Seven Deadly Sins/Nanatsu no Taizai (Seasons 1-4): A Little Formulaic at Times, but Still Fun – Netflix Anime Mini-Review

It’s always fun to watch bad guys be the best good guys.

SUMMARY

In the land of Brittania (not to be confused with any real place with similar name), the kingdom of Liones lived in relative peace until the king was overthrown by the Holy Knights, his elite armed forces. The Princess, Elizabeth Liones (Sora Amamiya/Erika Harlacher), set out to find the exiled warriors who previously betrayed the Holy Knights, the Seven Deadly Sins. She actually manages to find Meliodas (Yūki Kaji/Bryce Papenbrook), the captain of the Sins, and the pair embark on a quest to find the others. They succeed in locating four more of the group: Ban the immortal (Tatsuhisa Suzuki/Ben Diskin), Diane the giant (Aoi Yūki/Erica Mendez), King the Elf (Jun Fukuyama/Max Mittelman), and Gowther the doll (Yuhei Takagi/Erik Scott Kimerer). The five, later joined by Merlin the sorceress (Maaya Sakamoto/Lauren Landa), manage to liberate the kingdom from the Holy Knights, only to discover that the entire takeover was engineered to release an even greater threat: The demonic Ten Commandments. Together with the seventh Sin, Escanor (Tomokazu Sugita/Kyle Hebert), the group must stop the Demon Clan from taking over Brittania.

But only King wears a hoodie.

END SUMMARY

I will admit that when I first checked out this series, I had already read some of the manga, so I think I might have expected too much of it. The anime is a pretty faithful adaptation, particularly compared to some others that I’ve seen, but it didn’t feel like it added enough for me. As a result, I kinda bailed after the second season. However, since the manga has wrapped up in the interim, I decided I wanted to see how the story ended. So, I checked it out again and I will say that they did get a little bit better at layering extra imagery onto the anime that wasn’t in the manga to keep it fresh. 

They did a good job on some of the possession movements, for example.

The main thing that I liked about the series at the beginning was that most of the main characters were, in fact, depicted as sinners. Meliodas was a pervert who constantly groped Elizabeth (which she apparently liked, but is still wrong) and was presumed to be concealing an impossible amount of rage beneath his joking facade. Ban was a thief, King was responsible for his species nearly being destroyed, Diane constantly tried to force Meliodas into a relationship with her, Gowther was literally amoral, Merlin was willing to experiment on people without their knowledge, and Escanor, as is true to his sin, was the embodiment of haughty pride. Having protagonists with such flaws almost always makes the story more interesting, but they tried to make a few of them a little more likable at the cost of removing that moral ambiguity. Still, the personalities and character traits are pretty solid for a show like this. 

Seriously, dude, not cool.

It also helps that the show references a diverse number of mythologies, either directly or via allusion, and that it builds on elements from them to quickly create a world that contains a huge number of species and cultures. The show has traditional fantasy races like elves and giants, but also celestial and demonic forces that are a blend of DnD and Abrahamic religions. Arthurian mythology is directly invoked, as is modern vampire mythology and even some Western pop literature. 

I mean, there’s an Arthur Pendragon who rules Camelot. That’s… blatant.

The biggest problem, for me, was that the series had to do the Dragon Ball Z thing of having to constantly level up the powers of the characters in order to keep them as the underdogs. The series even gives you a “power level” reader just to make sure that you understand that these threats completely outclass our protagonists, such that when the Ten Commandments are first introduced, one of their number is stronger than all of the Sins combined. This seemed almost unnecessary because the Commandments also had innovative powers that could have made them a threat even if they were just even in power. Still, so many series have done this, I can hardly hold it against them. I just appreciate it more when series, like One Piece, for example, at least hint from the beginning that this kind of power exists in the world, so that it doesn’t just feel like the narrator saying “well, you beat Bob the Unbeatable, now you have to beat Tim the More Unbeatable who we didn’t mention before now.”

Screw you, Tim.

