Hulu Review – Shrill (Season 2): Relationship Boogaloo

Annie returns for another season of dealing with writing, work, and having a boyfriend whose personality is mostly “beard.” 

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

At the end of the last season, Annie (Aidy Bryant) quits her job after fighting with her boss Gabe (John Cameron “Angry Inch” Mitchell), her mother Vera (Julia Sweeney) heads to Vancouver to take some alone time after stressing over her father Bill’s cancer (Daniel Stern), and she confronts her stalker (Beck Bennett). As this season starts, Annie and her boyfriend, Ryan (Luka Jones), deal with both of them being unemployed as she tries to get a new job writing, only to find out it’s harder than she expected. She eventually takes her job back from Gabe, with Amadi’s help (Ian Owens), and tries to advance herself within the institution, but finds that Ryan is not helping that. Meanwhile, her roommate Fran (Lolly Adefope) is dealing with being single for the first time in a while.

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Just like Madonna, she made it through the wilderness.

END SUMMARY

Now, as with last time, I didn’t think that I was the best person to comment fully on this show. Unlike last time, I thought her breakdown needed to go in front of mine. So I present to you, the Faceless Old Woman that Lives on my Sofa:

The Faceless Old Woman’s Review

There was a lot I loved in this season that I’m not going to go into detail about (some great development for Ruthie, Amadi, Fran, and Vera, John Cameron Mitchell singing Moonage Daydream!!)

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This image kind of summarizes a lot for this section.

A lot of what makes this show great is the attention to detail. Like when Annie gets chub rub from walking around a women’s empowerment conference all day. Or when she needs to charge her phone after camping and leans over an entire family in a restaurant to use an outlet. Or when Annie goes to a hospital and people keep trying to give her directions but she still keeps getting lost, because hospitals are fucking mazes. It’s all of these little things that make the show feel real and relatable. 

The “little things” are also where Ryan falls short in his relationship with Annie, even as he attempts to play a real boyfriend who isn’t embarrassed to go out in public with her. He’ll go to a work party with her that he doesn’t really like, but he’ll definitely use that fact later in an argument when he’s not getting what he wants. He’ll give her a gift, but it’s a pillow for her so she can actually sleep at his house, which had been an issue for…months, now? He’ll say “I love you” but he doesn’t actually listen to her when she says that she needs space or that her work is important to her. Also he has a gun??? That he’ll brandish in alarmingly irresponsible ways??? 

(I wish I could pretend that gun bit was outlandish but I know people who have dated men like that. Specifically, I can think of at least two women I know who have found a gun while sleeping in a guy’s bed. Like, under the pillow. I digress.) 

The point is, that Ryan is the kind of guy who is willing to go through the motions of “boyfriend’ but isn’t capable of being a full partner. These things can seem like momentary misunderstandings or minor incompatibilities, but when there are a lot of them, they’re pointing to bigger things.

Ryan can often come off as a slightly clueless but well-intentioned goof in this season. Amadi says, “Yeah, he’s dumb. But he’s got a great heart.” But the moment Ryan says to Annie, in the midst of a work party where she’s having fun and making important professional connections, that he’s made “an executive decision” that they’re going to leave – you remember, “Oh, right. This guy isn’t just stupid. He’s a selfish asshole.” As they’re fighting over the fact that Ryan told his coworker that he and Annie had sex in the office, Ryan says “I just spent, like, two hours at this stupid party for you.” A person whose expectation is “nice thing I did for you is a transaction and you owe me” is a walking red flag.

In the season finale, Ryan says, “You just tell me what to do, and I will do it. I’ll do whatever you want.”

And fortunately for us, the audience, Annie says, “Yeah, but I don’t wanna have to tell you what to do.” She says she doesn’t want to be his mom and she wants a real partner. It brings to mind the various discussions feminists are having re: emotional labor. If you haven’t read the essay by the guy who left dishes by the sink, let me clue you in: it’s stressful and unsustainable if your partner constantly has to be “the manager” of life’s details or “the adult” or “the better half” of the relationship.

Ryan asks her if they can work it out, like they did with the back fence.

A lot of times, when you’re in a bad situation, everyone can see the totality of its shittiness but you. Until something clicks into place and you can see things the way they really are. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Now, after Ryan’s attempts to improve, he reminds Annie of where he started – with a complete lack of respect for her, and her going along with whatever he asked.

“Our very solid foundation for our relationship?” she retorts.

