Netflix Review – Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus – Dear God, Why Was This Ever Cancelled?

One of the most unique shows ever put on television gets revived for a special and it just makes me realize how sad it was that we had to wait so long for it.

SUMMARY

It’s been years since alien invader Zim (Richard Steven Horvitz) and his Robot assistant, GIR (Rosearik Rikki Simons), have been seen and the constant obsession with finding him has led his nemesis Dib (Andy Berman) to become a fat, smelly blob attached to a chair, much to the disgust of his sister Gaz (Melissa Fahn) and his father Professor Membrane (Rodger Bumpass). Then Zim comes back, with a new plan to impress the leaders of the Irkin Empire, the Almighty Tallest (Wally Wingert and Kevin McDonald), if only he can remember what Step 2 is…

ZimFlorpus - 1DibChair
The rivalry is reignited and both sides are a little let down.

END SUMMARY

Look, I don’t want to spoil this special, so go ahead and take an hour to watch it. Go on, I believe in you. Do it.

Awesome, wasn’t it? I mean it’s not quite as good as “Walk of Doom” or some of the better episodes of the series, but it’s a really good special and it proves one thing: This show had a lot more room to explore before getting cancelled. 

ZimFlorpus - 3Cupcake.gif
Like what became of the cupcake’s children?

For those who are getting their first taste of Zim, here’s my previous description of the show:

Invader Zim is what happens when Nickelodeon doesn’t fully investigate who they’re giving money to. It’s similar to how WNBC got Howard Stern. They heard something was popular, decided to get the person responsible, then immediately realized that it conflicted with their image.

Showrunner Jhonen Vasquez is a messed-up human being, and the creator of such works as Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Squee. He is also a darkly comic genius of the highest order. Invader Zim was a show that ran on the logic that whatever would confuse, amuse, or disturb the audience the most should be the next image on screen or line of dialogue. Sometimes this was frightening or irksome, but, usually, the juxtaposition was hilarious.” 

ZimFlorpus - 2JTHM
Yes, this is definitely for kids.

Sadly, the show’s sense of humor was a little to dark for kids and, despite the fact that it set up a bunch of potential recurring characters (including Tak (Olivia D’Abo) whose ship appears in this special as an acknowledgement), the show ended up getting cancelled before even the second season was finished. This special, much like Rocko’s Modern Life‘s reboot, is a chance to reintroduce this brilliant show to an audience that will hopefully now be more receptive, in part because it blazed a trail a decade and a half ago.

ZimFlorpus - 4Toilet
Much like us, Zim was on the toilet for most of the wait.

Perhaps the most notable thing about this special is that it’s one of the rare occasions on which Zim actually can be considered a credible threat. In general, Zim is too stupid to ever really be a villain (that’s sort of the point of the series), but in this special he actually does, albeit through a lot of luck, serve as a serious antagonist to Dib. Watching Zim be semi-competent is really enjoyable, because even when he seems to be doing well, he’s constantly grasping at straws to keep everything from falling apart. He even relies on GIR to compose a hit song in order for his plan to work, though GIR promptly knocks it out of the park. Even when the plan does work, however, the side-effects are still insane and devastating due to his own idiocy. 

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This could have been a musical. Maybe it should have been.

In terms of tone, I think most people will note that this special is lighter and lacks a certain amount of the nihilism found in most of the works of Jhonen Vasquez, but I still think that it has the same off-kilter and challenging humor that made the original series great. The character designs are mostly unchanged, but Gaz, for example, is more talkative and less emotionally combative than she typically was during the series. The special also has an actual emotional arc concerning Dib and his father. While the fact that Dib’s father is pretty much absent from his life was brought up in the show several times, here it’s much more focused and Dib’s feelings are much more prominent. It’s basically summed up by Dib telling his father “I wish you were on my side!” only to be told “Wishing isn’t very scientific.” We feel a similar emotional desire for approval from Zim with regards to the Tallest, but unlike Professor Membrane’s neglectfulness towards Dib, the Tallest genuinely hate Zim. It gives us a wonderful compare and contrast between our lead characters, something that the show didn’t do much.

