Framing Britney Spears: The Darkest Side of Fame – Hulu Review

The New York Times brings us a documentary about the life of a trapped celebrity.

SUMMARY 

Britney Spears is one of the most successful pop stars of the last 20 years, being the highest-earning musical performer for two different years since 2000. Despite that (and an estimated net-worth of almost $60 million), Britney has been legally under the control of her father, Jamie Spears, since 2008, when she had a mental breakdown. This documentary tracks her life from her youth and her appearance on the Mickey Mouse Club to her current fight to have her father’s conservatorship removed. Along the way, we see the story of what fame and America’s obsession with stars has done to her life.

Pour your heart out for the public and they’ll just start eating it.

END SUMMARY

It’s honestly hard to watch this documentary at some points because it does a good job of bringing home how much America’s love of watching famous people fall from grace has caused this woman pain. She has lost control of her children and even of her own business decisions, because the press refused to leave her any amount of privacy. When a paparazzo, who made a career out of taking candid photos of Britney, is asked whether he feels guilty, he immediately tries to deflect it by saying that she never asked to be left alone (then has the ridiculous nature of this statement thrown back at him). It’s clear that these people knew they were hurting her, but that the amount of money they were making on it made them ignore it. Of course, the only reason they were being offered that much money was because the public was insanely obsessed with any information about Britney, but particularly with trying to destroy her wholesome image. 

Clearly someone who is begging to be photographed.

The documentary also does a great job of investigating the conservatorship, which is itself already a bit of an oddity, since conservatorships are usually for the mentally unfit or the elderly. It seems unusual that the conservatorship has been maintained despite the fact that, for most of the time since 2008, Spears has been performing publicly. If her fame and exposure have been making her mentally incompetent, then it seems like having her continue is inherently against the purpose of the conservatorship. It becomes even sketchier when the conservatorship is literally described as being “a hybrid business relationship.” That’s very much counter to the purpose of the conservatorship. However, Spears, not being competent to make her own legal decisions, has limited options to appeal or change it. It’s even stranger that the judge denied her initial request to have an independent third party administer her affairs, but I suppose there are reasons that might have happened. 

Also, you’ll want to punch Timberlake in the face at some point.

The film does a decent job of addressing many of the “#FreeBritney” people who think that Spears has been sending covert messages to the public so that they will help her escape her father. While it doesn’t endorse the conspiracy theories, it does point out that the situation in which Spears has found herself is not normal, is not healthy, and is only likely to change with public pressure. Fortunately, it’s gotten a little better since this came out, with an independent company now partially in charge of her conservatorship.

While we don’t know everything, they seem to be on the right side of history.

Overall, this was a really well-done documentary. I recommend it if you grew up in the early 2000s, especially.

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.

Joker’s New Season Updates

I give a quick review of shows that have new seasons out which I have reviewed previously. Letterkenny, Sabrina, Cobra Kai, etc.

Letterkenny (Season 9) – Hulu

The US is not on fire in this shot, and therefore is inaccurate.

If you aren’t watching Letterkenny, there’s not much I can tell you other than you are missing out on one of, if not the, funniest shows on television. Despite how long the show has been going, the clever writing and great performances never fail to keep me laughing the whole time. It’s absolutely amazing how hard this show subverts the idea of rural people being idiots and does it in an honest way. Then again, it’s Canada.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Season 4) – Netflix

Wow, this got really mutilated when I posted it originally. Still too lazy to re-do it.

Sabrina comes to a strong conclusion by having the lead character face off against the 8 Eldritch Terrors, 8 monsters pulled straight from the mind of H.P. Lovecraft. It changes a lot of the dynamic of the show since it focuses less on her trying to balance her mortal and witch lives, but it allows the series to really start swinging for the fences and some of those attempts pay off. It helps that they finally do the straight throwback to the original sitcom, in one of the funniest episodes of the series. It does feel like the ending is a bit rushed and a little odd, but I don’t know how much it was forced by Covid. Either way, it was a pretty good ending to the series.

Cobra Kai (Season 3) – Netflix

There is no fear in this dojo.

