Netflix Review – BoJack Horseman (Season 6: Part 1) (Spoiler-Free) – Time for Me to Speculate Wildly

BoJack Horseman returns for the first part of its final season and holy hell do I want to see the rest of it.


There’s no summary. Just go watch the damned thing. I waited a month to post this, but I still want you all to watch it.

The characters are BoJack (Will Arnett), Mister Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie), and Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul). The creator is Raphael Bob-Waksberg. There are too many guest stars to name.

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Surprisingly, the cat and dog get along great.


BoJack Horseman is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and yet I fully admit that I didn’t enjoy most of the first season. The thing about the show is that it started out defying the usual tropes of sitcoms by having nothing in the show ever really go away. Things didn’t reset in this world the way they do, for the most part, in animated sitcoms like The Simpsons or Family Guy. Typically the only things that are permanent in sitcoms are when someone dies or gets married or marries a ghost. Hell, some shows write out major characters (like Chuck Cunningham) and then later pretend they don’t exist.

Not BoJack.

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Hell, they even remember Margo Martindale… you know, from that thing.

When stuff happens here, it lingers. They sometimes use the audience’s familiarity with sitcom tropes about resets and lost plot points to make us think that something that happened has been dropped, only for it to be revealed that it wasn’t. Instead, BoJack’s fame and wealth and sometimes pure dumb luck keep him from suffering the consequences at the time. We’ve seen BoJack do wonderful things (like returning a lost seahorse child) and terrible things (like leading his friend Sarah Lynn (Kristen Schaal) to start using drugs after she got clean, resulting in her fatal overdose), and sometimes it felt like those things were forgotten. However, this season makes it clear that they weren’t. Moreover, these things are being remembered just as BoJack starts to remember them, because, as he puts it “I remember everything. I’m sober now.” 

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And it ages him 25 years rather quickly. 

That’s what this show appears to be setting up for: The great sobering of BoJack Horseman the show. A big theme of last season was addressing the issue of whether or not people should be looking up to BoJack (or his character, Philbert) or using his depression and self-abuse as an excuse to feel better about their own personal failures. While ultimately BoJack acknowledged that he needed to be better and going to rehab, there’s still a question of accountability. At the end of last season Diane gave BoJack a talk about how there are no good guys or bad guys, there’s just guys and that believing that you’re bad is just an excuse to be bad. He counters that he’s asking to be held accountable and she says that “…no one is going to ‘hold you accountable.’ You need to take responsibility for yourself.” However, now that BoJack is ready to do just that, the world seems to be setting up to take him to task. It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out, but it really seems like they’re preparing to take down more than just their lead. They’re going to try and take down all the people that view him as something to emulate or something to use to excuse their own shitty behavior. I could be wrong, but as that would be the most amazing way to end a show this self-aware, I’m hoping that I’m not.

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His sister is about to have something repeated to her about him. Something bad.

They also seem to be building a parallel plot that I can’t quite figure out how it’s going to tie-in to the central narrative. A company called Whitewhale, run by a White Whale named Whitewhale (Stephen Root), has begun acquiring almost all of the companies in America and has begun murdering anyone that gets in their way (because Congress made murder legal for billionaires… despite that being a state crime and not a Federal crime in most cases). It could just be a set-up for a plot with Diane trying to take them down, but I am willing to bet heavily that there’s a joke pending involving “Ahab” and “Rehab” that is dependant on BoJack’s newfound taking of responsibility for himself being what finally forces the public to demand the same of all our celebrities. 

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He’s not an orca, but he’s a killer whale.

The end of the show kind of always had to be BoJack being destroyed. I mean, the opening sequence changes every season, but it always concludes with BoJack drowning and looking up through the pool as everyone looks down at him. Does that mean that he’s going to die at the end? Well, possibly. It wouldn’t shock me if the first shot of the last half of the last season is a tribute to Sunset Boulevard with BoJack lying in a pool narrating how he got to this point, only for it to be revealed that he’s now broke and cleaning pools for a living or something. I mean, with all this set-up, BoJack can’t be allowed to end without some form of consequences and BoJack has grown into the kind of person who will accept them. 

