Fear Street Trilogy (1994, 1978, 1666): A Nice Variety of Horror – Netflix Review

R.L. Stine’s more adult series gets a three-film deal and the results are pretty solid.

If you grew up in the 90s, you probably saw Goosebumps books constantly. You might even have watched the television show which managed to last four seasons. It was a big deal for kids. At the same time, R.L. Stine was also releasing a series of books aimed at older kids and young adults called the Fear Street series. The books took place in a town called Shadyside which was cursed due to a family named the Fiers, later the Fears, burning a family called the Goodes at the stake for witchcraft, falsely. Now Shadyside is filled with malicious spirits and killers. The film trilogy follows a similar premise, but focuses more on the serial killers that inhabit Shadyside, dubbing it the murder capital of the US, and explores it through three different time periods.

The 1994 outfit seems similar to Scream. Just saying.

In 1994, a random mall employee seemingly snaps and kills his girlfriend and several other people before being killed. This is considered a normal thing in Shadyside, whereas its neighbor town, Sunnyvale, is filled with success and peace. Deena Johnson (Kiana Madeira) has recently broken up with her closeted girlfriend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), who has moved to Sunnyvale. Deena’s brother, Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) is obsessed with the town’s history and the fact that it was cursed by the witch named Sarah Fier before her execution in 1666. After a car crash involving Sam and Deena, Sam is now being stalked by the murderers that have plagued Shadyside since the 17th Century. Unfortunately, law enforcement, particularly Sheriff Goode (Ashley Zukerman), doesn’t believe in ghosts. Deena, Josh, and their friends end up thwarting the attack by killing Sam and reviving her, only for Sam to become possessed and be the next killer. The only thing that might save them is talking to the only survivor of another massacre in 1978 (Gillian Jacobs) and finding out what connection that murder has to the modern one, then figuring out the real truth of the events of 1666. 

There’s a guy with a bag on his head and an axe. Sound familiar?

I have to credit Netflix for the ambition of filming three movies set in three different time periods and releasing them as part of one long film. Each one feels a little different, not just because they’re in different time periods, but because they often feel like different kinds of horror films. The 90s one heavily involves the undead slashers pursuing the kids who are relatively genre savvy, much like Scream. The 1978 film features a classic summer camp killer in the vein of Friday the 13th. The 1666 film addresses the Puritan witch hunts where many women were accused less because of any ability, but more because the towns need a scapegoat or to keep order. The final one also manages to wrap up the plot of the 1990s film in the process, literally feeling like two complete films that tie together solidly. The horror is well done, the performances are better than I would have expected for a young adult horror series, and, again, the scope of the story is impressive. 

They’re not actually diverse, it’s just a vision using duplicate casting. Puritans were racist, man.

Overall, I really recommend the films if you liked the Fear Street books or even Goosebumps, but know that it’s a bit scarier than the latter.

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Gunpowder Milkshake: A Lighthearted Action Film – Netflix Review

It feels a little like John Wick, but in a good way.

Karen Gillan is a treasure. She made one of my favorite modern horror movies, Oculus, she was a companion on Doctor Who for years, and she displays an incredible amount of range despite prosthetics as Nebula in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, she wants to show you that she can kill a bunch of people in somehow hilarious and peppy ways. I’ve said repeatedly that one of my favorite tropes is a violent fight choreographed to an upbeat pop song, like the zombie fight to “Don’t Stop Me Now” in Shaun of the Dead. This movie uses that trope combined with a neon style and a glowing retro feel, best emphasized by the 1950s Diner that serves as a neutral ground for hitmen and mobsters. 

Now I want a milkshake and to shoot something.

Gillan plays Sam, a professional assassin working for Nathan (Paul Giamatti) an agent of “The Firm,” a group of men who apparently control everything. When she is hired to kill David (Samuel Anderson), an accountant who stole money from the Firm, Sam realizes that David was being blackmailed. A group of men are holding his daughter captive. Sam accidentally kills David and decides to protect his daughter, Emily (Chloe Coleman). Unfortunately, it turns out that Sam also accidentally killed the son of Jim McAlester (Ralph Ineson), the leader of a crime family who now wants revenge. Sam will have to turn to the librarians, a group of female killers who run the arms distribution in town: Madeleine (Carla Gugino), Florence (Michelle Yeoh), Anna May (Angela Bassett), and Scarlet (Lena Headey). Lots of fun killing will follow.

Don’t ask why that jacket is so dirty.

