Pig: Maybe Nicolas Cage’s Best Movie

What seemed like “John Wick with a Pig” is really a deep character study by a supremely gifted actor. Yes, I mean Nicolas Cage.

God, it’s so hard to talk about Nicolas Cage sometimes. He’s one of the only actors where I think he can only improve the films he’s in. He makes good movies better, he makes bad movies tolerable, and he makes insane movies brilliant. He’s also the only person who would agree to be in so many movies in all of those categories. However, only on a few occasions have we had the opportunity to see what happens when Nicolas Cage gets put into a movie that might . This is one of those rare movies. I believe that this would be a compelling movie with almost any actor in the lead, but I also think that Nicolas Cage might be one of the few actors who can take this film as seriously as it deserves. 

This is the same guy from Face/Off. This is the same guy from Vampire’s Kiss.

Rob Feld (Nicolas Cage) is a former chef who lives in the woods and hunts for truffles with his trusty foraging pig. He sells the truffles he finds to Amir (Alex Wolff), who supplies them to high-end restaurants. One night Rob is attacked by burglars who batter him and steal his pig. Rob asks Amir to help him track down the pig. After first trying to confront a group of local drug addicts, the pair start to head into Portland and they end up in the surprisingly brutal and somewhat criminal world of haute cuisine. Along the way, we get a picture of who Rob Feld used to be and what led him to give up the life he had for a life of solitude with a pig.

He takes a beating and keeps on kicking down doors to have intense conversations.

When I was told about this movie, it seemed like it was just a movie about vengeance for the theft of a beloved pet. When the movie hints at Rob having a deceased wife in the opening of the film, my first thought was “well, a John Wick rip-off with Nicolas Cage might still be fun.” Imagine my surprise when this movie turned out not to be a roaring rampage of revenge, but a slow, sullen, borderline surreal story about a man losing the one thing he felt he had left in his life. It’s not filled with violence and over-the-top action, but instead just plays through the story, slowly revealing more of the picture of who Rob is, what brought him to this point, and how he’s going to move on from here. Cage plays everything more subtle than you would believe him capable of, but it’s the smoldering rage and passion you can see behind his eyes and his words that really make the performance. He delivers calm and scathing words to the people that hurt more than a punch to the face ever could and at almost every conflict there is a surprising twist to the encounter. Even the final confrontation in the movie is completely different than I would have expected, in the best way.

A mountain man makes good cuisine.

Overall, just a fabulous movie. Watch it. 

Five Short Leftover Reviews

Sometimes there’s too much stuff to review, so here are some other things that you should check out or avoid.

CENTRAL PARK (Season 2) – Apple+ Review

The musical from the team behind Bob’s Burgers is back and, honestly, better than ever. The first few episodes of the next season have dropped and they contain a ton of great songs, great writing, and a lot more insight than I would have expected. One of the episodes contains a near perfect twist ending and one contains a level of introspection and emotional honesty that really hit me deeply. If you haven’t given this a shot yet, you need to.

CHAOS WALKING – Theatrical Review

This movie starts off with the interesting premise of a planet where the inhabitants are infected by “noise,” a psychic field that renders their thoughts out loud and even in images. Aliens killed off all of the women a generation ago. Tom Holland plays a young man on this planet when Daisy Ridley crashes onto it. Now, he has to protect her from the men who want to kill her entire mothership for their supplies. It’s not a bad movie, but it rarely plays the premise up as well as it could. It has some twists in it, but all of them are too obvious for the amount of build-up. Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley are good in it, though, and there are some great supporting cast members.

Oh, and John Wick Warning. There is a terrible dog killing.

RAY (Miniseries) – Netflix Review

This is a miniseries of films based on the short stories of acclaimed Indian director Satyajit Ray. They all have elements of seeming fantasy, but not all of them end up actually having fantastic worlds. The key to the series is that it is often focused on personal changes deriving from internal reflection triggered by external events, either because a person starts to believe that they no longer remember their past or because they meet a person that they didn’t realize they had a connection with. They’re all pretty different, so even if you don’t like one of them, maybe give the next one a try. I thought this was a fun series.