Either way, the show was amazing, and I’m so sad it’s ending, but also so glad that it existed. 

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 – Green Eggs and Ham: Wait, How Does This Exist and Why Is It GOOD?

I don’t know what to say except that somehow this show is actually pretty good. 


Animal rescuer Sam-I-Am (Adam DeVine) steals a priceless Chickeraffe (half-chicken, half-giraffe, all Seuss). However, while at a diner, his bag gets mixed up with failed inventor Guy-Am-I (Michael “Yes, that Michael Douglas” Douglas). From there, the two get mixed up in wacky adventures trying to return the Chickeraffe while pursued by BADGUY agents McWinkle (Jeffrey Wright) and Gluntz (Jillian Bell). Along the way there’s a billionaire with fake hair (Eddie Izzard), an overprotective mom, Michellee (Diane “Yes, the one from Annie Hall” Keaton) and her wild daughter, E.B. (Ilana Glazer), a Goat (John Turturro), a Fox (Tracy Morgan), and a Mouse (Daveed Diggs), all under the Narrator’s (Keegan-Michael Key) watchful gaze.

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No pants anywhere. Very Seuss.


There’s a show of Green Eggs and Ham. Let me write that again: There is a show, a television show featuring 13 half-hour episodes, based on a book that famously only has 50 words in it. In the most recent season of BoJack Horseman there’s a gag about a TV show being made based on a “Happy Birthday, Love Dad” greeting card and apparently it’s well received. That was supposed to be a commentary on the fact that we’ve adapted all the books and Hollywood has had to move on to cards. This show is apparently presented completely unironically on the same streaming service and… well, it’s impressively good. 

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It’s cause for celebration, I guess.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to be heralded as a revolution in animation, but I genuinely enjoyed watching it. The main characters have a surprising amount of depth, the world that it takes place in is probably the most Seuss-ian of any that’s been put on screen (and yes, I’m including the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas), and the show actually ties into the original story of Green Eggs and Ham. Each of the episodes is focused on one of the things that Sam-I-Am tries to pitch in the book (“Fox,” “Train,” “Box,” “Rain,” etc.) and in each one of them he pitches eating Green Eggs and Ham to Guy-Am-I based on that particular thing, just like in the book. That’s actually an example of what this show nails: It manages to be true to the spirit of the original book while also expanding and explaining it. 

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And the added characters are amazing.

The theme of the original story of Green Eggs and Ham was that you should not be afraid to try new things, however, the persistence with which Sam-I-Am tried to pitch the foodstuffs to the character now called Guy-Am-I led to the story being accused of telling kids never to take no for an answer. Naturally, not obeying someone’s wishes about not wanting to do something is not a great lesson. The show manages to subtly change this. Rather than not accepting Guy-Am-I’s wishes, each time Sam accepts the rejection, then brings up the eggs in a different context in the next episode, but always allowing Guy an out. It makes the message clear that you can respect someone’s wishes and still try to convince them to step out of their comfort zone once in a while. It’s a tough balance, but I think they pulled it off.

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Super hard to stay mad at him.

The show’s writing is unbelievably creative, somehow managing to have the slapstick and inane feel of Dr. Seuss while also being clever and, at times, genuinely touching. There are some very sad and pensive moments in this show, something that you would never expect from a show involving green eggs and ham. In fact, the reveal of exactly what the food represents is an unbelievably touching moment. Still, the humor, particularly the commentary by Key as the Narrator, is pretty funny and works on a similar multi-generational level to things like The Muppet Show, encouraging parents to watch it with their kids. 

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I somehow laughed at “We’re the BADGUYS!!!”

Honestly, though, this show almost single-handedly restores my faith in human creativity, because even if we are, in fact, reduced to the point of claiming to be inspired by greeting cards in order to get a show greenlit, someone can still add and adapt it enough to make it work as a solid narrative. I recommend this to anyone with kids, and anyone who is a kid at heart.

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 – Klaus: You’ve Seen it Before, but It’s Still Heartwarming

I’m a sucker for a good story of the power of kindness to overcome anything, and that’s what this is.