“I’m past that.” Ryan says.

“Yeah, well I’m not.”

She realizes that she’s stuck with Ryan because it feels easier than facing the possibility of putting herself out there and dealing with rejection from men. 

There are different reasons we all stay in relationships that aren’t good for us, but they mostly boil down to: What if I leave and I’ve made a huge mistake? You’re calculating whether all these problems are really as bad as an indefinite period of “being alone.” It’s partially our society’s obsession with being partnered (see: the wedding industry.) But it’s also our very real loneliness.

At the end of episode two of this season, Annie and Fran are at a show and listen to a heartfelt cover of God Only Knows by the Beach Boys. Both are visibly emotional at the performance; Fran because she’s newly heartbroken and single and pretending that doesn’t bother her. I’d like to think Annie was also having a moment of, I want to have the level of feeling this song is conveying and I just…don’t. That is its own kind of loneliness: being partnered but lacking the depth of feeling you’re craving. 

Back in the season finale, Ryan asks in disbelief, “What are you gonna do now, you’re gonna go date other guys?”

“Yeah. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.” Annie says. She’s added the little things up.

Joker on the Sofa Review

In the first season, Annie started to try and move forward with her life by speaking honestly about how she felt for what may have been the first time. She found her voice and told everyone “I’m fat and I don’t give a damn what you think.” However, throughout much of this season she’s forced to walk a lot of that back because it turns out that the world is still kind of crap even if you have talent. Despite having what everyone acknowledges as being an excellent voice in her writing, her attempts to write for herself fail almost immediately, as do her attempts to get a job in a creative field that pays, and she’s forced to ask for her job back. Fortunately, her ambition has led Gabe to take her more seriously and try to nurture her talent, including trying to help her find a way to say something when she isn’t sure what she wants to say. 

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She gets confusing feelings about a female-driven conference.

The upside to this season, aside from being slightly longer, is that it does put Annie in a number of different positions from the previous one. We get to see her having to apologize to her parents for her behavior, we get to see her try to introduce people to her boyfriend, and we get to see her try to be adventurous in her new relationship. It allows us to explore more of her character and, frankly, some of the situations are just hilarious. Like meeting Fran’s family who all know that Annie slept with Fran’s brother and are very explicit about it, something that embarrasses her immensely. 

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I want Fran’s family. I’m not ashamed of that. 

The downside is that the Annie we have in this season isn’t much more assertive than she was in the last season. Hell, for part of the season, she’s acting a lot like she did at the beginning of the series, seeming desperate for approval despite the fact that she seemed like she was over that. It’s really annoying to see a character kind of devolve, even if it might be accurate to life. Progress isn’t linear, but it feels like after confronting her troll, Annie kind of devolves and loses herself for an episode or two, which is made more clear by her refusal to acknowledge Ryan’s obvious faults (as my counterpart already stated).

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Ryan commits a felony while at a work event. 

I will also say that Ruthie’s character was expanded in interesting ways in this season, mostly by making her scary and seemingly borderline insane. Every time she’s on-screen I question not only how she maintains her position, but how she is allowed to have contact with normal humans. It’s explained that she was adopted by Gabe and his partner, but her behavior goes far beyond what even being the boss’s child should let her get away with. I mean, she straight-up gropes Annie at one point and it’s laughed off. If Patti Harrison weren’t so damned fun and charming, it’d be even harder to understand.

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SHE SCARES ME!

Overall, I thought that the season was fine, but I never really got much more out of it than the last season. However, the ending gave me hope that a more definitive change is coming for Annie.

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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Hulu Mini-Review – (Into the Dark) Crawlers: We’re Different People When We Drink

In honor of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland, let’s drive some aliens out of America.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Shauna (Giorgia Whigham), a conspiracy theorist, relays a story for her Vlog about a crazy St. Patrick’s Day she had in her college town. She was at a bar when a girl named Misty (Pepi Sonuga), who had been through a recent trauma at a local frat house, came in with her friends Chloe (Jude Demorest) and Yuejin (Olivia Liang). Shauna tells Misty of the time many years prior that her mother (Virginia Louise Smith) saw a meteor crash on St. Patrick’s day nearby. Misty then gets a call from Chloe who is apparently attacked by a frat boy named Aaron (Cameron Fuller). The two abandon Yuejin to investigate and find themselves embroiled in an alien invasion, possibly involving the snatching of bodies.

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They’re pretty badass for drunk college kids.