Really well-done anthology.

THE SEVENTH DAY – Netflix Review

Have you ever thought “we need another terrible version of the exorcist?” Because if you haven’t, then you are sane. Also, this movie isn’t for you. Starring Guy Pearce, who has clearly hit some hard times, as a veteran exorcist who is the Vatican’s resident rebel and Vadhir Derbez as the young and naive priest who is trying to find out the truth about demonic possession, the movie kind of falls apart early on. It almost seems like it is going to confront some of the inner workings of the Catholic Church, but instead basically says “the church is great because demons are very real.” 

Sure, we touch and murder some children, but we also are saving the world, so… we cool?

FATHERHOOD – Netflix Review

Kevin Hart plays Matthew Logelin, a man whose wife dies suddenly during childbirth, leaving him a single father. For a while, his mother and mother-in-law help out, but after they leave, he struggles before managing to get used to single parenting. Years later, Matthew’s daughter Maddy (Melody Hurd) starts having problems at school at the same time that Matthew tries dating again and is having more issues at work. It’s a solid movie mostly because it takes a lot of the issues very seriously and addresses some sides of single parenting that many movies skip. It’s just ultimately not a very interesting story.

Probably still worth watching if you like cute movies about raising kids.

A Quiet Place Part II: It’s Quiet… Two Quiet

Make some noise for this sequel.

I thought A Quiet Place was one of the better horror movies I’ve seen in the last few years and audiences mostly seemed to agree. The film’s use of sound, John Krasinski’s performance and direction, and its focus being more on the family than the monsters made it extremely memorable. Granted, it’s also on my list of films with the stupidest twists ever, which made me more than a little skeptical of the sequel potential (the sound-based monsters are vulnerable to sound and no one thought of that?). That skepticism was doubled by the fact that John Krasinski’s character died in the first one. Despite that, the movie managed to pull off a pretty solid new chapter by going more into the “society” that still remains after the apocalypse.

Don’t worry, still some claustrophobia.

The film starts off at the beginning of the attack of the alien creatures that end up destroying most of Earth’s population. Evelyn and Lee Abbott (Emily Blunt and Krasinski) are attending a baseball game when they watch the first wave of attacks. The pair manage to escape along with their deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), son Marcus (Noah Jupe), and youngest son Beau (Dean Woodward). In the present, Evelyn and her surviving children, including a baby, are managing to kill many of the aliens using the feedback from Regan’s cochlear implant. They search for other survivors, but Marcus is injured by a trap set by Emmett (Cillian Murphy), a former friend of Lee’s. Marcus and Regan discover that someone is broadcasting a radio signal. Regan takes off to find the source and Evelyn manages to convince Emmett to try and bring her back. 

Cool, travel with a baby in the apocalypse. Very cool.

A key part of the former film was how very quiet it was, as you would expect from the title. It focused on small actions and on how hard it was for the family to avoid making noises. It helps that the film establishes that the aliens are essentially invincible and merciless killing machines by having them murder a small child with a toy at the beginning. This means that the rule that “kids can’t die” does not apply to this franchise, something that becomes immediately terrifying in a film where one of the characters is a baby who has to be carried in a soundproof device. Since the characters are traveling rather than trying to hide throughout much of the movie, it adds a level of insecurity, particularly when you add in that they’re now interacting with other survivors who have their own methods for avoiding the creatures that are not particularly fun.  On the other hand, the monsters can now be killed, so they are less threatening on the whole than they were formerly and the film lacks the subtle nihilism of the last one. The action sequences are a lot bigger in this one, though, to go along with the expanded setting. The use of sound is different in this movie, but it is no less significant, often shifting to Regan’s silent perspective to contrast it with the loud noises everyone else is experiencing.

Cillian Murphy was a great addition.

Overall, decent sequel. Check it out. 

