DuckTales “The Last Adventure”: How to End Your Great Reboot – Disney+ (Soon) Review

The gold standard for cartoon reboots comes to a glorious, glorious end.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Having spent a season fighting against the Fiendish Organization for World Larceny (F.O.W.L.), Scrooge McDuck (David Tennant) and family finally face off against the assembled forces of villainy. The stakes are not just the future of the McDuck family, but the future of adventure itself. IT. IS. MAGNIFICENT. 

Anything else would be a spoiler. 

This was just the cast at the Beginning of the season. It got bigger.

END SUMMARY

Since it came out I have hailed this show as nothing short of brilliant and that did not change. I’m deeply disappointed with Disney’s decision to end this show after only three seasons, but I cannot help but be impressed with how much effort the team behind it put into this sendoff. Not only does it directly reference multiple shows from the Disney Afternoon lineup (DuckTales, Darkwing Duck, Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, Goof Troop, The Wuzzles, Gummi Bears), it indirectly references essentially all of the other animated shows that Disney put on in the 1990s, including an insanely funny joke involving Keith David from Gargoyles. 

This show lives again!!!!! But not really. But kinda?

The key to this finale is that it both pays tribute to the huge mythology that this show built and also to all of the history that inspired the show itself. It doesn’t just present an amazing adventure for our characters, it highlights why we love them so much and why we want to root for them. The theme of the show has always been about family, particularly about how family are the people that stand up for you not the people you share blood with, and this finale makes that take the center. It’s got a lot of solid emotional moments between all of the characters, but particularly ones involving Webby (Kate Micucci), a character who often seemed to feel like she was an outsider trying to join a family. I think that’s something that many shows often overlook when doing a finale, that it still needs to have the emotional core to keep us invested in our characters even though we’ve been on the journey with them this far. DuckTales nailed it.

Hell, the title shot even focuses on her a bit.

I know that this is a kids show, but I will miss this series. It didn’t just try to hit nostalgia, it dove in and reminded us why nostalgia can be great, because it gives you a feeling of shared love between creator and viewer. It told us that whether it was the original comic books, the ‘87 series, the later comics, or even other shows that were just made by the same company, that we can all be bonded over our love of stories about good triumphing by being smarter than the smarties, tougher than the toughies, sharper than the sharpies, and earning it square. 

It also proves that Lin Manuel Miranda can play nerds really well.

Overall, I hope that they at least keep the Darkwing Duck show developing at Disney+ in this continuity, because even a few occasional cameos would help soften the blow. They probably won’t, but a man can dream. 

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

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Darby O’Gill and the Little People: The Perfect St. Paddy’s Day Film – (NOT) Disney+ Review

I love this movie and if you don’t love it, drink ‘til you do.

SUMMARY

Darby O’Gill (Albert Sharpe) is an Irish groundskeeper for the estate of Lord Fitzpatrick (Walter Fitzgerald). Darby is one of the few people in the town of Rathcullen that knows that the town is populated by a tribe of leprechauns. Darby continually tries to capture their leader, King Brian (Jimmy O’Dea), who actually tends to consider Darby a friendly rival. Lord Fitzpatrick replaces Darby with a new groundskeeper, Michael McBride (Sean Connery), something that Darby tries to keep secret from his daughter, Katie (Janet Munro). Brian, sympathetic to Darby’s loss, tries to imprison him in his mountain keep, but Darby escapes and ends up finally capturing Brian, who has to give him three wishes. Darby uses the first to force Brian to stay by his side (preventing him from just running out of earshot), but Brian tricks him into using the second to bring Michael and Katie together. 

Having a nice time with a small friend.

After a local bully (Kieron Moore) tries to steal Michael’s job and Katie’s hand, Katie finds out that Darby had lied to her and yells at both her and Michael. She then chases a horse and, unfortunately, contracts a fever. Because King Brian is with Darby, Darby sees a banshee appear for Katie and call a headless death coachman to take her away. Darby uses his third wish to take the place of Katie and is carried off towards death. However, while in the coach, Darby wishes that he could have Brian’s company as a friend in the afterlife. Brian points out this is a fourth wish, which voids the other three, meaning Darby cannot be in the Death Coach. However, Katie has now recovered and thus cannot be taken either. Everyone gets to stay in Ireland and live happily ever after. Except for the bully, because he tried to get between Sean Connery and a lady. 

The violin is a key plot point.