END SUMMARY

This movie resembles Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, only not as funny and with a more feminist viewpoint. It’s still got humorous parts, but while The World’s End involves the male bonding experience of a drinking fest, this movie carries a theme of saying that women can’t have the same kind of innocent fun. It also has a distinct undercurrent of advising everyone to believe women’s experiences, whether they’re saying that something bad happened in a frat house or if they’re saying that there are alien replicants killing people around town. While most male characters in these kind of films are worried they won’t be believed because they’ll sound crazy, the characters in this film are concerned they’ll be ignored because they’re women. Given that much of the film involves dealing with a group of frat boys who may be abducting women either because they’re drunk or because they’re aliens, the film isn’t super subtle.

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It looked like it would be such a fun time.

On a second level, the aliens are analogous to the traditional revelers on St. Patrick’s Day. They start off as normal people before they start to engage in aggressive sexual or violent behavior. They also have green eyes, similar to the color of green that is usually tied to the holiday, and they keep trying to bring other people into their crowd. It’s not the best metaphor, but it does at least make the holiday connection that Into The Dark works for. They did add in the idea that St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland was just a metaphor for him repelling an alien invasion, which was kind of neat.

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Sadly, no leprechauns, but that movie already exists. 

The subtext works well, but the film unfortunately never quite gets the actual plot down as well as it should. The aliens are never particularly threatening, beyond the fact that, much like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Thing, they can abduct and replace people. However, they don’t seem to be doing it that much unless threatened, they don’t have to kill the person to do it, and they didn’t do anything for a long period of time. It honestly feels like they could have been negotiated with if everyone had just been made aware of the situation. I just never got a sufficient horror vibe. 

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Some of the design choices didn’t help a ton. 

The frame-story narration doesn’t help much either. While it allows for some funny moments, the narration doesn’t add anything to the story and often makes no logical sense (she’s commenting on scenes we see in the film like she actually has access to the footage). It also has some random filming issues, but those don’t add anything to the narrative aside from making it feel cheaper. It really just wasn’t worthwhile.

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At least she was here for this part, so her mentioning it makes sense.

Also, and this is just a personal thing that bugs me, when people have a way to determine aliens by blood, why does everyone prick their palm or their fingers? Why wouldn’t you prick the backside of your hand so that the blood doesn’t interfere with your ability to actually do useful alien fighting stuff? Because… duh. 

The performances were all above average for a low-budget horror film, but about on par for Into the Dark.

Overall, this movie did manage to use the horror genre as a metaphor for a real social anxiety, something that I love, but it just wasn’t too much of a horror film or sci-fi film. If you just like alien movies, then this will still work for you, but I wasn’t blown away as much as I was by some of the previous entries to the series.

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.

Hulu Review: Shrill – Notes from a Loud Woman (Season 1)

Aidy Bryant stars as a journalist who wants to change everything about her life without changing her appearance.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Annie Easton (Aidy Bryant) is a Journalist who is stuck working on a magazine’s calendar despite her excellent writing skills. She has a boyfriend (of sorts) named Ryan (Luka Jones) who routinely hides her to keep others from knowing about their relationship. Her father (Daniel “Home Alone” Stern) has cancer and her mother (Julia “It’s Pat” Sweeney) is overbearing and critical. Her boss, Gabe (John Cameron Mitchell) is dismissive and condemnatory of overweight people. Her roommate, Fran (Lolly Adefope), is supportive but also very self-centered. Annie finally gets a break, but having a spotlight just means more people to criticize her, including one very dedicated internet troll.

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Pictured: A funny, talented, brilliant woman who people treat like sh*t.

END SUMMARY

Annie is fat and at no point does the show try to beat around that particular bush. At two points during the first episode, a woman (Katie Wee) who advertises as a personal trainer tries to convince Annie to hire her by using every trick in the book that society uses against fat people: “You actually have a really small frame,” “You weren’t meant to carry around all of this extra weight,” “You could be so pretty,””You don’t have to settle for [your body],” and a number of ways of saying that fat people are essentially diseased. Naturally, when Annie finally gets frustrated with her put-downs and says “f*ck you,” the woman responds with “I was just trying to help you, you fat bitch.” Annie walks away and smiles as the song “Pretty Ugly” by Tierra Whack plays, with the chorus “Don’t worry ’bout me, I’m doing good, I’m doing great, alright.”

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Super cool to aggressively grab people, trainer lady!