ZimFlorpus - 6Gaz.png
I mean, Gaz having open eyes is automatically lighter.

The art style is just as distinct as it was before, although, again, I think it’s a little lighter. 

ZimFlorpus - 7Art
I mean, it’s not much different, but still noticeable. 

Overall, if you liked the series, you’ll like this. Mostly, if you like this, you’ll wonder why in the heck they cancelled the original show when they clearly have so many more directions to take the stories. If you’ve never seen Invader Zim, try it anyway. This kind of show deserves the effort.

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.

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Netflix Review – Girls with Balls: Amazing Idea, Mediocre Execution

There’s a French-Belgian horror-comedy about a team of volleyball players chased by murderous rednecks that’s narrated by a singing cowboy. 

SUMMARY

The Falcons are a girls volleyball team that is making their way home after winning the regional championships. Along the way, the team coach (Victor Artus Solaro) gets the bus lost and they pull into a bar where they meet a group of mostly non-verbal rednecks. They leave, having been creeped out thoroughly but not noticing that the bus has been sabotaged and marked with strange symbols. The next day, the rednecks ambush the girls and the hunt is on!

GWB - 1Team.jpeg
They’ve been wearing those outfits since they played a tournament in them. Ew.

END SUMMARY

If this movie lived up to the promise of the first 15 minutes, it would go down in history as a masterpiece. The opening to this film is a cowboy (Orelsan) singing about the generic plot of a group of hot girls who play volleyball being murdered. Yes, this movie has a Greek chorus, similar to Cat Ballou, There’s Something About Mary, or even Disney’s Hercules, where it’s much more literal. Except that it’s a French Singing Cowboy, because that’s exactly who should sing the Ballad of the Falcons… and honestly should sing every plot to every movie, because that part is pretty awesome. Sadly, it goes downhill from there.

GWB - 2Cowboy.png
Best description of volleyball, too.

When we’re introduced to the Falcons, they’re all, for the most part, generic stereotypes. You’ve got the tough girl, the lesbian couple, the nerdy girl, the slutty girl, the leader, etc. Since this is ostensibly a horror comedy, this kind of set-up is ripe for subversions and humorous twists… which just never really happen. We have a number of potential plot points set-up early, like one girl’s boyfriend clearly cheating with all the other girls and one girl being jealous that another girl is being called up to the national level, but they don’t really play out as humorously as they should. Even the one that’s given a pretty decent twist ending just isn’t as funny as it should be. 

GWB - 3Bar
You can probably make a guess about who is who within this photo.

A lot of it is that the movie just doesn’t have great comic timing or execution. You can have the greatest joke ever, but without a decent delivery it’s just going to fall flat. That’s how much of this film feels: Flat. Is there a scene of girls using volleyballs against redneck cultists? Yes. Should that be hilarious? Absolutely. Is it? Meh. It doesn’t help that the movie doesn’t really do a great job on the “horror” front, aside from having absolutely great gore effects (the director did the make-up on Raw). The redneck cultist designs are almost satirically generic, something that, again, could have been made funny, but they never go anywhere with it. Part of the horror-comedy is that the comedy is supposed to lighten up the horror and the horror is supposed to be more shocking because of the juxtaposition. This movie didn’t do either element well enough.

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Seriously, some of the effects are pretty great.

The two notable bright spots, aside from the effects, are the ridiculous coach’s even more ridiculous character “arc,” which I admit made me laugh just because it’s so intentionally awkward, and Denis Lavant’s wordless leader of the redneck group. Lavant conveys so much natural menace through his performance that he always manages to add some level of tension to the scene. I also admit that a few of the deaths are fun, but… not as funny as they should be. The death of Hazuki (Anne-Solenne Hatte), in particular, should have had me rolling on the floor laughing, but instead it just made me chuckle a bit. 

Overall, I want someone to watch this movie, be inspired by some of the ideas in it, then make a better film. Also, I want more singing cowboys narrating non-Western movies.

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.