Jesper (Jason Schwartzman) is the lazy son of the Postmaster of… I’m guessing Norway. Spoiled and perpetually unproductive, his father sends him to the island of Smeerensberg above the Arctic Circle with the condition that if he doesn’t process 6000 letters in a year, he will be kicked out of his family. Unfortunately, Smeerensberg is populated by two warring families, the Krums (led by Joan Cusack) and the Ellingboes (led by Will Sasso), who don’t send mail. The only other people in the town are the sarcastic and abusive ferryman (Norm Macdonald) and the embittered teacher-turned-fishmonger Alva (Rashida Jones). One day he runs into a woodcutter who lives far from the town named Klaus (J.K. Simmons) who has a massive collection of elaborate toys everywhere. Desperate to fill the letter quota, Jesper convinces Klaus to give toys to any of the kids that write him letters, and a legend is born.

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Aside from when Goldberg played him, this is probably the biggest Santa.


I don’t know how to say this aside from just being honest: This movie got to me. It’s cheesy, it’s cliché, it has almost everything in it that we’ve already seen from all of the other “true story of Santa Claus” films, but… it worked on me. I just loved everything about it. 

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Even the unnecessary fish guts.

Part of it has to be attributed to the animation style. The bulk of the character design is put into the expressiveness of the characters, with huge, exaggerated eyes even by most animated standards (aside from Ducktales and any anime derived from the Uncle Scrooge style [which is most of them]). It helps that when emotional moments are to be found, the shot always takes an extra beat to let the characters process. Rather than just having an emotion, we see the feelings start to spring forth from the characters, letting us take that short journey with them. While the adults are done well, the main thing is how well they animate the innocent joy that children get from receiving simple kindness. One of the things that animation will always have an edge on live-action filmmaking is that they can always exaggerate expressions to sell a scene, and this film capitalizes on it perfectly.

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I mean, they somehow nail “hopeful disbelief” and that’s not a normal expression.

Another part is that the story, while it absolutely is cliché, with beats being drawn directly from the guide to screenwriting, is played sincerely. There’s no irony about any of the story elements or any of the archetypes. Seriously, we have the selfish main character who learns the value of kindness, we have the love interest who tells them up front they’re never going to be together, we have the stoic old man who everyone is afraid of that ends up being kindly… This movie could just be called Stock Character: The Movie. But, throughout it, even though the characters are stock and the story is derivative, it still manages to grab you on an emotional level. Yes, you know what’s going to happen at any given part of the story, but when these elements are treated with depth and respect, we remember why these tropes became so used in the first place: They work. 

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Yes, we have the “pessimist who learns to believe again” and it was heartwarming.

That’s the main thing that this movie nails: Sincerity. One of the most repeated lines in the film is that “a true act of goodwill always sparks another.” That’s basically Klaus’s mantra, and it is shown to be true throughout the movie. Even though Jesper is selfish in his desires at the beginning, watching Klaus’s sincerity believably changes him for the better. It’s not all at once, though, nor even in a montage, because he’s still focused on what he wants. It’s only when he is forcibly shown how much joy he’s bringing to others, even if it is inadvertent, that he realizes that spreading happiness is a reward far greater than his own hedonism. While this message would normally ring hollow, it instead comes off as just as powerful as that mantra should be. One small act begets another, which eventually makes the world a better place. All it takes is a little effort. 

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We have the “cynic learning the value of kindness” scene and yes, I was teary-eyed.

It also helps that, in a rarity for this kind of film, nothing in the movie is explicitly magical. Quite the opposite: everything from the Santa Mythos is shown to be derived from mundane misunderstandings that the children have about Klaus. For example, the children see Klaus and Jesper wreck a cart pulled by reindeer, but they misinterpret it as the reindeer flying and landing. Additionally, rather than just being the unflinching paragon of goodwill that Santa usually represents, Klaus is given a more tragic and realistic backstory for why he does what he does. He’s not trying to just do good for the sake of good, although he does believe in it, he’s doing it in memory of someone else. Much as we have idealized Santa, Santa himself was acting based on his ideal vision of another. 

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Bad things happen to even the best people. 