There is no fear in this dojo and there is no quit in this show. Despite changing networks, the Karate Kid continuation just keeps switching up the character dynamics in believable ways and ends up delivering a season worthy of the name. It does play up the reality of having dueling “karate gangs” in the year 2020, namely that it’s freaking ridiculous. It also manages to deal with the Karate Kid sequels in a way that makes me almost not dislike them. Impressive.

The Haunting of Bly Manor (Season 2…kinda) – Netflix

Jean Jackets are a thing in this time period.

I realize this is technically not a second season of The Haunting of Hill House, but it feels like it is. What the Haunting of Hill House nailed in terms of terror and gruesome imagery, this season… mostly missed. The story, however, is just as strong and the performances are solid. It also pulls in more stories than just the main narrative and it helps to keep the show a bit more compelling. It’s still a little slow, but if you can deal with that, you’ll like it.

Transformers War for Cybertron Trilogy: Earthrise (Season 2) – Netflix

There will be oil. Because that’s Tranformer blood. Get it?

Much like the first season, this is a very dark adaptation of Transformers. It still suffers from a lack of actually explaining backstories, but it does a hell of a lot better than last season, where I felt like I’d have been lost if I hadn’t watched Transformers as a kid. However, this season does have a lot of great character moments. If you only were okay on the last season, this one will be a step up. If you liked the last season, you’ll love this one.

Joker’s Top 10 Television Shows of 2020

We all had a lot of time to binge and here were the best bits.

Special Recognition: Tiger King

Look, I’m not going to say that I thought Tiger King was the best show of the year, but I can say without a doubt that Tiger King was the most 2020 show. It was an absolute thrill ride into the most disturbed and depraved group of people you could get to sign a release. I don’t think we’ll see anything like it for a long time.

Probably because the king is in jail.

10) The Midnight Gospel – Netflix

Everything about this show was insane and somehow I think that made it one of the most original things on television. Essentially made of recordings of Duncan Trussell’s podcast with completely unrelated (or seemingly unrelated) images animated over them, this show ended up being a bunch of powerful and existential messages concealed in weird and wacky clips. 

And it’s hosted by a wizard, basically.

9) What We Do In The Shadows – Hulu

While some shows reinvent themselves a bit with their second seasons, this show instead decided to start expanding its universe beyond just the existence of vampires, bringing in ghosts, witches, and zombies while also giving its characters more fleshed-out and hilarious backstories. Also, it gave us Jackie Daytona, the ultimate human disguise.

What We Do in the Shadows | FX on Hulu
Also, Colin eats a corporation.

8) Lovecraft Country – HBO Max

An adaptation of Matt Ruff’s book of the same name, Lovecraft Country managed to combine the cosmic horror and monstrosities of H.P. Lovecraft with the existential threat and atrocities of racism in the United States. A number of the episodes and characters in this show were up at the top of television. Unfortunately, it did seem to get a bit off-kilter towards the end or it would be ranked higher. 

The show that taught white America about Sundown Towns.

7) Warrior – HBO Max

I only reviewed it last week, but this show brought Bruce Lee’s desire for a television show to life almost fifty years after his death and it is glorious. Filled with great action sequences, this show conveys the story of a martial artist in San Francisco during the late 1800s and it approaches that with an unwavering resolve towards accuracy. 

You can hear this photo beating you up.

6) Never Have I Ever – Netflix

A complete surprise to me, this show about a nerdy high-school girl trying to lose her virginity and achieve popularity was one of the best-written things I’ve seen in a while. It’s one of the funniest shows Netflix put out last year and I was surprised that it seemed to fade off of critics lists very quickly. Still, it’s going on mine.

The leads are all amazing.

5) The Queen’s Gambit – Netflix

If someone told me there’d be such a compelling mini-series about a woman playing chess in the 1960s, I’d have thought they were crazy, but this show managed to pull it off. Anya Taylor-Joy brought an amazing amount of charisma to a character that could easily have come off as shallow, often acting solely with her very expressive eyes. Also, it made chess awesome. Truly, a great accomplishment.

Smart is sexy.

4) The Mandalorian – Disney+

This show decided to use its second season to try and incorporate more traditional elements of the Star Wars universe into the series and rather than overshadowing the core characters, it made it clear that this was a universe filled with fun and exciting stories everywhere and that we’re only seeing a part of them. It’s what I wanted out of Star Wars for a long time. Plus, BABY YODA!!! (Now Grogu)

Behold the face of cuteness.

