Friends: “The One With All The Thanksgivings” – HBO Max Thanksgiving Special

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving surrounded by Friends.

SUMMARY

Ross (David Schwimmer) complains that he is getting divorced and evicted and therefore having the worst Thanksgiving ever. Chandler (Matthew Perry) counters that his parents announced they were getting divorced on Thanksgiving when he was a kid. Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) says that she has the worst Thanksgiving story, but when pressed she tells a tale of her losing an arm in the Civil War, revealing that she’s talking about a past life. Joey (Matt LeBlanc) doesn’t reveal his own worst Thanksgiving, instead having Phoebe reveal that Joey once got his head stuck in a turkey when he tried to scare Chandler. Monica (Courteney Cox), who needs the turkey, works with Phoebe to get it off, but they do end up scaring Chandler.

It was a thoughtful turkey prank, as you can see.

Monica tells the story of her worst Thanksgiving, when she and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) were High School Seniors and Chandler and Ross came to visit from college. Monica had a crush on Chandler, but overheard him calling her fat, hurting her feelings. In the present, Chandler apologizes and Monica accepts, only for Rachel to reveal that to not be the worst Thanksgiving Monica had. Instead, she reveals that Monica lost weight just so she could have a chance to seduce Chandler and humiliate him for revenge. In the process of trying to act sexy with a knife, she cuts off Chandler’s toe. To make matters worse, she forgets to bring the toe to the hospital, leaving Chandler with only 9 tootsies. In the present, Chandler becomes angry at Monica, so Monica comes over to his apartment wearing a turkey on her head. She adds a fez, glasses, and a funny dance, leading Chandler to inadvertently admit he loves her for the first time. 

Imagine losing a toe… in that outfit.

END SUMMARY

In some ways this is the anti-Thanksgiving special because it’s about people focusing on their worst experiences as opposed to on the traditional themes of family, togetherness, or overeating. It also has everyone bringing up all of the bad experiences which can happen when you are dealing with loved ones over the holidays, including the revelations of divorces or resentment. However, it also ends with one of the most memorable moments in the show’s entire run and it stands out all the more because it’s contrasted by the other lousy memories. Maybe that’s part of the point of the episode and the holiday: It allows us to view the rest of the year and be thankful that all of the crappy things that happened to us are already over. In this, the Year of our clearly-very-pissed-off Lord 2020, it seems only appropriate to spend this holiday recognizing that we have at least survived the past year… so far. Hard to believe the year that started with massive wildfires on three continents and a possible war with Iran somehow did not get better from there.

Although our Friendsgivings are more digital this year.

This episode is one of the more prominent flashback episodes of Friends and has possibly the best gimmick ever with showing Chandler and Ross trying to be cool in the 1980s. In the first flashback, Chandler has an A Flock of Seagulls haircut, a thing that DID actually exist, kids. Fun fact: Mike Score, the guy who had the now-infamous hairstyle, was a hairdresser. The person who did Chandler’s hair was definitely not. In an even more deep-cut, the episode takes place in 1987, the year after A Flock of Seagulls dissolved. When we see Ross and Chandler a year later, in 1988, they’re dressed like Crockett and Tubbs from Miami Vice, which was at least still airing at the time. However, they both still look completely ridiculous in their Italian sports coats over t-shirts. We also get a flashback to Rachel before her nose job and Monica before she lost a lot of weight, but those had been done before and, honestly, don’t age great.

Ross went with a pornstache which also doesn’t age well.

The most memorable part of this episode is likely still the image of Monica dancing with a turkey on her head, but it’s almost overshadowed by the absolute cuteness of Chandler admitting his love to her. It’s a thing that you may have done in a relationship, where you just have that moment that perfectly encapsulates what you find amazing about the other person and you express your feelings completely naturally.

That’s how you get the ratings, baby.

Overall, I still love this episode and I look forward to it every Thanksgiving. 

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.

Young Justice: Outsiders (Season 3) : A Bit Too Much For a Season – HBO Max Review

Since DC Universe folded, I can finally see how Young Justice continued.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Two years after the events of Season Two, trafficking in metahumans (people with superpowers) has started to expand beyond just the Earth. The Justice League, unfortunately, is now under the control of the United Nations and their Secretary General, Lex Luthor (Mark Rolston). Finding the organization essentially depowered, Batman and Green Arrow (Bruce Greenwood and Alan Tudyk) resign along with all of their associates, aiming to go back to vigilantism. At the same time, Superboy, Tigress, Miss Martian, and Nightwing (Nolan North, Stephanie Lemelin, Danica McKellar, and Jesse McCartney) restart their covert team and infiltrate the country of Markovia, leading them to find two new superheroes in Prince Brion (Troy Baker) and the mysterious Halo (Zehra Fazal).  At the same time, the supervillain group The Light is enacting another plan to take over the world while the evil Darkseid (Michael-Leon Wooley) plots to take over the universe. 

