, but you’d think they also would have figured out that it’s easier to just remove the contaminants from water than to make water from its elements. Although, since the water ultimately just gets fed to the Slurm Queen along with Wumpus Berries, they probably should just be using a hose.

S1EC - 8H2O.png
Yes, this should probably result in a giant KABOOM… of COMEDY!!!!

That’s it for Season 1!

Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 12: When Aliens Attack

NEXT – Episode 14: I Second That Emotion

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

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Mandy: Nicolas Cage’s Awesomely Nicolas-Cage-iest Movie

Leaving Las Vegas. Raising Arizona. Con Air. National Treasure. The Wicker Man. The Weather Man. Lord of War. Adaptation. Face/Off. Gone in 60 Seconds (and a cameo in its porn version: Bone in 69 Sexconds). Vampire’s Kiss. The Rock. Next. Knowing. Bangkok Dangerous. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Kick-Ass. Peggy Sue Got Married. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Ghost Rider. Mom and Dad. Looking Glass. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies.

Mandy - 1LeftBehind
Those were just the ones I could name in 30 seconds.


Nicolas Cage has done some stuff. Some of it has been amazing, like Leaving Las Vegas and Raising Arizona. Some of it has been terrible, like USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage and Windtalkers. But a lot of it has just been Nicolas Cage-y, which is to say so insane and entertaining that things like “good” and “bad” seem to be irrelevant. Con Air might make movie critics vomit with rage, but I’ll yell at random strangers to “Put the Bunny Back in the Box.” Vampire’s Kiss is literally an internet meme now, but there’s no one who can tell me that they have watched it and thought that any other actor could do that movie. Cage has been great, he’s been terrible, but mostly he’s just been Cage.

 

Mandy - 2VampiresKiss.jpg
Yes, I do say.

With that in mind, I can say the following: This is the most Cage that he has ever been, but this movie was clearly written to bring out as much Cage as he could bring. AND IT IS AMAZING. This isn’t a “So bad it’s good” movie or a “So insane I can’t look away” movie. This is a great movie that has all the trappings of a bad movie done in such a beautiful and insane way that can only be captured by the crazy talented mind that is Nicolas Cage.

Mini-Summary (for the impatient)

Red Miller’s girlfriend Mandy gets abducted by a cult. He goes on a roaring rampage of revenge with an axe, a crossbow, and a chainsaw.

SUMMARY

It’s the 80s, because everything was more fun back then. Red Miller (Cage) lives with his girlfriend Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) in the Shadow Mountains in Eastern California. Red works as a logger while Mandy is an artist that does elaborate fantasy pieces (Think stuff that would be awesome airbrushed on a van). While they don’t say anything directly, both of them show signs of having trauma in their pasts that have led them to having a stronger bond to help each other.

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They’re adorable.

Mandy is on her way to her day job at a gas station when she walks past a van carrying cult members of the Children of the New Dawn. The leader of the cult, Jeremiah Sand (Linus “You know who I am, but probably wouldn’t recognize me here” Roache), immediately becomes obsessed with Mandy. He orders his lieutenant, Brother Swan (Ned Dennehy), to kidnap her. Swan enlists the help of the Black Skulls, a possibly-semi-magical demon-themed biker gang who are also LSD-tripping cannibals. The Skulls require a sacrifice for their help, resulting in Swan giving them one of the low-ranking cult members.

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Arguably the least-insane of the biker outfits.

 

The bikers break into Red and Mandy’s home and capture the two. Two of the cult members, Mother Marlene and Sister Lucy (Olwen Fouéré and Line Pillet), drug Mandy with some liquid LSD and the venom of a specially bred wasp. At this point, the movie becomes significantly trippier, something that, admittedly, is tough to accomplish when you’ve already had demon bikers and a hippie cult.

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And yet, it somehow will…

Sand attempts to seduce Mandy with his music (having been a failed musician), claiming that he has divine providence and right over all things. Mandy responds by laughing at his small penis and generally pathetic nature. This causes Sand to consider for a moment that he is not, in fact, divine or special, so he becomes angry and orders Red to be tied up with barbed wire and stabbed. He then forces Red to watch as he sets Mandy on fire, burning her to ashes before leaving. Red frees himself, then passes out from blood-loss and shock. When he awakens, he drinks an entire bottle of vodka (his character is implied to be recovering alcoholic) and then gives one of the best performances on film.