END SUMMARY

*Update* So, I watched the copy of the film that I already owned to write this. It turns out that Disney has uploaded an altered version of the film onto Disney+ which dubs over much of Jimmy O’Dea and Albert Sharpe’s dialogue. The explanation appears to be that Americans can’t understand Irish accents and don’t understand when people have short exchanges in Munster Irish. This is one of the worst decisions I can imagine.

Perhaps the thing that is least believable about this film is what it was made in 1959. While most of us nowadays are familiar with forced perspective thanks to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, this film took that to an entirely different level and did so back when the only way to film a chariot race was to build a giant racetrack and just reenact it. In order to film several scenes in this film, the practical effects had to be pushed beyond the limit of what existed at the time, something that Walt Disney himself loved to do. To put it more in perspective (PUN INTENDED), just lighting these complicated scenes pulled so much power that it blew out a local substation. Additionally, there are many scenes in the film that clearly are not done solely through forced perspective, but through a combination of perspective and Chroma-Key work, something that was still mostly in its infancy at this point. The main reason they could pull it off was actually because Walt Disney had previously used it for his live-action/animated “Alice” shorts in the 1920s. Because of this use of careful and, mostly practical, effects, this movie holds up unbelievably well for its age. I’m sure that the version on Disney+ has been further retouched from my childhood, but if you had the old VHS copy of this movie growing up, you know that the magic of the scenes held up pretty well. Oh, and the Banshee/Death Coach scenes still creep me out.

When rotoscoping going wrong actually goes right.

It’s pretty clear that this movie would not have gotten made if it had not been a passion project for Walt Disney. He spent over a decade working on the script and the premise, even studying Irish folklore at the Dublin library while developing it. He picked Albert Sharpe to play the lead because he enjoyed him in a stage play years beforehand (his original pick, Barry Fitzgerald, declined to do the movie). Jimmy O’Dea was cast because Disney saw him doing pantomime. Connery was borrowed from Fox because Disney thought he was good looking enough to be a love interest with little screen time (which ended up getting him noticed by Albert R. Broccoli and thus auditioned for James Bond), while Munro was a contract player for Disney. Interestingly, in order to preserve the illusion that the leprechauns were real, Disney did not credit the actors playing the wee folk, instead giving “thanks” to King Brian and his subjects. He even had a special episode of Walt Disney Presents titled “I Captured the King of the Leprechauns” in which he and Albert Sharpe chase down King Brian to ask him to help make the movie. It’s all the little extra efforts that pay off in the end. 

Walt Disney had a bigger pot of gold than him.

As far as the film itself, I do love the story. Most of the film is Brian and Darby in their strange bromance and that’s genuinely a great relationship that grows over the course of the film. The performances are all great, although I admit that Sean Connery doesn’t really sell the song as much as they probably hoped. Still, “Pretty Irish Girl” is a great song and it really captures the small-town Irish vibe that the film was going for. It helps that it is used perfectly within the movie as a shortcut to believably move Katie and Michael’s relationship forward quickly. 

Overall, just a great movie. Grab a Guinness and check it out. 

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

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WandaVision: A Magical Tribute to TV – Disney+ Review

Marvel’s first Phase Four series gives us an homage to the history of televised love.

SUMMARY

Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) is married to the android Vision (Paul Bettany), who is somehow back from the dead after having Thanos rip his head open. They now live in the town of Westview, New Jersey, which just so happens to mirror the setting of classic sitcoms, aging from the 1950s to the 2010s as the couple moves forward in their relationship. They regularly interact with their nosy neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) and eventually have two children named Billy and Tommy (Julian Hilliard and Jett Kline). At the same time, in the “real” world, S.W.O.R.D. Agent Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), and astrophysicist Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) attempt to find Wanda and end the strange things happening to Westview, while avoiding SWORD director Tyler Hayward (Josh Stamberg).

Yes, ’70s Wanda and Vision are swingers.

END SUMMARY

When Marvel announced they were shifting to television for their fourth phase, I admit that I wasn’t quite sure how to feel. I liked Agents of SHIELD, but it was fairly inconsistent in terms of storytelling. Some arcs were amazing, others felt like they just ran out of ideas and were pulling from broad genre tropes that they forced in. Agent Carter felt more coherent, but it also got cancelled pretty quickly. The announcement of WandaVision initially excited me, but then I got worried that maybe the show would just be an excuse to do some hackneyed jokes based around the idea of the two characters living in a sitcom. Fortunately, this show focused just as much on the mystery as it did on the sitcom elements, which kept the series from overusing the premise. 