We eventually get a team called the Outsiders, after a while.

END SUMMARY

So, while I appreciated the first two seasons of Young Justice for being very broad series depicting a large-scale DC comics universe, I appreciated that most of the episodes actually felt fairly self-contained and had a fairly focused main cast. This season threw that out the window. There are so many characters and plotlines going on and characters jumping between them that, by the start of the second half, there are three different superhero teams containing members of the original lineup, plus two different villain groups, plus a number of episode-based groups, plus a number of extras. A lot of the time, you just have to accept things like “this is a new female Green Arrow” or an extra Green Lantern and remember to look it up later. 

So. Many. Characters. And these are just the famous ones.

The number of plot threads can be a bit overwhelming because there are a lot of villains who are all attempting various plots in various ways and sometimes the heroes end up thwarting one plot as part of attempting to thwart an entirely separate one. I admit that it’s probably more accurate to how the DC universe works when you take all of the different comics into account, but it does sometimes make it a little harder to keep track of who started what and who is behind which evil deed. It doesn’t help that a lot of the plot threads kind of end up resolving in ways that just indicate they’re going to be continued in Season 4. I will admit that I appreciate the show’s ambition, I just worry that it limits the audience a bit.

There’s a big thing about Black Lightning being the only one with integrity.

The voice acting is amazing. It contains a number of seasoned voice actors, including some people who voice the characters in multiple incarnations (notably Greg Cipes, who voices Beast Boy, also plays him in Teen Titans). Sometimes they use this heavily to their advantage, such as having an episode that takes place in a Teen Titans Go! version of the Doom Patrol which uses the voice actors from Teen Titans. Many play multiple characters and you would have difficulty telling if it wasn’t made explicit. The animation is the same dark style as the first two seasons, but they have a number of more colorful characters in this season and it helps to make it seem a little less emo.

Like Halo, who literally glows.

Overall, if you liked the first two seasons, you should probably watch this one. Thankfully, it’s no longer on DC Universe so you can actually probably find someone with an HBO Max subscription to borrow. 

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.

Raised by Wolves: Ridley Scott Loves Milky Androids – HBO Max Review

Seriously, Ridley Scott loves reusing ideas.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s the 22nd Century and Earth has been destroyed by war between a cult-like religion and the atheists. Two androids, Mother and Father (Amanda Collin and Abubakar Salim), escape to planet Kepler-22b in order to raise a new collection of humans specifically as science-based atheists. They use Mother as an incubator and birth a number of frozen embryos into children. One by one the children die from illness until only one, Campion (Winta McGrath), survives. However, it turns out that the androids weren’t the only ones to escape the Earth. They are soon discovered by a group of refugees from the religious faction. Soon, Mother manages to bring several of the religious children (Jordan Loughran, Felix Jamieson, Ethan Hazzard, Aasiya Shah, Ivy Wong) to the planet, continuing the conflict between the two factions. 

No, I’m not sure how the colony was supposed to work with so few people.

END SUMMARY

This season is 10 episodes long and feels, at most, like the first act of the story. It almost feels like Lost in the way that the show keeps adding mysteries and elements without really giving us much in the way of explanation. At the end of the first season, the last episode alone gave us like five different new mysteries, including in the last shot. It’s a bit frustrating for a streaming show to do this kind of thing, particularly on this scale and particularly since the second season didn’t get picked up until after the show had debuted.

And it feels like they pitched a spin-off midway through.

In counter to this, I will say that the acting and the visuals are amazing. Amanda Collin’s portrayal of Mother is one of the most distinct performances I’ve seen in a while. She is an android who is discovering her own emotions despite not believing herself really capable of true humanity. She is capable of massive amounts of compassion and dispassionate violence. As the series goes on she keep discovering more and more about herself and every time Collin nails the revelation. All of the child actors give performances beyond their years, whether it’s McGrath as the kid who has experienced massive loss and lived as the only person on a planet or Loughran as the child who has been abused to the point that she can no longer have her mandated faith. Despite the situation being so removed from reality, they all come across as believable. Niamh Algar and Travis Fimmel, who play the parents of one of the abducted children, undergo a wide variety of character changes and would be very difficult for many actors, but they do a great job throughout the show.

The movie craps on both religion and atheism, but mostly religion.

As for the visuals, the shots of Kepler-22b are all beautiful. Ridley Scott has always had an innate talent for landscapes and wide shots that truly earn him the superlative “visionary” and this show is no exception. The aesthetics of everything from the outfits to the sets to the sci-fi characteristics are all striking. Scott retains his previous love of androids who have a milky substance instead of blood, which continues to make the blood that we do see even more pronounced. 

