Netflix Review – Raising Dion: Strong Single Mom > Supervillains

Netflix debuts an adaptation of a comic about a single mother raising her superpowered son.

SUMMARY

Nicole Reese (Alisha Wainwright) is a single mother raising her son Dion (Ja’Siah Young) after the death of her husband Mark (Michael B. Jordan) in a freak storm. She is shocked one day when she finds that Dion can move objects with his mind, something he cannot quite control yet. Nicole and her husband’s best friend Pat (Jason Ritter) struggle to keep Dion’s abilities secret from the world while also dealing with the impact this development has on her and her son. 

RaisingDion - 1Cast
Also, working with the busing system.

END SUMMARY

The best part about this show is that, for the most part, the focus is on the difficulties of being a single parent, rather than on superheroics. Except for when she’s worried that Dion is going to get caught by some assumed shadowy government agency or something like that, Nicole treats him just like a normal kid. We also see Dion handling most situations like he was a normal kid. He has issues with other students. He has trouble making friends. He gets embarrassed when what he enjoys isn’t “cool.” Most of the time, this is just a drama about single parenting.

RaisingDion - 2Mother.jpg
Their interplay is strong.

That isn’t to say that the superhero elements aren’t well done. The powers and abilities that Dion manifests are interesting and his difficulties in using them are understandable. He’s a child who has unbelievable power, so naturally he doesn’t focus it well. Hell, he doesn’t focus well in general, because, again, child. When he uses his abilities, they frequently spin out of control or operate on a bigger scale than he intended. This means that he’s dangerous not only to himself but to everyone around him. Worst of all, he likes seeing his powers work, because of course he does. Who wouldn’t? I mean, Peter Parker enjoyed being superstrong and sticking to stuff and that’s significantly less interesting than seemingly limitless telekinesis. Also, without spoiling too much, he gets to use them in the traditional “end of a superhero arc” capacity and it’s pretty fun to watch. 

RaisingDion - 3Fishing
Granted, he also sometimes abuses them.

The performances in the series are excellent. I do admit that I’m sad that Michael B. Jordan isn’t in it too much, as he’s just… so damned good in everything. I mean, the man was good in Fant4stic, and that’s basically the equivalent of overcoming cinematic ebola. Still, the rest of the cast are no slouches. Alisha Wainwright does a great job portraying a mother who suddenly is dealing with an unnatural situation but still trying her best. She makes us feel the concern that permeates her every action towards Dion. Ja’Siah Young is also excellent as Dion. He’s so likeable and conveys his childish curiosity so well that you do believe he’s moving all of the stuff with his mind. He also gives realistic responses to issues with others. He cries, he whines, he gets upset easily, but he also has unnatural resolve when he needs it. Jason Ritter manages to probably portray the widest range in the series and it’s all believable, to the point that you will be very uncomfortable at some parts.

RaisingDion - 4Ritter
He also does rock that coat.

The problem with the show is that the script is just pretty mediocre. The effects are decent for the budget, but it never really grabs you the way that a show like this should. It just doesn’t find the hook.

Overall, I enjoyed the show for what it was. I recommend giving it a shot. It’s not Stranger Things or The Good Place or something that strong, but it’s still good. 

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

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Halloween Review/Netflix Review – BoJack Horseman Season 5: Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos

I got a request for a Halloween episode of BoJack and I cannot resist going into it.

SERIES RECAP

Taking place in a world populated by humans and anthropomorphic animals, BoJack Horseman is a show about an equine equity actor named BoJack (Will Arnett) who had a popular, but critically panned, show from the late 80s through the 90s. In this season, he is having a career resurgence on a new detective series. His closest companions are his feline ex-girlfriend and ex-manager Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), his ex-roommate Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul), his ex-ghostwriter Diane Nguyen (Alison Brie), and his rival and Diane’s ex-husband Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins). BoJack is an alcoholic and chronically depressed in addition to a host of other vices. In the episodes leading up to this, BoJack had developed an opioid habit after sustaining a back injury, had started sleeping with his current TV co-star, and had just discovered that Diane knows that he almost slept with the daughter of a former flame. 

BoJackBoos - 2Cast.png
Stop smiling, Todd!