Overall, I do still think it’s a solid series. Plus, it has an apparent end point in the next season or two, so you don’t have to worry about sitting around 10 years from now waiting for the arc to finish. Lookin’ at you, One Piece.

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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Wizards: Tales of Arcadia (Part 3) – Netflix Review

Guillermo Del Toro’s fantasy/sci-fi world comes to a final chapter.

SUMMARY

Starting right where 3Below left off, it turns out that alien gods and Troll lords were not the only threat to Arcadia and the world at large. The forces of darkness, commanded by the Green Knight, have been attacking Jim Lake, Jr. (Emile Hirsch), the Trollhunter, along with Merlin (David Bradley), Blinky (Kelsey Grammer), and Claire Nuñez (Lexi Medrano), resulting in Jim being mortally wounded. Merlin picks up his apprentice Hisirdoux “Douxie” Casperan (Colin O’Donoghue), along with Douxie’s familiar Archie (Alfred Molina), Toby Domzalski (Charlie Saxton), Aaarrrgghh (Fred Tatasciore), and Steve Palchuk (Steven Yeun). They arrive in the now-floating city of Camelot, only for an attack by the Green Knight to send Douxie, Claire, Jim, and Steve back in time to the original reign of King Arthur (James Faulkner). Now they have to try to preserve the past and stop Morgan le Fay (Lena Headey) and the Arcane Order to save the present, with the help of some of the people of the past, including the troll Callista (Stephanie Beatriz), Sir Galahad (John Rhys-Davies), and Sir Lancelot (Rupert Penry-Jones). 

Douxie, please wear some dang armor.

END SUMMARY

So, it turns out that there’s a movie coming out next year, so this won’t be the last entry into the Tales of Arcadia series. Still, this is the culmination of four years of television and two prior series (Trollhunters and 3Below) that were from relatively different genres, and that deserves respect. I can’t ever really tell how much Guillermo Del Toro was involved in the actual plotting of the shows, but even if he just came up with the premises of the three shows, I have to give him credit for coming up with several distinct worlds that all intersect in interesting ways. Obviously, given that he wrote a book of it, he put most of the work into Trollhunters, but the other two series manage to keep expanding and compounding the mythology in interesting ways until the conclusion. 

This series also does a good job of making magic look like sci-fi technology.

The show’s main focus is on Douxie, which works well because he’s been a secondary character up until this point but his design, voice actor, and the way characters interact with him has always made him stand out appropriately. He was first shown to be a musician in the third season of Trollhunters, something that doesn’t really come up for part of this series, then becomes relevant towards the end. Douxie benefits from being both young in spirit but also over 900 years old, giving him a wealth of experience. Compared to anyone aside from Merlin, whose approval he craves, Douxie is a powerhouse, but since Merlin is always there, he has massive insecurities. It makes him an easy protagonist to get behind. As for returning characters, Steve Palchuck maintains his status as comic relief, Claire and Jim maintain their dynamic as protagonist couple with added magic baggage, and Merlin continues to be an overbearing jerk who has the terrible trait of usually being right. 

But tragic protagonists now, sadly.

I’ll admit that the show’s biggest drawback is that it is only one season of ten episodes. They manage to wrap up a bunch of plotlines, but it is done really quickly, leaving a lot of things to feel like deus ex machinae. We get some happy endings and quality story moments, but it comes at you so fast that you don’t really get a proper amount of time to react to the information before the next thing. Still, being able to rely on the past shows allows them to shortcut a lot of the storytelling, so it doesn’t bother me as much as it would with many shows. 

Plus, we get the big epic battle sequence that a finale needs.

Overall, a really solid conclusion to the Tales of Arcadia… or it would be, except they’re doing a movie next year and that’ll probably lead to more shows. Which is cool, cuz I enjoy this universe.

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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The New Legends of Monkey (Seasons 1 and 2): Another Fun Journey to the West – Netflix Mini-Review

A classic Japanese show based on a Chinese myth gets an Australian/New Zealand revival.