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Admittedly, this part is great too.

I’m not kidding. I’ll go into it more down there, but Cage, in one unbroken take, goes from confused to sad to angry to accepting to vengeful. It’s one of the best scenes I’ve ever seen, and it stems entirely from the fact that Nicolas Cage, when given the right script, is one hell of a performer.

After swearing vengeance, Red goes to his old friend (and probably former comrade in arms) Caruthers (Bill “I was in Commando and Predator” F*cking Duke). Caruthers gives Red a run-down on the Black Skulls and gives him “the Reaper,” Red’s old crossbow. Red forges a battle-axe and proceeds to get captured by the Skulls. However, he escapes and goes on a rampage, killing all of the bikers and taking a bunch of cocaine and LSD that make the movie, again, TRIPPY AS F*CK.

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“As long as Arnold isn’t here, I’ll survive.”

Red heads to where he thinks the Cult is, only to find the Chemist (Richard Brake), a drug manufacturer who tells Red where the cult actually is. Red proceeds to the cult’s church and kills several members of the cult with an axe before getting in a CHAINSAW DUEL, BECAUSE WHY THE HELL NOT???? He eventually kills all the members before finding Sand, who is now openly a pathetic waste of a man. Sand begs for mercy, but Red opts to crush his skull with his bare hands instead. He burns the church down, gets in his car, and hallucinates that Mandy is with him again and that he’s driving away from an otherworldly landscape that resembles her paintings.

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I’m weeping with joy at this.

END SUMMARY

First off, this movie trips so much balls that the doses of LSD that the characters take pretty much are superfluous but, when they do take drugs, the film style starts to shift accordingly so that things are blurry or focused almost at random while the sound gets distorted and echo-y. The colors and style throughout the film, as well as the strange lingering cinematography, really do make this feel like what I imagine a good acid trip would be. Musically, this movie is fantastic. It’s very 80s with an appropriate amount of Synth, but also manages to keep everything feeling just a hair off at even the most normal times, then turns the crazy up to eleven when called upon.

Second, the film starts slow and peacefully, focused mostly on Red and Mandy, but manages to avoid actually being too expository, something that I WILL ALWAYS LAUD. If you can convey a character’s backstory without it feeling contrived, I think that’s amazing. This film does it with both of the leads, and later with the antagonist, and never does it feel like it’s just awkward, unnatural exposition.

Third, HOLY HELL IS NICOLAS CAGE AMAZING. Seriously, this is the best performance he’s given in years. I think that aside from Leaving Las Vegas and Raising Arizona, this is not just the best film he’s done, this is the best he’s ever been in a film. There’s one particular scene that I have to comment on. When Cage starts drinking again after seeing Mandy burned alive, it is one single, unbroken take in which Cage clearly improvises a ton, and all of it works. In this sequence, Cage perfectly embodies someone who has just experienced the kind of thing he has. For no reason whatsoever, he just had his best friend and lover abducted, tortured, and murdered while he was helpless to do anything. He nails it. I just regret that I can’t find it online to show you.

The only thing in the movie that’s better than that scene is the CHEDDAR GOBLIN. Yes, the Cheddar Goblin is a fake commercial which immediately precedes the above scene and was done by the crew that made the famous “Too Many Cooks” short for Adult Swim. It’s just as insane as the movie, but in a more grounded way, if you can understand. If you can’t, here’s the ad.

I cannot recommend this movie enough. If you can stand gore (because the third act is damned gory, although in a cartoonish way), you should watch this film. It’s the kind of movie that almost escapes definition, except that it’s what you would find on an 80s Heavy Metal album cover. If you ever wanted to see one of those come to life, then you need to see this movie. If you love Nicolas Cage, then you need to see this movie. If you have a lot of pot on hand, then you need to smoke it and see this movie.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time 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.

Doctor Who Season 11 – Ep. 1 “The Woman Who Fell To Earth”

I love Doctor Who. I’ve loved it since I first saw it on PBS as a child, not realizing that the episodes I was watching were more than 20 years old at that point. When it came back, I was elated. I’ve enjoyed the majority of the episodes since the revival, putting two among the best episodes not only of the series, but of television in general. It’s truly a magical show for me and I was completely thrilled that someone requested that I review this season for the blog. I will try to have these up ASAP after airing, but life will get in the way sometimes, so Tuesday at the latest.

