Netflix Mini-Review: Cannon Busters – A Fun Take on Classic Anime

An American indie comic gets animated and it’s worth a shot.

SUMMARY (SPOILER-FREE)

It’s a world of sci-fi robots and magic that is somehow also the Old West. Sam the gynoid (Hinaki Yano/Kamali Minter) and her robot mechanic partner Casey Turnbuckle (Shiori Izawa/Stephanie Sheh) seek out legendary outlaw Philly The Kid (Yoshitsugu Matsuoka/Kenny Blank). Together, the three journey in order to find Sam’s lost owner Prince Kelby (Junji Majima/Zeno Robinson) and get caught up with bounty hunters, international politics, some weird drunks, and the occasional nihilistic robot.

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Two are relentlessly optimistic while the other is a scumbag.

END SUMMARY

I admit I wasn’t that interested in the series until I found out it was created by LeSean Thomas, a guy who has been associated with a number of projects I enjoy, ranging from The Boondocks to Avatar: The Legend of Korra. So, I gave it a try and it was pretty solid. I’m not going to say that it revolutionized the anime genre or anything like that, but it definitely keeps you entertained. The show is a serial, with many of the episodes leading directly into the next with nearly no filler, something that stands at odds with most anime. 

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He co-directed The Boondocks. ‘Nuff said.

A lot of what makes the series work is that it really does create a strange and yet compelling world through its characters and story-lines. For example, the main character is a gunslinger who drives a transforming pink Cadillac and is mystically immortal. Actually, that’s probably a good test for whether or not you’ll like this show: Does a pink Cadillac that transforms into a giant Minotaur robot when you put enough quarters into it sound like a funny idea? If so, then this show is for you. 

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Is a hypersonic alcoholic Ronin fun? Then watch.

The fight scenes in the show have a lot of variety, incorporating guns, swords, robots, and martial arts. The humor in the show isn’t overwhelming, but it manages to lighten some of the more genocidal or nihilistic moments. The plot is pretty simple, although it does run several plot-lines simultaneously, but the correct amount of hijinks tend to ensue at any time. 

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Extradimensional monster eating a village? Yeah, that’s a thing.

Overall, if you have an inclination towards anime, I recommend giving this a try. At 12 episodes, it’s not much of an investment.

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 Mini-Review: Sex Education (Season 2) – Relationships Are Complicated All Over

The British Comedy about the complications of teen sex returns with some relationship advice.

SUMMARY

At the end of the last season, Otis (Asa Butterfield) finally achieved arousal for the first time in his life after kissing Ola (Patricia Allison), who becomes his girlfriend. Having sexual impulses for the first time in his life, Otis quickly becomes addicted to masturbation. Meanwhile, at the school, an outbreak of chlamydia leads the school governors to hire Otis’s sex-therapist mother, Jean (Gillian Anderson), as a consultant on sex-education curriculum. Maeve (Emma Mackey), Otis’s partner in sex therapy, deals with both her return to the school as an elite academic and also the return of her drug addict mother (Anne-Marie Duff). Hijinks and issues ensue.

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So many plotlines.

END SUMMARY

While the last season of the show was mostly focused on overcoming personal issues to make the connections to start a relationship, this season goes into all of the effort that relationships take to maintain. Most of the characters start the season in a new relationship: Jean is dating Ola’s father Jakob (Mikael Persbrandt), Otis is dating Ola, Maeve is reuniting with her mother, Otis’s best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) starts dating the new student (Sami Outalbali), etc. Everyone naturally has their own issues: Otis has no sexual experience, Jean is used to her independence, Maeve’s mom abandoned her in the past, Eric still has feelings for Adam (Connor Swindells), etc. This gives everyone a number of interesting issues to explore and the show does a good job of covering all of them.

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She’s a strong independent woman and an FBI treasure.