I do think it’s weird that NO agent of SHIELD showed up in the series.

Part of what makes it work is that the show plays the corny sitcom tropes completely straight for most of the first episode. That season is the 1950s and most of the jokes are, appropriately, pratfalls or bland and non offensive observations. If you rewatch most of the shows from that period that aren’t the Dick Van Dyke Show or I Love Lucy, a lot of shows largely relied on the novelty of just performing on television to make the spectacle enjoyable. Both Bettany and Olsen do a great job of duplicating the speaking and reaction style that were hallmarks of most of the shows during that period. As the show gets closer to the present, through the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the jokes from the “sitcoms” get more modern and better crafted, for the most part, but they also become more rare because the “fourth wall” gets progressively destroyed, starting with a moment that is deeply out of character at the end of the first episode. However, for at least the first two episodes, there are only a few minutes that appear to be anything outside of the sitcom, which really helps keep the balance between the show and the show within the show.

Also, kudos to the costumers and set designers. Great stuff.

The supporting cast ranges from classic sitcom guests like Fred Melamed, Debra Jo Rupp, and Emma Caulfield to the recurring “real world” cast of FBI and SWORD agents. It’s interesting in that we see both the “sitcom” version of the characters as well as their “real” versions and they are deeply different, in a way that reflects how dour reality is compared to the curated image of life that used to permeate television. It is compounded by the fact that, when their true selves show, they are dealing with having been essentially imprisoned by having their wills supressed. Some of the scenes of this are played darkly straight and make the entire situation seem even more disturbing. As far as the “real world” cast goes, Parris, Park, and Dennings are a near perfect balance of comic relief and competent supporting character. None of them are stupid, they’re just believably quirky people who have their own motivations and flaws. I will say I look forward to Parris becoming a superhero in future installments.

I am surprised that Kitty Foreman wasn’t in the 1970s episode, though.

I will admit that I regret not reviewing this show earlier, but I felt like I could not appropriately give praise to the best parts of the show without spoilers, and I wanted to give a week for that period to pass. So, SPOILER WARNING:

Kathryn Hahn is a god-given treasure to this show (and, let’s face it, any show she’s on). She not only plays the neighbor Agnes for most of the series, which was one of the more amusing and consistent parts of the “television show” illusion, but is revealed to be the witch Agatha Harkness, who essentially manipulated Wanda so that she could steal her powers. Hahn is not only clever, but her snarky delivery makes her likable even when she is acting as the villain. I’m hopeful that Marvel continues to use her. Another notable casting decision was Evan Peters as “Ralph Bohner,” an actor who is cast by Agatha as Quicksilver, Wanda’s brother. Peters played the character in the X-men Universe and, while it was kind of a let down that this wasn’t actually the alternate universe version of the character, it was still a great nod to the X-Men series by the creators.

Greatest. Character. Intro. Ever.

Overall, just a great series. If you haven’t watched it, or you quit after the first episode, give it another shot.

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

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Raya and the Last Dragon: A Disney Movie We Really Need – Disney+ Review

Disney brings us a story of a young woman trying to heal a broken world.

SUMMARY

Kumandra was a great country of men and dragons until 500 years ago, when it was suddenly besieged by the Druun, evil energy spirits that turn people and dragons to stone. A war ensued and the Druun turned almost everyone to stone. The dragon Sisu (Awkwafina), the last of the dragons, used her energy to forge a gem that turned the humans back to normal and banished the Druun, but the dragons stayed stone and Sisu disappeared. Six years ago, Kumandra had fallen into five nations that are constantly at odds. Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) is the daughter of Benja (Daniel Dae Kim), the chief of the Heart Land, the guardians of the dragon gem. When Benja attempted to unite the land, it backfired and the dragon gem was broken, resulting in the return of the Druun. Now, Raya seeks to find the long-dormant Sisu and banish the Druun again while avoiding her enemy, Namaari (Gemma Chan), daughter of Virana (Sandra Oh), the chief of the Fang Land. Fortunately, this is a Disney movie, so she has an animal companion named Tuk-tuk that is voiced by Alan Tudyk, and some friends she meets along the way, including Boun (Izaac Wang), a young boat captain, Tong (Benedict Wong), a warrior, and a bunch of other cute characters. Unfortunately, it turns out that “legendary dragons” might not be quite what she expected.