So, Allons-y! (if any of you are named Alonzo, then I am so f*cking happy right now)

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Where we last saw our hero….

SUMMARY (SPOILERS – In River Song’s voice)

Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole), a young adult with developmental coordination disorder (your body doesn’t send the right nerve signals strongly enough), finds a set of strange glowing symbols floating in the air in the woods and, after touching them, a blue pod appears. Ryan calls the police and PC Yaz Khan (Mandip Gill), a former classmate, arrives to investigate. However, the pair get distracted by a call from a train containing Ryan’s grandmother Grace (Sharon D. Clarke) and her husband, Graham (Bradley Walsh). The train gets attacked by a creature made up of writhing tentacles and electricity which moves towards Grace, Graham, and another passenger named Karl (Johnny Dixon). They’re saved by a woman who falls through the roof of the train. Who is this mysterious woman. Yes, there’s supposed to be a period there because I love bad jokes and it’s the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker).

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Thirty minutes into not being Scottish.

The creature tags the passengers and the doctor with sparks before leaving. The Doctor reveals that these sparks have implanted DNA Bombs, a dangerous and mostly banned weapon. They try to track down the pod that Ryan found, only to find another alien creature has emerged from it. That alien disappears, apparently sensing the first one, after killing a man and taking his tooth. The Doctor rebuilds her sonic screwdriver and takes the group in pursuit of the tentacle monster, revealed to be a bio-data-gathering device called Gathering Coils. They are confronted by the second alien, revealed to be Tzim-Sha of the Stenza (Samuel Oatley) who is basically Predator if he collected teeth instead of skulls.

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… Arnold Schwarzenegger would kill him without trying. 

The Doctor’s group confront Tzim-Sha and the Coils at the site of his hunt. The Doctor manages to trick Tzim-Sha into taking back all of his own DNA bombs and saves the target, but Grace dies trying to stop the Coils. Ryan tries to learn how to ride a bike in tribute to her, but never succeeds due to his condition. After Grace’s funeral, the Doctor tells them she has to find the TARDIS which is supposed to be in space above Earth. She builds a teleporter to go to it, but accidentally teleports herself, Ryan, Graham, and Yaz into the vacuum of space where no TARDIS appears to be.

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And debuts her new outfit.

END SUMMARY

Well, let’s get it out of the way, the Doctor now has 27 X Chromosomes, whereas she previously had 17. Not my fault you didn’t take Time Lord anatomy if you don’t understand this joke, but you really should have at least taken Nth-Dimensional Sex Education so that you’d know about the Birds and the Branes.

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Yeah, but my name’s on the site, so… bite me.

Yes, the Doctor is now equipped with a vagina and, honestly, it didn’t impact the episode much. That was probably a solid move on the writer’s part not to go too heavy into pointing out the differences between her and previous incarnations. That made it seem less like Jodie Whittaker was playing a Female Doctor and was just playing The Doctor… WHICH SHE F*CKING NAILED. Seriously, this might be my favorite Doctor debut, right up there with “The Christmas Invasion” and “The Eleventh Hour.” Whittaker debuts by falling into the path of a monster and briefly incapacitating it, which is one of the most Doctor-y ways to be introduced.

The main thing is that Whittaker quickly embodied the Doctor, filled with all of the pain, curiosity, and excitement that usually define the character. I think one of the best moments is when she is forging a new sonic screwdriver and gazes at a spoon so enthusiastically, realizing that it’ll be one of the perfect components to the device, and you really feel almost drawn to her because of the sincerity she gives off.

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It’s the little things.

Her new companions are going to be more of a team than the usual one or two people who follow the Doctor at a time. I like most of their dynamics, although they seem to shift back and forth during the episode. Still, I think that they’ll serve a much different role than previous companions, if only because of the number.

As for the episode itself, it’s fine. The Coils are visually interesting. The jokes that the Doctor makes about Tzim-Sha’s name (mostly just calling him “Tim Shaw”) are pretty good. The main thing that shocked me was that they killed off a character that we were definitely starting to like… and one that was central to two of her companions’ stories. That’s kind of crazy for a show like this.