Netflix Review – Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling (Spoiler-Free)

Rocko’s Modern Life returns after 20 years with an important message about balancing nostalgia and change.

SUMMARY

After the end of their series in the 90s, Rocko (Carlos Alazraqui), Heffer (Tom Kenny), and Filbert (Mr. Lawrence) have been stuck in space watching reruns on VHS of their favorite series, The Fatheads. When they finally return to Earth 20 years later, they find that a lot of society, as well as O-Town, has changed, and that Rocko will have to learn to change with it.

RockoSC - 1Reboot
They’re not subtle, but they are hilarious.

END SUMMARY

Rocko’s Modern Life was and is a nostalgia gold mine for 90s kids. It was edgy, it was poignant, it spoke to a lot of issues for both kids and adults, and it surprisingly holds up well on rewatching. The fact that it was constantly trying to find the dirtiest thing that it could slip by the censors helps, particularly with jokes like the “Jack-All-You-Want” Jackhammer festival. 

RockoSC - 2Watch
Read ALL the signs in the background of the special, even though they mock you for doing it.

The characters in Rocko’s Modern Life were always a perfect blend of absurd and familiar. While you might not actually know a wallaby that is best friends with a cow that was raised by wolves, you probably know the neurotic guy who has a slovenly friend that he is simultaneously infuriated by and dependent on. The relationships between the three leads always kept the conversations somewhat understandable, even when the situations would be insane, like when they end up in Hell Heck being tortured by Peaches, the Devil. 

RockoSC - 3Characters.jpg
My favorite is Really, Really Big Man, the Superhero who is really, really big.

This special brought all of that back, but also added a very poignant message about nostalgia. We follow along as our characters adjust to the changes in the world that have happened over the last 20 years, ranging from the presence of cell-phones to the digitization of comics to the fact that a lot of shows and movies that were formerly popular are now being reimagined and brought back. Strangely, there appears to be no change to the joke about most of the world being owned by megacorporations. Weird how that works. However, Rocko doesn’t handle the changes well and just wants to hold onto one thing that he knows well: his favorite show The Fatheads. So he dedicates himself to getting the show back so that he can at least have something familiar in a world that now scares him. That’s the core of what nostalgia is about, having something familiar to hold onto that reminds you of a time when you thought the world was better. 

RockoSC - 4Pops.jpg
We still suck at making character-shaped ice cream.

That’s why most nostalgia is from childhood. When we’re kids, our world is small and simple. We haven’t had to deal with all of the shit that life can throw at us (at least most of us haven’t). However, even when we later go back to things for which we’re nostalgic, the fact that we’ve changed becomes apparent and sometimes those things we want to remember aren’t quite as perfect as we remember. Moreover, when we bring something back for the “nostalgia factor,” even small changes to the original material are going to drive off some viewers, though overall the profitability makes it worthwhile. This special covers all of this in a clever way that I don’t want to spoil here, but it does make the point well. 

The truth is that times will always change, and we must change with them. For the most part, despite how scary things can be, times do change for the better in the long run. This special reminds us that we need to be open to it. Also, it’s damned funny. Give it a watch and maybe they’ll make more.

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.

Netflix Review – 3Below: Tales of Arcadia Part 2 (Season 2) (Spoiler-Free)

SpoilerFree

Guillermo del Toro’s Tales of Arcadia Trilogy wraps up the second act in a solid season of sci-fi and fantasy comedy.

SUMMARY 

It’s been a few weeks since the events of the Season 1 finale that coincided with the final episode of Trollhunters. Arcadia is now aware that trolls exist, but the troll battle managed to conceal the presence of any alien life, including the Akiridion protagonists Aja and Krel Tarron (Tatiana Maslany and Diego Luna), as well as their dog Luug (Frank Welker) and their ship’s AI Mother (Glenn “Yes, that Glenn Close” Close). They are joined by Akiridion-5 Lieutenant Zadra (Hayley Atwell), who arrived last season to save them from Varvatos Vex (Nick Offerman), who is revealed to have aided General Morando (Alon Aboutboul) in overthrowing the planet before changing back to serve the royals. Varvatos Vex ended up imprisoned on the moon by the Zeron Brotherhood (Darin De Paul and Ann Dowd). 