Justice Society: WWII: Superheroes Kicking Nazi Butt – Amazon Review

We get an alternate “what if” story of a superteam fighting in World War II.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Barry Allen/The Flash (Matt Bomer) is having a picnic with his fiancee Iris West (Ashleigh LaThrop) when he witnesses Superman (Darren Criss) being attacked by a supervillain. Barry attempts to stop a kryptonite bullet from hitting Superman and accidentally accelerates through time, winding up in the 1940s. There, he finds a team called the Justice Society, which Barry had never heard of, consisting of Black Canary, Hawkman, Hourman, Jay Garrick/The Flash, and Wonder Woman (Elysia Rotaru, Omid Abtahi, Matthew Mercer, Armen Taylor, Stana Katic). Together with soldier and government liaison Steve Trevor (Chris Diamantopoulos), the team is in Europe trying to stop Adolf Hitler and the Nazis from acquiring magical items that could potentially help the Nazis win the war. Now Barry has to both help the team win the war and also find a way back to his own time. 

Hourman: He’s superhuman… for one hour a day.

END SUMMARY

This movie is pretty much built on the premise of “What if the Justice League fought Nazis?” It doesn’t really go much further than that, aside from trying to remind us that fighting the good fight together is the only way you can ever really win. However, if you wanted to see what it was like for a group of superpeople to go out and beat the hell out of one of the worst threats to ever face the world, then this film is for you. In order to avoid having too many massively overpowered people, the makeup of the Justice Society consists mostly of the heroes from that actual time period, including Wonder Woman. Fortunately, unlike in the actual Justice Society comics, Wonder Woman is allowed to do more than be the secretary for the group. Yes, that really happened. They also reduced Wonder Woman’s powerset considerably, since otherwise she would basically just run straight to Berlin and start decapitating the Nazi High Command without effort. Flash, who normally would be overpowered, is justifiably taken down a notch by having his access to the “speed force” reduced. The fact that Flash hasn’t heard of them means that it’s possible for members of the team to die, something that the film keeps stressing.

Yes, Wonder Woman, who can kill a battalion bare-handed, was thrilled to be a secretary.

The biggest problem for this film is that it shifts the plot heavily about halfway through, because clearly they couldn’t think of a good enough threat for the heroes to fight within the Nazi army. This is kind of ridiculous when you consider how many supervillains from the 1940s were, in fact, just Nazis. There was literally a superman copy called “Captain Nazi,” and a number of “Barons” ranging from Blitzkrieg to Death to Luger. Despite that, the movie basically moves away from Nazis as the central antagonists in the last act and that’s just dumb. 

Nazis can build monsters too!

The visuals in the movie are solid and the fight sequences are pretty good. The performances are great and the actual premise works for a movie. It’s just sad that the plot of the film ends up being almost completely inane. Also, one of the subplots is basically just a setup for a deus ex machina which, had it been the central plot, would probably have been more interesting than the film. 

No, not just the “Speed Force” deus ex machina.

Overall, not the best film, despite a good start, but it’s still a decent watch. 

Central Park: A Musical Masterpiece – Apple+ Review

Another hit from the Bob’s Burgers team.

SUMMARY

Owen Tillerman (Leslie Odom, Jr.) is the manager of Central Park in New York City. He’s married to reporter Paige Hunter (Kathryn “Agatha All Along” Hahn) and the father of young kids Molly and Cole (Kristen Bell and Tituss Burgess). The family lives inside of the Edendale Castle in the park and are watched over by the narrating busker Birdie (Josh Gad). Unfortunately, it turns out that local businesswoman Bitsy Brandenham (Stanley Tucci), along with her henchwoman/assistant Helen (Daveed Diggs), has decided to start scheming in order to purchase Central Park and turn it into a series of apartment buildings. The Tillermans not only have to deal with their own problems, but now they have to overcome Bitsy’s plans to destroy their lives. Fortunately, they have the power of song… and also a ton of cameos by famous singers.

I would watch this cast in literally anything. Give them a WandaVision spin-off.