SUMMARY

This episode takes place over the course of 4 separate Halloween parties in 1993, 2004, 2009, and 2018. It turns out that in 1993, Mr. Peanutbutter mistook BoJack blowing him off as an invitation to host a Halloween party. So, he invited himself, all his friends, and his first wife Katrina (Lake Bell) over to BoJack’s house. Each of the Halloweens features Mr. Peanutbutter bringing a different wife/girlfriend (or his “Boo”) to the party. In 1993, he took his then-loving first wife Katrina; In 2004, he takes his second wife Jessica Biel; In 2009, he takes his then-girlfriend Diane; and in 2018, he takes his girlfriend Pickles Aplenty (Hong Chau), and yes that’s her real name. 

BoJackBoos - 1Halloweens.png
Diane went as Baby Bjorn Borg. BoJack is the only one who got the joke.

At each of the parties, Mr. Peanutbutter screws up somehow, resulting in him causing a rift in his relationship. In 1993, it’s that he keeps abandoning Katrina to talk to other people against her request, resulting in her talking to Ben Stein and Tim Allen and becoming an adulterous and cruel ultra-conservative. In 2004, he fails to protect Jessica Biel from seeing a mummy, reminding her that she didn’t get the part in the Brendan Fraser movie (she auditioned for the role of the mummy). In 2009, he pressures Diane into going to the party even though she hates parties. In 2018, he talks about his exes to Pickles, including Diane, who is at the party. He realizes that all of the women he dates start out happy and fun, then end up being bitter and mean. Diane tells him that it’s because he keeps dating women in their 20s, while he’s now in his late 40s. They don’t change because of him, they just outgrow him. After Diane consoles Pickles and tells her that Mr. Peanutbutter does always love every woman he’s with, including her. She then reminds him that she’s so much younger than him by saying they’re gonna party more.

END SUMMARY

So, this episode definitely is something that has to be watched and re-watched to really make complete sense, because they constantly cut between the time periods to draw parallels between the stories. In a brilliant stroke, however, you can almost always recognize what year it is in any scene by what costumes people are wearing. The costumes are probably the best part of the episode, but more on that later. 

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Also, the cast of the X-Files shows up in the 1990s.

 

 

One of the major themes throughout the show, and one that BoJack himself had recently elaborated on, is that there are no such things as happy endings. That’s because everyone in the show is so caught up in Hollywood (or Hollywoo as it is called in the show) that it tends to blur their reality and, in TV sitcoms, there can’t be happy endings. Because, if everyone’s happy, there’s nothing to watch. BoJack’s inability to ever improve himself in any meaningful way is tied to the fact that he is a sitcom character. However, this episode shows us that Mr. Peanutbutter suffers from the same futility of change, but in a different way. He can’t grow up, something that does NOT affect the women in his life. In each party, Mr. Peanutbutter acts essentially the same, even though it’s over a 25 year period, and each party ends essentially the same. The same is true for BoJack and Princess Carolyn. This is possibly the scariest theme in any of the things I’m going to go over this Halloween: That no one can ever really change for the better. All change is only temporary, because the show must go on, and we’re all the characters that have to become simpler over time so that the grand audience can follow it more easily. We’re leads in our own story, but that means we can’t ever be more than we are when we finally are being observed.

BoJackBoos - 5Carolyn.png
We grow older, but not up.

Note: I don’t believe the above, but the idea that maybe it’s true horrifies me.

What makes it worse is that we know how Mr. Peanutbutter’s relationships are going to go because we’ve seen what they’re like in other flashbacks in the show. Katrina will become abusive to him, but will say it’s because he never listens to her, the thing that he promises to do in this episode. Jessica Biel will become obsessed with her own fame, even claiming success from movies like Stealth, possibly because Mr. Peanutbutter can’t stop her from being reminded of her failures like he did in this episode. There’s an entire episode about a fight that occurs between him and Diane because he hosts a surprise party for her, even though he tells her that he won’t ever force her into another party. He never learns to listen to others, no matter how much he loves those other people. 

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He drives Diane to break plates. Impressive.

The only other major revelation in the episode is that Todd only became BoJack’s roommate because he offered to hang out so BoJack wasn’t alone after his dad died. It adds a layer to their relationship off of such a simple act.