Aside from having a ton of long-cuts and showing Keanu Reeves kicking more ass than a convention of donkey punters, part of what worked well about the movie John Wick was that it showed us that there is a secret world of hitmen and mobsters that is working underneath the normal world. This film has that exact feeling. There is a giant library dedicated to buying and exchanging weapons, there’s a retro diner that’s filled with killers, there’s a hospital that only serves the mob, etc. It lends some credence to the idea of an unstoppable force of violence like Sam when it turns out that there’s a massive infrastructure dedicated to killing out there in the world. The film’s worldbuilding is effective, even though it is relatively limited. The sets, costumes, and cinematography are fantastic. Early on in the movie Sam is forced into a bowling outfit that becomes her signature throughout the story and the fact that they’re willing to put the main character in what is normally considered a dorky outfit is the kind of feel the movie is going for. The fight sequences, while still having a mostly average number of cuts for an action film, are creative and fun. The music does a great job of making the movie light enough to balance out much of the carnage. There is a level of physical humor inherent in much of the violence as well. 

Great supporting cast.

Overall, a fun movie if you like action. 

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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Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness: Great for Fans – Netflix Review

The great video game series gets an animated series adaptation.

Resident Evil has had a few decent anime film adaptations before now and, honestly, I’m not sure why this isn’t another movie. This entire series is only 4 episodes long and, cutting the excess credits and intro sequences, would probably only be about 95 minutes total. The episodes feed pretty directly from one to the next, so it would be easy to make it into one continuous story. But, I don’t make these decisions, so a television show it is. 

Whatever gets us more Leon and Claire.

The series features two of the most beloved Resident Evil protagonists, cop-turned-special-agent Leon Kennedy (Toshiyuki Morikawa/Nick Apostolides) and badass-cop-turned-badass-humanitarian Claire Redfield (Yūko Kaida/Stephanie Panisello). Following a hacking incident at the White House, Leon Kennedy is brought in to help consult, only to find a staged zombie assault. At the same time, Claire, who is trying to help the third-world country of Panemstan during a civil war, finds evidence that there are bio-organic weapons within the country. It turns out that the war is being heavily influenced by both the United States and China, almost like many countries during the Cold War, and unfortunately it’s not as easy to put down a government plot as a horde of flesh-eating undead. Good news, though, there are plenty of undead and bioweapons to kill along the way.

It’s got some 24 moments, but mostly zombies.

This show isn’t going to blow a lot of minds and it really isn’t going to be great if you aren’t a fan of Resident Evil, but if you spent hours of your childhood playing these games and then more hours of your adulthood to the point that you probably could have gotten another degree or learned the Theremin, then you’ll enjoy this. The show has a complicated plot, but so does the overarching series of Resident Evil, and it’s overshadowed by the action sequences and the cool shots of Leon kicking ass. The political thriller aspect does add a layer of intrigue to the story as well as some elevated stakes, but, again, it’s mostly just a way to justify getting a bunch of zombies and mutants in fun locations to kill. 

Naturally, there is a bunch of jumping.

Overall, if you’re not a fan of Resident Evil, maybe skip this one. If you are, check it out.

Dynasty Warriors: Perfectly Captures the Game – Netflix Review

Dynasty Warriors is a video game franchise that started as a fighting game series before becoming its better known over-the-top hack-and-slash version. The series typically involves picking a general or warrior from China’s Three Kingdoms Period and using them to kill waves of enemies with huge attacks. It’s actually pretty in line with the exaggerated personalities and attributes given to the same figures in the book Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but taken up a notch. This movie captures that perfectly.

So much color and such huge scale.

The film takes place at the beginning of the Three Kingdoms period, when the Eastern Han dynasty started to fall and multiple rebellions broke out. After the emperor died, the child emperor was deposed by the warlord Dong Zhuo (Lam Suet), who essentially claimed the throne. A group of generals join forces to try and take down Dong Zhuo. Four among these are those who have been chosen by the master of Sword Forge Castle (Carina Lau), those blessed with extraordinary powers and weapons: The loyal Han prince Liu Bei (Tony Yang), his friends Zhang Fei (Justin Cheung) and Guan Yu (Han Geng), and the ambitious Cao Cao (Wang Kai). They lead the forces to take back the Han dynasty from Dong Zhuo, only to find that Dong Zhuo has recruited the most powerful warrior in China, who is also blessed by the gods: Lu Bu (Louis Koo). 

If they don’t wear a helmet, assume they can kill you easily.