SUMMARY 

500 years ago, the Monkey King Sun Wukong (also called Son Goku) (Chai Hansen) was buried under a mountain because he offended Heaven by stealing their scrolls of knowledge. Unfortunately, in the intervening centuries, the Earth has become overrun by demons and monsters, leading humans to be oppressed as the Gods are in hiding from the most powerful demon lords. A human scholar and some warriors had come up with a plan to free Monkey and recover the scrolls so that they can learn how to stop the demons’ reign of terror. Unfortunately, the night before the plan was set to commence, the demons killed the party, save for the scholar’s adopted daughter (Luciane Buchanan), who takes on the name Tripitaka after her father and pretends to be a man. She eventually manages to free the Monkey King and gain a pair of allies in the form of Cho Hakkou (AKA Pigsy) (Josh Thomson) and Sa Goji (AKA Sandy) (Emilie Cocquerel).  Together, the four set out to recover the scrolls that the Monkey King lost and thwart the demons that are ruling over humanity.

They might be the original four-man band trope.

END SUMMARY

Journey to the West is one of the most famous stories from ancient China, particularly because it’s been adapted so many times in both Eastern and Western media. The most famous adaptation is probably Dragon Ball, although it stopped having anything more in common with it than a character named Goku before I was born. This show is a spiritual successor to the Japanese adaptation from the late 1970s, which was itself dubbed into English by the BBC and released in New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom. It became a cult hit in those areas, although it was never broadcast in the United States. There are a number of references to watching it in BBC shows from the 90s and 00s, though.

It was super 70s level campy, though.

This series tries to update the story in a number of ways, mostly for the better. The BBC dub, if you’ve seen it, contains a lot of accent work that does NOT age well. Since this one is in English, that fortunately is not an issue.  In the original, one of the biggest draws was that it contained a lot of solid fight scenes, and this show follows in that tradition, but the updated special effects help add some variety. Additionally, they expanded the role of Tripitaka from the original. While Tripitaka is still not one of the central combatants, in this she’s much more willing to endanger herself in order to spare others. On the other hand, the show has softened the characters’ more outlandish traits, like Sandy being a pronounced cannibal or Pigsy having been a serial sexual harasser. I understand why they did that, but it does make them a little less conflicted and stops their arcs as redemption-focused characters. 

Sandy is still pretty crazy, though.

Regardless of whether you liked the original series, this interpretation of the characters is very charming. Monkey is the cocky rebel who constantly has to be brought down a peg. Pigsy and Sandy bicker like rivals and yet still manage to get along well after a few episodes. Tripitaka is the moral center who is caught unprepared for the challenges, but steps up anyway. The writing is pretty good for a fantasy adventure series, although it’s not going to blow anyone away. The villains are usually pretty creative and well played in the first season, but they get a lot better in the second that just came out.

Can you guess this guy’s alignment just by outfit?

Overall, it’s mostly just a fun show to watch, which is more than enough sometimes. 

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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The Last Dance: This is my (NBA) Jam – Netflix Review

Ironically, the focus was not in NBA Jam.

SUMMARY

The Last Dance uses a bunch of previously unaired footage from the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls team in order to tell the story of the last year that Michael Jordan would play for the Chicago Bulls and the last year that Phil Jackson would coach for them. The series conducts a huge number of interviews ranging from sportswriters to players to former US Presidents all in order to successfully convey the incredible scope of the events of the Bulls completing a second threepeat. Episodes focus on several of the players and coaches and what was happening as the season unfolded, but, let’s be honest, it’s mostly about Michael Jordan and trying to explain to people who weren’t alive in 1998 exactly how huge that man was to the game of Basketball and the Chicago Bulls in particular. 

Also, Scottie Pippen finally gets some recognition.

END SUMMARY

I was a little bit intimidated by the length of this miniseries, because 500 minutes worth of documentary is a lot. However, the more I watched, the more it became apparent that you just cannot give this story its due unless you’re willing to spend hours going into the backstory of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr, and Phil Jackson. In the context of the 1998 season, these weren’t just men, these were icons. 

Icons with weird hair at times, but icons nonetheless.