The man loves milky androids.

Overall, I still ended the season a little disappointed, but if you are a big fan of Scott’s work, then you’ll probably enjoy the ride enough to merit the investment. 

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.

Lovecraft Country: Or How To Love a Work and Hate Its Author at Once – HBO Max Review

HBO brings us a show about the horrors of racism and also monsters.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Atticus “Tic” Freeman (Jonathan Majors) is a Korean War vet in 1955 who discovers his father Montrose (Michael K. Williams) is missing. Atticus, his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance), and his friend Letitia “Leti” Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) set off to find Montrose in the town of Ardham, Massachusetts, the town that H.P. Lovecraft wrote as “Arkham.” They deal with a group of racist law enforcement officers and are going to be killed until the group encounters a herd of monsters. They discover that the town of Ardham is tied up in a secret society and a woman named Christina Braithwhite (Abbey Lee). Soon, Tic and Leti’s fate are tied up in the supernatural, as are the fates of Leti’s sister Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku), Tic’s aunt Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis), Hippolyta’s daughter Diana (Jada Harris), and Tic’s former lover Ji-Ah (Jamie Chung). 

It’s not a pleasant story.

END SUMMARY

H.P. Lovecraft was, as I have stated in reviews of other adaptations of his work, a horrible racist. Not in the sense of “oh, it was the 1920s and everyone was racist,” but in the sense of people in the 1920s kept asking him to tone down his opinions on black people. Apologists will try to say his views were common, but not many people have literally published poems about the fact that black people are not human, just sin-filled beasts. Now, that doesn’t mean that he didn’t also create some of the most influential horror ideas of the 20th century, it just means that sometimes you have to appreciate the work of a person while also giving that person the finger for their general shittiness. Like how Roman Polanski should have gone to prison, but Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown were amazing. 

There’s a lot of hoods and robes in Lovecraft and I think that’s probably a warning sign.

This show, though, goes a step further by tying up the concepts and monsters from the Lovecraft Mythos directly with the horror of racism. It depicts the terrible treatment of black people by many of the white people throughout America, including things like the Tulsa massacre of 1921 and “sundown towns,” or places that ordered black people to leave the area after dark (usually maintained through violence even after such things became illegal), making you feel the helplessness and anger of the characters as they’re subject to it. Then, it usually adds in a layer of general horror, like facing down nigh-invincible monsters or unstoppable racial stereotypes brought to life, then adds a level of cosmic horror by making it apparent that all of humanity is but a blink in the eye of the universe. However, we see black people overcoming the horror, whether slaying the monster or traveling through time itself to take hold of their own infinite destinies, something that the protagonists in Lovecraft are almost never able to do. It’s almost as if the horror is something they’ve learned to overcome, unlike Lovecraft’s characters. 

So much cool imagery.

The performances are excellent, including both the main and supporting characters. Jurnee Smollett’s role as Letitia is particularly strong, having to bounce between sidekick, love interest, and heroine, as the story requires, while still being the same character. Jonathan Majors, while always having Atticus as the main protagonist, has to play him trying to figure out the rules of the new world into which he has been thrust and manages to keep him likable even when the plot might not. Aunjanue Ellis gets some of the more interesting character moments in the series, which truly allow her to showcase a wide number of her talents. Abbey Lee, while playing a character whose actions seem mostly inscrutable for much of the series, does a good job being the seemingly-less-antagonistic antagonist. 

It helps that she’s the whitest white person ever.

The direction of the show is superb, as is the cinematography. Possibly the only weakness of the show was that it, like Lovecraft, doesn’t always keep the rules of its universe consistent. Then again, maybe that’s part of the point and I just didn’t absorb it as fully as I would have liked. I will say that the writing is at its strongest when dealing with combining the elements of supernatural horror and historical horror, but it seems to be at its weakest when trying to weave all of the plot threads together. The ending seemed a bit off, but maybe that will all correct itself in the next season (which it greatly deserves).

Although, it gave us two of the most horrifying monsters in recent years.

Overall, a great show that everyone should watch.

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.

Glitter: There’s No Razzle, There’s No Dazzle, There’s Barely Vajazzle – HBOMAX Review (Day 16)

I take a look at Mariah Carey’s attempt at feature film stardom.

SUMMARY

Billie Frank (Mariah Carey) is the daughter of a 70s nightclub singer who gets put in a foster home after her mom lost her job and burned down their house with a cigarette. She grows up with her friends Louise (Da Brat) and Roxanne (Tia Texada), eventually becoming backup singers and dancers in 1983 for producer Timothy Walker’s (Terrence Howard) new project Sylk (Padma Lakshmi). Due to Sylk’s lack of talent, Timothy uses Billie as the lead vocals on Sylk’s tracks. Soon after, at a nightclub, DJ Julian “Dice” Black (Max Beesley) plays Sylk’s new track, but, when Sylk insults Billie, Billie reveals that she’s the actual singer behind the song. This leads Dice to want to sign her. He approaches Timothy, who agrees to a price of $100,000 for the three girls’ contracts. 