The key to this movie is that it does a great job of combining great action sequences with intense character scenes, just like the games. The characters essentially have superpowers, but they’re represented as still being mortals despite their ridiculous abilities. When I say ridiculous, I mean “summoning lightning and creating earthquakes” level. The acting is great, and the dub isn’t actually bad if you prefer that method, but I would stick with the subtitles and original dialogue. The visuals are particularly striking, always having a kind of surreal look that makes the sometimes-lackluster CGI more acceptable. The one downside to the film is that it goes through a decent chunk of the story at a fast pace so, unless you’re passingly familiar with the games or the source material, you might get lost. Not that it really matters, since you probably aren’t watching it for the plot points.

Not pictured: Reality.

Overall, solid video game adaptation. Look forward to more of them.

Major Grom: Plague Doctor: Literally Russian Propaganda – Netflix Review

A Russian supervillain is a free speech advocate. No kidding.

I know that Russians historically have had some strong propaganda game, but I would have thought that the internet and the Cold War being over for a large percentage of their population might have started reducing that. However, apparently the former Soviet state is still churning out state-sanctioned stories, to a degree that would even make Navy-recruitment-film Top Gun blush. This movie advocates for a very specific viewpoint that is pretty hard to get for modern Americans, even Conservative ones. If you do happen to be a rich person who wants to be allowed to be corrupt with impunity, though, this is the movie for you.

This is Major Grom on clown patrol. He’s kneeling in a door.

Major Grom (Tikhon Zhisnevsky) is a police detective in Saint Petersburg who manages to stop a number of bank robbers but causes serious property damage. He’s chastised by his superior officer, Colonel General Prokopenko (Aleksei Maklakov), and is assigned a new partner, the rule-abiding trainee Dima (Aleksandr Seteykin). At the same time, a wealthy youth named Grechkin (Yuri Nasonov) is acquitted of murder after he bribes a jury. IT millionaire Sergei Razumovsky (Sergei Goroshko) and his friend Oleg (Dmitry Chebotaryov), who grew up in the same area as Grechkin’s victim, are outraged by the acquittal. Oleg steals one of Sergei’s experimental combat suits and uses it to kill Grechkin and announce his intention to kill all of the corrupt rich people in the country as the “Plague Doctor.” Grom, Dima, and blogger/love interest Yulia Pchyolkina (Lyubov Aksyonova) must work together to save all of the corrupt millionaires. 

And he’s burning in a most peculiar way.

Yeah, this movie literally has the worst case of “bad guy has a point” in almost any story ever. Sergei, the millionaire, dedicates most of his wealth and time to trying to create a system for free speech on the internet that the Russian government can’t control. A literal line in the movie is Grom saying that we have restrictions for a reason. In the film’s context, it’s supposed to be a restriction against terrorism, but Sergei is literally talking about expressing dissatisfaction about the government. So, the “bad guys” in the film are people who are A) trying to stop corrupt millionaires who literally get around the law to the point of murder and B) trying to stop the government from cracking down on people bad-mouthing it. I’m not a fan of the idea of killing the corrupt, mostly because I believe in trials and laws, but this movie basically says that there is no actual system to bring these people to justice, then makes the person who tries to change that the bad guy. It also portrays Grom and Dima as among the only non-corrupt people in the police force. While one of his superiors looks out for him, another superior officer literally shows that he’s willing to fabricate evidence or avoid investigation as long as he gets promoted. It’s just a movie that blatantly wants to advocate a point that I cannot possibly think people will like. At the end, it tries to have the Plague Doctor go darker so that you can’t support him, but, again, HE STILL KIND OF HAS A POINT. 

This is the hero who really doesn’t like subversive speech.

It’s even worse because everything that doesn’t involve the odd perspectives of the hero and villain is imminently forgettable. Most of the plot of this movie is just ripped off from a dozen better American films. At least when Russia made their crazy Avengers rip-off Guardians, it had a were-bear with a machine gun. This just has a guy with a cool suit fighting a cop in an old-timey hat. There’s the funny sidekick and the reporter love interest and the scene where the hero is stopped by corrupt higher-ups and a dozen other scenes you’ve watched before. It’s just super generic. 

Even the poster is super generic.

Overall, the only reason to watch this film is if you want to see some modern day propaganda.

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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Sex/Life: It’s Not Much about Life – Netflix Review

There isn’t a shortage of shows about unsatisfied women looking for release or becoming nostalgic for past, more passionate, relationships. While this show doesn’t exactly succeed at maintaining good pacing, it actually manages to address some topics in a more honest manner than the heavy dramas you usually see on Lifetime. Also, for those of you who are interested in such things, the male lead shows it all and makes a lot of men very insecure in the process. It’s like watching another Hemsworth brother appear. Not only is he ripped with an Australian accent, but apparently he’s got an actual Mjolnir in his pants (unlike Marky Mark). 