Also, I can’t help but appreciate the effort that went into all the costumes at the parties. There are three people who wear the same costume each year: Princess Carolyn who goes as Amelia Earhart, a roach who wears a Beetlejuice costume, and a moth who goes as a ghost, but eats more of his costume every year, finally finishing it off in 2018. Other fun costumes are dependent on the year. In 1993, there’s a costume of Ellie Sadler from Jurassic Park and a pair as Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World. In 2004, Jorge Garcia from Lost is dressed as Shrek, there’s a woman as a female version of Cast Away, Mrs. Incredible from The Incredibles, three girls as the Plastics from Mean Girls, a Jack Sparrow, and a very untimely costume that’s a Bugs Bunny knock-off wearing a shirt for the movie “Space Jelly.” In 2009, there’s an octopus as Octomom and a cat as Keyboard Cat. In 2018, there’s a maiden from The Handmaid’s Tale and a Wonder Woman outfit. 2004 likely has the most timely references because the Jessica Biel plot is based more on costume jokes. 

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Also, Scooby Doo costumes. That might be a documentary in this world

The best part about the use of the costumes is to remind us that even if we don’t change, the rest of the world does, but not in a meaningful way. Pop culture moves on, but people are people. Some people get older and leave, like Hank Hippopopalous (Philip Baker Hall) from 1993 and some new people come in, like Flip (Rami Malek) in 2018, but the way the party goes is still the same.

Overall, this is a great episode of the show and of television in general. 

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 – The I-Land: It Just Wasn’t Worth It

Netflix releases a miniseries about a bunch of strangers waking up on a beach with no memory. It was pretty forgettable. 

SUMMARY

A group of people awaken on a beach with items nearby, such as a knife, a shell, or a compass. The only information they have is a sign that states “FIND YOUR WAY BACK.” The people are Gabriela (Natalie Martinez), KC (Kate Bosworth), Cooper (Ronald Peet), Moses (Kyle Schmid), Blair (Sibylla Deen), Mason (Gilles Geary), Donovan (Anthony Lee Medina), Taylor (Kota Eberhardt), Hayden (Michelle Veintimilla), and Brody (Alex Pettyfer). As everyone quickly realizes that their situation is not natural, lines begin to be drawn among the group members as they try to figure out what is happening and who they were.

ILand - 1Cast.jpg
Have you seen something like this before? I tried to find a reference, but I got Lost.

END SUMMARY

I don’t consider the following a spoiler, but if you truly want to go into this show totally blind, stop reading now. Okay, now that those people are gone, we’ll begin. In case the title of the series (I-Land, like where Steve Jobs is buried) doesn’t hint at it strongly enough, the title card and the title sequence make it extremely obvious that this show takes place in a simulation. The show also makes it explicit in the second episode, so I don’t think that was ever supposed to be a surprise. I’d also argue that since the Matrix movies and all of the films that have followed in their wake, the reveal that “this was all in a computer” is no longer a viable twist, because now people are firmly aware that they could all be in a simulation. Hell, there are people who argue that it’s extremely likely that we are, like that guy who used to run Tesla. In any case, this show’s cast are in a simulation. 

ILand - 2Logo
Nothing Matrix-like here. Nope.

One episode into this show, I thought that the mediocre dialogue and Lifetime-movie-esque delivery of the lines were part of the nature of it being in a simulation and that these people would be revealed to be robots or some kind of sentient AI program. If so, then that would make the unnatural way some of the scenes are filmed a commentary on their unnatural nature. But, no, they’re people who are just given weird stuff to say. Fortunately, like with Hallmark movies, you get used to it fast and it just becomes the new norm. From there, it’s pretty easy to actually appreciate the kind of show the creators were going for and the performances actually work within that dynamic, particularly Kate Bosworth and  Natalie Martinez. It also allows for the viewer to more easily distinguish between who the characters are on the island, without their memories, and who they are with their memories back. Unfortunately, both versions of the characters are mostly pretty bland and underdeveloped. 

ILand - 3Bosworth.png
This was originally a music festival that fell through.

The world that the show takes place in is pretty bleak, though we mostly only find out about it through dialogue. However, we do get flashbacks when the people in the simulation start to remember their pasts and they do not portray the future as happy. Or the past. Or the present, actually. Pretty much everything sucks. It doesn’t help that most of the flashbacks are not only unsettling, but downright disturbing. Still, they are extremely exciting when they happen, because the characters react to them at the same time that we do. Going through something revelatory with a character is a cheap way to make us care for them, but it’s one that works. 