One thing that the season, and the show, does well is try to handle both the obscure and the common issues that people have in relationships, particularly sexual issues. The biggest issue that every relationship faces is honest communication. It hurts sometimes to tell your partner what you really think, but failure to do it hurts you both and can be the downfall of a relationship. The season also does a good job of addressing several other issues ranging from sexism to sexual assault, resulting in a tragically humorous scene in which a group of girls realize that the only thing they have in common is “unwanted penises.” It does drive home the point that one of the things that can help friends get through their troubles is also communication and empathy. 

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Everyone has stuff that they need to talk about and friends who need the same.

The downside to the season is that it honestly just doesn’t feel as creative or original as the last one. It certainly explores different territory, but the dialogue never feels as fluid and the performances never quite feel as passionate. I will say that it gets better towards the end, but at the beginning I was feeling a little let down. The soundtrack did help me get through it, though, because damn does this have a great soundtrack.

Overall, not a bad continuation, even if it dips a little for me. There is one thing at the end that did flat-out tick me off, but I’ll see how they handle it next season.

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 – Dracula (2020): A Visceral New Take on an Old Story

Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, the people behind some quality Doctor Who, Jekyll, and Sherlock bring you an updated vampire story.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan) is being interviewed by a very interesting nun, Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells), and her assistant (Morfydd Clark). Harker reveals that he was brought to Transylvania to help finalize plans by a Count Dracula (Claes Bang) to move to England, but he was trapped by the Count, who it turns out is a vampire, which you probably guessed because I can’t imagine you not knowing who Dracula is. Vampire stuff ensues.

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END SUMMARY

So, I’m giving a content warning here: This show is pretty damn gross. It includes things that you probably never wanted to see if you have a queasy stomach. It didn’t bother me much as a veteran of ‘Nados both Clown and Shark, but it might gross out a lot of people. While vampires have been very visceral in the past, some of the stuff in this series goes out of its way to be more unnerving and it’s probable that Dracula actually exaggerates it to make himself more terrifying and dramatic.

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He’s all about the drama.

The series makes the interesting choice to start off by being fairly faithful to the book and then deciding, only after we think we know where this is going, to diverge wildly. The focus of this series is on the relationship between Dracula and Sister Agatha, a refreshingly bold and snarky character for a horror series set before the 1990s. She spends most of her time on-screen exploring Dracula’s powers, mocking him, or threatening him, despite the fact that he can easily murder her without any effort. While she is fascinated with him because he’s a vampire and a sign that the supernatural is real, he is fascinated by her boldness and refusal to fear death. 

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She don’t want nun, naked man. Yeah, I already regret that joke.

Claes Bang’s performance as Count Dracula is a relatively new take on the character because he acquires the traits of the people on whom he feeds. As such, the character actually morphs and changes over the course of the series, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently, to reflect the attitudes, desires, and sometimes even mannerisms of other characters. The fact that it is fairly subtle is actually to the show’s credit, because over-emphasizing it would seem gimmicky. The show does actively demonstrate that Dracula gathers information by drinking blood, however, which proves to be an interesting power that isn’t usually explored in this manner (aside from Hellsing). Dolly Wells’s performance is equally interesting, because she seems almost as sociopathic as Dracula at times, but it’s always based around destroying him.

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He gets his “who sharted” look by drinking an English guy.

The set pieces are extremely elaborate, ranging from a very well-designed version of Castle Dracula to a passenger ship that seems to be almost as labyrinthine at times. The costumes, likewise, are well-done. The dialogue is pretty solid, although it doesn’t stand out compared to other series by this team.

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… I kind of want that outfit and I’m ashamed of that.

The downside to the show is that it never quite figures out how it wants to handle Dracula. It takes some shots at vampire mythology, but mostly holds them up even though they “don’t make sense.” Dracula is supposed to be a complicated character who can be sympathetic while also being horrifying, but he’s so focused on enjoying himself  at times that it’s really hard to be either.  I think he has more than enough screen time to get there, but it just doesn’t come together as strongly as it should. Still, the scenes of him trying to one-up his enemies are pretty fun.