And that’s pretty much the summary for the show: Annie just wants to be okay with who she is. She’s a fat woman, and no one seems to be able to see that as anything other than a problem that needs to be fixed. At the beginning of the series, Annie has a number of problems, but all of them are the result of not having self-esteem from years of being shamed for her body, as opposed to actual problems that derive from her weight. She lets Ryan treat her like crap (he won’t buy a second pillow, makes her sneak out the back door, and won’t use condoms), her boss be cruel to her, her mother belittle her, and even random strangers take shots at her, all because she’s been told that she’s not right the way that she is. However, throughout the season she starts gaining confidence until finally at least one of her critics is forced to admit that they’re jealous of the fact that she can feel confident as she is.

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She wears this outfit. You will never be this confident. Or this sparkly.

The music for the show is brilliant and almost always matches the theme perfectly. The acting is amazing, with both great regulars and excellent guest stars. The writing is, to me, sometimes a little inconsistent, but it never falls below “good” and often settles around “great.” It never feels trite or overdone, and there are some great quotes, particularly from Gabe. Overall, I liked this show a lot.

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Also, Fran knows how to work it.

However, I didn’t think that I could quite do justice to how well I thought this show handled its subject matter, I asked for a guest author to give her opinion. I hereby pass the mic to The Faceless Old Woman Who Lives On My Couch and go make a cocktail.

THE FACELESS OLD WOMAN WHO LIVES ON MY COUCH

I’d been meaning to read the memoir the series is based on for some time. I’ve missed Lindy West’s voice since she quit Twitter a few years ago. She’s still writing but without that social media pipeline I don’t see her articles as often, either. I adore Aidy Bryant and having the two of them working together is just a dream come true. The show is exceptionally and at times painfully good at illustrating the frustrations of being fat, being a woman, and especially being a fat woman.

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Lindy West, the writer of the book, next to producer Elizabeth Banks.

It’s set in Portland, Oregon, previously repped in comedy television in Portlandia. (Portlandia creator Carrie Brownstein directs Episode 2 of Shrill.) Whereas Portlandia was a surreal but loving lampoon of the liberal Elysium, Shrill digs a little deeper into the reality of living in a place where everyone thinks they’re a really good ally, and in that respect I think it’s a great addition to the small family of shows set in the City of Roses. I’ve never lived in Portland, but anyone who’s spent a lot of time in liberal circles knows someone who’s said something like, “Do I look like the establishment? I’m wearing fucking nail polish!” (John Cameron Mitchell is perfect in this series.)

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I mean, not THAT establishment, but AN establishment.

In talking to other fat women about this show, there’s a conflict between appreciating the show’s relatability and representation of the difficulties many people have with being fat, and the deep desire for a fat lady character to just have nice things for once.

On the “nice things” end, Annie does have a kickass wardrobe and apartment. Part of me is like “how would Annie have such a nice apartment with only one roommate if she worked as a blogger at an alt weekly, how could she afford all these cute plus size clothes, these things are expensive!” On the other hand, I’m also thinking “how awesome is it to have a fat leading lady who isn’t wearing a loudly printed potato sack?!” The wardrobe, the apartment, the various locations in Portland make a rich and colorful world for the show. The fat-friendly pool party scene is a major high point.

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It’s a hell of a party.

Annie’s job creates problems for her because she isn’t satisfied with the assignments she gets and her boss is extremely fatphobic. However, the biggest point of frustration for viewers is probably Annie’s shitty love interest, Ryan. Ryan is the quintessential Portland f*ckboy: disheveled beard, cohosts a shitty podcast, needs his mom to take care of him, doesn’t want his friends to know you exist, can’t commit to anything but texts nonstop if you aren’t around when he wants you. A lot of people can relate to dating a guy like this, but the rotten cherry on this garbage sundae of a human is that he pressured her into having unprotected sex with him, multiple times. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people can relate to that too. As a result, Annie has an abortion in the first episode. (Which is handled very well! It’s not a big deal!) (Side note on the morning-after pill subplot here: the evidence isn’t conclusive on whether it’s less effective on folks over 175 lbs, you should definitely still take the pill if you’re in a situation, but it’s still probably a poor choice for routine birth control. Talk to your doctor.)

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He takes mushrooms with a dog.

Ryan seemingly has no qualities that would explain why anyone would date him despite his faults. He’s not smart, charismatic, or handsome, nor does he play in a band. All of Annie’s friends know he is trash. We, the viewers, know he is trash. Annie thinks he’s “better than nothing.”