END SUMMARY

I was told this show was mediocre and thus didn’t watch it (also, didn’t have Apple+ until recently). The person who told me that clearly had no joy in their soul. This show is everything I wanted and more. Aside from having an absolutely dynamite cast that has multiple Tony and Emmy award winners, the show’s music is absolutely amazing. It includes a wide variety of musical styles, ranging from the big band numbers of old Broadway to the hip-hop influenced music of Hamilton, and it does all of them well. It’s amazing to realize that there are 46 songs in a 10 episode half-hour show, but somehow they managed to pull it off. It helps that people like Cyndi Lauper, Alan Menken, Darren Criss, Aimee Mann, and even Fiona Apple contributed songs to the show.

Stanley Tucci and Daveed Diggs as two old ladies with schemes. Amazing.

The characters are pretty varied, although all of them are quirky, much like on Bob’s Burgers. While the Tillermans don’t quite stand out as much as the Belchers, they definitely have a lot of the same weirdness mixed with genuineness to make them eventually become just as lovable. The number of songs does sometimes hinder both the character development and the plot development, but the odds are good you’ll be too hooked on them to care. The guest characters are usually amazing, ranging from people like a tour guide of the deleted scenes of Home Alone 2 to a busker who competes with Birdie for narrating duties. It’s actually a great element that the narrator (who has omniscience over everything that’s happening) also interacts with the characters. It’s like something out of a Greek comedy.

Josh Gad probably sings about people’s lives all the time.

Overall, just a great show. Highly recommend. 

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.

Mother’s Day Special: 15 Films You Should (Mostly Not) Watch With Your Mom

Glamour listed 15 Mother’s Day Films. I disagreed with them.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone (in the U.S.). I was planning on watching and reviewing Mommy Dearest as a joke today, but then my Social Media feed, apparently listening to my brain, decided to feature someone sharing a list of films for Mother’s Day by Glamour Magazine. Here’s the link. 

Unfortunately, after reading it, I determined that most of these movies are not great for the occasion. Even the films that are good might not give your mom the right impression as a celebration, so I felt that it would only be right for me to correct them. 

  1. Roman Holiday

Ah, Roman Holiday, the totally relatable story of a princess (Audrey Hepburn) getting too tired of being wealthy and beloved in the 1950s, so she sneaks out and is found, passed out on a bench, by Gregory Peck. Naturally, Peck is a reporter who spends the movie trying to pretend he doesn’t know who she is so that he can get a story about her without her knowledge. Taking an unconscious girl to your house and then lying to her constantly, truly the height of romance. 

“Look over there so that you don’t remember we’re on a Vespa.”
  1. Minari

While I love this movie and a great fan of Youn Yuh-jung’s portrayal of the grandmother, the actual parents in this movie are constantly stressed. By about halfway through the film it’s clear that the mother, Monica (Han Ye-ri) is considering just leaving the family. At the end of the film ***spoilers*** she stays, but it might not be great to spend a movie sitting next to your mother hoping she doesn’t keep saying “leave those kids and live, girl.”

However, you can hope your mom eventually becomes this kind of grandmother.
  1. Freaky Friday (2003)

Yes, if there’s one thing that bonds a mother to her child, it’s when the child occupies the mother’s body and, presumably, has to bathe and use the bathroom repeatedly with said body. This movie is a comedy only by virtue of Jamie Lee Curtis being an absolutely amazing actress capable of distracting us from the horrifying implications.

Lindsay Lohan was also good.
  1. Monster-In-Law

This film’s entire premise is based around the old stereotype that all mothers-in-law are terrible shrews trying to keep their precious little boys safe from all the bad women out there. Not only is that outdated and inaccurate, if your mother had a monster-in-law, you grew up calling her grandma. This movie’s either lying to you or opening a can of worms you really don’t want opened.

J. Lo v. J. Fo. No Go.
  1. Little Women (2019)

I can’t even think of a joke for this one. This movie is actually a pretty perfect Mother’s Day watch. The biggest downside is that you might find out your mom has a crush on Laura Dern, but, then again, who doesn’t?

Laura Dern as a caring and relatable matriarch? Well, okay then.
  1. The Lovebirds

A story of a couple that break up in the first few minutes of the movie after being miserable for years, then are brought back together by the romantic act of witnessing a murder for which they are framed. Such a traditional family movie. I particularly think you’ll enjoy watching the tribute scene to Eyes Wide Shut, another classic mom movie.