Sisu’s like a dragon mixed with a puppy mixed with Nora from Queens.

END SUMMARY

This was a heck of a film. While I don’t know that it’ll enter the top class of Disney movies, I think it’s at least up for consideration. It was good enough that, despite the fact that it’ll be on Disney+ for free in a few months, I don’t regret buying this movie. Watch it with a friend and the cost of the purchase is basically the same as if you went to the movie in a theater. I will say that this would be a movie that would be absolutely improved by watching it on the big screen, because it is beautiful and colorful and has some wonderful action sequences. Unfortunately, this ain’t the year for that. Maybe in 2022 they’ll put it back up for a limited run.

Raya wields a chain blade, like in Brotherhood of the Wolf. It’s awesome.

Part of what makes this film great is that it walks a very tough line. This is a dark film in a lot of ways. It takes place in a dystopia literally populated by omnicidal balls of energy and a bunch of countries that are basically at war all the time. Children, families, etc. are shown to be victims of the Druun, and trust me, they make sure you understand that the attacks are completely indiscriminate. The leaders of these countries are frequently shown to be willing to stab each other in the back, as are many of the people. In order to balance out this dark undertone, the film often has some extremely cute moments, as well as a wider assortment of comic relief sidekicks than many other Disney films. It also just has some better comedy routines than most other kids movies, made much better by the presence and delivery of Awkwafina. She plays Sisu as someone who lacks intelligence at times, but has great wisdom. It results in some hilarious cognitive dissonance. 

Yes, this movie makes it clear that babies are dying.

The film’s moral is one of the most important ones that a Disney picture has attempted in a while and, surprisingly, it does a pretty great job of pulling it off without being overly preachy. Most of the film is just about how you need to give people your trust sometimes in order to move forward. It’s one of the hardest things to do, but sometimes you really just need to believe in the ability of other people to do the right thing when asked. Now, the movie is not written by idiots, part of the reason why some characters can do this is that they are capable of dealing with the consequences of having that trust betrayed. But sometimes you do need to believe in people even if it means putting yourself on the line. At the end of the movie, I was reminded of the MLK quote: “Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.” Truly a message that the world needs if we’re going to deal with the problems facing us in the future.

Sometimes you need to trust people who’ve broken it before.

Overall, this was a really great movie. I recommend it. I would even say that, if you have kids or are a Disney fan, this one was worth the money.

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

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Flora and Ulysses: Squirrel Superhero Makes For Cute Film – Disney+ Review

A young girl makes the most unusual friend you can find.

SUMMARY 

Flora Buckman (Matilda Lawler) is a ten year old girl whose parents (Ben Schwartz and Alyson Hannigan) are getting divorced. Her dad is a failed comic book artist who is now working at an office supply store while her mother is an award-winning romance novelist who is suffering from major writer’s block. She is also dealing with her new hysterically blind friend William (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth). Later, Flora’s neighbor has issues with her “evolving” robotic vacuum, resulting in it sucking up a squirrel. Flora adopts the squirrel, naming it Ulysses. Soon, she discovers that the incident with the vacuum has given Ulysses powers. He has the strength of a dozen squirrels, can understand humans, and can even write some poetry. Unfortunately, after an incident at a diner, the public believes that Ulysses is rabid and he now must avoid animal control officer Miller (Danny Pudi), while possibly helping bring a family back together.

Step one for Disney film, have adorable animal scene.

END SUMMARY

I didn’t ever read the children’s book this is based on, but a quick look at the book’s Wikipedia seems to indicate it had nothing to do with superpowers, just a squirrel that got smart enough to write poems. However, since Disney owns Marvel, it seems like a natural way to use your IP. Oddly, though, while there are a lot of mentions of Marvel heroes in the series, as well as the fake superheroes that her father supposedly created, there were more than a few mentions of DC comics characters. I guess even Marvel can’t ignore Batman’s popularity. 

Superhero landing is pretty adorable on a squirrel.

This isn’t the best film, but it’s definitely pretty cute. It’s supposed to be a family film, so it has to focus largely on kid-friendly gags. Some of them still work for adults, including some of the jokes about her mom’s profession, and a few are inside gags for people who are fans of Disney. For example, at the beginning of the film, a comic book shop owner played by Bobby Moynihan is reading a DuckTales comic. With Kate Micucci appearing as a waitress, this film features Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby from the new DuckTales series. It doesn’t really pay off more than that, but it’s still a nice touch.