Yep, it’s the… 80s or 90s.

Billie and Dice start working on songs and quickly get Billie a contract with a major label. They also start sleeping with each other, then move in together after her first song becomes a hit. After a few months, Dice refuses to pay Timothy the agreed-upon $100,000, leading Timothy to threaten Billie. Dice then gets arrested for attacking Timothy at his studio and starts to become a jerk as Billie becomes more popular, leading Billie to break up with him. Billie collaborates with another artist, Rafael (Eric Benét), and produces another hit. She starts writing another song at the same time that Dice does. When she goes to his apartment while he’s out, she realizes the song she’s writing goes perfectly with his melody. She kisses his music sheet before leaving to sing her big performance at Madison Square Garden. Dice returns home and sees the lipstick, giving him hope that they can work it out. However, while heading to the concert, Timothy shoots Dice and kills him. Billie finds out right before her concert and performs the song she wrote. She also finds a message from Dice saying he loved her and telling her where her mother was. 

END SUMMARY

This was selected at random from the IMDB bottom 100, where it’s listed as number 21. You’d think I’d be happy that there were 20 lower-rated movies on the list, but, having seen many of the bottom 20, I can say that at least most of those films are so bad that they’re usually unintentionally hilarious. This movie wasn’t so bad, it’s good; this movie was so bad, it was stunning. When a film is so bad that it’s good, it’s because someone put a lot of effort into an idea without any kind of talent or knowledge of how to make the idea work. This film does not ever give me the feeling that effort was involved. 

The person dropping glitter was putting in effort, I guess.

Part of it is that this movie seems only interested in hitting specific generic points in the plot, not of making us care about the characters or giving them any kind of personality. It happens right from the beginning and never really deviates. The film starts with a young Billie singing in a club in the 1970s along with her mom. The mom gets fired and goes to Billie’s dad for money, only for him to want nothing to do with Billie. Then her mom falls asleep with a cigarette and burns the house down, leading Billie to go to Foster care, where she meets her future friends. Despite how much of this could easily have been used for emotional development or character development, it feels painfully hollow. It’s not just that the dialogue is almost entirely pointless exposition, it’s that every single scene is short and just trying to hit a beat so they can move on. There’s a poem by Stephen Dobyns that begins “Each thing I do I rush through so I can do something else.” I feel like Vondie Curtis Hall, the director, considered that the motto of shooting this. The movie makes you feel like it just wants to get itself over, and the audience is going to feel likewise. 

They barely go over the part where Dice was on Sprockets.

The dialogue in this movie isn’t just bad, it’s “I forced a bot to watch 10,000 hours of college one-man shows” level incoherent and cliche-laden. They don’t try to be clever, they just say the subtext out loud, ranging from Sylk telling a photographer “they’re just backup, they don’t matter” as a way to establish she’s a diva to a post-coital Billie saying “I don’t ever do this.” There is just absolutely no subtlety to be found in the film.

From my point of view the Jedi are evil!!!

It doesn’t help that only three people in this movie seem to have any ability to act: Terrence Howard, Da Brat, and Tia Texada. They actually try to give some depth or gravitas or even humor to the terrible lines they’re delivering. Of course, they’re also the three characters that have the least screen-time, making sure that we get plenty of time to hear Max Beesely deliver some cliched tripe in what he thinks is an American accent. Mariah Carey would get a pass for her lackluster performance due to not being an actress if I hadn’t seen other singers manage to bridge the gap in the past. What’s even more shocking is that the two have absolutely no chemistry together, making it even more surprising when, less than five minutes after she’s assuring her friends that she’s only going to a business dinner with him, and less than three minutes after he says it’s not a date, he asks her up to his place. One brief playing of the Marimba later (yeah, that’s his smooth move), and they’re having brief off-screen sex. They’re then implied to be extremely happy until he suddenly goes from zero to jackass in time for the third act conflict, but really, we don’t see anything charming between the two. 

He approaches his own girlfriend in his own house like he’s stalking her.