ILand - 4Lost.jpg
Sometimes it works enough to get 121 episodes.

The themes that the show are exploring are pretty broad (nature vs. nurture; are we defined by our memories or something deeper like a soul; are we us if we don’t know we’re us?) but rather than trying to take a position on any of them, the show ultimately undercuts all of them and says nothing, because the experiment was broken from before it started. It’s supposed to be more about the journey of the characters, but… honestly, they were just so damned boring I didn’t care about it.

ILAND - 5LoPan.png
My advice? MORE LO PAN.

If you like cheesy-ish sci-fi, this will be pretty good for you. Since it’s only 7 episodes, it’s not a ton of investment even if you don’t end up loving it. Personally, I didn’t end up liking it much, but I can see why people would. 

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.

Halloween Reviews/Netflix Review – In the Tall Grass: A Solid Adaptation of a Complicated Idea

A mind-bending horror story by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill gets adapted by Netflix. 

SUMMARY

Becky Demuth (Laysla De Oliveira) and her brother Cal (Avery Whitted) are driving across the country. Becky is six months pregnant and trying to find a way to get rid of the baby. They stop by a cornfield near an old church in what I think was Kansas in the book and hear a small boy named Tobin (Will Buie, Jr.) calling out for help. The two go into a field of tall grass and get separated quickly. They discover that the cornfield warps time and space, keeping them from finding each other or a way out. They discover that Tobin’s mom (Rachel Wilson) and dad (Patrick Wilson) are also in the grass field, as is Travis (Harrison Gilbertson), the father of Becky’s child. As madness and confusion start to set in, the group has to find a way out of the field. 

InTheTallGrass - 2Cast.jpg
Also, there is naturally weird stuff IN the grass.

END SUMMARY

So, the story this is based on is ironically much more simple and straightforward than the movie, the opposite of what usually happens with adaptations. This ends up making the movie more in line with the themes of the story involving confusion and uncertainty, with Becky’s uncertainty about her pregnancy mirrored with the uncertainty of the people in the grass. The book attempts to throw off the reader by having characters take actions they know to be logical only to get impossible results. The film has the advantage of being able to show an objective viewpoint of the unimaginable physics of the grass, with some of the shots being extremely unnerving. While the fact that we aren’t as close to the feelings of the characters as we are in the book, the acting and the cinematography still get the point across. 

InTheTallGrass - 1Church.jpg
The church goes from hopeful to horrifying in mostly the same shots.

Most of the film isn’t traditionally scary. You’re not dealing with monsters or zombies or whatever. Instead, it’s the fact that the world that our characters are in does not follow any laws that we base our reality on. Events don’t happen in order. Time doesn’t flow at constant rates. Directions mean nothing. Standing still doesn’t mean you aren’t moving. Everything is broken and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s extremely off-putting and eerie, leaving you feel uncomfortable the entire time. The one thing that is certain in the film is death, revealing that the only thing that is beyond the reach of the grass are dead things. 

InTheTallGrass - 3Cast2
*Insert Ominous Music*

The acting in the movie is solid, though I admit that it’s the atmosphere that makes it scary. Patrick Wilson remains a treasure and his ability to play batsh*t crazy makes for a lot of entertainment. The thing that he ends up finding inside of the grass isn’t exactly explained, but that’s part of the horror. The movie ends significantly differently from the book, although it does contain one of the most disturbing elements in the book’s ending. If you read the story, this is still worth seeing.

InTheTallGrass - 4Crush.png
Seriously, kudos to his crazy.

If you like psychological horror or, to a lesser extent, cosmic horror, give this one a watch.

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 – Carole and Tuesday: I Love This and I Don’t Know Why

Netflix brings us a new anime by the creator of Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and Space Dandy about two young girls trying to become musicians. It’s so awesome you guys.