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Overall, I’ve enjoyed the series quite a bit, but I admit that it is not going to be most people’s cup of tea. At times it’s dumb and kind of gross, but it is consistently those things so I can suspend the right amount of disbelief. The biggest problem with reviewing it is that I don’t want to give too much away, because the fact that it starts so traditionally before quickly going in its own direction is one of the strengths of the series.  I’d say watch the first episode

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: You (Season 2) – The Creepiest Show on Television Continues (Spoiler-Free)

The show focused on a crazed stalker of women shifts to the other side of the US and to a new target.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)

Having killed the object of his obsession in season 1, Beck (Elizabeth Lail), Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) moves to Los Angeles to flee another of his exes, Candace (Ambyr Childers) and resolves to quit his stalker lifestyle. He gets a new identity from Will Bettelheim (Robin Lord Taylor) and gets hired at a bookstore owned by Forty Quinn (James Scully). He moves in next to reporter Delilah (Carmelo Zumbado) and her sister Ellie (Jenna Ortega), but quickly falls for another woman named Love (Victoria Pedretti). Joe attempts to change his ways for her, but his inner crazy stalker starts to come out.

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Penn Badgley does a great job, just like before. It scares me.

END SUMMARY

This show has an interesting way of simultaneously being so disturbing that I don’t want to watch it but so unpredictable and creatively told that I can’t stop. It’s the only binge show where I have to take breaks for my sanity but know that I have to go back to binging it or it will eat at me to not know where the story goes. It’s even more annoying because so much of the story structure is recycled from Season 1, but it still feels surprising. I will say that, much like last season, several times it felt like the entire show changed in an episode, and it never got old. 

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We also have some interesting side-elements that just pop-up and they work well.

Part of what allows the show to change so frequently is that we always have a focal point in our unreliable narrator, which is usually Joe/Will narrating a story towards the object of his obsession. Since he lies to that person, and vicariously himself, frequently, he’s also deceiving the audience. The conflict between what we see objectively and what is narrated to us is one of the most compelling aspects of the show, frequently making us realize that we’re being sympathetic TO A MURDEROUS STALKER. Whereas in Season 1 we might have had hope that he really would realize the nature of his actions in time to keep himself from going over the last line he had, by this point we know that he was willing to rationalize his own actions no matter how extreme. He claims that he wants to reform, but the nature of television tells us any reformation will be replaced by another obsession. Still, that means that the viewers will always be on our toes.

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He. Kills. People. And yet he has a ton of defenders on-line and I get it.

One change to the season is the presence of Candace, who was presumed to be Joe’s first victim before Beck in Season 1. It turns out that she’s not dead, but she is determined to destroy Joe’s life for what he did to her. While she is technically the antagonist, she’s clearly the anti-villain to Joe’s anti-hero. We have no sympathy for her actions from his perspective, with Joe denying any ill-intent towards her, but ultimately she is in the “right.” Joe stalks and kills women. She’s a woman. It’s amazing how much the narrative can make her seem like the crazy one, just by playing things from Joe’s point of view. 

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The other supporting characters in this season are a step-up from the first. They’re much more complex and contain their own hidden dark sides. Forty, who seems like a complete spoiled rich-kid with delusions of artistic grandeur, turns out to be much more relatable. Love’s friends are given more depth than Beck’s companions. Heck, we even get some flashes into Joe’s past which tell us a bit about how he got to be who he is. Just a solid improvement in this category.

Overall, this show is still disturbing, but it also has the ability to constantly surprise the viewer with all of the twists and close-calls. If you liked the first season, you’ll like this one.