I also have to give credit to the score. Music is always a part of making sure that the audience is experiencing the full emotions of a scene, and this film uses it perfectly.

Overall, I know I’m a sucker, but I love this movie. Everything about it is hopeful and stands for the idea that, no matter how bitter or divided we are, one day we can all come together. It just takes effort and caring.

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 – Dolemite is My Name: The Making of a Masterpiece

Eddie Murphy, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, and a host of others star in a story about the making of an amazing film.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s the 1970s and singer/comedian Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) is not having the career renaissance he’d been hoping for. However, after a homeless man named Ricco (Ron Cephas Jones) comes into the record store at which he works, Moore is inspired by the man’s ridiculous stories about a man named Dolemite. Moore adopts the name and turns it into a character with which he delivers a vulgar profanity-laden comedy routine. He manages to make a series of albums out of the character and goes on tour, achieving cult status. However, he eventually decides to make a film out of the character and, together with his partner Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), writer Jerry Jones (Keegan-Michael Key), and Actor/Director D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes), he makes the amazing movie Dolemite.

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Dolemite is his name, and f*cking motherf*ckers up is his game.


So, if you haven’t seen Dolemite, you should. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what kind of movies your into. If you haven’t seen Dolemite, you need to go ahead and enrich your life. It’s on Amazon Prime right now. Then, you need to go ahead and watch the sequel, The Human Tornado, in order to see the infamous sex scene in which Dolemite’s manhood literally destroys a house. But first thing’s first: You need to watch this movie. 

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Yes, it takes place in the 70s, why do you ask?

Dolemite is a rare kind of a so-bad-its-good movie, but it’s not in the class of a film like The Room or Troll 2. You can watch Dolemite and get a perfect mix of legitimate and ironic enjoyment, because the movie is supposed to be a comedy that is shot like an action film. If you’re laughing, whether you’re laughing at it or with it, it’s working. It’s hard to tell where the film was failing at being legitimate or was succeeding in being a parody. This film seems to suggest it was a blend of lack of ability and a huge amount of talent.

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This is the original, and he calls someone a “Rat-soup eating motherf*cker.” It’s awesome.

Much like The Disaster Artist, this movie contains a lot of scenes that explain how certain things came into the film. While I don’t think that Eddie Murphy’s portrayal of Rudy Ray Moore is as spot-on as James Franco’s portrayal of Tommy Wiseau, Murphy manages to absolutely nail the timing of the comedy routines. Given that Murphy apparently did this because he and his late brother Charlie Murphy used to love listening to Moore’s albums, I’m guessing it’s because he had heard them all during his formative years. As a world-class comedian himself, it’s natural that he’d be able to figure out how all of the ridiculous inflections enhance the Dolemite character and make it his own. His version of Dolemite isn’t exactly Moore’s, but it’s damned good.

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Yeah, it’s pretty damned good. 

This movie is a true story of someone managing to get their big break at the risk of losing everything, and that’s really something that audiences love. What’s interesting is that this isn’t portrayed as being an endeavour by a comedian who is looking for the pure art of it. No, from the first part of the movie this is just the story of Moore’s attempt to become rich and famous. The honesty is somewhat refreshing, because a lot of movies try to portray famous people solely as passionate virtuosos sustained by their creative juices. In reality, even great artists usually sell out at some point, because… well, people gotta eat, man. Plus, if you believe in your art, you want fame, because that means people are actually seeing it. Does it sometimes ruin the “purity” of the art? Maybe if it causes the artist to compromise their vision, but most of the time even great art is done for the money. 

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How much art is in a movie with an all-girl army of Kung Fu Killers?… ALL OF THE ART!!

I really did enjoy the hell out of this movie. I’m not sure how accurate it is, and since they include a scene from the sequel in the film I am guessing “not very,” but I know that it tells a heck of a story. 

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 – Daybreak/The Last Kids on Earth: Two Takes on the Same Idea

Netflix decided to apparently green-light two shows, one for kids, one not, based around the idea that the world ended and left only the young.