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They sell better companions on Amazon.

I think some people are very tired of the narrative of the fat woman who has no self-esteem, and that’s extremely fair. I think the show finds a good balance in that Annie is learning how to stand up for herself at work, how to navigate her mother’s good-intentioned fat-shaming, and even confronts a vicious internet troll (a fantastic cameo from Beck Bennett). In her relationship with Ryan she also makes this sort of progress, but more slowly. I think this is, truly, very real when you’re attached to someone and you’ve envisioned them in your head as a future spouse. It’s hard to unwrap your head from that attachment, and you find yourself pushing away anyone who tries to clue you in. The show introduced another, really wonderful love interest for Annie midway through, and here’s hoping we see him again. But Annie’s just getting started and sometimes things get worse before they get better.

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

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Hulu Mini-Review – Into the Dark: My Valentine – Gaslighting As Horror

Blumhouse’s Into the Dark series turns a bad relationship into a mind-screwing horror story.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

On Valentine’s Day, a pop singer named Valentine (Britt Baron) plays a show with her partner Julie (Anna Akara), only to find that a group of fans of pop star Trezzure (Anna Lore) are in the audience harassing her. They claim that Valentine ripped off the songs, voice, and image of Trezzure, but Valentine claims that Trezzure’s manager Royal (Benedict Samuel) was her ex-boyfriend who stole all of her songs and created Trezzure. After the show, Royal and Trezzure show up to confront Valentine, and Royal is not planning on taking “no” for an answer.

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The show’s pretty great, honestly.

END SUMMARY

This film was the first feature written and directed by Maggie Levin and this is a hell of a first at-bat. While I have enjoyed several of the films that have come out in Into the Dark, this is immediately in the top tier. This movie basically turns the act of gaslighting into a monstrous act perpetrated by a cruel bastard, which at least a handful of people I spoke to say can be accurate in real life. 

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You will see someone you’ve met in his performance.

The strength of the film is the interaction between Valentine, Royal, and Trezzure. Benedict Samuel almost perfectly captures a level of sinister egotism in order to sell the premise to the extreme that the film takes it. The best part, and also the most unnerving, is how well he uses common lines from other films or that abusers frequently recite. Most of his abuse is given in flashbacks to his relationships, which appear almost the same whether it’s Valentine or Trezzure. This is magnified by the fact that Valentine and Trezzure intentionally look nearly identical. Both of them were willing to give him power over them because of his manipulations and their own fears, but he always couches his abuse in targeted language. He tells each of them that “no one will ever love [them] like [he] loves them,” something that sounds romantic until you consider it also tells them they are incapable of doing better than him. He constantly covers his threats with “unless you make me,” always putting the onus on the other party.  That’s how abusers get victims to forgive them, something he explicitly gets his victims to do in this.

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I shouted “YOU DON’T OWE HIM ANY EXPLANATIONS OR CONVERSATIONS” a lot.

I don’t want to go into the whole episode, but let me tell you that it is well paced and captivating. I really recommend this film if you like horror. The cinematography is more akin to a rock video at times, but since some of the cuts are literally to pop performances, that works. Give it a shot sometime.

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.

 

Hulu Review: Letterkenny – One of the Funniest Shows on TV

Canada has brought us a comedy show so good I have almost forgiven them for Bryan Adams.

SUMMARY

There are 5000 people in Letterkenny. These are their problems.

Letterkenny, Ontario is a rural town populated by a variety of subcultures. The show focuses on the Hicks: Wayne (Jared “The Next Wolverine” Keeso), his sister Katy (Michelle Mylett), his best friend Daryl (Nathan Dales), and his other best friend Squirrelly Dan (K. Trevor Wilson). Wayne and the hicks run the local produce stand and regularly scrap and drink with many of the locals, ranging from the Hockey Players Reilly and Jonesy (Dylan Playfair and Andrew Herr) to the local drug dealers Stewart and Roald (Tyler Johnston and Evan Stern) to the bartender Gail (Lisa Codrington) to fellow hicks the McMurrays (Dan Petronijevic, Melanie Scrofano, and Kamilla Kowal). Stuff happens, funny things are said and done.

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Yes, they always stand just like this.