Part of it is that they emphasize how big of a change Michael Jordan was for the Bulls, and the NBA. Prior to his arrival, the Bulls not only weren’t title contenders, but were so bad that the team owners were looking to sell it to literally anyone. The 1983-84 team won less than one in every three games. They’d only made the playoffs in three of the last ten years at that point. Michael Jordan’s arrival, in the series, is basically portrayed as giving life to a dead team, and, given that they made the playoffs every year he was on the team, that’s probably not inaccurate. As is natural for a documentary like this, they do spend some time dedicated to building up a few of the more legendary feats in Jordan’s career, including his record-setting 63 point game against the 1985-86 Larry Bird Celtics (a strong contender for the best team ever to play the game) and the first championship against the Magic Johnson Lakers. By framing everything just right, The Last Dance magnifies a good sports anecdote into a modern Greek Myth, complete with nearly inhuman athletic achievements. Of course, since Larry Bird claimed of the game, “I think he’s God disguised as Michael Jordan,” it probably never could be anything less than mythic. 

You can almost see Jordan flying through the air, shooting lightning out of his fingers.

It helps that the 1997-98 season had the Bulls as underdogs at the beginning, starting the season off 9-7 and without Scottie Pippen, due to an injury. Somehow, the team managed to hold on and even start to turn it around with a heck of a win streak, leading to their sixth and final championship. 

An actual photo and also a metaphor.

I admit that I might be a bit biased in favor of this documentary, because in the 1990s, when I was growing up, the Bulls were essentially the team. Not in the NBA, not in basketball, but really just in US sports. I mean, we had the Braves pitching lineup, but people born in the late 80s weren’t that interested in baseball, because NBA Jam was fun and Roger Clemens’ MVP Baseball was not. I wish I could say it was something bigger than that, but… I mean, honestly, arcades were big in the early ‘90s and four player NBA Jam Tournament Edition was up there with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time in terms of wait times. Even if you couldn’t play as Jordan, you could still play as Pippen and Horace Grant and feel like you were part of that 90s domination.

Fun fact: The Creator of the game rigged it in favor of the Pistons.

Overall, if you were a kid in the 90s, you can’t NOT watch this. If you were alive in the 90s, you need to see it. If you ever liked Basketball, you should take the time to watch it, and if you didn’t, then you might like it anyway. 

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.

What Keeps You Alive: Marriage is About Give and Taking Lives – Netflix Review

A married woman finds out that her wife is not who she thought.

SUMMARY

Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) is married to Jules (Brittany Allen), and the two are celebrating their first anniversary at a remote cabin in the woods that Jackie went to as a kid. On their first night, a young woman named Sarah (Martha MacIsaac) stops by to check on the cabin and recognizes Jackie, but calls her “Megan.” Jackie and Jules later visit Sarah and her husband, Daniel (Joey Klein), and Jules finds out that Jackie witnessed a girl drown as a child. Jackie claims that she blamed herself for not saving the girl and changed her name by choice, which Jules doesn’t quite buy. When the couple talk on a hike later, Jules finally starts to let her suspicions go, only for Jackie to push her off of a cliff. Jules barely survives, gravely injured, and now must survive a woman who apparently has been hiding a dark side this entire time.

They look so cute until the attempted homicide.

END SUMMARY

This movie has only four characters and has a plot (person you trust that turns out to be psychotic killer) that has been reused throughout horror movie history more times than I can count. However, most of the film is done so well that you will likely be on the edge of your seat anyway. It doesn’t matter that it’s a trope plot, it’s one that works. A big part of the appeal of films like Night of the Hunter and The Bad Seed is having a character who seems so innocent turn out to be a monster. It’s a reminder that no human can ever really know another one perfectly, and that those dark sides can be really dark. It’s not something that is likely to change in the near future. Have other movies done it better? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean this film doesn’t have merits.

There are some super tense scenes.