SUMMARY

It’s the future. We’ve colonized Mars and it mostly looks like Earth. Earth is now a craphole. Carole Stanley (Miyuri Shimabukuro/Jeannie Tirado/Nai.br XX (vocals)) is an orphan refugee from Earth who works part-time jobs to support her piano playing. Tuesday Simmons (Kana Ichinose/Celeina Ann/Brianna Knickerbocker) is a rich girl who runs away from her politician mother. While Carole is playing a song in public, Tuesday encounters her and innately understands her feelings coming through her music. The two quickly bond and realize that they each complement the other’s writing, quickly churning out a song. They break into a concert hall to record it, only to go viral when they get secretly recorded by Roddy (Miyu Irino/Zach Aguilar). This video is seen by Gus Goldman (Akio Otsuka/Jason Marnocha), a former musician and manager, who offers to help the girls get their careers going. 

CaroleAndTuesday - 1Playing.jpg
Yes, Tuesday plays a Gibson.

At the same time, they have a rival brewing from a former child star named Angela Carpenter (Sumire Uesaka/Alisa/Ryan Bartley), who is getting help from AI tech genius Tao (Hiroshi Kamiya/Kyle McCarley) to launch her own singing career. 

CaroleAndTuesday - 2Angela.png
So many insecurities masked by so much badass.

The three end up meeting when they enter the same music competition, with their possible futures on the line.

END SUMMARY

This show’s so good, it actually works well in either subs or dubs. You can watch it in English or Japanese and it’s actually pretty much the same. A big part of that is that the music is the same in both languages. There’s only one version of each song, with the same artist providing the vocals in both languages, and with two songs per episode, that’s a decent portion of the series. So, however you like your anime, it’s going to be awesome for you.

CaroleAndTuesday - 3SubsVsDubs.gif

This series was made by Shinichiro Watanabe, the creator of Cowboy Bebop, and, much like that show, this series is a blend of a number of different musical and fictional genres. Each of the episodes is named after a famous song, ranging from “Fire and Rain” to “Video Killed the Radio Star,” paying tribute to not just a kind of music, but music as a whole. There’s a gangster rapper who uses opera at one point, for example. This series is a love letter to the power of sound. 

CaroleAndTuesday - 4Performance.png
You feel the grandeur of the performance, but also the intimacy of their playing.

Carole and Tuesday are presented as the pure side of music, because in this future Artificial Intelligence generates most of the songs. One artist, DJ Ertegun (Mamoru Miyano/Ray Chase) considers himself a genius despite the fact that all of his songs and his musical performances are actually done by AIs that are written by Roddy. Machines have taken over so much of the industry that people consider it a novelty that Carole and Tuesday even write their own stuff. They’re two broke girls who constantly risk it all to survive based on their own talent, which is, admittedly, sizeable. They’re the underdogs that we want to cheer for and, dear God, do I cheer for them when they play. The music in this show is phenomenal, but they do save the best for our leads. Their struggles are human, their victories are hard-won, and their characters are surprisingly well fleshed-out despite the fact that they are essentially building off of simple archetypes, which was a strength of Cowboy Bebop

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Life isn’t fair, but that’s why we have fiction.

Even though she is their rival and a user of AI generated music, Angela is not presented as evil. She’s on a journey to overcome the bias against her as a former actress trying to become a musician, because she loves music. That’s why it’s so interesting when she finally goes up against Carole and Tuesday, because she’s not a villain, just a person who wants to sing that’s taking a different tactic. Admittedly, a much easier one, but since it’s an option for her it’s hard to blame her.

CaroleAndTuesday - 6AngelaSinging.png
She gets a 12 million dollar loan to start her career while the leads beg for gigs.

It’s interesting that this show actually explores the future where automation has started eliminating creative jobs, one of the things which are currently assumed to only be the domain of humans. We see AI directors, animators, writers, and, of course, musicians. Instead, in this version of the future, the only jobs left are pretty much the ones that are dependent upon human personality, like being a DJ or a professional mourner. Despite this, we don’t see anything like Universal Basic Income or communal resources, instead, we just have a proliferation of those kind of positions.

The animation is top-notch, the supporting characters are all phenomenal, the writing is amazing in both languages, and the end of the series, which is really just the set-up for the second half, is amazing. Also, this is one of the first anime series I remember to have an openly bisexual character where that is not the focus of their character, if that’s something you appreciate. 

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They animate this woman’s clothing separate from the scene and it’s amazing.