Ben Schwartz is always entertaining.

Overall, though, it’s still a kids movie. If you aren’t watching with a young child, you’ll probably get pretty bored. 

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

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Soul: Pixar’s Most Existential Movie – Disney+ Review

Pixar continues to show that they can make a great movie.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a middle school music teacher who has long dreamed of being a Jazz musician. He gets a call from a former student, Curly (Questlove), who informs him of an opening in the band of Jazz legend Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett). Joe manages to nail the audition and gets a chance to play piano with her, only to immediately walk into an open manhole cover. Joe finds himself in the “Great Beyond,” but tries to escape so that he can play the show. He accidentally ends up in the “Great Before,” where souls are prepared to be sent to Earth. Joe poses as an instructor to fool the soul counselors (Richard Ayoade, Alice Braga, Wes Studi, Fortune Feimster and Zenobia Shroff) and gets assigned to help “22,” (Tina Fey) a soul that has remained in the Great Before for a long time due to her cynicism. Joe realizes that if he can convince 22 to go to Earth, he can potentially use that as a way back to his body and make it to the show. They are helped by the spiritualist Moonwind (Graham Norton) and opposed by Terry (Rachel House), the soul counter.

Apparently you still need glasses in the before-life.

END SUMMARY

I’ll admit that when Disney announced they were going to put this on Disney+ for free on Christmas, my first thought was that it must not be very good. After all, I think that putting it on streaming at the same time as theaters makes it ineligible for an Oscar, something Pixar collects almost every year they’re eligible. Hell, the category of “Best Animated Film” was arguably created because of Pixar and Dreamworks putting out films too good for the Academy to ignore. While it’s possible that they changed the eligibility rules or that Disney did something to circumvent them here, it still led me to think that the film was a dud. I was completely and utterly wrong.

In my defense, I didn’t know Angela Bassett was in it.

I don’t think that this is Pixar’s best movie, but I would not fight someone who said it was. This film is ambitious beyond almost anything the company has tried before. While all of the good Pixar films have some message behind it, this one probably hits people on the deepest level. I honestly don’t want to spoil it at all because it comes together so well that it really is more of an experience than a moral. It almost feels like a surprise until you realize the whole movie has been set up perfectly so that it comes to this point naturally. It really is the message we need in 2020, too. Just see it for yourself.

Also, if you have a deep passion, you’ll find some moments of this film amazing.

The other thing that surprised me is how many of the jokes in this film are just a step above what I usually expect from Pixar. Not that there movies don’t have good laughs, but they’re usually kid-friendly jokes or something that is just mildly amusing. Sure, sometimes you have some jokes like the Gum Jingle from Inside Out which is just a perfect encapsulation of something funny and frustrating about human existence, but usually it’s just that the Piggy Bank doesn’t know who Picasso is. This movie, though, had a number of gags that just made me laugh out loud. I had to pause the movie because of a well-timed line about Tina Fey messing with the Knicks. The fact that the film is talking about a mature topic seemed to allow for some more mature jokes and I appreciate that. There are still jokes for the kids, obviously. 

It’s not that I have anything against the Knicks, but it’s funny to watch them fail.

The voice acting and the animation are as good as you would expect. The style of the afterlife, or the beforelife as it were, is very creative and done in such a way that you likely won’t be offended no matter what your religious beliefs are. They also do a great job of intertwining the mind and spirituality, particularly in the concept of “the zone,” the place that you can reach that feels beyond yourself when you are focused on something you are passionate about.

These designs are just awesome.

Overall, this is a movie that deserves an audience. It’s a great work by a great team. 

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

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special: Everything You Want and More – Disney+ Review

Lego knows how to make things fun, and they nailed it this time.

SUMMARY 

It’s Life Day, which is like Christmas for the Wookies, and all of the characters who survived the end of Star Wars Episode IX have journeyed to Kashyyyk, the Wookie homeworld. Rey NoLastName (Helen Sadler) is training Finn (Omar Benson Miller) in the ways of the Force, but it isn’t going well. Rey discovers that there is a lost Jedi temple on the planet Kordoku. She heads off with BB-8 to seek guidance while Finn helps Chewbacca, Poe Dameron (Jake Green), and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) set up the Life Day party. Eventually, Rey finds the temple and discovers that it has a rock that allows her to travel through time and space, eventually running into the cast of the original trilogy, the sequel trilogy, and even the prequel trilogy. In the process, she might accidentally destroy the galaxy.