It’s really the interplay between the two leads that makes it work, and it works no matter which dynamic is on screen. Yes, Anderson plays a complete manipulative sociopath, but Allen has to sell how completely caught off-guard she is by the situation. This isn’t just a friend who has a dark side; this is her wife. This is the woman she loves, she sleeps with, she trusts implicitly with everything. Even when Jackie pushes Jules off of the cliff, you can tell that Jules isn’t quite sure of what to make of it. It’s only when she catches Jackie feigning an emotional plea that she really starts to realize that all of it, everything they experienced together, was just an act. It’s an absolutely amazing scene and both parties capture the feelings precisely.

Boats can be horrifying with the wrong company.

Now, there are upsides and downsides to being very formulaic. On the one hand, you will be predictable and that will annoy a lot of viewers. On the other hand, it makes the scenes better when you deviate. For example, unlike most films where a person is revealed to be a serial killer, this movie actually has some slow character moments that interrupt the “chase,” due to Jules’ machinations. She buys time before Jackie can kill her, which forces them to stay in proximity while Jackie just gets to keep trying to convince Jules that she’s going to die, while Jules tries to find some humanity in her wife. These scenes really set this movie apart from most horror/thriller films. Plus, it’s over in 90 minutes (plus credits), and that’s about as long as this movie could be. 

It walks a knife edge.

Overall, I can understand why the IMDB for this movie is so low (it is tropey as heck, and people may hate that), but I personally thought it was worth the watch. If you’re not into thrillers, don’t waste your time. The rest of you, check it out.

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

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Elizabeth Harvest: Well Done, but Not Quite What It Should Be – Netflix Review

A young woman finds out that her husband is a monster. 

SUMMARY

Elizabeth (Abbey Lee) is newly married to Henry (Ciarán Hinds), a brilliant scientist. They arrive at Henry’s manor and are greeted by the staff, Claire (Carla Gugino) and Oliver (Matthew Beard). Elizabeth enjoys her new married life, but is told by her husband that there is one room which she may never enter. Henry leaves soon on a work trip, and eventually Elizabeth decides to investigate the room. After she looks inside, Henry comes home and, realizing she looked, kills her. A few weeks later, Elizabeth is newly married to Henry, a brilliant scientist. They arrive at Henry’s manor and are greeted by the staff. It turns out that Elizabeth is being cloned by Henry over and over again, and periodically the Elizabeth harvest must come.

This is the most excited new bride ever.

END SUMMARY

I’ll start by saying that I think this movie is well shot and well acted. Hinds is one of my favorite actors in anything and having him portray a vicious Bluebeard-esque husband with a genius mind and a penchant for dropping strange trivia is great casting. Abbey Lee, who I thought was great in the film The Neon Demon does a great job playing the innocent girl who is married to an aloof, but powerful and impressive, man. Gugino and Beard each have great scenes that give them a moment to shine. Even Dylan Baker, who is only in the movie briefly, is solid. Behind the camera, the cinematography does a good job of heightening Elizabeth’s isolation and the distant relationship between her and Henry, then later between her and the other people. In fact, the cinematography and acting are so good that it almost makes up for the fact that this movie really isn’t that good. 

Looks great, sounds great… but is only mediocre.

See the plot summary I just wrote? That covers about the first half of the film. The rest of the movie, which clocks in at about an hour and forty minutes, is mostly just a convoluted explanation of why Elizabeth is being cloned. You know how I’m a big fan of “show, don’t tell?” Yeah, this is a ton of tell that has very little show. Moreover, almost everything that is revealed to the audience is so very, very obvious, mostly from the good performances and visual storytelling at the beginning. You keep waiting for there to be some kind of surprise twist, but… nope. It’s really just telling you a bunch of stuff that you probably could have guessed from the start. Sure, you might not have gotten all of the details, but you could have gotten the broad strokes. Instead, you are force fed a bunch of strangely elaborate motivations and plots by all of the characters that led to the current situation. Motivations that really fall apart upon closer examination. It reminded me of a great line from the Simpsons: “It’s so simple… wait, no it’s not, it’s needlessly complicated.” 

They do great work with symbolism, not so much with plot.

Overall, it’s not a bad movie, particularly from a technical standpoint, but it never really did anything super original or interesting. I would recommend just watching Ex Machina if you’ve never seen it, because it’s a similar story, but touches on more themes. 