Australians have come a long way from Crocodile Dundee.

The unsatisfied housewife in this series is Billie Connelly (Sarah Shahi), a former PhD candidate and mother of two who has been feeling less than satisfied with her husband Cooper (Mike Vogel). Naturally, she feels conflicted because Cooper is great in almost every way except that he isn’t interested in the kind of sex that she wants. She is willing to work on things with him, he often seems unwilling. She starts to keep a journal about her past sexual exploits with her ex-boyfriend Brad (Shahi’s real-life boyfriend Adam Demos), which Cooper finds and tries to use as a guide to satisfying his wife. Unfortunately, it turns out that jealousy can only motivate you so far and he doesn’t quite hold up. At the same time, Billie finds out that Brad is now sleeping with her best friend Sasha (Margaret Odette) and thus starts working his way back into her life.

Get it? She’s choosing between great sex and having a nice life.

To its credit, this show does a handful of things very well. First, it is one of the only shows where a woman is depicted receiving digital and oral sex more than she gives it. Given that we recently discovered that Batman couldn’t even be depicted giving Catwoman head on Harley Quinn (an adult comedy cartoon), there has been a discussion about how much more accepting society is of fellatio than cunnilingus and this show does appear to be ahead of that particular curve. Second, it does address the awkwardness of trying to have a sex life with small children in a serious way. In almost every show that depicts new parents trying to rekindle, it’s played for laughs, but here it’s depicted as something that is genuinely causing strain on the marriage. Third, it seriously addresses a lot of problems with parenting that come from other adults being judgmental, but, again, doesn’t overplay it comically. There are just moments when people assume that Billie has nothing to do in her life because she has a baby. Even though she’s not working at the time, it’s still ridiculous that nobody considers that she might also have a life. Last, it has a lot of solid sex scenes. A lot of the show is focused around it, so at least it’s good that the erotic parts are shot well.

Although a lot of it is in a weird light.

Unfortunately, the rest of the show doesn’t really work so well. The show is so focused on its exploitation that it often overlooks much of the life part. It stays pretty low-key, particularly after the first two episodes and the will they/won’t they aspect of her potential affair starts to grow into an “I don’t care if they do and, honestly, I’m not sure I want them to” as it becomes more apparent why Brad is the EX. The structure of the show, with frequent flashbacks that often come out of nowhere, ends up throwing us off more than it drags us deeper. The characters aren’t developed well and often keep retreading the exact same emotional ground over and over until they’ve formed a pit. I give Shahi credit for at least trying to sell most of the miserable narration, but you can only save so much bad writing. It’s telling that about three-fourths of the articles about this show focus on Adam Demos’ full frontal rather than the acting or writing.

Not pictured: Wang.

Overall, if you’re interested in sex, this is for you. If you’re looking for life, try something else.

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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America: The Motion Picture: How We Pretend it Happened – Netflix Review

We see the version of America that we’ll probably teach as accurate in 30 years.

It’s hard to do a movie that’s really based around one main joke, as I recently pointed out with the film Cooties. This film’s main joke is that everything in it is not only inaccurate, but ridiculously so. The thing is, the film is doing this to point out that Americans so over-inflate our history that this movie’s not much less accurate than most of our portrayals of our founding. I mean, if you’re going to deify all of the Founders, then why not also give them superpowers and chainsaw blades?

Land of the Free, Home of the Whopper.

The plot of the movie is that Benedict Arnold (Andy Samberg) successfully kills off the Second Continental Congress and steals the Declaration of Independence. He then assassinates Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte), the best friend of George Washington (Channing Tatum), who inherits Lincoln’s dream of founding a new nation called America. Washington joins forces with noted beer inventor Sam Adams (Jason Mantzoukas), Chinese immigrant inventor Thomas Edison (Olivia Munn), man raised by horses Paul Revere (Bobby Moynihan), Native American renegade and tracker Geronimo (Raoul Trujillo), and notable blacksmith John Henry (Killer Mike) in order to stop Arnold and the plans of King James (Simon Pegg).

Assassinated in a theater. How ridiculous.