The Chewbacca Lego always looks wrong.

END SUMMARY

If you’ve seen The Lego Movie or the Lego Batman Movie, you probably understand that Lego films can actually be pretty good. While this film wasn’t in the same ballpark as those, it still captures the right balance between showing love for the source material and taking some huge shots at its flaws. Regardless of how big of a Star Wars fan you are, you probably have at least something about the series that you don’t like, and this film will likely give you a funny scene addressing it. Yes, that includes whether Han or Greedo shoots first, and they have multiple jokes about that. 

Admit it, you wanted to see this fight.

The actual plot of the film ends up being one of the funniest premises ever once it starts playing out. It does require a number of out-of-character moments, but since everyone is a lego character already, it really doesn’t seem inappropriate. It also allows the characters who would never be able to interact due to being from different trilogies to share the screen and it is kind of amazing. It does make you realize, though, that the events of all nine movies only take place over 67 years’ time, when you see young Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Kylo Ren all in the same few scenes. It also drives home that only a few families were responsible for almost all of the events.

We get bonus fun fight scenes on the Death Star II.

The actual jokes in the film are pretty solid. They’re kid-friendly, but they get a laugh out of you. There are a ton of jokes that work on a basic level that pay off better if you’re familiar with some of the Star Wars extended canon, as well, ranging from Shadows of the Empire to Knights of the Old Republic and more. Yes, that includes the original Star Wars Holiday special. While they don’t reference it heavily, obviously this film was designed as a better take on that event. By virtue of being half the length and not causing massive depression, this is the superior special.

If you made this joke, you know what you’re doing.

Overall, if you’ve got little kids, you should watch this with them. Or if you just like Star Wars and have an hour. Tomorrow, my Christmas gift to you is the real Star Wars Holiday Special. I regret this decision immensely.

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

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

The Mandalorian (Season 2): Finding Your Potential – Disney+ Review

After a pretty good first season, the show seems to be stepping up its game.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there were some battles among celestial bodies. Five years after the Rebellion managed to destroy the second Death Star and kill the Emperor, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) is a Mandalorian Bounty Hunter. He is hired by a client (Werner F*CKING Herzog) to secure a bounty, which is revealed to be a small child of an unnamed species. The Mandalorian betrays the client and decides to protect the child, earning him a host of enemies all over the galaxy, most notably his allies Cara Dune (Gina Carano), Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), Greef Karga (Carl Weathers), and the late Kuiil (Nick Nolte) as well as the ire of Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito).  Eventually, he is charged by his clan’s armorer (Emily Swallow) with finding a home for the Child with its kind.  All kinds of fun surprises lie in store.

One of which is Timothy Olyphant being a badass space cowboy.

END SUMMARY

When I reviewed the first season of The Mandalorian, I definitely liked it, but I admit to still feeling like they hadn’t quite started fully tapping its potential. This second season started to step up its game a bit and I really appreciate it. 

It’s tough to improve on some things, though.

First, giving the Mandalorian an actual explicit goal beyond “keep the child alive” has given him motivation that he definitely needed. For all of the badass and bravado that we get from Din Djarin, he is a fairly void character. While it’s often fine to have a character onto whom the viewer can project, and having a character who is literally faceless facilitates that well, they still need personality. I think that they’ve done a great job expanding on that without having to use clunky exposition by showing how the Mandalorian handles his current task, particularly since it forces him to interact with people that he normally wouldn’t. 

Including other Mandalorians with different opinions.

Second, while the first season gave us a taste of life in the Star Wars universe for the more normal people, the second season has expanded on that both geographically and politically. It’s shown us monsters on a scale that really had only been alluded to before now. There are extra cultural touches to every planet and hazards that you wouldn’t normally consider for this kind of fantasy universe. It has the effect of giving us more of a frontier element to the series to complement its Western elements. Also, we start to get an idea of why, exactly, the new Republic is going to be put in danger again in The Force Awakens, due to their own incompetence. It turns out that the Empire, while it suppressed everyone through force and violence, did actually at least keep some of the lawlessness on the outer planets, which the Republic completely ignored, in check.