3Below - 4Crossover.jpg
Raise your hands if you think that’s a lot of cast members.

The siblings are still being pursued by bounty hunters, including the powerful Trono (Danny Trejo), sought by the US Government, particularly Colonel Kubritz (Uzo Aduba) who is now willing to start dealing with some devils to get the Akiridion Royals, and soon will face threats to Earth, Akiridion, and the very universe itself.

END SUMMARY

This season was a massive step up in a lot of ways. 

First, it moves the timeline past the end of Trollhunters and the changes to Arcadia that arose from the events of the series finale are played out through this season. A lot of the supporting cast are now quite a bit funnier and more absurd now that the world itself has become more absurd, particularly Stuart the alien (Nick Frost), Coach Steve (Thomas F. “I’m not just Biff” Wilson), and Principal Uhl (Fred Tatasciore). Each of them is just a little bit more exaggerated than their already unusual character traits had allowed and it really helps. Expanding Colonel Kubritz’s role, particularly in a world that has just dealt with an apocalyptic scenario, creates a more compelling villain who progressively represents the kind of hypocritical and almost insane xenophobia seen throughout the world. 

3Below - 5Uzo.jpg
Plus, Uzo Aduba just makes her so darned charming and evil.

Steve Palchuk (Steven Yeun) and Eli Pepperjack (Cole Sand) have evolved from just their roles as the stereotypical bully and nerd to being legitimate heroes, something that both feels natural and compelling. Making them have such major character arcs without having them be the main characters of either series is a great set-up for their presumably bigger role in the third Tales from Arcadia series, Wizards

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They also have the “Creepslayers” handshake worked out.

One expansion that I don’t actually think worked was playing up the role of Toby Domzalski (Charlie Saxton) as the comic relief. Without Jim Lake (Anton Yelchin (R.I.P.)/Emile Hirsch) and Claire Nuñez (Lexi Madrano) to balance them out and provide emotional moments, Toby and AAARRRGGHH (Fred Tatasciore) rely too hard on the “dumb, weird characters” archetype in this season. Granted, the mix of Sci-Fi and Fantasy does work at several points, including having AAARRRGGHH’s magical nature basically trump a sci-fi trope in a humorous way, but it still needed to give them a little more maturity. 

3Below - 7Aaarrrgghh
I do like that nobody finds Aaarrgghh weird. Everyone acclimated immediately.

There are a lot of decent gags in the season as well. I particularly love all the jokes about the Foo-foos, a race of robot rabbits on the moon. It’s simultaneously a reference to “Little Bunny Foo-Foo,” even having characters threaten to bop them on the head, and to the Asian myth of the rabbit on the moon. Also, their primary battle strategy is breeding an army quickly, because… rabbits breed. Get it? Get it??? GET IT??? Eh, still, it’s mostly funny. Also, they take some solid shots at Michael Bay and I love that. 

3Below - 8FooFoo

One thing that really plays well is the season’s theme, because it’s much more coherent than in the last one. This season is mostly about intolerance and the fact that we as humans tend to immediately want to isolate people that are strange to us, but that it’s ultimately better to try to work together. It comes at it from a number of directions and I think it mostly gets the point across without being too preachy. 

Overall, it’s a pretty solid show for kids. I’d recommend parents work it into the rotation. If you’re an adult, well, you can enjoy it, too.

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.

Netflix Review – I AM MOTHER: The Apocalypse is Mostly Lectures and Hilary Swank (SPOILER-FREE/ENDING EXPLAINED)

Netflix gives us an interesting look at one oft-overlooked method of surviving the apocalypse: Robo-mom.