END SUMMARY

I could honestly have described every single episode plot of this show in depth and I would still not consider it spoiled, because the dialogue and the characters are the entire point of the show. This is one of the wittiest shows I’ve watched in a while, mostly because almost everyone in the series is enamored with the English (and occasionally French) language, playing with it as much as they can. Almost every single conversation is an exploration of puns, references, witticisms, and creative colloquialisms. They are so fond of coming up with slang terms for various things that the fan page has a literal guide to Letterkenny slang. Admittedly, some of them are just Canadian terms that an American like myself just doesn’t hear much (like the Caesar being the Great White Northern counterpart to the Bloody Mary), but the amount that the show comes up with is still prodigious.

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An average episode has 100 puns in 22 minutes.

Part of what makes this show work is that it captures some elements of small town life that most shows just never get. Or, at least, what small towns were like before the prescription drug epidemic took over in the mid-90s. It’s notable in the show that, despite the number of drugs that some of the characters are shown doing, there basically never is a reference to oxycontin or barbiturates. Pretty much everyone is shown to be heavy-drinking, smoking, and often have used other drugs in the past, however. Basically, Letterkenny is a lot like a small US town in 1994. Local sports are a big thing, people shoot the sh*t on porches a lot, everyone has weird traditions that they work to keep up, and there are random “scraps” where two people will fight just to determine which of them is tougher. Part of the show deals with Wayne attempting to preserve his reputation as the “toughest guy in Letterkenny,” something he upholds adeptly.

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If you grew up in a small town, you knew someone with a birthday tradition that went too far.

Another thing the show has going for it is that it isn’t afraid to try new, and sometimes random, changes to the format and characters. For example, one season features the hicks starting their own cable access show, then abandoning it when they get bored. One season features the local hockey team folding and the women’s hockey team becoming the focus. The show rarely gives much of an explanation or set-up for these things, instead just saying that’s how it’s going to be. Since the characters usually move on quickly, the audience does too.

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And then they decided this wasn’t worth it and left. True story.

The show rewards diligent viewing by having a number of running gags, which perfectly fits it as a streaming show. One of my favorites is that the Hicks cannot just say “to be fair,” without everyone harmonizing. It’s also one of the most quotable shows out there right now and I find myself doing it frequently. 

Overall, I really just recommend this show. Like many shows, I don’t think it really started to find its stride until the second season, but the first season is still pretty good.

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.

Hulu Mini-Review: Into the Dark: Pure – A Feminist Horror Film

Blumhouse gives us a film about a young woman at a purity retreat dealing with her inner demon.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Shay (Jahkara Smith) and her sister Jo (McKaley Miller) are taken by their father, Kyle (Jim Klock), to a purity retreat to affirm their commitment to staying virgins until marriage. Jo, a rebel, has been before and hates the retreat, while Shay agrees to go because she has only just met Kyle. He had an affair with her mother years ago and never found out she was pregnant. At the camp they’re met by Pastor Seth (Scott Porter), the head of the retreat, who gives a sermon condemning Lilith, the first wife of Adam from the Bible, who was sexually unchaste. That night Jo convinces Shay to join her and two other girls in a ritual to summon Lilith as a figure of female empowerment, something which appears to give Shay strange powers and visions. As the “purity ball” approaches, Shay starts to believe that there may be something deeply wrong with the retreat, and with her.

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Pretty much the most badass you can be looking like a chaste wood-nymph.

END SUMMARY

One man’s devil is another woman’s angel. That’s an actual line from this movie (paraphrased, maybe, I’m not rewatching it just to see) and it’s pretty much the central theme. Lilith, a figure who plays a role predominantly in Hebrew mythology, was the first wife of Adam, the first man. She was made out of Earth, just like Adam, and that led to a massive conflict between them because she refused to be subservient. They were created equally, so she wanted to be equal. Naturally, Adam refused this and she left him, leading to the creation of Eve, who is born of Adam and thus below him. Lilith is usually portrayed as a demon for this, even though her sin was just asking to be equal to Adam, not even above him.

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This is the least demonic picture I could find of her. 

This movie uses that as a jumping off point, because we are watching a “purity” ritual which directly requires women to be subservient to men. First, girls are subservient to their fathers, to whom they must devote their purity, and then to their husbands, to whom they devote their fidelity. The film points out that, while this may seem to be upholding God’s law upon Christians, the truth is that most of the time men are given more leeway. When Jo asks if their husbands are also expected to be virgins, the Pastor says that “we all know some things are a little different for men.” Even if men are asked to be chaste, they’re allowed to monitor their own chastity, whereas the women are required to place theirs under a man’s watchful gaze. It’s also shown that women are punished at the retreat for being impure and not just with a stern talking to, despite the fact that many of the men are shown to do much more “impure” acts. Basically, the film is a commentary on the fact that programs and traditions about “protecting” women are really just an excuse to guarantee their subservience. 