3) Perry Mason – HBO Max

It’s tough to do a new take on a series that ran from the fifties to the nineties, but HBO Max managed to pull it off. With a film-noir vibe and some new characterizations, this show made Perry Mason feel a little dirty while still emphasizing that he’s the good guy; the system he fights against is not. I hope they keep it going.

HBO Reveals PERRY MASON Premiere Date, Poster and Plot Details
It’s got hats, too.

2) Schitt’s Creek – Netflix

I hadn’t watched this show until it finished, but once I started I could not stop. It’s as funny as it gets and you will fall in love with the characters despite how much you would want to hate them at the start of the show. Containing as many moments that’ll make you cry as laugh, it deserves all of the acclaim it got. 

It also had a solid version of Cabaret.

1) The Good Place – Netflix

I would never have thought you could bring The Good Place to a satisfying end. It’s a show that starts off with the premise that all of the characters are already dead and, therefore, are already living an essentially eternal existence. However, somehow, the show managed to not only pull it off, but pull it off in a more touching and more real way than I could have ever thought. It was an amazing ride and we are all the better for taking it.

Plus, it had a promo with a sofa. Automatic win.

12 Pups of Christmas: It’s Got Puppies – Hulu Review

I was promised a train wreck, but… puppies.

SUMMARY 

Erin (Charlotte Sullivan) is a pet therapist in New York who is engaged to Travis (Philip Boyd) and has just been hired for a new position in San Francisco. On the day of their wedding, she finds out that her fiance has been cheating on her with her best friend Taylor (Jen Nikolaisen). Starting out in a new city on her own, Erin finds herself dealing with her egocentric new boss Martin (Donny Boaz) whose sister, Carly (Elizabeth Small), seems to have been the one who actually hired Erin. Erin quickly gets a strange assignment: Giving away 12 puppies that were left behind after a photo shoot. Despite her recent romantic troubles, Erin finds herself spending more and more time with Martin and finding love… and puppies. I wouldn’t call it puppy love, but only because I have some self-respect. 

Yes, Martin has Soap Opera hair.

END SUMMARY

First, this is not to be confused with the film The 12 Dogs of Christmas, which is apparently also a movie which is actually better reviewed than this one. This movie was recommended to me as an example of a truly terrible Christmas movie. This has a 4.3 on IMDB, which makes it only slightly better reviewed than The Adventures of Pluto Nash, a film which lost almost $100 million. Despite that, or maybe because I was expecting the absolute worst and had been consuming eggnog accordingly, I actually didn’t think this movie was that bad. It’s not good, to be sure, and if you are looking for a strong script you have come to the wrong place, but it’s got puppies and some fun scenes and it’s willing to be just insane enough that you are never bored. 

I mean, can a film with this many puppies really be that bad?

For example, the breakup scene between Erin and her fiance is nuts. Her fiance and best friend basically think she’s overreacting entirely to the reveal that she was being dumped for another woman on her wedding day, at the wedding site (it’s at city hall). The fiance reveals he was just planning on a fling, but that he fell in love with the other woman. He treats Erin yelling at them as if she’s being insane. He then makes a joke that Erin’s going to kill them later. It truly is a ridiculous scene.

He put on a pocket square knowing he was going to leave her.

The whole movie just seems to operate on a number of massive logical gaps. Erin, a dog therapist, is hired for a company that makes GPS locators for dogs. She does end up helping, but only because she makes a number of extremely common-sense suggestions that somehow this entire startup never thought of and they have nothing to do with her being a pet therapist. Erin quickly gets promoted to do more and bigger jobs for which she is completely unqualified. When I say quickly, the beginning of her job is the week after Thanksgiving and the final scene is Christmas. She even has to pawn her puppy giving responsibilities off on Taylor. Yes, her best friend who cheated with her fiance. She MOVES TO SAN FRANCISCO to apologize to Erin within a few days. Then, naturally, Erin runs into her ex-fiance again and he tries to get back with her, again, less than a month after the breakup. Even her relationship with Martin seems to jump out of nowhere, with them going from angry to in love in like two montages. It makes no sense and is kind of hilariously abbreviated storytelling.

