Grouch on the Couch Review: Halloween (2018) – Decent Movie, Lousy Horror Film

So, a ton of people have been lauding this film. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe my expectations were too high. I was hoping to really see a solid follow-up to the original Halloween, a film that remains one of the scariest things I have ever watched. That’s not what I got. Look, I sat through the three “return of Michael Myers” Halloween films and Halloween H20. I watched Busta Rhymes kung-fu kick one of the greatest horror villains in film in Halloween Resurrection. I watched the good and the bad of the Rob Zombie remakes. I have paid my damn dues, I deserve another well-made Halloween film.

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Paul Rudd wishes I didn’t know his dark secret, but I do. (Halloween 6)

I don’t want to hold back on this one, so *SPOILERS* on this review, because I’ve got some venting to do.

PLOT AND STUFF

This movie takes place 40 years to the day after the main events of the first Halloween movie. All of the sequels are ignored, including Halloween II, which means that Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is not, in fact, the sister of Michael Myers (Nick Castle and James Jude Courtney), something that I definitely consider a good call.

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Also no Busta Rhymes kung-fu kicking. So, that’s a good call.

A pair of journalists (Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall) who have a podcast go to interview Michael Myers at the asylum that he has occupied since 1978. They bring his mask as an offer to get him to speak, but Michael doesn’t acknowledge their presence. Shortly after, while being transferred, Michael’s bus crashes, freeing him. His doctor, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), survives the crash, but is shot by a boy who comes upon the scene. Michael coincidentally finds the podcasters, kills a mechanic for his signature jumpsuit, then murders them both to reclaim his mask. He then drives back to Haddonfield, Illinois.

Halloween11 - 3Michael
Michael is canonically 61 years old in this movie, but arthritis doesn’t effect pure evil.

Over the last 40 years Laurie Strode has pretty much been suffering constant PTSD about the night that she was attacked. She has a daughter, Karen (Judy “Wait, Judy Greer?” Greer), who thinks she’s insane after raising her to be able to fight Michael, and a granddaughter, Allyson (Andi “No, wait, go back, Judy Greer is the daughter?” Matichak), who Laurie secretly speaks to. However, when she finds that he has escaped, she’s almost excited at the prospect of being able to kill him.

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She certainly looks completely sane.

Michael goes on a killing spree that alternates between awesome and almost comically cliché before Dr. Sartain, who has gone insane with his desire to see his prized subject reunited with Laurie. They reach Laurie’s house before Michael kills Sartain, resulting in Michael approaching the house to kill Laurie, Karen, Allyson, and Karen’s husband Ray (Toby “Judy Greer was a weird casting choice” Huss). Ultimately, Karen, Laurie, and Allyson manage to trap Michael in the basement and set the entire house ablaze. However, the last shot of the basement shows it to be empty, implying that Michael escaped.

END PLOT AND STUFF

The original Halloween wasn’t the first of the slasher genre or even the holiday-themed slasher genre (Black Christmas and Silent Night, Bloody Night were earlier), but Halloween took everything that had previously been done in the genre and tweaked it a bit. Michael Myers didn’t wait for people to show up to his hunting grounds like Norman Bates or Leatherface, he came to them. He didn’t have a disturbing backstory or a love of taunting young women like the killers in the Christmas-themed slasher films, he just simply was evil. He wasn’t punishing the wicked or impure (although people have said he was, both of his creators have denied this), he just liked killing. He wasn’t supernaturally enhanced like Jason Vorhees or Freddy Krueger, he was just a normal human (in the first movie, he is briefly unmasked and is just an average person).

AND THAT’S WHY HE’S SO FRIGHTENING.

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Here he is, waiting for you on a sidewalk in the middle of the f*cking day.

He’s literally just a crazy guy who comes into your house and murders you. He doesn’t have anything against you, there’s nothing you did to cause it, and it’s a completely random death. This movie tried to maintain that aspect and, in fairness, it mostly succeeded on that front. They make a point to comment on the fact that, in the original movie, Michael Myers only killed five people, something that we now see happen in real life on a regular basis by a crazy asshole with a gun. In other words, we’ve now allowed almost any random crazy person to be Michael Myers. However, in response to pointing that out, they make sure to drive home that Michael is, in fact, his own special brand of evil, because he’s not going to stop. Mass shooters almost inevitably die in the process; Michael won’t.