It doesn’t help that the tragic ending of the movie is just so stupid. Throughout the entire film, Timothy is shown to be hounding Dice for his money, but… he’s not actually in the wrong. Dice approaches Timothy with both parties knowing that Billie is the real talent. Because of this, Timothy requires the high price of $100,000 to get Billie out of her contract. Later, Dice refuses to pay anything to Timothy because he said the deal was bull. But… he agreed to it. And he’s since made a fortune off of Billie. Also, Dice is consistently shown to be one of, if not the, most famous DJs in the country and he lives in a huge 2-3 story loft in downtown Manhattan. He could easily have paid the money BEFORE Billie got huge, but he refuses to even after Timothy starts to confront Billie over it. Instead, Dice tries to attack him physically.  It’s A) insane that Timothy doesn’t just sue him and B) insane that Dice doesn’t just pay him the money, or at least SOME money, that he promised him. 

Terrence Howard wants his money. Ask Iron Man 2. (We’re better off with Cheadle!)

Overall, this movie isn’t just bad, this movie makes Gigli look good. At least that film was trying something different. This one is just trying the same “rags to riches” story without doing anything new. I will say that it probably suffered because it was released 10 days after 9/11, but nothing could have saved this film. 

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.

2001: A Space Odyssey: It’s a Bigger Trip than Space – HBO Max Review (Day 12)

I take a look at one of the greatest movies of all time by one of the greatest directors.

SUMMARY

In prehistoric Africa, we see two tribes of warring early hominids. After an alien monolith lands on Earth, one of the tribes approaches it and, apparently influenced by it, discovers tool use, attacking their opponents with a bone. The film then shifts to the year 2000 where Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester) travels to Clavius Base, which is located on the Moon. When he arrives, it’s revealed that the US forces there have recently uncovered another monolith, similar to the one in the beginning. When it’s exposed to sunlight, it emits a radio signal. 

Also Sprach Zarathustra plays and you’ll forever associate it with this scene.

Eighteen months later, the US Spacecraft Discovery One is heading for Jupiter. Pilots David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) stay awake the whole trip while three scientists are in suspended animation. Their only company is the onboard computer HAL 9000 (Douglas Rain), which has a limited human personality. During the trip, HAL informs the two that an antenna device was going to fail. They retrieve it in an ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA) pod, but the device appears to be working fine. When Mission Control claims that their own computer (another HAL 9000) disagrees with HAL, HAL suggests that the error is from the humans, not him. Concerned that something is wrong with HAL, Poole and Bowman try to converse outside of its sensors, but HAL reads their lips. 

Why did you teach a computer to read lips?

When Poole is on a spacewalk, HAL sets him adrift in space, killing him. Bowman tries to rescue him, but while he’s outside, HAL kills the suspended scientists. When Bowman tries to get back inside, HAL refuses, telling Bowman that his presence jeopardizes the mission. Bowman manually re-enters and deactivates HAL. After he succeeds, Bowman discovers that the mission was to reach the target of the Monolith’s radio signal. At Jupiter, Bowman finds a third monolith. When he tries to touch it, he is pulled through a wormhole and sees himself living a lifetime in a fancy room before being transformed into a giant fetus enclosed in light. 

END SUMMARY

I wish I could say that I picked this film, but since the category was just “AFI Top 100 Film,” I just used a random number generator. Thanks to the podcast Unspooled, I’d watched all of the AFI Top 100 in the last two years, so there were only a few that I would have been unhappy with. However, this is actually one of my favorite films on that list. I’ve seen it a dozen times, read the book, and even read some of the sequels (they aren’t good), and each time I watch this movie I think it’s more impressive. 

I mean, it makes being an astronaut seem even cooler.

This film came out in 1968, but you would hardly believe that to watch it now. Aside from a handful of minor sound and image quality issues due to the available equipment, which have probably been resolved on one of the special editions that have come out since, this movie could have come out in the 1980s or early 1990s and no one would have known the difference. The practical effects of the movie hold up remarkably well and the predictions about future technology, while not quite accurate in terms of timeline, are much closer than many contemporary films. Noticeably, this film contains the first image of a tablet computer, to the point that it was used to defeat a claim to the entire idea before the US Patent and Trademark Office by Apple. We also see a computer playing chess, one of the first depictions of a video game. Because of these predictions, most of the film succeeds in bridging the generation gap between the ‘60s and the present, even though the movie supposedly takes place almost 20 years ago.

The declining quality of airline food was also accurate.

The cinematography is legendary, with the shot of a bone thrown in the air by an early hominid dissolving into an orbiting military satellite being considered one of the most important match cuts in film history. In only a few seconds, the film switches the time period but also connects the use of a bone tool with the scientific development that takes us to futuristic space equipment and, by associating it with a weapon, we also see that humanity is still largely focused on destroying each other. The visual effects are similarly outstanding. The shots on the spaceship and the moon were so good that it led people to believe that Kubrick was involved in faking the moon landing. Granted, that is impossible for a number of reasons, but it’s still a hell of an accomplishment to be so realistic that people think you’d be able to fake a spectacle in front of the entire world. The rotating sets and the images of the astronauts floating are among the best practical effects on film. 