The office’s product can’t even fit these puppies. Such a weird conceit.

What really helps is that the film has a lot of cute dogs in it. Whoever picked the puppies needs awards. They’re all adorable, including Erin’s tiny puppy “Goliath.” It’s so hard to care about the film’s faults when you can watch tiny puppies being cuddled. It also has the most believable deus ex machina in history, because it’s just “rich people can do whatever they want.”

Goliath is the perfect name for that dog.

Overall, this isn’t a great movie, but it is a movie that needs to be seen to be believed. If you like cheesy Xmas movies, have some eggnog and give it a 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.

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.

Happiest Season: Don We Now Our… Eh, You Get It – Hulu Review

At least it has Dan Levy.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Abby Holland (Kristen Stewart) is invited to spend Christmas with the family of her girlfriend Harper Caldwell (Mackenzie Davis). Abby tells her best friend John (Dan Levy) that she considers this to be a positive sign for their relationship. Unfortunately, right as the two are getting to Harper’s hometown, Harper reveals that her family is very conservative and that she is in the closet. She’s told her family that the two are roommates and asks Abby to pretend during the holidays. Abby meets Harper’s parents, Ted and Tipper (Victor Garber and Mary Steenburgen), and her sisters, Sloane and Jane (Alison Brie and Mary Holland), with all of the introductions suitably uncomfortable.  It quickly gets more awkward when Abby meets Harper’s ex-girlfriend Riley (Aubrey Plaza) and her ex-boyfriend Connor (Jake McDorman). Hijinks ensue. 

They’re a very cute cast.

END SUMMARY

I’m not going to say too much about this film because I decided to leave it to someone with more insight into the type of relationship that is the focus of the film, but I can say that I didn’t end up liking this movie. I’ll admit that my expectations were high when I saw the trailer to this film and looked up the cast, because these are all talented people. Moreover, I’d just finished Schitt’s Creek and I was begging for more Dan Levy in my life and I’ll never say no to more Aubrey Plaza. In defense of that pair in particular, their characters were two of the absolute brightest spots in the film, but the rest of the cast were mostly given absolutely unlikable characters. 

Acting is reacting, and Dan Levy reacts.

Ted and Tipper are supposed to be a conservative political pair, but Ted comes off as borderline sociopathic about his mayoral race and Tipper is often downright mean to Abby, a person who, to her knowledge, is just a friend of her daughter. Sloane is similarly mean to a stranger. Jane is nice, but is ostracized from her family for apparently not being neurotypical. Then there’s Harper. I looked forward to Mackenzie Davis playing another semi-closeted queer character since she was in the great “San Junipero” episode of Black Mirror, but it turns out that her chemistry with Gugu Mbatha-Raw did NOT translate to Kristen Stewart. Moreover, Harper’s character is not just unlikable, she’s almost irredeemable within the movie. She has lied to her girlfriend apparently for months, invites her on a trip at the last minute, makes Abby change her plans in order to accommodate her, proceeds to ignore her or just ask her to deal with stuff, and is revealed to have ruined one of her exes’ lives. It’s even worse because Harper sells Abby on this grand image of waking up together on Christmas, knowing that they would not be able to sleep in the same bed in her family’s house. She promises a big, close, romantic experience and delivers basically none of it. She’s the Fyre Festival of girlfriends. 

The height difference is cute, though.

Overall, I almost want to tell people to watch this film for Dan Levy, but honestly, I would just wait until someone makes a supercut of Dan Levy being amazing on YouTube.

The Faceless Old Woman Who Lives On My Sofa

I told my friend I was watching this film and referred to it as a “holigay movie.” That’s a thing we have now! There are at least two! So I am very glad for that! This just wasn’t what I and a lot of other queer people were hoping for. It was very hard not to read everyone livetweeting this movie as soon as it was available, and I did feel like I was primed to be frustrated by it. Here are some good things about this movie: There are actual gay actors! Playing gay people! It was cowritten and directed by a queer woman! Dan Levy elevates every scene he’s in. In one he’s literally just reading the ingredients on a gas station snack, and I’m still riveted. Maybe it’s because I just finished Schitt’s Creek, but dang. More Dan Levy in movies, please. Aubrey Plaza’s understated and natural style is very refreshing in a movie filled with capital C Characters. The internet had pointed out the obvious screen chemistry between Aubrey Plaza and Kristen Stewart, and I have to agree. I’d like to see them together in a new movie. Maybe one that’s a little more feel-good?