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 Witcher (Season 1): Toss a Coin to Your Netflix

The fantasy series that became a hit game series gets adapted to the small screen.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) is a Witcher (oh, that’s why they named it that!), a monster hunter who was the subject of magical experiments that make him basically an unstoppable force of badass. Also, he sits in tubs a lot, which is apparently a big thing on the internet. Geralt travels from village to village slaying monsters, often accompanied by a bard named Jaskier (Joey Batey) and occasionally interacting with the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra). 

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They call him the White Wolf. Guess why?

Cirilla (Frey Allan) is the magical princess of the kingdom of Cintra which has been destroyed by a neighboring kingdom. Cirilla’s grandmother, Queen Calanthe (Jodhi May), tells her to find Geralt in order to survive. 

END SUMMARY

The Witcher is a series of 8 books, both novels and short story anthologies, by Andrzej Sapkowski which I have never actually finished. I promise I’m getting around to it, nerds. This later led to a series of three video games which were extremely popular. Rather than adapting the novels, however, the video games were a continuation that picked up after the events of the last book. This series was adapted from the first two books of the series, which is probably a good decision since there’s both more material and a lot less potential for angry video game fans trying to burn the writers at the stake.

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They did put him in a tub for the fans, though.

I genuinely enjoyed this show, because it delivered pretty much exactly what I was looking for. It has some creative world-building which contains frequent magical oddities or anomalies. It’s the kind of world that has cursed princesses or half-hedgehog princes who just show up out of nowhere and people who live for hundreds of years. It also is the kind of world where, as is frequent in fantasy fiction, the humans (especially the ones with power) are often more horrifying than the actual monsters. 

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Though the monsters are quite… monstrous. 

The structure of the show follows three different, occasionally intertwining, plots centered on the three protagonists: Geralt, Yennefer, and Cirilla. In an interesting twist, the stories are not happening at the same time, something that appears to have irritated some viewers, but it allows the writers to better convey that Geralt and Yennefer both live for centuries and therefore have difficulty making human connections. Geralt is at least 90 years old at the start of the series and Yennefer is far older, with years or decades passing between episodes. We see a young Yennefer trying to form bonds, but that really fades over time. Cirilla’s plotline, which is in the “present,” takes place in a relatively short time period and, appropriately, involves her trying to make more personal connections.

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The two nigh-immortals do connect with each other, of course.

The performances in the series are all extremely solid. They’re often very over-the-top and even a little corny, but that’s in line with the kind of show this is. Cavill does a great job portraying a relatively stoic anti-hero, something that involves a great deal of grunting. Yennefer probably has the largest character arc and the most powerful emotional moments, which Chalotra capitalizes on. The most notable supporting character is Jaskier, who not only provides the comic relief but also composes the song “Toss a Coin,” which is so mercilessly catchy that I imagine you’ve heard it already even if you didn’t watch the show. 

Overall, I recommend this show if you haven’t given it a try yet. It’s not Game of Thrones, but it is 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.

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 Mini-Review: Carole and Tuesday (Season 2) – Music Has Power

Carole and Tuesday, the show I like for reasons I can’t quite determine, returns for a second season and takes on celebrity and politics.

SUMMARY 

Carole ( Miyuri Shimabukuro/ Nai Br.XX / Jeannie Tirado) and Tuesday ( Kana Ichinose/ Celeina Ann / Brianna Knickerbocker) have come in “second” in the Mars’ Brightest contest after Tuesday’s stalker injured her too much to play guitar. Their performances have made them fairly prominent celebrities and they are primed to start their full-fledged careers as musicians, but things start to get complicated when Tuesday’s mother, Valerie (Tomoko Miyadera / Rachel Robinson), adopts a strict anti-immigrant stance in her candidacy for President of Mars. While the girls mostly stay out of it and focus on releasing their first studio album, Valerie’s supporters and backers start trying to enforce her policies early, causing a rift among the Martian population. 

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Reminder: Carole is an orphan immigrant from Earth.