Fancy orgies are probably not your family tradition.
  1. You’ve Got Mail

I actually love this movie and have watched it repeatedly with my mom, but I think it has not aged well. A man using an online persona to seduce a woman is probably the plot of most of the episodes of Catfish (never watched it) and it gets a lot more complicated when he uses that information to emotionally manipulate her. Oh, and he’s destroying her business the entire time. ROMANTIC!

Even then, Tom Hanks is just so lovable.
  1. Stranger Than Fiction

This is a good movie, but I don’t even see the connection to Mother’s day. I don’t think anyone in this story even has kids. I’m not saying that your mother hasn’t found out she’s a fictional character occupying the same world as her creator and that she’s slated to die violently, but if she is please contact me because we can make a lot of money.

You haven’t screamed at your seemingly omniscient narrator lately, have you?
  1. The Devil Wears Prada

I know everyone loves the story of the scrappy young journalist who manages to become the assistant to a boss who is not just terrible, but absolutely horrifying. Who doesn’t want a reminder that employees are frequently treated as absolute garbage by all of their superiors? Oh, and bonus that, after enough time, the employee’s personality will align with their employer, a thing that’s a literal sign Stockholm Syndrome. 

On the other hand, Streep is amazing.
  1. Pride and Prejudice (2005)

This isn’t the version with zombies or Colin Firth, so why the hell bother?

Not. My. Mr. Darcy.
  1. Mulan

If your mom pretended to be a man in order to join the army and ended up meeting your father there, you probably had an absolutely bonkers childhood and you should be set on stuff to talk about for the holiday. Also, the only part of this film that I remember involving a mother is when Mulan’s mom is disappointed at her for not doing well at the matchmaker.

Oh, and her attempts to break her daughter’s ribcage (Fa Li is on the right).
  1. Spy

I don’t know exactly what connected a film about a 40-something single woman being a spy with a holiday celebrating moms, but I suppose it does at least end with the image of Jason Statham having had amazing sex with Melissa McCarthy. Your mom would probably bang Jason Statham… or Melissa McCarthy if she’s not into men.

Or Rose Byrne.
  1. The Joy Luck Club

… Yeah, okay, this one’s perfect. Great stories about mothers and daughters. 

Lauren Tom would later make a joke about this movie on Futurama as her own mother. Was awesome.
  1. Last Holiday

This movie is about blowing all of your money at once because you believe that you’re going to die in less than two weeks. I’m not saying that your mom doesn’t want to do that, because she probably considered it many, many times, but you should probably stop reminding her that’s an option. Otherwise, she’s gonna be living on your couch.

On the other hand, ordering an entire menu is a damned baller move.
  1. Lady Bird

I’m not crying, you’re crying. I’m just leaking out of my eyes. Dammit, this movie is great.

Fine, at the end of the movie, I’m crying.

Okay, so, yes, I’m aware that the list was clearly just movies that people like watching with their moms, so if you have a film you like to watch with yours, give it a view today.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL THE MOMS OUT THERE!

The Father: A Tale of a Man Losing to Age – Amazon Oscar Review

Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman give us a new take on a parent with dementia.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) is a retired engineer that is suffering from dementia. His daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman) hires a nurse named Laura (Imogen Poots) to take care of him. Anthony has previously been angry at any attempts to get a nurse to take care of him. Anne’s new husband, Paul (Rufus Sewell), does not like how taking care of Anthony has started to eat away at Anne’s life. As Anthony’s mental health deteriorates, he faces a world that no longer makes sense. Mark Gatiss and Olivia Williams also star.

Anthony Hopkins is at the age where your odds of dementia start climbing.

END SUMMARY

When I saw the description of this movie, I assumed that this film would be told from the daughter’s perspective as a film about dealing with the mental degradation of a parent, something that is often very fertile ground for storytelling. Imagine my surprise to find out that the story is actually told from the perspective of the father, Anthony. As such, the movie makes little to no linear sense, due to Anthony being unable to remember the events that have happened recently or even farther in the past. It can be very confusing to the viewer, but that’s pretty much the point. You’re watching the world through the eyes of someone to whom everything has stopped working right. 