Have we considered a film of just them drinking and people watching?

I think this film got caught between trying to be a Christmas movie (sappy, silly, oh no a series of events has knocked the tree over), trying to be a “meet the parents” screwball comedy, and trying to convey realities of being a gay person navigating straight spaces and dealing with a partner who isn’t out to their family. I don’t think it’s impossible to combine these things. I’ve seen writing that moves between serious topics and comedy easily (Brooklyn 99 comes to mind) and this wasn’t that. It made it difficult to fully appreciate the ample comedic talent in this movie – for example, Lauren Lapkus and Timothy Simons get a brief comedic scene as mall cops which probably would have been funnier if we weren’t so upset and concerned by the previous scene. The Christmas tree does get knocked over. It’s just…you feel so bad for Abby (and precious cinnamon roll Jane!) all the time! It’s so hard to root for Abby and Harper when Harper commits so many relationship-ending offenses. And it’s hard to really enjoy the movie when many of the supporting characters are so unlikeable and cruel. 

Jane, you adorable little red panda.

Because that’s the key ingredient in a Christmas rom-com – it has to have some of that sweet feel-good marshmallow sap, and this didn’t offer enough of that. It’s clear to me that many queer people are weary of narratives around sadness and hardship (see: the recent Supernatural backlash.) From reading interviews, I can tell that Duvall really wanted to convey some of the more difficult experiences in her life, and that’s admirable. Especially after this year, however, I think we were hoping for something a little warmer.

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.

Animaniacs (2020): It’s Mostly Insany – Hulu Review

The Warner Brothers and the Warner Sister are back.

SUMMARY (Spoilers are essentially impossible)

Back in the ‘90s, they were in a very famous TV show. No, it’s not BoJack Horseman, it’s Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner (Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille). Then, in 1998, the show stopped and, aside from a film in 1999, the trio have mostly been gone from the public eye. However, since Hollywood is completely out of ideas, the trio have been brought back to run rampant all over the Warner Studios and society once more. They’re sharing a large amount of the billing with everyone’s favorite mice, Pinky and the Brain (Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche). Welcome to the new world, same as the old world, but a little wackier.

There are parodies galore.

END SUMMARY

It’s tough to review a reboot like this, because this show was a huge part of my childhood that it definitely has a huge nostalgia factor when evaluating, for better or for worse. On balance, I think it actually made me a little more critical of this show than I might have been. While the Warners and Pinky and the Brain have returned, almost no other characters return from the previous series, something that I think might be attributed to the fact that almost none of the writers or creators from the previous show returned. Yes, Steven Spielberg is still producing, but the creative teams for the shows are almost completely different. I guess after 22 years, everyone else had other stuff to do or wanted more money (or, sadly, had passed away). Because of that, while the show does have some of the feel of the previous series, it lacks some of the memorable characters and, rather than replacing them, mostly just focused on the Warners more. It’s tough to not miss the Goodfeathers or Slappy Squirrel. 

A few of the new characters work pretty well, though.

That said, the new show is still really, really funny. It’s definitely aiming for a more mature crowd than the original, with wordplay and references that would fly way over the heads of the average kid. Kids will still like it for the slapstick and the sight gags, though. The show definitely gets away with some dirty jokes, but if you are surprised by that, you clearly didn’t see the original Animaniacs. The fourth-wall breaks that were fairly frequent in the last show are moved up to an entirely new level of meta-humor at times and it is often great. They also fully embrace their tradition of bad jokes that are so bad they loop all the way around to hilarious. Many of the puns fit this mold exactly.

They do a lot of jokes about Spielberg.

I know a number of people have said that the show is pushing an agenda and I can only say that yes, they’re absolutely right. This show clearly disliked the Trump administration and they are not subtle about letting you know it. Compared to the relatively more “everyone’s a target” feeling of the original show, this probably will put some people off, but honestly it came up only a few times so you might not even notice.