At the same time, the deuteragonist, Angela (Sumire Uesaka / Alisa / Ryan Bartley), experiences an even more meteoric rise in her career, only for her life to be derailed by mounting tragedies. Though her music surpasses even Carole and Tuesday in terms of popularity, she slowly starts to lose herself. However, along with a number of other musicians, she ends up finding herself by joining Carole and Tuesday in “the Seven-Minute Miracle,” an event that shapes Mars forever.

END SUMMARY

Interestingly, this season worked even better for me than the last one, and for completely different reasons. In the last season, one of the best things about the show was how we saw people rewarded for all of their hard work as individuals or teams. We got to see Carole and Tuesday struggling and risking so much in order to try and achieve their dreams, which made it all the better when they did finally get some kind of victory. Good is rewarded. Effort is rewarded. Dreaming is rewarded. It’s the kind of message that can inspire someone to take risks and try to find their passion. This season gave us a message of hope in a different way. We see people working past personal difficulties, trying to overcome the adversity they find within themselves and their conflicted relationships. We see people trying to deal with heartbreak, with losing faith in a parent, and with losing faith in people in general. However, the series says that there is always hope that people can, and sometimes will, realize that they can do the right thing. The key is that this revelation doesn’t come from arguing or fighting, but from love and empathy, two things music can inspire.

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They do a good job making it clear that Valerie sacrifices her principles for power. 

The music in the season is as good as the first, as is the character development. The setting is pretty much the same, but the relationship between Mars and Earth is explored further. We get to meet a number of new characters that are interesting and yet somehow relatable. For the most part, the show wraps up all of the dangling plot lines satisfactorily, but if they decided to continue it there’s plenty of ways to go forward. Still, I enjoyed this series and I am happy with how it stands now. 

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 Mini-Review: Seis Manos (Season 1) – It’s the Mexican Kung-fu Epic You Deserve

Three Kung-fu students fight against a Satanic Mexican drug cartel in order to avenge their master.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Isabela (Aislinn Derbez), Jesús (Jonny Cruz), and Silencio (the silent one) are students of Sifu Chiu (Vic Chao) an ancient Chinese Kung-fu master who moved to the Mexican town of San Simon. One day, their master is killed by a mystically-empowered initiate of the Santa Nucifera cult/cartel who then goes on a rampage destroying much of the town. The three then vow revenge upon Santa Nucifera and their leader El Balde (Danny Trejo). They are aided along the way by DEA Agent Brister (Mike Colter) and Federale Investigator Garcia (Angelica Vale).

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They’re… mostly helpful?

END SUMMARY

This show is basically a series of exploitation films nested inside of a TV show and I mean that in the best way. They clearly know it too, as the show is animated like it was filmed in the 1960s and played on a VHS in the 90s. It’s got some static at points, some sound errors, and even a few times where the edges of the “film” are caught in frame, all of which gives it more of the feel of an old Kung-fu movie. 

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Also, wind always make stuff flutter dramatically. Always. 

Much like Avatar: The Last Airbender, a lot of care was put into the various styles that the characters use to fight. Isabela, a defensive person who wants to protect people, uses Hung Ga (also the Earthbending forms from Avatar). Silencio uses Bak Mei, the aggressive “white eyebrow” style, which becomes literal as he becomes more violent. Jesús uses drunken boxing, because he’s a party dude. It’s one of those little touches that allows the show to better utilize visual storytelling. 

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I mean, you can kind of get a feel for them just off of this shot. 

One of the most interesting things about the show is watching how the characters and the series itself blend Mexican and Chinese cultural elements. It’s interesting to see the two compared and contrasted through the actions of the different characters in the series. It’s also neat to see the supernatural martial arts elements from Wuxia films matched up against the kind of supernatural elements seen in old-school Mexican Lucha films, represented by El Balde and his minions. 

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Plus there are cute references everywhere. 

Overall, I recommend this show if you like exploitation films, either Eastern or Western.

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.