The bombs went off and it turns out that they didn’t kill everyone. They just killed most of the adult population and some of the kids. Many of the adults were turned into “Ghoulies,” basically zombies that repeat the last mundane thoughts of their former selves, but a few have become more monstrous abominations. Our protagonist, Josh Wheeler (Colin Ford) is a high-schooler with a lot of survival skills that have made him successful during the apocalypse. Together with supergenius Angelica Green (Alyvia Alyn Lind) and Samurai/Jock Wesley Fists (Austin Crute), he seeks to survive the end of the world and rescue his dream girl Samaira Dean (Sophie Simnett), who is actually pretty badass in her own right.

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Also, the wisecracking jerk with a heart of some metal.

The Last Kids on Earth

A bunch of portals opened up on Earth and it turns out that they didn’t kill everyone. They just killed most of the adult population and some of the kids. Many of the adults were turned into Zombies, which are zombies and I don’t need to explain further, but there are also more monstrous abominations. Our protagonist, Jack Sullivan (Finn Wolfhard) is a middle-schooler with a lot of survival skills that have made him successful during the apocalypse. Together with supergenius Quint Baker (Garland Whitt) and Barbarian/Jock Dirk Savage (Charles Demers), he seeks to survive the end of the world and rescue his dream girl June Del Toro (Montse Hernandez), who is actually pretty badass in her own right.

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… Not entirely unfamiliar.


So, I’m sure I’m not the only one that has pointed out that these are pretty much the same show, but for different age groups. Both shows include a heavy amount of fourth-wall breaking narration not only by the protagonist but also by the side characters and deuteragonists, both shows include a number of references to other media to shortcut their world-building, and both shows literally make a reference to gamifying the apocalypse. Not that either of these are the first things to do any of those, but I find it odd that both series came out only a month or so apart and have so many similarities.

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Although, only one show does the traditional “people are the real monsters” arc.

That said, in most other aspects, the shows are wildly different. Obviously, the biggest is that one is live-action and the other is animated, and, ironically, the animated one is adapted from a book while the live-action one is derived from a graphic novel. One is only a single episode so far lasting 60 minutes, while the other is ten 40-50 minute episodes. One is for mature audiences, containing intense gore and cannibalism, and one is for kids, featuring more cartoonish violence (though more than I would have expected). The monsters in Daybreak are either mutated animals or more humanoid aberrations, like the “Witch” Ms. Crumble (Krysta Rodriguez) and Mr. Burr (Matthew Broderick), while the monsters in The Last Kids on Earth range from Kaiju to Eldritch abominations to mutant squirrels (okay, that’s the same). It’s like watching two different people take the same elevator pitch and expand it. 

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One series has Ferris Bueller as a principal, which is pretty good.

So, here’s my review of each of the shows individually. 


Pretty well done. The acting is great, particularly Matthew Broderick and Colin Ford. It has a great sense of humor about itself, such as naming the main character’s love interest Sam Dean, after the leads in Supernatural, a show where Colin Ford played a younger version of the main characters (I’m told that didn’t happen in the comic). The idea of each of the high-school cliques evolving into roving rival gangs was pretty fun, particularly as you observe their interactions, though it drops away as the plot becomes more focused on a central antagonist. It’s a little flashback heavy at times and definitely a little exposition heavy, but it’s still entertaining. The biggest problem is Josh’s plotline being focused solely on finding his ex-girlfriend, something that becomes increasingly ridiculous as the stakes keep raising on everyone else. It also contains a lot of the same tropes that you’d expect from an apocalypse setting, with some working and some not. Still, I enjoyed the series. 

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Cheermazons are a thing.

That said, having now researched the comic a little, I found out that the series is set in the first-person, something that would have been super interesting for a high-school post-apocalypse series like this. Admittedly, it would probably have gotten old quickly, but I still kind of want to see it. 

The Last Kids on Earth

Also pretty well done, though short. The monsters are creative and the main character is believably flawed. It also contains a lot of shots of the main characters trying to find some comfort and enjoyment in the apocalypse, like turning various acts into “achievements” complete with video game symbols. It also helps that, while the main character is good at surviving, the “damsel” he aims to rescue is far superior at combat. Also, he’s a total stalker. While the protagonist of Daybreak is looking for his girlfriend, the love interest in this is someone that Jack Sullivan just has a crush on. Still, he’s a middle schooler, so it’s a little bit forgivable. 