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Shay was literally born because of her father’s infidelity and he blames her mom for it.

While the film’s supernatural and demonic elements are focused on Lilith, the real evil in the movie is sexism and religious practices used to justify it. It gives the movie a much greater impact that a plain monster movie. If you like horror movies that have social messages, this is one you should check out. 

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

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Hulu Mini-Review: Daphne and Velma – Yes, This is Real

The two first ladies of cartoon mystery solving get their own live-action spin-off.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Daphne Blake (Sarah Jeffrey) is a rich high-schooler who hosts a web show about supernatural conspiracies. Her family moves a lot, so her closest friend is her Skype buddy Velma Dinkley (Sarah Gilman), who attends an elite high-school and usually debunks Daphne’s theories. Daphne’s mom gets a job in Ridge Valley working for tech mogul Tobias Bloom (Brooks Forrester) which allows Daphne to attend high-school with her. Velma reveals that there are strange happenings in the school and the two pair up to solve a mystery (but not rewrite history because that’s a different franchise).

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And maintain traditional color schemes.

END SUMMARY

Up front, this was definitely made for kids. Scooby-Doo properties have run the gamut on age appropriateness and, while the best ones work for all age groups, this one skews younger (though I am still holding out for just one legit R-rated movie, so far it’s only parodies and Supernatural). I will say that it has one or two jokes that were, in retrospect, kind of dark, but it’s definitely rated G. Still, it’s a Scooby-Doo property, so I was bound to see it at some point and I will say that I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not the best Scooby-Doo movie ( that’s either Zombie Island, Moon Monster Madness, or, and I’m not kidding, Scooby-Doo and KISS Rock and Roll Mystery, which features the members of KISS with magical powers and Sailor Moon transformation sequences), but it’s definitely in the top half. Granted, that’s probably only because most Scooby-Doo films are terrible (and I say that as a fan) and so are many of the shows (Mystery Incorporated was amazing, but that doesn’t offset Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo). 

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Seriously, this is insanity on a whole other level and it’s magical.

Part of what works in the movie is that it is filled with absurdity that completely meshes with the traditionally abnormal world of Scooby-Doo. It takes place in a super-high-tech high school where clothing is hackable and robots have human emotions, something that’s more in the vein of Eureka than Supernatural, but since Scooby-Doo usually involves people using ridiculous technology to perpetrate absurd schemes, that’s still on-brand. There are suspicious people EVERYWHERE and everyone has weird quirks, which, again, fits the genre. 

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And people do the head-stacking in doorways, which is very on-brand.

The humor is genuinely better than most Scooby-Doo properties. I actually laughed quite a few times, particularly with lines like “I forgot to put in the wolves” which is just as ridiculous in context, trust me. The humor is also self-aware enough to call out a ton of the insanity witnessed on-screen without ruining the suspension of disbelief. It helps that Velma’s deadpan snark perfectly compliments Daphne’s humorous over-the-top positivity. While it does contain some generic characters, it uses them in funny ways and usually subverts the tropes by the end. Honestly, the supporting characters are generally really well-done for this kind of movie. 

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Costuming also went above and beyond.

The best part of the film, though, is that they use Daphne and Velma well. Both of the actresses do a great job emphasizing why these characters keep working throughout the years. While Velma has been fairly consistently portrayed throughout the years, Daphne’s character has varied much more, and yet the film makes use of all of them, from damsel-in-distress to action-girl, without feeling out-of-character. They play off of each other perfectly and you really get a good sense that, while they’re very different, they still care about each other and respect each other. 

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“Wait, how did you make a perfect circle?” is an actual line from this movie.

Look, I’m not going to say this is a “good” movie, but it was a decent Scooby-Doo film. It works because it never pretends to be anything else and the effort was focused in the right direction. It’s dumb, but if you’re willing to suspend disbelief to the right level, it’s actually pretty fun.

If, like me, you’re a Scooby-Doo fan, watch this with your kids… or just drink until you feel younger. At least it’s better than Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf. If you’re not a Scooby-Doo fan, give Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island a try.

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

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