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.

Transformers: War for Cybertron: Pure Nostalgic Goodness – Netflix Anime Mini-Review

We get a darker take on the classic series, even if it’s just a taste.

SUMMARY

The planet Cybertron was once peacefully populated by robotic life (somehow, that term is accurate). Then, a new faction of synthetic organisms arose, the Decepticons, led by Megatron (Jason Marnocha). They began a war for control of the planet. Their only opposition ended up being the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (Jake Foushee). The war has raged for years, and now, the Autobots stand on the edge of defeat. Hope comes in the form of the rogue Cybertronian Bumblebee (Joe Zieja) and the possible source of all life on the planet, the Allspark. The battle for the future of the planet is on.

Robots not in disguise.

END SUMMARY

If you have never watched a Transformers property before, this show is not for you. It is not interested in really giving you any introductions to the world or the characters, nor is it interested in fleshing out a ton of the backstories of any of them. Given the sheer number of Transformers featured as secondary characters, this may overwhelm a lot of viewers. However, in some ways, I appreciate this kind of setup, because it prevents a lot of the overdone exposition which is common in many Transformers series. Also, it’s not like Transformers needs to be complicated. There are good robots and bad robots and some of the bad ones turn good or vice versa. Good ones are usually the underdogs, bad ones usually end up losing. 

Starscream betrays someone. It’s a formula.

Actually, this adaptation has way more moral ambiguity than most of the previous series. At the beginning of the show, we see Megatron, typically shown to be a mass-murdering conqueror, talking about honor and attempting to resolve the war without having to kill all of the Autobots. At the same time, we see Optimus Prime, typically the ultimate symbol of goodness, considering some darker and less honorable tactics than we usually wouldn’t associate with him. As the series progresses, they both end up moving more towards their traditional roles. The series seems to indicate that their actions throughout the entire war are as much about their personal feud as they were for their principles. 

Rock them and sock them robots. Too sophisticated for the ’em.

The war for Cybertron has long been a part of the mythology of the Transformers, but this show is the most explicit version that I can remember. While the Autobots are usually shown to be fighting a losing battle, this show makes that painfully clear by having most of the planet in shambles, all of the autobots injured or battle-damaged, and random robot remains strewn about the locations. While it is bloodless, since they don’t have blood, this would resemble the battlefields from the film 1917 otherwise. Moreover, a big part of the struggle is to find enough energon to survive, something that both sides are having trouble with. That means that the two armies are both starving to death throughout the series. It makes this whole series darker than any I’ve seen before. 

The battle damaged figures will be very popular.

The biggest problem with the show is that it really just doesn’t have a lot of time. At 6 episodes, the plot feels a bit rushed, even without the backstories. Since this was only the first chapter, though, there are plenty of opportunities to expand in the future. On the lighter side, I do enjoy the fact that the show makes some fun references, including a recurring Blade Runner joke, and that it does point out sometimes that many of the Transformers look like others, only with different colors. Since many of the toys were made by taking the same figures and giving them new patterns, this is kind of a fun shot at the nature of the show being to sell toys. 

Gotta catch ’em all… wait…

Overall, I enjoyed it. I admit that I’ve only dipped into the franchise a few times since Beast Wars, but this was a solid miniseries and I look forward to the next installment. Thank you to the readers who recommended this 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.

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Tread: Madman or Last Stand? – Netflix Review

I take a look at a documentary about the real-life Killdozer.

SUMMARY

Marvin Heemeyer was a welder who lived about 30-45 minutes out of Granby, South Dakota. He owned a muffler shop that subsequently became the focus of a zoning dispute over the construction of a nearby concrete plant. Heemeyer ended up losing and being fined for a number of violations of local ordinances. After perceiving the end of his business and that he had been wronged by the city council and a number of local parties, Heemeyer began building a weapon of revenge. After 18 months of construction, on June 4, 2004, Heemeyer revealed that he had turned a modified Komatsu D355A bulldozer into a makeshift tank and proceeded to go on a rampage that destroyed 13 buildings before he ultimately took his own life. 