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He’s not super smart, but he has… heart?

Both of these are pretty good and I would recommend checking them both 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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Netflix Review – Living With Yourself: Twice the Rudd is… Pretty Good (Spoiler-Free)

Netflix casts Paul Rudd in two roles in a new show and it really only works because it’s Paul Rudd. But it does work.


Miles Elliot (Paul Rudd) is a copywriter who has grown unhappy with his job and with his life. His wife, Kate (Aisling Bea), is an interior architect who has also started to become unhappy with his constant negativity and his refusal to actually participate in their fertility treatments. While at work, one of his co-workers, Dan (Desmin Borges), tells him to go to a new spa which helped him immensely. While at the spa, Miles runs into Tom Brady who claims it’s effective, because Tom Brady doesn’t mind giving himself an advantage using creative means. After paying for his treatment, something goes awry and Miles wakes up buried underground. He escapes back to his house only to find another version of himself there. It turns out that the spa secretly makes “superior” clones of people and dumps the originals. Now Miles and New Miles must figure out how to make their situation work.

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They both can crane their necks.


I don’t think this counts as a spoiler, but I’ll tell you that this show manages to blow by most of the clone tropes pretty quickly, which I appreciate. It helps that the clone in this case is not supposed to actually be Miles, but an improved version of Miles created through some sort of gene-manipulation mumbo-jumbo. Never mind that it’s ridiculous that they can somehow pull his memories from his DNA, they also somehow determine what genes are good or bad for his career and home life. Still, they do a good job of showing that, while the new Miles may be improved with regard to some things, he’s not necessarily truly superior in all areas. If this sounds slightly like an episode of Rick and Mortyyeah, it 100% is like that, only with longer-lasting implications and less Rick Sanchez. The plot doesn’t exactly go in the ways you think it probably would or should, which can be either refreshing, annoying, or both, depending on what you’re looking for.

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Yes, they might fight at one point.

The thing is, this show wouldn’t be as good without Paul Rudd. He manages to convey the two characters, who are supposed to be almost the same person, with enough nuance that you actually can keep track of which is which even when it’s not obvious from the circumstances. It helps that he makes you feel like each of them is on their own emotional journey, dealing with an almost impossible situation. Mostly, he’s just… really damned likeable as both characters. You don’t get the good/evil twin, they’re just both people trying their best. I will say that Aisling Bea does a great job of portraying a wife who was in a rough patch in her marriage and who suddenly finds herself getting an opportunity to both be with the man she loves and leave behind her baggage at the same time. The show does make her an eventual focus and her agency, subtle at first, becomes more pronounced.

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Even a woman married to Paul Rudd can get bored.

The show has a habit of showing an episode from one Miles’s perspective, then doing the next episode from the other side, which only works some of the time, but when it works, it works. Most of the supporting characters do well in the show, although it is very focused on the three leads. I particularly like Alia Shawkat, AKA Maeby from Arrested Development, who plays Miles’s sister who takes the development of suddenly having 2 brothers in great stride, and Jon Glaser as her… husband(?) who, while only in it for a minute, is pretty funny. 

Overall, I enjoyed it, but… mostly just for the Rudd.

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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Halloween Review/Netflix Review – Head Count

This indie horror on Netflix tries to bring a new take on the shapeshifter horror and doesn’t live up to its potential.


Two brothers, Evan (Isaac Jay) and Payton (Cooper Rowe), go on a hike in Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. They run into a group of people who are on a similar hike and Evan hits it off with one of the girls, Zoe (Ashleigh Morghan). Seeing that his brother wants to get laid more than he wants to hike with him, Payton tells Evan to go with their group while he continues to hike. That night, having smoke and drank and partied a bit with the group of nine strangers, Evan is asked to tell a campfire story. He reveals that he doesn’t know any, so they have him read a creepypasta online, which is a poem about a monster named “Hisji” who comes when you call its name five times. Naturally, he reads it five times.

HeadCount - 1Cast
They’re a reasonably attractive and appropriately diverse group.