SUMMARY

The Apocalypse happened and everybody died, pretty much. A robot named Mother (Rose Byrne’s voice and Luke Hawker’s body) activates in a secure bunker and is set to start repopulating the surface, growing a human embryo into a baby girl. Years later, Mother is raising a young Daughter (Clara Rugaard), who she teaches complex moral and philosophical lessons with a number of different viewpoints. Daughter is the only child raised by Mother, because Mother wanted to practice before trying to raise everyone else. Daughter keeps wondering about the outside world, and eventually hears a Woman (Hilary Swank) crying for help outside of the bunker’s airlock. Daughter lets Woman inside, only for Woman to reveal that the world may not quite be as Mother described it.

IAMMOTHER - 1Baby.png
It’s basically a Norman Rockwell painting.

END SUMMARY

So, this movie surprised me. It’s tough to make a film that works with only three characters and yet this one does. It does it mostly by having all of the characters take different roles throughout the film as their relationships change, saving us from needing more characters. Despite them being fairly archetypal characters, their interactions and the performances given manage to add an unexpected level of depth to the film. It’s honestly very impressive. Well, onward to the actual breakdown.

IAMMOTHER - 2Embryos
This image caused a bunch of debates just by existing, I just know it.

Here are the positives of the film:

First, the designer of the Mother robot suit needs to win some form of award. It’s genuinely an impressive practical effect, showing a great amount of detailed wear-and-tear as well as love and affection. The movements done by Luke Hawker alternate between very human and affectionate and extremely alien and threatening, which really add to Rose Byrne’s great vocal performance. She sounds so naturally non-threatening that it adds a level of disbelief and discomfort when the character is now supposed to be menacing. 

IAMMOTHER - 3Mother.png
Set design is also amazing.

Clara Rugaard, who often has to carry a scene on her own or against a robot, manages to be completely believable and yet charismatic enough to maintain our attention. Since there’s only one more person in the movie, I should say that Hilary Swank is great, but she’s Hilary Swank and she’s definitely not bringing her Oscar-level effort. I mean, it’s still a solid performance, better than most, but it’s not her A-Game. 

IAMMOTHER - 4BoysDontCry
I mean, she’s just amazing.

The pacing of the film is great, because it unpacks the mystery of the world in a way that never feels rushed or slow. I do admit that the beats of the scenes are pretty standard, but they’re standard because they tend to work. The dialogue is solid, although it’s also pretty standard and sometimes a little expository. That said, a robot would likely have mostly expository ways of communicating, so… win? The third act is well done, managing to wrap everything up in a satisfying manner that adds to the rewatch.

IAMMOTHER - 5Swanky
Page 35, introduce new character/major plot point. Right on cue.

Here are the negatives:

None of the scenes really grab you on a visceral level. It’s not that the movie isn’t good or engrossing, it is, but there’s still a level of distance between the audience and the characters that’s more than you want. I think a lot of it is the sound and the cinematography. They’re both very standard, nothing to pull you in through unfamiliarity or experimentation. This is pretty much the difference between a “good” movie and a “great” movie. The fact that it’s so damned close to great only makes this more frustrating.

IAMMOTHER - 6Robots.jpg
Yeah, sadly, the build-up to stuff just isn’t as good as you’d expect.

Overall, I do recommend the film to anyone interested in the sci-fi genre. It’s definitely a good movie and deserves an audience. 

ENDING EXPLAINED *SPOILER ALERT*

The “twist” at the end isn’t really a twist, though the movie does try to hide it by saying that 13,000+ days have passed instead of just saying 38 years. If they’d just said 38 years, then you’d immediately realize that Daughter isn’t the baby we see at the beginning. In fact, the baby we see at the beginning is almost certainly Woman, who Mother released to the survivors after first raising her, then likely raised another child who became the charred remains that Daughter finds. Since this discovery is also part of Mother’s final plan, much as everything in the movie is, it is entirely possible that the second child was intentionally only designed to be used as a guinea pig and then killed. The survivors who raised Woman were almost certainly intentionally spared from the destruction of mankind for that purpose, and have now presumably been killed. The biggest reveal is not that Mother caused the apocalypse, but that Mother did it for humanity’s own good, then teaches Daughter philosophies that both support and oppose that justification. Rather than just try to brainwash Daughter through only exposing her to one way of thinking, Mother shows her all of the various schools of thought, giving her a choice of what to follow. She then lets her experience the result of having a society based around selfishness and greed, i.e. the devastation of Earth to the point that humanity would apparently have gone extinct had Mother not done what she did. It’s a much more powerful way of convincing someone: To have them come to the conclusion by teaching them everything and letting them work it out themselves. Sadly, the world doesn’t tend to support this method so much as claim to support it then directly contradict it and convince us to directly contradict 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.