Pinky and the Brain tend to be better this season than the Warners.

Overall, I really missed this series and I’m glad it came back. 

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.

Booksmart: Can’t Believe I Forgot to Review This – Hulu Review

I thought this was one of the best movies of last year and I never wrote about it.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Amy and Molly (Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein) are high school seniors who have been friends for years, but are considered elitist due to their dedication to academics. The week of Graduation, Molly overhears some of her classmate mocking her and tries to condemn them by saying that she got into Yale, only for the rest of her class to reveal that they also got into great schools while still enjoying their high school experience. Molly goes to Amy and reveals that they have wasted so many opportunities to have fun and gets Amy to go along to a party hosted by Molly’s crush, Nick (Mason Gooding), at which Amy’s crush, Ryan (Victoria Ruesga), might also appear. Unfortunately, they don’t know where the party is and a night of strange hijinks and misadventures ensues.

Booksmart is the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde, starring Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Deve

END SUMMARY

When this movie came out it was advertised as being the female equivalent of Superbad. I liked Superbad a decent amount, but I can say that, while both films are about social outcasts trying to have a last fling, they don’t really hit any of the same beats in terms of actual story. Because of that, you can judge each one on its own merits and enjoy them both. However, no scene in Superbad ever had me angry laughing, something that I was nearly convinced was impossible until this film. The scene in which Molly’s “the reason you suck” speech is so brutally rebutted by the, ultimately pretty realistic, revelation that most of the people at this upper-class high school are going to good colleges is one of the funniest and most memorable things ever. It simultaneously is infuriating and hilarious, and I loved every second of it.

The drug sequence was very Big Lebowski, too.

The dialogue in this film is brilliant, which surprised me because it’s something that often suffers when, as with this film, you have four writers. Instead, they nailed it. Several of the exchanges in this film, particularly between the leads, are absolutely hilarious. The “wacky hijinks” are all fun and are all worked organically into the plot so that they don’t feel like throwaway gags. The supporting characters manage to hit the sweet spot where you definitely believe they’re real personalities, but also stereotyped enough that you can understand them pretty easily. The performances are pretty great all around, but Feldstein and Dever have to do a lot of the heavy lifting and they make it look effortless. 

“I’m great at handjobs, but I also got a 1560 on my SATs” will forever make me chuckle.

It helps that the main characters, unlike most high-school comedy leads, weren’t focused solely on getting laid. They are legitimately just kids who bought into the belief that the only way to get ahead was to study at the expense of everything else, only to realize that it doesn’t help them be well-rounded people. It also helps that their friendship is a lot more complex than most of the friendships we usually see in a raunchy comedy. Then there’s the fact that Amy is a lesbian, something that adds an additional layer of complications to her desire for sexual experience, and results in several of the funniest sequences in the film. It highlights how so much of society’s heteronormative culture can harm LGBT people. 

So many good scenes in bathrooms.

Overall, just a fantastic film, definitely something everyone should see, and it was a heck of directorial debut by Olivia Wilde. Can’t believe I never reviewed 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.

Helstrom: Marvel’s New (Cancelled) Supernatural Series – Hulu Review

I take a look at the only entry in the now-aborted “Adventure into Fear” franchise.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Daimon Helstrom (Tom Austen) is an ethics professor who also has demonic powers inherited from his serial-killer father (Mitch Pileggi). He typically aids the Saint Teresa Center for Mental Health, a church-run facility that tends to handle possessions. His sister, Ana (Sydney Lemmon), has more mental-based powers which allow her to search for bad people through her antique business… and murder them. Their mother, Victoria (Elizabeth Marvel), is housed in an asylum and is possessed by a demon named Mother. Daimon, Ana, and Daimon’s aide nun-in-training Gabriella Rosetti (Ariana Guerra) work in order to thwart demonic threats. 

They’re very photogenic demonspawn.

END SUMMARY

This was originally supposed to be part of a series of Hulu shows that were to feature darker series based on Marvel properties called “Adventure into Fear.” They stated that the first two were going to be this series and a version of Ghost Rider featuring Gabriel Luna reprising his role on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Then Disney bought Fox, gained controlling shares of Hulu, and decided to fold the Marvel Television division into Marvel Studios. That pretty much guarantees that, unless this show is an unmitigated hit, this may be the only season we get in the entire “Adventure into Fear” lineup. Unfortunately, this show did not appear to clear that hurdle. 