A creature that can swallow buildings is just the tip of the monster iceberg.

Third, they’ve been tying the show into the existing Star Wars mythos in JUST the right way. It was a big deal at the end of the first season to introduce the Darksaber, but this season has reintroduced multiple characters from other Star Wars properties. The key, though, is that none of the references or introductions have required the viewer to know the backstory. If you are familiar with it, then you get more out of the experience, but people I know who have never seen anything other than the films who have been enjoying the series thoroughly.

This shot contains no spoilers. The person he’s hunting would be a big one.

Overall, just a great step-up by Disney+ and I am hoping they keep it going.

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

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Halloweentown: It’s Cute, It’s Fun, and It’s Great for Families – Disney + Review / 13 Reviews of Halloween

This movie is the ultimate tribute to Halloween and a fun family story combined into one.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Marnie Piper (Kimberly J. Brown) is a 13-year-old who is obsessed with the occult despite the fact that her mother, Gwen (Judith Hoag), has banned Halloween in their house. Marnie’s younger brother, Dylan (Joey Zimmerman), tends to side with their mother, while her younger sister, Sophie (Emily Roeske), tends to side with Marnie. On Halloween, Marnie’s grandmother, Agatha Cromwell (Debbie “Singing in the Rain” Reynolds), visits. Marnie spies on her mother and grandmother talking and finds out that her grandmother is actually a witch from another world called “Halloweentown” which is populated by all of the monsters we associate with the holiday. Something evil is attacking the town and Agatha needs another witch to help her. Gwen refuses, so Marnie and her siblings follow their grandmother to Halloweentown. They quickly meet some of the residents, including warlock Mayor Kalabar (Robin Thomas), skeleton cabbie Benny (Rino Romano), and local bad boy Luke (Phillip Van Dyke). Together, the Cromwell/Pipers have to figure out who is trying to take over Halloweentown and stop them. 

This was before Pumpkin Spice Lattes threatened the holiday pumpkin surplus.

END SUMMARY

If you’re in my age range, you probably remember this movie from when it first came out. It was one of the better Disney Channel original movies from the window in the mid-90s to mid-00s when those were a big deal. It’s just the right level of campy-scary for a Disney film. It’s never going to have anyone crying or shaking, particularly since there aren’t any jump scares and the soundtrack is consistently playful and upbeat, but it does have some dark moments involving the villain when they finally reveal themselves. Despite the fact that the world of Halloweentown is filled with monsters, they all intentionally look like cheap holiday masks, so they’re never much more than colorful characters. It helps that a running gag in the film is that the monsters act almost exactly like normal people, doing things like yoga or bowling or running an ice cream shop, only doing so while having extra eyes or horns. 

Plus they have pumpkin bowling balls.

The performances in the movie are pretty solid for a Disney made-for-TV film. Debbie Reynolds has been charming and funny since the 1950s and having her play a slightly kookie but loving grandmother works out perfectly. It helps that they actually give her some fun stuff to do and say, including things like having a microwave which can duplicate the effects of the Weird Sisters from Macbeth, spitefully putting chicken wings back on the chicken, or having a Mary Poppins-esque a bag of holding. She always comes off as sincere and it helps sell the goofy premise. Both Reynolds and the kids consistently seem to be having fun, which adds to the effect. Also, the kids are a step above the usual level of bad acting that you’d find in a television film, particularly Kimberly J. Brown as Marnie and Joey Zimmerman as Dylan. I think that’s probably why they brought her back for two sequels and him for all three. 

It gets a little weird.

Mostly, though, the movie is just fun. It captures the spirit of Halloween that we all love when we’re younger. It’s not about scares as much as it’s just about enjoying the unusual and the unique. It isn’t super complicated or deep, although there is a nice message about not trying to make major decisions for your teenage children without their knowledge or consent. 

And it’ll make you invested in a $50 light prop.

Overall, it’s just a great film to put on during the holiday. 

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

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad: Two Enchanting Tales Make One Great Film – 13 Reviews of Halloween/Disney +

This movie is 71 years old and still holds up.

SUMMARY

The film is two different stories with two different narrators. The first, “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame, is narrated by Basil Rathbone, the British actor most famous for playing Sherlock Holmes. The second, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving, is narrated by Bing Crosby. 

I still want them to adapt the Canterbury Tales.