Behold, all of humanity.

HAL is one of the greatest villains ever because he’s a computer who is going insane. We associate computers with being purely logical, but it’s revealed that that same logic is actually what drives HAL insane. In the book, HAL goes crazy because he is simultaneously ordered to operate without any concealment or distortion, but is also ordered to hide the purpose of the mission from Bowman and Poole. Having to lie to the crew makes HAL lose track of how logic works. In the film, it’s more ambiguous, but it’s either the issue with having to lie or that HAL is found to be wrong about the antenna issue and cannot deal with the reality that he can be fallible. 

Behold the face of evil.

The end of the film is deliberately ambiguous (as opposed to the book), but I have always believed that Bowman becoming the Star Child is the final stage in humanity’s evolution. The first stage was from the initial monolith when humans first developed tools which led to all modern technology. The second, on the moon, was designed to be an indicator that humanity had finally decided to journey into space, a sign that we were no longer limited to Earth. The third, located on Jupiter, was designed to move humanity past the need for technology or time itself, as we become beings of pure energy. Bowman has been reborn beyond human limitations.

Behold, the new mankind.

Overall, this movie just needs to be seen. If you haven’t, please, do yourself a favor and watch it. 

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.

Alien: Still Terrifying after 40 years – HBO Max Review (Day 8)

I take a look at a film that, surprisingly, passes the Bechdel Test.

SUMMARY

There’s an alien. Or maybe the humans are the aliens, since they’re on another planet. But there’s more than one human, so the alien is probably the alien.

ACTUAL SUMMARY

In the future, the spaceship Nostromo is on a return trip to Earth when the ship’s AI, Mother (Helen Horton), detects a distress signal on the moon LV-426. The computer awakens the seven crew members: Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Executive Officer Kane (John Hurt), Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Science Officer Ash (Ian Holm), Navigator Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), and Engineers Parker and Brett (Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton). Weyland-Yutani (here Weylan-Yutani), the company that owns the Nostromo, has a policy to investigate any distress signal. They land on the moon and discover that the signal comes from a broken-down alien ship. Dallas, Kane, and Lambert head to investigate. Ripley deciphers the message enough to determine it’s a warning, but can’t tell any of the three due to interference. 

You can tell they’re astronauts because they have space-undies.

Kane discovers a chamber filled with hundreds of eggs and is attacked by a creature which hugs his face. They probably call it a visage-grabber. Dallas and Lambert take Kane back to the Nostromo, but Ripley refuses to let them back inside. Ash overrides her and tries to remove the creature from Kane’s face, discovering its blood is a powerful acid. The creature later detaches from Kane on its own and dies, leaving Kane seemingly unharmed… until a separate monster bursts out of his chest. The small monster escapes into the ship. The crew try to find it but fail, until the now human-sized creature attacks Brett and kills him. They realize that the creature must be living in the air ducts. Dallas goes in to try and drive the alien to the airlock, but is ambushed by the monster. Lambert wants to abandon ship but Ripley says that the escape shuttle can’t support all of the remaining crew members. She takes charge and sets about trying to flush the alien out of the ship.

Kane is not feeling great at this point.

While dealing with Mother, Ripley finds out that there’s a secret order for Ash to bring the alien back alive and that the crew is now expendable. Ash attempts to kill her and is revealed to be an android when Parker attacks him. Ash’s head is reactivated and he acknowledges that he had been assigned to protect the creature. Now that there are only three people, the remaining crew can survive on the shuttle, so they decide to self-destruct the Nostromo. As Parker and Lambert try to gather supplies, they’re both killed by the alien. Ripley tries to get to the shuttle with her cat Jones, but the alien blocks her path. She tries to abort the self-destruct, but fails, and she barely makes it onto the shuttle. As Ripley tries to go into stasis, she sees the alien is on the shuttle. She puts on a space suit and manipulates it with gas sprays until she blows it out of an airlock. The alien holds onto the engine and Ripley activates the burners to destroy it. She and Jones go into stasis while she enters her final log. 

END SUMMARY

The prompt for this was suggested as “A movie that passes the Bechdel Test.” For those who haven’t heard of that before, the test was created by Alison Bechdel in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For.” It was a rule proposed by a woman in the strip that the only movies that she sees must satisfy three requirements: 

  1. The film must have two women in it.
  2. The women must talk to each other.
  3. They have to talk about something that isn’t a man.

Despite how low this bar is, studies show that fewer than one in three Hollywood films can meet it. I decided to pick a movie that people probably wouldn’t think of as passing the Bechdel Test… only for me to realize when writing this that Alien was, in fact, the example Alison Bechdel used in the comic strip. Oh, well, any excuse to rewatch this movie is a good one.