Overall, I liked this episode. I’d say that in Doctor Who terms, this was probably about a B+.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time 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.

Netflix Review – The Good Cop: Season 1

Tony Danza is a very endearing guy when he’s performing. From Taxi to Who’s the Boss? to The Tony Danza Show, he’s always at least somewhat charming.

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Josh Groban has the voice of an angel and the appearance of a cast member from Revenge of the Nerds.

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But with far fewer felonies in his film

Netflix decided they should be on a father-son Odd-Couple-esque buddy-cop cop-and-convict whodunit-mystery show. Coincidentally, the price of cocaine has been increasing due to over-consumption.

SUMMARY

Tony Caruso, Sr. (Tony Danza) was formerly a hero cop who, it turns out, was massively corrupt and engaged in a series of widely-publicized scandals that sent him to prison. His son, Tony, Jr. or “TJ” (Josh Groban) is now a police officer renowned for his dedication to the rules, even going to comically enormous lengths to avoid small infractions. As a condition of Tony, Sr.’s recent parole, he is required to live with his son. Naturally, in the pilot, they fight constantly until Big Tony goes back to prison to try to cover for TJ, proving that he really does love him, so they can stay together, yadda yadda yadda.

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One’s in a suit, one lost his pants in a bet. How funny!

As the season goes by Tony Sr. keeps doing crazy semi-legal schemes and TJ gets caught up in them while they solve mysteries together. The supporting cast is: Cora Vasquez (Monica Barbaro), who was Tony Sr.’s parole officer who later becomes a detective under TJ, as well as his love interest; Burl Loomis (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), an older detective who was a friend of Tony Sr. who is renowned for his policy of “never running”; and Ryan (Bill Rottkamp), an ultra-nerd Tech Crime Analyst for the NYPD whose character was written when we thought Hackers was accurate.

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END SUMMARY

So, the show was created by the guy who made Monk, Andy Breckman, and it shows. The characters are all quirky as hell, there’s a loose story arc involving Tony Sr.’s dead wife that might get resolved in 9 years, and the mysteries are usually pretty creative. Honestly, the crime-centric episodes were the best, because they were actually decent puzzles and distracted me from how uninteresting the characters are despite the set-up giving so many potentially interesting conflicts. Breckman said, “Many cop shows feature dark and provocative material: psycho-sexual killers, twisted, grim, flawed detectives. Many address the most controversial issues of the day. I watch a lot of them. God bless ’em all. But the show I want to produce is playful, family-friendly, and a celebration of old-fashioned puzzle-solving.” So… mission accomplished?

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Though some of the Hi-Jinks are pretty funny.

It almost bothers me that I actually like this show, because it is bland as hell. Tony Danza and Josh Groban are both likeable and inoffensive (despite the fact that Danza’s character is supposed to be a convicted corrupt cop). Isiah Whitlock and Monica Barbaro are always entertaining when they’re on screen. Nothing about the show ever really gets me upset and it mostly keeps my attention. But it’s just… mediocre. It’s just like many of the seasons of Monk, but without Tony Shalhoub to give an amazing performance. I like it, but I don’t love it. It’s just that everyone involved in it is so loveable I can’t really dislike it either. It’s fun and not challenging to watch, which means that a lot of people will probably love it and I can’t blame them. It’s like a graham cracker – it’s not the most sophisticated snack, but I will eat the entire box and then cry about how I shouldn’t have done that.

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I will say that some of the episodes had some neat gimmicks, like having a talk-show host who toys with the officers or having the suspect be TJ’s crush, but ultimately it’s pretty middle-of-the-road. I really hope they give the characters some more depth in the future, because I can’t look Josh Groban in the eye and say “I don’t want to watch your show.” It would break his little heart and it’s not his fault.

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I can’t break that heart. It would hurt me “Evermore.”

I do have to add that at the end of the episode, the title card for the next episode plays and it’s spaced so that you can read it before Netflix automatically starts the next episode, which is a great idea and should be duplicated by other series. Good job, whoever did that.

Seriously, though, please add either more comedy or more darkness, because right now it’s just TVpH 7.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time 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.