Netflix Review: Always Be My Maybe – Cute Movie, Amazing Cameo

Netflix makes a fairly generic, but fun, romantic comedy featuring a mostly Asian cast with refreshingly few stereotypes. 

SUMMARY

Vietnamese-American Sasha Tran (Miya Cech) and Korean-American Marcus Kim (Emerson Min) are neighbors in San Francisco. Due to Sasha’s parents being gone frequently for work, she often spends her dinners with Marcus’s family, even learning how to cook from Marcus’s mother, Judy (Susan Park). Years later, Sasha (Ashley Liao) and Marcus (Jackson Geach) are still close friends, but Judy dies in an accident. Sasha tries to comfort Marcus, which leads the two of them to have sex in a car. The ensuing awkwardness leads the two to fight and not speak to each other.

ABMM - 1Young
No one would suspect these two just banged… except everyone with eyes.

Sixteen years later, Sasha (Ali f*cking Wong) is a celebrity chef while Marcus (Randall Park) is living with his dad (James “The Shredder” Saito) and playing with his band. Sasha moves to San Francisco to open a new restaurant and runs into Randall when he and his father come to fix her apartment’s A/C. They reconnect as friends, with Sasha meeting Marcus’s flaky girlfriend Jenny (Vivian Bang). Sasha breaks up with her boyfriend Brandon (Daniel Dae Kim) and Marcus decides to tell her that he still has feelings for her, but she meets someone new the night before. She invites Jenny and Marcus to dinner with her new man, who is revealed to be none other than KEANU F*CKING REEVES. The evening quickly devolves as Reeves reveals himself to be strange and aggressive. He repeatedly demeans Marcus, until finally Marcus and Keanu start fighting. Jenny ends up staying the night with Keanu, and Sasha and Marcus start dating.

ABMM - 2Keanu.jpg
Whoa.

Marcus starts taking Sasha to all of the old, local restaurants that they went to as kids, trying to reconnect her to the city and her roots. She starts to fall in love with both Marcus and the local scene, realizing that her dislike of San Francisco was just a byproduct of her anger towards her absent parents. She reveals, however, that she’s still going back to New York to move on with her career and asks Marcus to come with her. He refuses and she leaves alone. Marcus realizes that, much as Sasha’s parents made her hate the idea of staying in San Francisco, Marcus’s mom’s death made him hate the idea of leaving. He moves out of his dad’s house, starts making his band successful, and tries to reconnect with Sasha, but gets no replies. Eventually, he discovers she’s been buying his band’s merchandise, leading him to ambush her on a red carpet and deliver a passionate speech promising to follow her wherever she goes. She forgives him and shows him her new restaurant, which is dedicated to Marcus’s mom.

ABMM - 3Car.png
No one but Ali Wong should wear that hat.

END SUMMARY

Okay, so, this movie’s super generic in a lot of ways, but most rom-coms are basically just playing Mad Libs with names and jobs on the same script and we still love them. However, I do appreciate that this movie doesn’t have to portray any of its characters as idiots to try and up the comedy part of romantic comedy. I mean, yes, some of the scenes are weird and almost surreal, because it’s still a rom-com, but for the most part they’re not insane or played up for cheap laughs. 

ABMM - 4Shredder.jpg
The dad clearly supportive but also sad that his son does this.