Lambert and Ridley talk about more than that.

While I don’t usually do content warnings, because if you saw the movie you clearly know what kind of stuff will be discussed, I should warn you that a bit of this review will address sexual assault. You’ve been warned.

Part of what makes this film great is how it subverts the sci-fi and horror tropes of the 1960s and ‘70s. A big one is that none of the women in the movie are made into sex objects. Instead, the closest thing we have is Kane being attacked by the facehugger. Ridley Scott and writer Dan O’Bannon have never been particularly shy about saying that the film heavily tries to attack men with sexuality. Kane has a phallic rod shoved down his throat, is impregnated, and gives birth all non-consensually. In short, this is a film in which a man has to deal with the kind of sexual victimization that women usually had to deal with. Additionally, the alien was famously designed by H.R. Giger, an artist who specializes in terrifying sexual images. Its head is phallic and its tongue shoots out to attack its prey with another mouth. Freud would have a field day with this film. The “Director’s Cut” goes even further, showing that the alien, rather than killing Brett and Dallas, has instead abducted them and is turning them into eggs, apparently continuing the life cycle by more forced birth. This movie has a lot of rape undertones aimed at men, is what I’m saying. However, they’re not the sole victims, as Lambert’s death, while offscreen, is preceded by an image of the alien’s bladed tail rising between her legs, but maybe I’m reading too much into that one.

I’ve had at least one woman describe giving birth with this scene.

The alien is one of the most instantly iconic horror movie monsters. While fans have adopted the name “Xenomorph,” a term used in the sequel to denote any alien organism, the creature is not named in this movie. It’s best described as distinctly humanoid but never approaching human. Unlike most movie monsters at that point which usually resembled a combination of animal traits, it was intended to have a biomechanical appearance that blends into the spaceship. It is capable of being almost unnaturally still, something which allows it to be in the background of shots for long periods of time without being noticed by either the characters or the audience. It’s probably most memorable for its face. It doesn’t have any eyes, but has a large mouth which contains a second smaller mouth attached to the tip of its tongue. It tends to attack by penetrating its victims with the tongue, often through the head, similar to how cattle are killed by a captive bolt gun (featured in No Country for Old Men). Also, it bleeds acid, so attempting to hurt it, particularly on a spaceship where it can bleed through the hull, will almost certainly guarantee your death. Everything about it is designed to be deadly and unnerving. Here’s the first time it’s on screen:

Anyone who has read this blog has probably heard me defend Ellen Ripley as not only the greatest female action hero, but the best action hero period. I listed her as the most bad-ass mother in film (tied with Sarah Connor from the Terminator franchise), but a lot of her more notably action-oriented accomplishments are from the second Alien film. However, in both movies, Ripley’s greatest strength is that she’s almost always right. Her greatest weakness is that, as a woman, most of the men in the films tend to ignore what she says. In this movie, she suggests that they decipher the signal before checking it out, but Dallas overrules her. When Kane is attacked, they try to bring him back on board and Ripley refuses, citing quarantine protocol. She’s permitted to override Dallas in this situation, but Ash violates it anyway. When confronted by the alien on the shuttle, she methodically figures out how to get rid of it despite the fact that it is almost unstoppable. In the sequel, when asked for advice about what to do with the colony located on LV-426, she advises they destroy it from orbit. Ripley’s cool head stands in stark contrast to the typically panicky final girl in horror films. 

Even when dealing with a monster and the vacuum of space, she survives.

Overall, this movie holds up just so well. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it now. If you’ve got a friend who hasn’t seen it, let them know they’re in for a treat.

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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Doom Patrol: Insane Adult Superhero Comedy (Seasons 1 and 2) – HBO Max Mini-Review

If you haven’t given this a look, you’re missing out.

SUMMARY

Cliff Steele (Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan) was a professional racecar driver who was killed in an accident. He was revived in a robot body by Dr. Niles Caulder (Timothy Dalton), a scientist who leads a group of individuals that have tragic origins and fantastic powers. They include Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero), a woman with 64 personalities and 64 superpowers, Rita Farr (April Bowlby), an actress whose body is elastic, and Larry Trainor (Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk), a pilot who is possessed by a radioactive “negative spirit.” In the first season, Niles goes missing, and the team, along with Vic “Cyborg” Stone (Joivan Wade) has to rescue him from the powerful Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk). In the second season, the team has to deal with the arrival of Niles’ daughter, Dorothy Spinner (Abigail Shapiro), who is likely to end the world with her imaginary friend, the Candlemaker (Lex Lang). 

They’re weirdly photogenic for a group of “social outcasts.”