“The Wind in the Willows” follows, loosely, the same plot as the book. J. Thaddeus Toad (Eric Blore) is a wealthy landowner who tends to get caught up in fads and act recklessly to the point that he is constantly on the verge of bankruptcy. His friends are Angus MacBadger (Campbell Grant), who looks over his finances, Ratty (Claude Allister), a river rat, and Moley (Colin Campbell), a meek mole. It turns out that Toad has been obsessed with traveling carts and has been destroying much of the countryside with his horse, Cyril (J. Pat O’Malley). The pair eventually get wrecked by a motor car, leading toad to become obsessed with automobiles. To stop Toad from spending more money or being more reckless, Ratty and Moley lock him inside Toad Hall, his mansion, but Toad escapes and supposedly steals a car. At the trial, Cyril testifies that Toad had traded Toad Hall to a gang of weasels for the car and that Mr. Winky (Ollie Wallace), a barman, had witnessed it. However, Winky testifies against Toad, convicting him. Toad escapes from jail and, together with his three friends, steals the deed to Toad Hall back from Winky, who is revealed to have lied in order to keep the house. 

They’re an eclectic bunch.

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” similarly, follows the story pretty well, but with some adaptational changes. Ichabod Crane (Bing Crosby) is the new school master of Sleepy Hollow, New York. He mostly gets along well with the townspeople, despite him secretly being a manipulative and opportunistic glutton. However, he falls in love with Katrina van Tassel, the beautiful daughter of the wealthy Baltus van Tassel, and draws the ire of Katrina’s sweetheart Brom Bones. While Brom is strong and aggressive, Ichabod is smart and quick, often avoiding the bigger man’s attempts to deter him. The two attend a Halloween party and Ichabod attempts to woo Katrina with his dancing and sophistication, but Brom concocts a plan. He tells a vivid story of the Headless Horseman, a ghost who rides through the Hollow to take heads, terrifying Ichabod. On the way home, Ichabod is chased by the Headless Horseman and never seen again. Brom and Katrina marry soon after.

That guy knows how to eat at a party.

END SUMMARY

When I think about my favorite Disney movies, I somehow always overlook this film, but it really is an underrated work of the studio. Disney originally was going to just do an adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, but due to WWII and some financial trouble, Walt Disney himself ended up shelving it, thinking it wasn’t good enough to make money. Eventually, a new team took on the project and it was scaled back to half of a movie and paired with the Legend of Sleepy Hollow to make a feature-length film. Despite the fact that the two films have completely different genres, styles, and themes, or perhaps because of that disparity, each of them stands out brighter than they would have alone. 

They do both have great chase sequences.

Wind in the Willows is animated in the traditional Disney style like Bambi, Dumbo, or The Jungle Book. It’s pretty light in tone, although the scenes of Toad being imprisoned and escaping are darker than I remember. Still, Toad’s enthusiasm during the chase and his unwillingness to be too scared of the police while fleeing from them does keep it fairly upbeat. The scene of them attacking the weasels and Winky at Toad Hall might be one of the Disney sequences that put the characters in the most immediate mortal peril, but it’s done in such a slapstick fashion that you hardly think about it. The short is entertaining and contains both one of my favorite songs from any Disney film (below) and also my favorite lawyer joke perhaps ever. During Cyril’s testimony, the prosecutor is cross-examining him and the following exchange happens:

Prosecutor: … Then how did he get the motorcar?

Cyril: The only way a gentleman gets anything: The honest way.

Prosecutor: And what is the honest way?

Cyril: Ha-ha, I thought you wouldn’t know that one, guvnor.

Perfect.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, on the other hand, is done mostly in watercolors and resembles a painting of rural New England from the time period. While the characters are still animated in the Disney style with cartoonish exaggerations of the features, particularly on Ichabod. While it’s dark in tone, it still starts off pretty light. The only voice, aside from the chorus, is Bing Crosby, which showcases his charming voice and naturally amiable narration. However, that really only sets you up for his total absence from the last act, when all you have is the haunting sounds, scary music, and the headless horseman delivering a chilling laugh. The second story does also include more subtle elements than the first. Like the fact that Katrina is using Ichabod just to make Brom jealous, or that Brom Bones’s horse is almost certainly the horse that the Headless Horseman is riding. It implies that, perhaps, the entire ending was just a man trying to get rid of a rival. 

One of the best villains with only like 5 minutes of screen time.

Overall, just a great film. Give it a try.

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

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.