… Seems like a fun idea, at least.

I’m not going to say this show was bad. Despite the fact that critics seemed to lambaste it for being unoriginal, I actually thought the show’s style and mythology always kept it interesting enough to get past the fact that many of the characters were not properly fleshed-out. It’s actually mostly Daimon. I don’t blame Tom Austen, I just feel like the writers never really figured out who his character was. He bounces between sensitive, uncaring, sarcastic, and sincere as the show goes on, but it never quite feels like a coherent person. I know it’s weird to say that I am looking for coherence in a half-demon who might not have traditional human emotional stability for obvious reasons, but it made it difficult to connect to the central character and that doesn’t bode well for almost any show. Ana, on the other hand, mostly stays consistent. She’s been hurt horribly by events in her past and she lashes out a lot because of it. She punishes bad people, which allows her to maintain her central desire to do good but also indulges her violent tendencies. It’s not “relatable” in the sense of something people actually do, but it’s understandable. Still, it definitely put the show a little bit behind the 8-ball. 

Admittedly, it helps that she looks capable of murder.

One of the best parts of the series, though, starts right from the beginning. They directly address the fact that so many various films and shows rely on the same images and gimmicks like holy water and reciting Bible passages. In fact, the show’s mythology is that the fact that so many shows and films depict it actually means that such things can’t work. Nothing that’s so public can have any real power in the world of secret rites. It gives the show’s mythos an inherent level of self-awareness and forced originality that does help keep you interested in what’s going to happen next.

Good creepy imagery, too.

Overall, I don’t think it’s a bad show, but I am resigned to the fact that it is almost certainly over already. Given the pseudo-cliffhanger ending, it’s probably not worth the binge. 

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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Cautious Hero: Somehow This Was Kinda Fun – Hulu Review

A story of a pathologically cautious protagonist in a fantasy story. 

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Out there in the multiverse are a pantheon of gods who pride themselves on empowering champions to save various worlds. Ristarte (Aki Toyosaki/Jamie Marchi) is the goddess of healing and is tasked to save a planet that has the highest-rank of dangerousness. Knowing that no ordinary champion will be able to defeat the evil there, she searches for candidates and finds a man named Seiya Ryuguin (Yūichirō Umehara/Anthony Bowling) who has naturally superior abilities. When she brings him in, however, she discovers that Seiya is incredibly paranoid and pathologically cautious. He refuses to engage in any fight unless he is absolutely sure of victory. Even when facing low-level opponents or easy situations, he cannot stop himself from overreacting. Eventually, the pair are joined by warrior Mash (Kengo Kawanishi/Chris Thurman) and mage Elulu (Aoi Koga/Sarah Wiedenheft). However, it turns out that the world they’re on is dangerous enough that Seiya might be the only one cautious enough to save it.

Yes, he’s a very generic protagonist in appearance.

END SUMMARY

I literally picked this because the full title, “Cautious Hero: The Hero is Overpowered but Overly Cautious,” was the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen in awhile. I share a Hulu account and I don’t know exactly whose views led to this being suggested, but I’ve never been so pleasantly surprised. This series is another version of taking a typical trope-filled premise and turning it on its head. In this case, Seiya is literally summoned from Japan to a fantasy realm which is deliberately modeled after various RPG games, to the point where everyone has “Stats screens.” Despite that, he shows no interest in actually playing the game. He doesn’t even want to leave the opening area until he is “sufficiently leveled,” basically treating the actual mission like a gamer who won’t move the story forward until they can one-shot every enemy. The humor mostly comes from how much this drives the other characters insane. After all, they’re mostly denied the ability to play their traditional supporting roles by having a protagonist that ends the fights immediately. 

And also from his ridiculously paranoid antics.

The other thing about the show that tends to make it worthwhile is that as much as everyone complains about Seiya’s behavior, a lot of the time he ends up being completely justified. It turns out that most of the villains in the series are particularly genre-savvy, which means they consistently try to disrupt the usual cycle of how the game works. To counter that, Seiya frequently looks to Ristarte’s fellow gods and goddesses for training. The gods’ domain in this series is interesting in its own right, as the deities are just as flawed, if not more so, than the humans. 