However, while they do a good job with that, the actual horror environment of the film is, for lack of a better word, crap. Part of that is that much of the movie is a tribute to the original film, including a lot of scenes that are either straight replications of older scenes (so we know how they’re going to go) or they’re subversions of the older scenes (so we know how they’re going to be subverted). Normally, alternating between these would work to keep the audience on their toes, but this movie makes a mistake that, honestly, they should have avoided just by watching the original Halloween: They take too long on scenes.

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I was in the bathroom for this one, but even the trailer is too damn slow on it.

Michael Myers is at his best when the set-up is long, but it’s in the background. Some of the best parts of the 1978 version are seeing Michael lurking, unfocused, in the background of shots, something that Rob Zombie did wonderfully when he released his remake. This movie made him too focal, which, unfortunately, doesn’t make him scarier unless it’s done perfectly. Many of the set-ups were so elaborate that they felt more like a joke and a punchline than a murder. I genuinely was laughing at some of the kills.

That’s another problem: This movie has too many examples of the modern horror post-Scream semi-satirical scenes, without really adapting Michael to it. Scream was a reaction to the decline of the slasher genre, where people were bored of characters who were genre-blind or fit neatly into weird archetypes, so Wes Craven infused humor and self-awareness into horror. Now, even people who knew the rules of slasher films were going to be victims, making the audience feel vulnerable again. But, over time, directors upped the comedy, so it’s now commonplace to have humorous interludes in horror films. This film was partially written by comedian Danny McBride, so the funny scenes are really funny, to the point that it undercuts all the tension that is usually inherent with Michael Myers’ presence.

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And the trailers spoiled 2 of the best kills in the movie at the same time.

There are still a few saving graces for the film. First, Jamie Lee Curtis nails playing a crazed, obsessed Laurie Strode. She’s like Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, except that she’s been waiting 30 years longer and time has started to really take its toll. Her dedication to training for this movie is admirable, although she does kind of embody Mike Tyson’s line “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Second, the kills are pretty great throughout the movie, some of them being among my favorite in the franchise. Third, while I don’t exactly like Judy Greer in most of the film (the character, not her), she also possibly has the best scene in the movie and one of the most “F*CK YES” moments in the Halloween franchise.

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Oh my god. They’ve both survived Michael Myers. That’s why they were married in Ant-Man!

Actually, there is something in the movie that I think isn’t really called out, but that I think make it slightly more interesting: Everyone assumes Laurie Strode is important to Michael. Sure, he stalks her, among other people, in the original, but in this one everyone assumes that he is breaking out to hunt her down. However, if you watch the movie, he really doesn’t give any indication that he cares about her at all this time. He doesn’t look for her, doesn’t go back to the house from the original films, and doesn’t stalk her family until her granddaughter hears one of Michael’s victims screaming, apparently by random chance. Even after seeing Laurie (and getting shot by her), Michael doesn’t make any attempt to follow her. In short:

SHE’S NOT IMPORTANT.

Unlike what’s implied in all the sequels prior to now, this means that she was just a random victim in the original. So, she’s spent her entire life training for the day he would hunt her down, but, really, the only reason they meet is A) she actually hunts HIM down and B) other characters bring them together. It’s kind of devastating, therefore, to think that Laurie Strode has spent her whole life recalling one terrible night and never being able to get over it due to the trauma, while the guy who did it apparently doesn’t think about her at all. I’m sure there is never any comparable situation to this.

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Overall, this movie didn’t scare me much. Other people might be scared by it, but I thought that they removed a lot of the dread that makes the genre work. However, the thing is that I did enjoy this as kind of a study of Laurie Strode and Michael Myers. Michael represents evil, trauma, destruction, mass murder, what have you. You don’t necessarily deserve him, but he shows up anyway and your life is either ended or wrecked. Laurie is someone who has dealt with that kind of trauma and evil, has been scarred by it horribly to the point of being a force of violence herself, and has tried to impute some meaning into the meaningless. She even does some shot-for-shot sequences where she copies Michael’s mannerisms and movements. She’s a great representation of the Nietzsche quote:

Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Like I said, I may not have been scared by it, which makes it kind of crap as a horror film, but as a character study, it does a great job. I recommend seeing it, but maybe wait until video.

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 – S2 E1 “I Second That Emotion”

Welcome to Season 2 where the questions are worth double and there are twice as many temple guardians attacking you from behind.

SUMMARY

Bender (John DiMaggio) is getting annoyed with all the attention given to Nibbler (Frank “I’m everyone” Welker), something that is only made worse when the tiny creature breaks a fang while biting Bender’s ass and revealing his age (four). Bender tries to impress everyone by making an amazing cake for Nibbler’s party, but Nibbler eats it before he can show it off, irritating Bender so much he flushes the alien down the toilet.