The movie has three really big positives:

First, the performances by Ali Wong and Randall Park are just so entertaining. Ali Wong is someone who would entertain me by reading a phone book humorously, but that’s what makes it better that she is cast as the more successful and slightly more “normal” of the two. Meanwhile, Randall Park is constantly showing just the right amount of insecurity and self-loathing underneath his nice-guy persona to allow the audience to gain some sort of pleasure in his misery, mostly because it’s self-inflicted and therefore earned in a traditional comic sense. When they interact, they both give off the exact vibes that the movie leads us to expect: That they were each their first loves. It makes everything that happens between them, from the resentment to the disappointment to the forgiveness all feel justified. It might be because Wong and Park have been friends for so long that it works between them, or maybe they’re both so lovable it’s easier to make it feel natural. Either way, the performances are above-average for this kind of schlock.

ABMM - 5Leads.png
Fine, yes, I love them and root for them because awwww….

Second, this movie does get a slight benefit from casting two Asian comics for the lead in a rom-com. I know it shouldn’t matter, but on the other hand I can count on one hand the number of movies meant for general American audiences that are rom-coms with Asian leads. Because the movie plays up their different cultures as part of their backgrounds without going too heavy and requiring us to actually know anything about Korean-American or Vietnamese-American culture, it comes off as giving the characters something inherently more original than “guy who likes sports meets woman who doesn’t and hi-jinks ensue.” The movie also manages to avoid falling into any major stereotypes, likely because the two leads were also the ones who came up with the idea and worked on the script. 

ABMM - 6Eating.png
I got so hungry during this film.

Third, Keanu Reeves. Look, this movie’s good, but if you want to know the thing that I most remember about it, it’s the scenes with Keanu. He plays a douchey version of himself so well that Neil Patrick Harris probably needs to take notes. What’s amazing is that apparently he added a decent amount to it, including the amazing character element that he wears glasses without lenses just to make himself look smart. He’s so hateable, but also so naturally likeable at the same time, that his interactions with the main characters could go either way and feel justified. You want to root against him because he’s keeping Sasha and Marcus apart, but also… he’s Keanu Reeves. It’s just such a great element in the film that really does distinguish it.

ABMM - 7Keanu
WHOA.

As for the bad parts:

It’s still a generic rom-com. When they get together, we know they’re going to break up then get back together again with some big gesture because every rom-com since When Harry Met Sally has told us that’s what happens. Hell, Ali Wong and Randall Park even said this was their version of that film. So, yeah, all the notes are the same and, aside from Keanu Reeves, most of the movie is just following the same generic script as all of the others. Also, them never speaking again after some post-coital awkwardness is maybe the most tired narrative device ever.

Overall, if you like romantic comedies, this is a prime example that does merit watching. If you don’t like the genre, you won’t like this.

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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Netflix Review – Aggretsuko (Season 2): Life Is Bleak and Horrible, But Also Unique and Adorable

Aggretsuko returns for a second season, addressing dating, co-workers, and the generation gap in the new millennium.

SUMMARY (SPOILERS)

Retsuko (Kaolip (Japanese); Erica Mendez (English)) is still working in accounting after breaking up with her boyfriend Resasuke (Shingo Kato; Max Mittelman) at the end of last season. However, her Mother has decided that Retsuko is not moving forward with her dating life enough and starts signing her up for matchmaking services, much to Retsuko’s annoyance. Soon after, a new hire, Anai, starts in Retsuko’s department and is revealed to be a slacker who responds to any implication that he’s doing something wrong by recording conversations and making them formal complaints, terrifying everyone. When Retsuko takes driving lessons so that she and her friends Gori (Maki Tsuruta; G.K. Bowes) and Washimi (Komegumi Koiwasaki; Tara Platt) can take a trip, she meets slacker white donkey Tadano (Griffin Burns), who she likes but thinks is a failure. Tadano drops out of driving school, disappointing her further. She does eventually run into him again and he asks her out, which she accepts due to her underlying feelings for him. However, it’s revealed that Tadano is actually a Tech CEO Billionaire, which delights Retsuko, but she realizes that they might not quite see eye-to-eye on some things.

Aggretsuko2 - 1Mom.jpg
Her mom is so freaking adorable but also I don’t want to be on her bad side.