Yes, this was a completely bulletproof bulldozer with guns on it.

END SUMMARY

I was wary of watching this documentary because I was already aware of the actions of Marvin Heemeyer and I have spent way too much time dealing with people who consider him a hero. Their primary argument is always that Heemeyer didn’t successfully kill anyone during his rampage aside from himself and that he was the victim of local politics and powerful people pushing him around. The fact that he’s now become a symbol of inspiration for people seeking a second US Civil War and a symbol of justice for the same people that consider mass-murderer Elliot Rodger to be a hero should say a lot about exactly how valiant his actions really were, in my opinion.  However, the fact remains that he was a man, with friends who miss him and his own issues that led to him getting to this point, so to condemn him as just a monster is to be unfairly dismissive. I don’t think I’ll ever understand someone going to these lengths, particularly for his reasons, but it is important to understand that people will do crazy things when they don’t feel like they have a way out.

Though, a sane plan probably doesn’t destroy this much innocent property.

As the movie started, much of the story seemed to be told from the perspectives of Heemeyer’s friends and from Heemeyer himself, which made me a bit apprehensive. Many of the things that were said clearly seemed to be biased takes on some of the events that almost seemed to excuse his actions. However, the documentary slowly became more objective and started to explain things that had already been addressed earlier, but from the other side. The documentary maintains this balanced viewpoint right up until the actual rampage, at which time it mostly starts to dissect his actions, showing how reckless and malicious they were. They chiefly point out that Heemeyer had absolutely no way of knowing that any of the buildings he went into were empty. Several were evacuated only moments before he drove through them. Moreover, it was only through his own lack of forethought that he was unable to destroy a large number of propane tanks that would have caused a huge explosion, potentially raining shrapnel for miles. 

There’s a decent amount of footage from the incident, naturally.

Just as a brief editorial warning: If you ever decide that something you’re doing can only be justified by believing that “God chose you to do it,” then please, please, pleeeeeease. DO. NOT. DO. IT. 

Overall, honestly a pretty interesting way to address a horrifying event. 

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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Umbrella Academy (Season 2): Practice Makes Better – Netflix Review

The most dysfunctional family of superheroes on TV comes back for seconds.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)

In 1989, forty-three women around the world gave birth to children despite not being pregnant minutes beforehand. A rich alien in human form named Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) buys seven of the children: Luther/Number One (Tom Hopper), Diego/Number Two (David Castañeda), Allison/Number Three (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Klaus/Number Four (Robert Sheehan), Number Five (Aidan Gallagher), Ben/Number Six (Justin H. Min), and Vanya/Number Seven (Ellen Page). All of the children are gifted with fantastic abilities, except for Vanya. They grow up to be the Umbrella Academy, a superhero team that split up after the death of Ben and the disappearance of Number Five. After the death of Hargreeves, the group reunites just in time for Number Five to return and announce that the apocalypse is imminent. Unfortunately, it turns out that the apocalypse is Vanya. More unfortunately, they fail. In a last ditch effort, as the Earth is dying, Five takes the group back in time to try and fix the situation.

The sunglasses show that they’re sexy, but not trying to be.

It turns out that time travel is not an exact science, so the siblings end up getting stranded in different parts of the early 1960s in Dallas, Texas. It also turns out that their jump to the past results in nuclear armageddon happening in 1963, shortly after Kennedy gets killed. Five goes back one more time, giving the team less than two weeks to reunite and prevent the apocalypse. Correctly, this time. 

END SUMMARY

I liked the first season of this show quite a bit, but, when I rewatched it in anticipation of this release, there were a handful of things that did irk me slightly. The first is that Diego was used more as the butt of a joke than as the great psychological specimen he could be. He’s the only one of them who operates as an actual vigilante, which makes him rife for deconstruction, but he mostly gets mocked for wearing tights. There were better openings for development everywhere, but he kind of ended up lacking. The same was true of Allison, as a celebrity who started as a superhero. Instead, most of her development focused on her difficulties as a mother in a dissolving marriage and her feelings for Luther. Lastly, the show itself tried to spend too much time on the mystery of the apocalypse, rather than just using that as a way to get all of the characters to interact. This season fixes all of those flaws and even just flat-out redirects some of the characters who had mostly used up their plotlines into much more interesting ones.