Originally I was told that this movie’s historical inaccuracy was actually based on final exam answers given by US high school seniors. Unfortunately, I’ve found nothing to back that up, so maybe American students aren’t that dumb. That said, some of the gags in this movie based on historical confusion are absolutely hilarious. Probably my favorite is when George Washington introduces himself to his future wife Martha (Judy Greer) and she asks him if he’s the inventor of peanut butter, which he confirms. The joke here isn’t just that she’s confusing him for George Washington Carver, it’s also that George Washington Carver didn’t invent peanut butter. A ton of the humor in this movie is that the thing that they make a joke about is itself based on a common misconception. I found that hilarious, but it did mean that some of the punchlines took more thought than you’d expect. 

t.Benedict Arnold is both a turncoat (literally) and a werewolf. Love it.

The rest of the movie is just a parody of every giant action movie trope, including the final climactic fight scene that involves every character and a ton of fast-cut visuals like the end of Avengers: Endgame. Much of the violence is over-the-top, but in a way that successfully cuts down the impact. My favorite is the running gag of a character’s throat getting ripped out and calling them “roadhoused.” 

Also nudity and dancing.

Overall, I’m not going to say this is a great movie, but I thought it was entertaining. 

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 Ice Road: Liam Neeson Isn’t Saving His Daughter, So Never Mind – Netflix Review

This movie tries to be too much and it doesn’t really work out.

I appreciate that Liam Neeson is one of the people who managed to make himself seem more badass as a lead as he got older. Even taking into account his portrayals of Rob Roy, Darkman, and Qui-Gon Jinn, Neeson really upped his game with his portrayal of one-man wrecking crew Bryan Mills in Taken. That’s a hell of an accomplishment for someone in his mid-50s. Since then, Neeson has starred in a number of films as roughly the same badass loner character, with diminishing returns. Unfortunately, this movie tries to use that to sell what is ultimately a failed endeavor. It hurts even more than the film was two years behind Cold Pursuit, a much better movie which also featured Neeson murdering bad guys with a large vehicle in a snowy location.

If you’re wondering why an Irish guy has an American vet brother in Canada… I dunno.

Neeson stars as Mike McCann, an Irish ice road trucker who punches out another trucker for mocking his mechanic brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas). Gurty is a veteran who has PTSD and traumatic brain injury, both of which give him aphasia (the inability to use the right words for things). Despite the fact that Mike was, again, defending a disabled veteran from an asshole, he is fired. At the same time, an explosion at a mine in Manitoba requires an emergency delivery of wellheads in order to save the lives of more than a dozen miners. McCann is hired to make the extremely dangerous run, accompanied by Gurty, Tantoo (Amber Midthunder), a native Canadian driver whose brother is in the mine, employer Jim Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne), and insurance agent Tom Varnay (Benjamin Walker). After making it through the first night, Goldenrod’s rig is sabotaged. It turns out that Varnay is actually not there to help them succeed, but to kill them and prevent the miners from being saved. Unfortunately, he’s trying to kill Liam Neeson, which is just never a good idea, even if you have help.

And even if you’re in the middle of a frozen hellscape.

Like I said, this movie just really isn’t great. It starts off suggesting it’s going to be a man vs nature film like The Grey but then reveals that Varnay and his crew are the enemy. For the record, it’s not really a twist if it’s in the first act of the movie. The majority of the film is Mike and the Mechanic (anyone get that reference?) trying to survive against Varnay and kill him and his goons. The reasoning behind the murders isn’t even particularly compelling or believable. It’s played out to be a giant cover-up, but, let’s be honest, a major drilling company can do almost anything without any real consequence. The only thing that might actually cause them trouble would be committing murder. It ends up coming off as kind of dumb. The action sequences aren’t bad, but they really feel forced and unimpressive compared to other driving movies. Honestly, there just doesn’t seem to have been a ton of effort here.

Needed more Fishburne too.

Overall, skip it and watch Cold Pursuit.

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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Good on Paper: Too Good to be True Usually Is – Netflix Review

Iliza Shlesinger brings us the story of a man who is less than he seems.

You know those movies where the girl meets the guy who appears perfect, but ultimately ends up being a serial killer or something horrible like that? If not, they’re most of Lifetime’s lineup, so just watch something there and you’ll probably get the idea. Well, this is that movie except… the guy’s just kind of a douche. The movie uses clips of Shlesinger’s character doing stand-up throughout to relay stories that make it clear that not only is this a thing that happens, it’s been happening for generations. 

In film and out, she’s usually pretty blunt about creeps.