A broken mind cannot stop itself from being broken. That’s why we have medication.

This film would not work if it was just anyone performing Anthony, because accurately portraying someone going through Alzheimers or other, similar, mental degradation is tough. It’s so easy to devolve into stupor or even parody without meaning to. Here, Anthony is sympathetic even when he’s being mean or aggressive, because we know his aggression and condescension all come from the fact that he’s lost and scared. It’s all the more tragic because we know that he won’t get better. He won’t even be able to stay the same. Anthony Hopkins plays the character perfectly throughout, showing believable confusion and frustration when confronted with the fact that his world may change at any moment. Olivia Colman, likewise, has to play someone who is dealing with a parent who is no longer able to behave rationally. She loves Anthony and she wants to keep him around, but she also is burdened with the knowledge that he’s not the father who she knew.

Rufus Sewell is a good choice to be an attractive a**hole.

Overall, it’s an excellent film with a great cast. It’s worth watching, even though it’s rough to watch (then again, so were many of the nominees this year).

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.

Batman: Soul of the Dragon: Or, Batman with a Kick – Amazon Review

The answer to: “What if you combined Batman and Enter the Dragon?”

SUMMARY

Richard Dragon (Mark Dacascos) is a super spy who trained previously with Bruce Wayne (David Giuntoli) in his youth under the powerful O-Sensei (James “Lo Pan” Hong). Richard discovers that the leader of the terrorist group Kobra, Jeffrey Burr (Josh Keaton), has acquired a mystical gate which previously belonged to O-Sensei. He recruits Bruce Wayne and their fellow students Lady Shiva (Kelly Hu) and Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White) to help take down Burr and his chief assassin Schlagenfaust (Robin Atkin Downes) by breaking into his island fortress.

One of these things is not like the others, one of these things is Batman.

END SUMMARY

Considering that Bruce Lee actually appeared on the 1960s Batman show, I am blown away that no one has thought to combine a Bruce Lee-style Martial Arts movie with a Batman movie. I mean, a lot of Batman films have martial arts and fight scenes, but the style is completely different. It’s even crazier that it hasn’t happened when you realize that all of the characters featured in this film are recurring characters in the comics and even some other media. The biggest change is that Richard Dragon, who is usually white, is very blatantly redesigned to be Bruce Lee, but other than that most of the characters match their traditional designs. It does help that Bronze Tiger is played by Michael Jai White, whose “Black Dynamite” character is at least partially based on Jim Kelly. 

O-Sensei almost always looks like this, but that’s what old Martial Arts masters look like.

The film actually contains a number of references to the film Enter the Dragon, including having a number of flashbacks to explain everyone’s motivations, making O-Sensei more closely resemble Bruce Lee’s mentor from the film, having Richard Dragon avoid a fight by tricking his opponent similar to how he does in the movie, and even having a pretty strong reference to the Bob Wall fight (down to the bottle). Granted, in order to make some of these moments work, Batman is shown to be a lot more tolerant of his compatriots committing murder than in most incarnations. Ultimately, though, the film’s plot has no real resemblance to anything I’ve seen before, which is for the best. It’s nice to have an original story. 

I do love the 1970s style on everything, too.

Overall, if you are a fan of Batman, old-school martial arts films, or both, this is actually a pretty solid film for you. Check it 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.

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.

Minari: The American Dream… in Korean – Oscar Amazon Review

A story of a family coming to rural Arkansas in the 80s trying to chase a dream.

SUMMARY

The Korean immigrant Yi family moves from California to a plot of land in Arkansas in order to let the patriarch, Jacob (Steven Yeun), fulfill his plans to get wealthy growing Korean vegetables. He’s assisted by an eccentric local man named Paul (Will Patton). Jacob’s wife, Monica (Han Ye-ri), is not particularly enthusiastic, but the pair take jobs as chicken sexers (people who sort chickens by gender) to make ends meet. In order to have someone to look over their young children David and Anne (Alan Kim and Noel Kate Cho), they bring Monica’s mother Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung) from South Korea. She takes the children to plant some Minari (Japanese Parsley), but despite the extra help, Jacob and Monica’s marriage starts to pay the price for his actions. 