The new bad guys are three Swedish hitmen. It’s pretty cool.

While a lot of the season could feel like a re-hashed version of the first, particularly since the setup is still “dysfunctional family of superheroes need to stop an impending apocalypse that they don’t know the cause of,” most of the characters have changed massively from their time in the past. This makes all of their interactions feel fresh, and gives us a decent amount of new information about the core of their characters. They also expanded the role of Ben, the dead member, which was a great decision. Perhaps the smartest decision is that the season starts off by showing us a vision of what the Umbrella Academy COULD be if they actually managed to achieve their potential. They’re a force stronger than almost anything mankind has ever seen, and when organized together they can be unstoppable. Then, the show takes that from us almost immediately afterwards and shows us the reality that they’re all deeply flawed individuals that keep themselves from being that apex. Just like the rest of us do every day.

Yes, Five is still wearing bowling shoes.

The one thing that I most realized I enjoyed about the first season of the show was how well the show used their soundtrack. While this season doesn’t quite manage to match the amazing sequence of the teleport fight set to “Istanbul, not Constantinople” from the first season, they still did a great job continuing to emphasize action or development through music. 

Don’t ax Five to dance, though.

Overall, if you liked the first season, I think you’ll like this one. If you didn’t like the first season, you might like this one, so… give it a try?

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

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

The Battered Bastards of Baseball: Always Stick it to The Man – Netflix Mini-Review

If you love an underdog story, then you will love this.

SUMMARY

In the 1970s, Actor Bing Russell, father of Kurt Russell, started the only independent ball club (not owned by a major league team) in the Northwestern US, the Portland Mavericks. True to their maverick name, they did not play by the “rules” that defined traditional teams. They hired outcasts who had been kicked out of the Majors, they hired people who had aged past their primes, they hired minorities as coaches, they had the first female general manager in baseball. Moreover, they won a lot against teams that were better funded. During their entire run, they never had a losing record. Their story is that of a scrappy group of warriors rebelling against the MLB Corporate overlords. If the whole thing wasn’t true, it’d sound ridiculous.

In glorious ’70s quality film.

END SUMMARY

This is one of the best documentaries that I’ve seen in a long time. Due to my lack of interest in most professional baseball since the 90s, I hadn’t really considered watching it when it came out, but that was definitely my loss. You don’t have to like baseball to like this movie; in fact, knowing almost nothing about baseball won’t hurt you at all. This story isn’t about how a team made great catches or hit home runs, it’s about a team with a lot of personalities that would never have been allowed on a field in any other circumstances. 

Mostly, the haircuts would be banned until the 80s.

Much of the movie is narrated by the surviving members of the team, including Kurt Russell, who played for them briefly before injuries forced him back to acting, Todd Field, the Oscar-nominated writer/director who was a batboy for the team, Rob Nelson, Jim Swanson, Frank Peters, Robert Richardson, and Jon Yoshiwara. A ton of other great personalities appear in archive footage, due to the amount of film clips there were of the team, mostly due to the fact that they were fan favorites. 

It was a fun time for everyone.

While a few elements of the movie didn’t really work great for me, mostly the ways in which they present the newspaper clippings, those were overshadowed by the clear love of the story that comes out through the film. It makes sense, given that the directors are the grandsons of Bing Russell, Chapman and Maclain Way. There are an insane number of twists and explanations at the end, alone, that would have made the entire film worth watching, and it feels like the creators knew exactly what they were doing with that final set of revelations. Moreover, the final act crystallizes what the Mavericks were really doing, trying to prove that the monopoly of Major League Baseball was really just killing America’s love of the game. Given the fact that American interest in the sport has been dropping compared to the amount of money spent on payroll and promotion for the last 20 years, they had a point.

Preach, brother.

Overall, great film. Give it a watch some time. 

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.