The thing that surprises me is that this show is not something that I would normally think of as being my kind of show. I have no knowledge of music, nor do I really listen to it. The show is extremely formulaic, with most of the things happening exactly as you would expect, something that usually drives me nuts. Despite that, the show has so much damned heart that I couldn’t help but feel my eyes watering during some scenes. Really, its absolutely flawless use of tropes reminds me why these things became tropes in the first place. I recommend it for everyone. 

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 – Disenchantment (Season 2): It Got Better, But Not Quite Enough

After the first season of Disenchantment didn’t win me over, this one gave me more entertainment, but still falls short of its premise.

SUMMARY

At the end of last season, Princess Tiabeanie “Bean” (Abbi Jacobson) revived her mother Dagmar (Sharon Horgan) from her stone curse, only for her to be revealed as an evil witch who poisoned herself. Dagmar then imprisons Bean’s personal demon Luci (Eric Andre) and turns everyone in Dreamland into stone except for King Zog (John DiMaggio) and his second wife Oona (Tress MacNeille). Elfo (Nat Faxon) continues to be dead for like 2 episodes. 

Disenchantment - 2Leads
He gets better.

This season, Bean travels to Hell in order to revive Elfo, saves Dreamland, helps her dad bang a bear, delivers a spoken word poem about her life, and some other stuff. 

END SUMMARY

So, the reason why I started watching this is that it’s the third series by Matt Groening. The first one, The Simpsons, is the longest running prime-time show and, for at least 7 years, was probably the single funniest thing on TV. The second, Futurama, is so good that I am reviewing it episode by episode every Friday from now until eternity (or until 2021). So, it stood to reason that this show kind of had to be at least pretty good. Unfortunately, while it’s not bad, it is firmly seated at “only average.” 

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I’d say “not so hot,” but that requires the fire joke.

Part of it is that this is the team’s first foray into serial television and they clearly haven’t quite figured out how to balance that with episodic plots. The episodes of this show tend to have difficulty with pacing because they want to advance the series along with the A and B plots of the episode. Admittedly, that’s been a challenge to more than a few screenwriters in the past, but it’s a little more pronounced in this series. The little things should build into the big things; they shouldn’t build separately. 

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Like maybe don’t have Bean’s mom’s importance change constantly.

I do like the main characters, but it’s shocking how little growth they’ve been given, despite how much the plot would seem to demand it. I think this, too, is a vestige of the episodic writing that Groening is used to, because we don’t really want TV characters to grow outside of a serial. Hell, we want them to get simpler so that we can keep adding more without having to keep track. That’s why the term for a character becoming more one-dimensional over time is “Flanderization,” from Ned Flanders. What’s more frustrating is that, at the beginning of the season, all three of the leads seemed inevitably headed towards major character-shaping changes, then… nope. We quickly reset the series pretty much back to the status quo.

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They go through literal hell and… mostly go back to normal.

The supporting characters are amusing, but due to the propagation of their kind of humor and archetypal variance has been pretty vast over the last 20 years, mostly due to the fact that The Simpsons and Futurama already did them so well. We’ve seen plenty of characters similar to King Zog or the Executioner or even Sorcerio (Billy West), because they’re just fantasy versions of the people of Springfield or Quahog (which is just North Springfield 10 years later). Without that element of originality, we get too familiar with them to feel any surprise at their actions or their words. Humor requires some element of the unexpected or the unusual, and these aren’t really either.

I will say this season was still a step up from the last one. The episode with Zog and the Bear Selkie was pretty funny and the episode with Bean doing a spoken-word account of her life because she isn’t allowed to put on a play as a woman does actually have a little bit of the heart that I’d expect from this kind of show… and that’s the problem.

This show doesn’t have the humor of its older siblings, but nor does it have the heart. The Simpsons was hilarious in its heyday, but it also had moments of sincere emotion. Futurama had wacky antics, but it also had some of the most tear-jerking and heart-breaking moments in television. This doesn’t have the laughing face or the sad face to the extreme it needs.  That said, on its own merit, the show isn’t bad, but it’s not what I was hoping.

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 – The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – The Scariest Thing I’ve Seen in Years

Netflix gives us a prequel to Jim Henson’s film The Dark Crystal and it captures the spirit, imagination, and pants-crapping horror of the original.