It’s set in Arkansas… but they filmed in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

END SUMMARY

This movie’s plot is not particularly original, to say the least. It’s a story you’ve seen a thousand times, a family moving for a new opportunity and having to adjust to the surroundings and the stress that it puts on them, but the plot is not the point of the film. The movie is an intimate picture of a family that is going through this time and with the added alienation that comes from being immigrants (particularly Korean immigrants with a number of Korean War veterans still being active in the area). The reason why this one stands out is because it’s so well-performed and well-written that you almost completely lose yourself in their lives. None of these people seem like caricatures or stock characters and almost all of the dialogue feels natural (albeit most of it is in Korean). What’s amazing is that so many of the characters are so outlandish, particularly Soon-ja and Paul, but if you’ve lived in a rural community you will absolutely have met these people at some point. 

You’ve met this old lady if you lived in a farm town. She’s hilarious and doesn’t give a f*ck what you think.

I suppose there’s always going to be a discussion about what constitutes “the American Dream,” but I think most people agree that it’s generally considered to be moving yourself upwards socioeconomically through your own hard work. This film is a fairly accurate picture of the reality of trying to do something like that. While Jacob has definitely found a niche market that he can take advantage of, it’s not as easy as he envisioned it and it requires sacrifice not only on his part but also on the part of his loved ones, a sacrifice that they did not want to make to begin with. It is also pretty interesting that, in order to pursue his dream of no longer being a chicken sexer, he has to… be a chicken sexer for less money while also farming. That’s why this part often gets skipped over in the success stories.

The part where digging a hole is hellish work, for example.

The actual minari in the story is probably the least subtle metaphor imaginable. Minari is strong, resilient, and prosperous, as long as you plant it in the right place. Fortunately, despite being the title, the film actually mercifully devotes very little time to it. This is an example of how well-crafted the movie is. Every element gets the attention it needs, but isn’t over saturated. It’s like farming: You need to water the crops and at the right time, but too much and everything dies. 

Behold a metaphor.

Overall, this movie is beautiful, touching, and deserves all of the acclaim it gets. It’s not a movie with a huge agenda other than to tell a story that feels true (because it’s based on the writer’s childhood), but it definitely gets some points across.

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.

Montero (Call Me By Your Name): Cool, Another Satanic Panic – YouTube Review

This video is a lot more than giving the Devil a lap dance.

SUMMARY

… It’s a music video. I’m not summarizing it. It’s right here:

END SUMMARY

So, if you’re like me, meaning you don’t listen to music much, you probably first heard of Lil Nas X when his song “Old Town Road” got big. I will go ahead and say that the song was a banger, which I’m told is a good thing, as it reminds people of British sausage. I don’t know if he created “country rap,” but he was at least one of the first people to use it to get mainstream success. I particularly liked the fact that he got Billy Ray Cyrus, a musician most famous for producing a much more talented daughter, to do the remix. I also admit that I loved that month on Facebook when the cowboy memes flowed like wine. Then there was the massive uproar when the song, which has apparently been fairly high on the top of the Billboard Country charts, was dropped for “not being country enough.” A song called “Old Town Road” about taking a horse and riding “‘til I can’t no more” which featured Billy Ray Cyrus somehow wasn’t COUNTRY enough. Moreover, it was pulled the week before it would have, by Billboard’s measures, been the number one song. The people making the decisions definitely emphasized that it had nothing to do with the fact that Lil Nas X is a gay black man and country is a genre that, historically, has been less than enthusiastic towards some of those adjectives. In any case, the song was great, the controversy less so.

If you think a cowboy wouldn’t wear that outfit… you’re probably right. But he’s pulling it off.