The story is about comedian and aspiring actress Andrea (Iliza Shlesinger), who is 34 and her career is stalling. Naturally, she’s also being shown up by the perky and younger, but nowhere near as funny, Serrena (Rebecca Rittenhouse). Andrea’s closest friend, Margot (Margaret Cho), is a big believer in tough love and brutal honesty, both of which tend to keep Andrea’s hopes in the gutter. On a flight back from an audition, Andrea meets Dennis (Ryan Hansen), a Yale-educated hedge fund manager who is buying a house in Beverly Hills and dating a supermodel. The two hit it off and become friends. Dennis seems naturally very nice, well-educated, funny, and he’s frequently willing to help Andrea with her career. Eventually, he breaks up with his girlfriend and asks Andrea out. She ends up agreeing to go out with him, even though he’s not traditionally her type, because he seems like the perfect guy on paper.

Yes, he looks like a hedge fund manager.

However, after a bit, cracks start to appear in his story, ranging from his “house in Beverly Hills” being an apartment with two hilarious roommates, Maggie and Chanterelle (Kimia Behpoornia and Taylor Hill), to his supposedly excellent Collegiate golfing skills being apparently completely lacking. Unfortunately, despite Margot and literally everyone telling her not to, Andrea just keeps giving the guy the benefit of the doubt and believing all of his cover-ups, eventually to her own detriment. Throughout the entire thing Andrea continues to give an audience hints about how badly this may end up in the future, but even they probably can’t predict the ending of the story.

At least the sex was… existent.

I tend to think that Iliza Shlesinger is funny and, given that she not only wrote this film, but based it on an actual relationship she had, a lot of the film’s situations and humor come off more naturally than you would expect in something with this kind of premise. Unfortunately, when the situation starts to escalate at the end beyond where it apparently did in real life, it starts to unravel. It’s not just that it’s full of obvious holes, it’s that it just isn’t that funny or cathartic. It’s supposed to provide a grand platform to resolve the whole thing dramatically, but, unfortunately, it really just didn’t work. 

Some funny scenes, to be sure.

Overall, it’s not a bad movie, it just falls apart at points. 

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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Penguin Town: It’s as Adorable as you Think – Netflix Review

So, apparently there’s just a ton of penguins in South Africa, but also not enough.

If there’s a show that is perfect for ending lockdown, it’s probably this. It’s light, it’s colorful (although the main characters are black and white), it’s in an exotic location, it involves social interaction, and it’s got adorable animals. It almost works as a show to help bring you back to the real world, in the sense that it makes you want to go places and do things again. Penguins are pretty much the poster animal for light-hearted documentaries ranging from March of the Penguins to the Disney Nature special to a huge number of BBC documentaries. They look like fancy gentlemen, but they also spend most of their time (on land) waddling and bumbling like drunks heading home from the bar. The fact that these are tiny South African penguins rather than the giant Emperor penguins that these specials often focus on doesn’t change any of that, except that now they’re tiny fancy gentlemen falling down.

The one on the left is failing the sobriety test.

Patton Oswalt was a great choice of narrator, because he’s such a natural storyteller that you get caught up in him building up the relationships between many of the penguins. They dramatize several of the characters, primarily a pair of “married” penguins that perennially meet under an ornamental thorn bush which are dubbed, after the bush, the Bougainvilleas. We get elaborate descriptions of the attempts of others to take their spot and it’s put in terms of social climbing, despite the fact that, again, these are mostly just penguins trying to get out of the heat. We’re anthropomorphizing the hell out of them, but… I mean, they’re adorable and the storylines are usually pretty funny, particularly when Oswalt delivers them. He’s like the opposite of a normal wildlife narrator, because he’s never trying to give us a sense of wonder or awe at the majesty of nature. Instead, it’s mostly just corny jokes.

And a lot of speculation about what these guys are thinking.

I realize it may turn a lot of people off, but this is just so bingeable. It’s low-stakes, it’s got cute animals, and it almost always avoids actual bad news. Rather than the image of a cheetah’s cubs being eaten by hyenas in the night, it’s usually something about babies being rescued (ignoring that some of the eggs might have gotten smashed). It also benefits from the fact that it’s not in the “wild.” There are people here. The penguins only started showing up in 1985, so it’s not like mankind intruded upon them, they showed up and started using our stuff. Sometimes people help them, much of the time they just ignore them. Now, the sad side of things is that these animals are still endangered. Even though they’re a tourist attraction, they are not doing great. Hopefully this documentary series might change that.

Tiny gentlemen.

Overall, still a fun series. Not gonna change your life, but sometimes you just want to watch happy little animals fall down harmlessly.