SUMMARY

The Planet Thra is a living entity which shares its life force with all of its creatures through the Crystal of Truth, a mass of concentrated energy. Of all of the lifeforms on Thra, the most favored are the Gelflings, a race of small humanoids who ruled over most of the planet through their seven kingdoms. A thousand years ago, two new races arrived on Thra, the Uru Mystics and the Bird-like Skeksis, cracking the crystal in the process. The Mystics secluded themselves and studied the mysteries of Thra while the Skeksis took control of the Crystal of Truth and started to drain the energy from it, causing it to become the Dark Crystal. As the custodians of the Crystal, the Skeksis rule over the Gelflings, who believe them to be benevolent and immortal. However, the Skeksis have discovered that they can make themselves nigh-indestructible by consuming the essence, the life and soul, of Gelflings. It’s up to three Gelflings – Rian, the Warrior (Taron Egerton), Brea, the Princess of Knowledge (Anna Taylor-Joy), and Deet, the underground seer (Nathalie Emmanuel) – to stop the Skekis’ plan to devour their world.

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Let’s assume this has already been airbrushed on a van.

END SUMMARY (Spoilers for the original film The Dark Crystal)

If you haven’t seen the original film The Dark Crystal, I honestly cannot recommend watching it first. As this is a prequel, I think that it might be better to watch this series and then watch the film to see how eventually the whole conflict resolves. If you have, however, seen the film, then you will know from the beginning that this story wasn’t going to be super happy.

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The part where our leads are basically the last of their kind bodes poorly for their parents.

The Dark Crystal was a pretty dark venture for a movie made by the guy who brought us The Muppets. Jim Henson was pretty honest from the beginning that he intended the film to be terrifying to children. He believed that it should be a throwback to the original Grimms’ Fairy Tales, because, much like Secret of Nimh director Don Bluth, he thought children benefited from being scared as long as they got a happy ending. This theory was fully tested in The Dark Crystal, which starts off with a showing of the horrifying Skeksis and only gets worse from there.

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As opposed to the mystics who are mostly just goofy.

The Skeksis are one of the best villains ever created for a children’s movie/TV Show, because they’re simultaneously horrifying and cartoonish. They’re essentially giant, clumsy vultures with absurd voices that often act so over-the-top in their indulgence of vice that they seem almost harmless, right until they reveal that they are doing things that would make Cobra Commander blush. In the movie, that includes torturing sentient creatures, eating said creatures, genetically creating monstrosities, and, oh yeah, drinking the life-force of Gelflings to stay young. In the film, it’s implied that they’ve killed and devoured most of the Gelflings for this purpose. This show is the beginning of that process and contains some of the most grim and genuinely horrifying implications of it, ranging from forcing Gelflings to betray their own kind for safety to making it clear that they’re not just eating the Gelflings, but sucking their total souls away and condemning them to eternal torment. Some of the scenes genuinely made me feel scared, despite the acts happening to puppets. Seriously, my stomach churned with the screams.

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They are also just dicks most of the time. Like… total dicks. 

The main narrative of the show is the traditional fantasy fare, with all of the characters going on a quest across the various realms of the world of Thra, with a number of side characters undergoing their own arcs. Much like with the film, a lot of the character arcs actually belong to the Skeksis and their internal politics, particularly the rise and fall of the Chamberlain skekSil (Simon Pegg) from his position as the favorite of the Emperor skekSo (Jason Isaacs). We also deal with the conflicts between the seven kingdoms of the Gelflings, particularly of the All-Maudra, the queen of the race (Helena Bonham-Carter). Basically, this is more a story about the world of Thra and its eventual fate than of any of the characters. Despite this, most of the characters are distinct and well-crafted, even though they’re mostly archetypes. 

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The one on the right with the spoon is even a Paladin.

The puppetry is what you would expect from the Jim Henson Company and the set pieces are wonderful. The sheer size of the world they created and all of the creatures that populate it is a worthy expansion from the source.

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Also puppet swordfights.

Overall, I think this was a great prequel to the film, even if, by implication, stuff’s gonna go bad from here. We haven’t quite gotten to the events of the movie, so they could still make more episodes of this, and hopefully will, but whether they do or not this was well made. I enjoyed 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.

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