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The worst form of potty training

Leela (Katey Sagal) is despondent over the loss of Nibbler. Bender, meanwhile, doesn’t feel bad, since robots are incapable of empathy (in this episode, at least). The Professor (Billy West) installs an empathy chip that synchronizes Bender’s and Leela’s emotions. Bender quickly becomes overwhelmed by Leela’s emotions and flushes himself down the sewer to rescue Nibbler. Fry (West) and Leela go into the sewer after him, only to find that a race of mutants live in the sewers.

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He made himself sad.

The mutants, while initially harmless, become enraged when they discover that Nibbler may be the monster that hunts through the sewer known as “El Chupanibre.” They propose using Leela as bait or a sacrifice to the monster. Nibbler shows up, only to be followed immediately by the real El Chupanibre, a giant reptilian beast. Bender wants to save Nibbler but is too scared for Nibbler’s safety because of Leela to actually act. Finally, Bender realizes that he can help by convincing Leela not to like Nibbler so much, mostly by mentioning how much money she spends on her pet. Bender, now unburdened, defeats the monster. Back on the surface, Bender, chip removed, has learned nothing. However, Leela reveals that she learned something from Bender, calling everyone “jerkwads” as she exits.

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He’s unarmed!

END SUMMARY

The concept of empathy and “putting yourself in someone’s shoes” has been a typical plot line throughout sitcoms and comedies since I Love Lucy had Fred and Ricky try to do housework for a day. This episode just does it a lot more directly, by having Bender forced to feel what Leela feels. However, he’s still aware of the false nature of the emotions, even explaining to Fry that he consciously knows that he doesn’t really feel anything. To me, this makes it more interesting when he’s forced out of guilt to rescue Nibbler, because it suggests that the show believes people make decisions based more on emotions than on conscious decision. It’s not a point they harp on, but it’s still there and they go back to it in other episodes. Maybe it’s more that emotions create the values by which we make other decisions, like valuing the lives of others over our own moderate convenience. If we take this further, then Leela’s emotions serve a purpose similar to the base conditions in Bender’s robot brain that his algorithms run off of. In Asimov, that’d be the three laws, although emotions are naturally more flexible than the laws. Maybe Bender is more effected by the emotions than a person because he usually doesn’t have changing values, being a robot. Or maybe I’m overthinking this a lot.

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It could all just be an excuse to see this.

This episode also introduces us to the Mutants, who will become increasingly important, particularly the two that make a surprise cameo in this episode, Leela’s parents. The story progress of the Mutant civilization is interesting, since they somehow start off as being “urban legends” but are later viewed more as just second-class citizens that everyone knows about. It seems like they just kind of abandon the “semi-mythic” aspect of the mutants after this episode. They serve as a nice subversion of the typical “sub-human” race that we see in fiction, in that the mutants pretty much act like normal people, despite their squalid surroundings and hideous features.

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Foreshadowing!!!!

Also, I always feel like this episode contains a lot of good jokes, even by Futurama standards. Many of them are just clever extensions of obvious gags. For example, when Leela sees Amy (Lauren Tom) getting attention from a guy she was attracted to, Bender feels her jealousy and tells Fry that he only gets attention because he dresses like a tramp. That joke falls a little flat, until Fry responds that the guys are “responding to [his] personality,” something that’s delivered so earnestly I think it always makes me chuckle.

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Also, they’re not into your personality, bro.

Overall, it’s a solid episode that sets up a lot of characters and ideas that’ll get used, sometimes better, sometimes not, in the future.

FAVORITE JOKE

The revelation that the mutants worship an unexploded nuclear bomb right under the streets of New New York. It’s a reference to the movie Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the only movie besides the original to include Charlton Heston. In the film, the bomb is worshipped by a group of mutated, telepathic humans in the remains of New York, which is similar to the episode. In the movie, it ends up being massively important, because it is used by Heston to destroy the Earth in the future. In Futurama, however, the Mutants brush it off by saying that the worship of the bomb is more of an Easter and Christmas deal. I love this line because it basically says to the audience that, even though the bomb is massively important in the material it’s stolen from, in this it will be nothing. Sure enough, it’s never referenced again.

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

PREVIOUS – Episode 13: Fry and the Slurm Factory

NEXT – Episode 15: Brannigan, Begin Again

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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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

 

 

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.

 

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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.

Mandy - 4BlackSkulls
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.