END SUMMARY

I was skeptical about this show because it was originally shown as a spin-off of the show Titans on DC Universe. If you didn’t read my review of that, my opinion of that series was not positive. Doom Patrol, however, is an entirely different animal. While the show is still dark like Titans, this is a bitter, cynical dark comedy and it is done really well. Probably in an attempt to keep the series separate, the two shows have since been established to be in different continuities, although a “Doom Patrol” does still exist in the Titans universe. 

But that Doom Patrol is nowhere near as fun.

The show mostly duplicates the feel of Grant Morrison’s famous revival run on the comic book series. While the original Doom Patrol was a straightforward group of outcasts banded together as a superhero team, Morrison decided to age-up the series and make it more surreal and with more meta-commentary. He focused on making the universe in which the Doom Patrol operated bleaker and weirder than the average comic book being put out by DC at the time. Just how the comic’s nature differentiated itself from other contemporary series, so too does this show set itself apart from most of the other superhero shows on television right now. For example, a fun part of the first season is that the show is actually narrated by Alan Tudyk, who is both a genre-savvy character and also aware of his fictional nature. Not only is his commentary hilarious, but the fact that he’s narrating the events of a show in which he regularly appears also gives him an air of omnipotence, raising his threat-level as a villain. 

Dear every television producer: Alan Tudyk makes anything better.

While all of the main characters are pretty interesting and have wildly different personalities and motivations, the show’s ability to supply inventive guest characters is perhaps its greatest strength. Entire episodes typically revolve around the group making contact with some strange new entity, ranging from a donkey that can eat a town to a guy who can reshape reality by flexing his abs. Hell, there’s a recurring character that is a sentient cross-dressing, pan-sexual street. It’s populated by people who need sanctuary from the cruel world. The second season has focused less on guest characters and more on exploring the ramifications of what has happened to our central cast, but each episode has still featured a number of interesting worlds to explore and people to meet. This keeps the jokes and hilarious situations coming at a regular pace, which complements the dark nature of the world appropriately.

Yes, the street talks through signs.

Overall, just a really well done show. 

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.

Harley Quinn (Season 2): It Found Its Groove – HBO Max Mini-Review

The Joker’s Ex-Girlfriend has moved on and grown, and so has her story.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)

Having beaten the Joker (Alan Tudyk) and with Batman (Diedrich Bader) and the Justice League out of the way, Harley Quinn (Kaley Cuoco) is now poised to take over the city of Gotham. Unfortunately, Gotham is quickly declared No Man’s Land, and it turns out that the Injustice League wants it too. They get the drop on Harley and divvy up the territory. With the help of Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), King Shark (Ron Funches), Sy Borgman (Jason Alexander), Frank the Plant (J.B. Smoove), Clayface (Tudyk), and Doctor Psycho (Tony Hale), she’s out to get revenge on the Riddler, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Bane, and Two-Face (Jim Rash, Wayne Knight, Alfred Molina, James Adomian, Andy Daly) and claim Gotham for herself. Also, Batgirl’s there (Briana Cuoco). 

This is the Cobb Squad. That joke somehow ends up being amazing.

END SUMMARY

So, my main criticism of Harley Quinn Season 1 was that the show often tried to go a little too exploitative with the violence and swearing to the point that I thought it distracted from the show. I will admit that, on rewatching, it still was a little over-the-top, but I might have let my feelings towards DC Universe’s show Titans color my opinion on how they were handling “mature” superhero shows. It still bothered me when I watched it again, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought on the first go-around. Whatever problems there were, however, have been almost completely fixed in the second season. 

The lighting effects on the animation even got better.

It’s not that the show is any less exploitative in the second season, in fact the violence and swearing are probably even increased, but the show has started to use them as a form of self-commentary. Harley even says, while defending a show-within-a-show, that “violence ups the dramatic effect,” and honestly, this season that’s mostly what it did. In the way that the John Wick films manage to make killing hordes of people into slapstick routine, season two frequently makes violence cathartic or humorous.

As for the swearing, Hippolyta saying “We’re gonna have a f*cking rager” is amazing.

Moreover, the subject matter of this season was almost uniformly made more mature and relatable. While I thought that the first season forced the plot of Harley getting over the Joker to last longer than it should have which killed the relatability of dealing with an abusive ex, this season covers a number of plots that interweave and keep the relationships and topics fresh. They range from having feelings for a friend, to dealing with your own feelings of inadequacy, to dealing with repressed emotions and trauma. Instead of being a simple set of plots with a lot of swearing and ‘splosions, it’s a lot of blood and cussing that heightens the emotions of the scenes. It’s everything I wanted out of this series, and it feels so damned good. 

Especially the part where Poison Ivy also questions what she wants from life.

If you have a chance to check it out, do it. The first season is pretty good in retrospect, but this season should earn it a following.

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.