Montero, on the other hand, has generated the best controversy since The Life of Brian, by which I mean it’s pissing off people that likely didn’t watch it and, if they did, watched it with such a prejudiced eye that they definitely didn’t try to give it any form of critical analysis. For example, condemning the Satanic imagery without recognizing that most of the video is about unfair condemnation and, moreover, that at the end of the video Lil Nas X actually kills the devil, a thing most of those groups should be in favor of. It’s almost as if the Satanic imagery is not the thing that they’re really angry about. But I’m sure nothing bad ever happened because people used Satanic imagery and the claims of its influence on children as a way to suppress things they didn’t like. Definitely not, for example, the single longest and most expensive trial in US history, the McMartin Preschool Trial, which ruined multiple lives despite resulting in no convictions and uncovering essentially no evidence. 

The devil saves a lot of money by not wearing much fabric.

But, I’m not really here to go over that as much as to sort through the absolutely brilliant imagery contained in the video. It starts in a valley which is dotted with architecture from a number of different societies, but mostly Greek and Roman. LNX is seen underneath a tree being approached by a snake which ends up turning into a snakeman with a third eye, who proceeds to lay on top of Nas in a sexual nature. Like all of the characters in the video aside from the Devil and one other figure, the snakeman is played by Lil Nas X. This figure, combined with a passage from Plato that’s on the tree that LNX is found under, appear to be references to two different, but intertwining mythologies. The first is the origin of man ascribed to Aristophanes by Plato, which depicts all people being born as two bodies stuck together (some man-man, some man-woman, some woman-woman) that were split, which is why people naturally seek out their “other half.” The other is that of Lilith, the first wife of Adam in Hebrew Mythology. Lilith was made at the same time as Adam and, in some versions, shared the same body as him before they were separated. Lilith was sent away from Adam for having sex on top of him, like the figure in the video. She is often depicted as half-snake and is occasionally depicted as the actual snake that tempted Eve (because Eve eating the apple put women above men, which is what Lilith wants).  I believe that the dual reference is because it connects the Greek origin of humanity, which explicitly indicated homosexuality was natural, with the Christian one via Hebrew.  The third eye in the snakeman’s head is either a reference to the Ajna Chakra in many Eastern religions or is because LNX likes YuYu Hakusho.

HOW DOES A SNAKE HAVE SUCH A NAIL BUDGET?

LNX is then sent to a coliseum where, like Christians supposedly were, he is stoned to death for heresy. He begins to ascend to heaven where he sees an angelic figure. I think this is another dual myth reference, as the figure is the only one that doesn’t directly appear to be played by LNX aside from Satan. In fact, you cannot see its gender definitely. I think that the figure, while evoking Angelic imagery, is also a reference to Nike, the Greek goddess who is usually depicted as winged and whose name depicts some shoes that LNX definitely knows about.

Just do it.

After LNX descends to hell while inverting (something that happens in Dante’s Inferno), he views a hell that is definitely inspired by the industrial hell presented by films like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. There’s even a large demon resembling Chernabog from Fantasia at the top of the central building, which was inspired by the demon furnace from Metropolis. Passing through the gates of Hell, which are made of people (a reference to both the Inferno and to Rodin’s sculpture of the Gates of Hell), LNX walks past the Latin words for “they condemn that which they don’t understand,” which is not subtle, before giving Satan a lapdance and snapping his neck. Multiple people suggested that the Devil presented here is Miltonian, but I disagree as Milton’s devil is depicted almost exclusively as winged and mostly humanoid, even beautiful. What IS Miltonian is that, after taking his horns, Lil Nas X sprouts wings and now, himself, resembles the figure from Paradise Lost. Perhaps it’s a statement that he would rather reign in Hell than serve in Heaven, which some readers and scholars have interpreted as a statement that it’s better to live one’s own true self than to bend your truth to someone else’s image of “right.” 

Hell appears to have been designed by the same person as Gotham City in Batman Forever.

Overall, this is an amazing video. I enjoyed watching it like ten times to write this review. I actually don’t know if the song is that distinct, but this video is a masterpiece and LNX uses controversy perfectly. 

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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