Later, when he is in the hot tub with Zoe, he sees a figure standing in the distance and watching them. The pair go inside and it’s quickly forgotten over the revelry. However, as the weekend goes on, unusual things start to happen. Eventually, it’s revealed that the Hisji has the power to become a doppelganger of the members of the group and control their actions to a certain extent, so chaos and confusion abound.


I’m kind of regretting doing some random horror movies for this series, because I keep getting movies that aren’t particularly memorable. This was the first movie by director and story creator Elle Callahan, so I guess I should give it some leeway, but… well, Murder Party was a low-budget first-time director’s work and it’s way more memorable than this. But, the show must go on. 

HeadCount - 2Framing
I like that the shot literally has lines converging on the leads, so… that’s neat.

This probably would have been a really good short film, but it just doesn’t have the power to sustain my attention for 90 minutes. The idea of a monster who appears and can take the shape of anyone has been done before, including in John Carpenter’s The Thing, one of the best horror movies ever made, so this movie tries to set it apart by making the monster obsessed with the number five. Why five? Maybe because Candyman used five and the creators love Tony Todd. Whatever the reason, it’s obsessed with five and a LOT more time in the film was dedicated to that than was necessary. Similarly, a lot of the time was filled by having the teens engage in a lot of activities that people in their forties thing people in their twenties do, like a very awkward game of “Never Have I Ever” or talking about drugging each other. This wouldn’t be so bad if it ever built up to anything, but the stuff they do and say never feels like it actually comes up again later, nor does it really develop any of the characters except maybe Zoe. The movie is relying on a slow-burn, but it feels more like a slog at points. If you can cut 30% of your runtime and nothing is really lost in the movie, then you probably need to reconsider your film. 

HeadCount - 3Table.jpeg
There’s about 10 minutes of just staring at things.

It also doesn’t help that the movie’s monster seems to be a metaphor for something that doesn’t quite work. Now, if you’ve read this blog before, you know I’m a fan of the traditional use of horror movies as a metaphor, though I don’t think it’s required. In this movie, it feels like the monster was supposed to be a metaphor at the beginning and then about halfway through production, they realized it’s dumb. The movie makes a big point at the beginning of showing that Payton is really into pure living, probably due to a past with drugs (I think they said something about it, but I didn’t write it in my notes and I am NOT rewatching this). He has given Evan a lighter that stays a focus throughout the movie. The group in the movie are all heavy users of marijuana, they clearly also do other drugs, and they drink a lot. While those are all qualities that are pretty common among victims in horror films, in this movie, I feel like in this it’s more fundamental to the story. The monster appears as a different version of the characters and frequently encourages them to indulge in more vices, essentially through peer pressure. Through its machinations, it causes an atmosphere of paranoia and confusion. It could very easily be a metaphor for drug use and how it can destroy you. Even the way that the monster kills people would be easily made into a solid conclusion for that, but… it’s not. I can’t say anything more than that, they just seem like they had a metaphor and then changed it like two-thirds of the way through the movie. But even if they HAD done that, it wouldn’t really have worked, because… they’re kids drinking and smoking pot. That hasn’t really been a thing worth getting killed for since Reefer Madness. Like I said, without the resolution working for it, this doesn’t quite feel like a coherent theme, but I also feel like they have too much about it for it to not have at least been considered.

HeadCount - 4HotTub.jpg
And this, the focal shot of the film, contains nothing really related to any theme.

I also find it weird that this movie essentially just invokes a Creepypasta, with almost no mythology really given for the monster. We find out later in the film that this monster is apparently associated with at least one family dying, so I’m curious if, in the world of this film, someone realizes “holy crap, demon monsters are real” after the movie is over. While I know that a lot of people appreciate movies where the monster is pretty much unexplained, like It Follows, the issue is that the Hisji appears to have no definitive rules, gaining powers as the movie goes on. Since we know basically nothing about it, there’s nothing saying it can’t do that, but by that logic it could spontaneously turn everyone into dolls at the end of the film, and… that probably would have been more interesting. 

Overall, this movie isn’t a bad first outing for a director, but it definitely needed a little more flavor. 

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