END SUMMARY

Holy hell, this show doesn’t shy away from hitting at the problems of people in their late 20s and early 30s. I mean, if you have never worked with a crazy a-hole co-worker who tries to get you in trouble for doing things that you would never have imagined would be a problem, then you should consider yourself extremely fortunate. If you’ve never had a great relationship with someone that just didn’t work out because you were after different things in the long run, then consider yourself fortunate. If your parents have never called to ask how you are going to find Mister/Miss Right and you don’t really want to explain to them that dating has changed since they were single 40 years ago and not everyone is looking to have a family and buy a house and fill it with 2.5 kids, consider yourself fortunate unless it’s because your parents have passed in which case I am sorry for your loss. In this season, we see Retsuko deal with all of this at the same time, and it’s sometimes almost hard to watch due to the accuracy, even though it’s cartoon animals.

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Anai is so very, very awkward even when he isn’t being a douche.

Most horrifying of all is that none of these people are actually “Bad” people. Retsuko’s mom just wants her to be happy but doesn’t understand that happiness doesn’t mean the same thing to Retsuko as it does for her. Anai seems annoying and mean, but it’s really just that he’s scared and hasn’t had experience dealing with people. That doesn’t mean he’s not an asshole, but it does at least give you an idea that maybe assholes don’t have to stay assholes. Tadano loves Retsuko, but he believes that marriage and children are bastions of the past that no longer need to be the default, something that Retsuko just disagrees with. Their breakup is sad, but he’s completely understanding about it, just like she is. They just don’t have the same future in mind.

Aggretsuko2 - 3Tadano.png
That feeling when the guy you like turns out to also be rich. I can’t relate.

No matter what happens, Retsuko keeps going, because she does know that it’s good to at least find out what you want. A lot of the current people in Retsuko’s generation, like her, feel like they’re drifting, because unless you are lucky you are likely looking for a job to help pay off the debt you had to accrue to get the degree you had to have to get the job. Even then, the job probably doesn’t pay enough for you to dig yourself out of your hole in any reasonable amount of time, but you also see all of the people out there on the internet doing so well and, even though you know it’s a curated image that they aren’t really living, it still makes you feel inferior and like you’re not making use of life, but you also don’t want to be irresponsible and the world’s possibly actually going to end in our lifetime and ohgodimsadnow. Somehow this show has more accurately pointed out much of the modern existential crises that this generation faces than almost anything else, and it’s a f*cking Red Panda that sings Death Metal.

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Tadano mostly deals with the Death Metal revelation well. 

What’s particularly interesting is the gap between Retsuko, Puko, and Tadano. Tadano represents the people who are hopeful for the future, who want to bring about the grand social change that allows humanity to achieve self-actualization. He has a self-driving car, but hires a driver just so the driver can have a job. He is a developer of automation, but is doing so with the hope that it will bring about the end of late stage capitalism. He’s even developing the neural-net software that is intended to replace Retsuko, but wants to pay her to quit her job and do what she wants with her life. The problem is, his vision fails unless most of the other rich people also think it’s noble to pay people do do what they want. Even Retsuko ultimately turns him down because she prefers the independence that she gets from her miserable job from a life of freedom that’s dependent upon Tadano if he’s never going to be her husband. She’s not afraid of living within her current structure. Meanwhile, we’re shown that Retsuko’s flaky pink panther pal Puko (Allegra Clark) has opened the store she wanted to set-up during the last season and that it is slow and difficult due to her not being able to pay people for help and her employees ducking out on her. Despite this, she’s still happy because she’s doing what she wants, even if it’s hard.

Aggretsuko2 - 5Puko.png
She learns what it’s like to deal with her.

Despite all of this bleakness towards life and corporate wage slavery, the show does manage to present some hopeful moments, mostly coming from Retsuko’s small improvements that remind us that some kinds of change are within our grasp if we want them. Yes, the world sucks and you’re likely to spend most of your time on the Earth doing something that’s unfulfilling and horrible, but hey, at least you can sing with your friends or maybe write a movie review blog. Also, Red Pandas still exist, so we should fight for a better future.

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.