They’re mostly super horny, which makes me think they’re Greco-Roman.

The series is only twelve episodes long, which keeps the premise from running too thin. It also contains a decent number of late-series reveals that justify some of the more unusual aspects of the show. It’s a short and self-contained story that actually ends up having some genuinely moving moments, so it’s not hard to get through.

Plus it has a bunch of typical monsters.

Overall, it’s a pretty decent show if you like goofy anime. Or just goofy titles. 

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.

Bad Hair: How Do You Make Hair Scary? Weaves – Hulu Review/Reader Request

No, I won’t call it hair-raising. I’m above that.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Anna Bludso (Elle Lorraine) is an assistant at Culture, a TV station featuring predominantly black artists in 1989. Anna’s mentor, Edna (Judith Scott), is replaced by former model Zora (Vanessa Williams) on the orders of the station’s owner, Grant (James Van der Beek). Anna pitches a new idea for the network to Zora, impressing her. Zora tells Anna to get a weave, rather than her natural hair, in order to better meet with the new image for the network that Zora wants. Anna gets the weave from major stylist Virgie (Laverne Cox). However, it turns out that this new hair may be more unnatural than a normal weave. It may, in fact, be evil.

EEEEEEEEEVIL HAIR.

END SUMMARY

The idea of having hair that is evil is not new. The Simpsons did it in 1998 and that was a parody of an episode of Amazing Stories from 1986. However, I’ve never thought that the hair itself was scary. This movie, on the other hand, makes me genuinely terrified of the experience of getting a weave something I, as a white dude with a scruffy look, will never actually have to contemplate. The sounds and the visuals that accompany Laverne Cox giving Elle Lorraine a weave are visceral. It’s bloody, it’s painful, and we know that every second of it is not just damaging her physically but erasing her essence. While apparently weaves aren’t as bloody as they appear in this film, a woman I know who has one described getting a bad one as “like someone attempting to scalp you without a knife.” This movie makes that abundantly clear. The fact that it’s mandated for no reason other than to try and reconstruct black women into a look that white people find appealing really calls attention to one of the more subtle ways in which society tries to mandate conformity to a Eurocentric ideal. 

Also, weaves are expensive as f*ck.

This film is a big swing by Justin Simien, the director and writer of Dear White People. He appears to be trying to do his own version of Get Out, something that a number of black filmmakers have been given more rein to try since Jordan Peele reminded Hollywood that black people can, in fact, make solid horror movies with good social commentary. Unfortunately, I think Hollywood also doesn’t fully trust them to do so, which sometimes leads to a disjointed feeling between the vision and the product (like Antebellum). Simien described the film as a love letter about the relationship between black women and their hair, something I’ll admit that I don’t know if I can comment on too much. I will say that I thought the performances did a lot of the talking, in terms of showing that relationship, and the script did have some of the sharp dialogue that Simien has proven he can produce.

And it does showcase a number of hairstyles.

The movie, unfortunately, doesn’t really balance the horror and satirical social commentary particularly well. While the idea of trying to tie cultural erasure into a monster could probably be very powerful, maybe even on the level of Get Out, this movie never actually manages to do it. Honestly, I don’t think a man, even a black man, could ever have done this movie right. It tries to make numerous statements about the relationship of black women to their hair, but most of them seemed like rehashed jokes from In Living Color rather than an actual depiction of how hair impacts the way that black women are perceived by white society. While the hair being a key to promotion and social acceptance could be a great way to expand on the theme, I think the movie drops the ball a bit and instead just has it be demanded by other black women who just want to perpetuate a cycle of cultural erasure. Possibly the only really good commentary is the reveal that ***SPOILERS*** everything that happens is really in service of a wealthy white guy. ***END SPOILERS*** It doesn’t help that the movie has difficulty being a horror film while it’s doing social commentary and vice-versa. The scenes of Anna’s hair being evil don’t really seem to further the themes at all, with a few small exceptions. 

Creepy imagery, though.

Overall, though, any movie that can make me feel this uncomfortable at times must be doing something right and I think any critic would be hard pressed to say the film’s not entertaining. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

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.