Netflix Review – Bird Box: The Ultimate Game of Peek-a-boo (Spoiler-Free)

You can’t trust your eyes in this horror film from Netflix.

SUMMARY (SPOILER-FREE)

Malorie Hayes (Sandra Bullock) is taking two children, Boy and Girl (Julian Edwards and Vivien Lyra Blair), on a trip down a river while blindfolded. The movie then flashes back to show what happened to the world, which is beset by monsters that kill you if you see them. Anything else would probably be a spoiler.

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And a literal box that has birds in it is part of the film, yes.

END SUMMARY

Let’s start with this: While Sandra Bullock’s character might seem a little unbelievable at times, her performance is epic by horror movie standards. While some of the writing may not be the best dialogue she’s been given, she does manage to keep the tension up when it needs to be up and to develop the character when it needs to be developed. Even when the film starts to get ridiculous, having her as the focus keeps it serious and somewhat relatable. What I’m saying is, this is more The Blind Side than All About Steve as far as her range goes. I didn’t particularly like her character, and I don’t think you’re supposed to, but she manages to make it seem believable.

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These movies were in the same year. Scripts matter, people. 

The supporting cast, too, is amazing, ranging from B.D. Wong’s kind portrayal of Greg to Trevante Rhodes’s soldier Tom to John Malkovich’s Douglas being the biggest jerk you can sympathize with. It might even be more appropriate to say that it’s an ensemble cast for the flashback, but the focal character is almost always Malorie, so I guess that makes the rest supporting. In a lot of movies it’s interesting to see how different personalities deal with the apocalypse and this one is much the same, but with better actors. It’s also interesting to see how the group adapts to a world in which they have to avoid seeing outside, something that I haven’t seen presented in exactly this way before.

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More useful than black-out curtains, but just as effective.

The concept of the monsters is solid. They don’t eat you. They don’t burn you. In fact, they never touch you. But if you see them, you kill yourself. It’s never stated precisely what you see, and it’s different for everyone, but if you pay attention to what everyone says in response to seeing them, you can kind of piece it together.

The downside to the movie is that it doesn’t exactly mesh as well as some horror films and it isn’t quite as exciting as others. For large portions of the movie, it’s just people talking while trapped within a building together hiding, like many zombie films or other such films, but none of the scenes really stand out as well as some from those movies. Malorie has an arc that should have worked really well, but due to many of the inter-cut scenes it loses a lot of its power. Unlike films like The Babadook or It Follows, the monster really doesn’t work to supplement her growth, either. Another problem is that, as good as the ensemble is, there are just a lot of people in this movie and some of them are massively underwritten. Even with good portrayals, there are still moments where I said “shit, I forgot that character existed.” For a film that has many instances of the cast being extremely clever about how to deal with their situation, we also have a lot of moments where they’re so stupid about it that you just kind of want them to die. Also, the monsters can’t get inside any buildings, which is weird and never explained.

Overall, it’s a pretty good film. Is it deserving of being the most-viewed Netflix film? No, but it’s worth watching if you’re into horror or good performances.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection 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.

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Making a Weakness into a Strength (Spoiler-Free)

A brand new Spider-Man debuts along with a host of other Spider-Beings in this amazing work of comic art.

SUMMARY

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is a teenage fan of Spider-Man (Chris Pine) who is dealing with his new life at a boarding school located in an elite area of Brooklyn. His father (Brian Tyree Henry) and his mother (Luna Lauren Velez) are both supportive, but also have high expectations of Miles due to his academic and athletic potential. After crushing hard on his classmate Wanda (Hailee Steinfeld), Miles goes to his uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) for advice and ends up being bitten by a radioactive spider while painting a tunnel with his uncle. It turns out that Miles is now a new Spider-Man at a time when the world needs him most, because the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) is trying to open a portal to the multiverse which summons a number of parallel Spider-beings, including an older Spider-Man (Jake Johnson), Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), Peter Porker the amazing Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), SP//dr the Japanese mecha spider-woman (Kimiko Glenn), and Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage). Together, they have to save the multiverse from a cabal of supervillains.

SpiderVerse - 1Spiders
I wish this were a spoiler, but it was in the ads. Also, holy crap, I love this. 

END SUMMARY

Origin stories are hard. Even if we’re being introduced an original character or a character that isn’t well-known, like Darkman or Ant-Man, going through all of the steps of a character’s transformation from zero to hero is usually formulaic. Some movies mostly eschew the traditional origin story in favor of only showing a few flashbacks of the origin, like Tim Burton’s Batman, but if you’re doing an origin story, they’re usually going to contain the same beats. This movie is no exception, except in how exceptionally it does it. In fact, it doesn’t just do an origin story, it heavily leans into all of the good things that can come from watching an origin story, then ratchets that needle up to eleven by introducing, not one, not two, not three, but seven Spider-beings in the movie, with even more by cameo.

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Whereas, some movies can feature an already beloved character and a future superstar and still be garbage baked in hell’s own outhouse.

Part of it is that the film knows it can rely on the audience’s familiarity with the Spider-Man franchise. The first Spider-Man we meet is introduced using flashes from past Spider-Man movies, but with some twists to say “this is that Spider-Man, but not exactly, so don’t get worked up over continuity.” This movie doesn’t just rely on flashback origin stories, but it plays with the idea heavily by doing it multiple times, each time presenting it as an origin-story comic book in a different style resembling that character’s universe, including one humorous scene where they attempt to introduce three at the same time, overlapping their origins. Part of the reason why this works is that the characters are all variants on the same Spider-Man story, even though they don’t necessarily share gender, powers, or even species. It’s basically a movie dedicated to proving that even if there are only a handful of core stories in the world, the variations on those stories and the variations on the variations can provide us with an infinite amount of entertainment.

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Zombie Joseph Campbell attended the premiere. 

Despite the number of superpeople/superanimal in the movie, the film’s central story is that of Miles Morales coming to terms with not only being Spider-Man, but with the legacy that wearing a spider upon your chest brings with it. With every other Spider-character, they’re already at varying stages of being a superhero (i.e. brand-new, experienced, golden age, over-the-hill), which basically gives Miles an idea about all of the different ways that being Spider-Man can go. However, he also gets the benefit of all of them telling him the one thing that absolutely defines a Spider-Man: Always getting up when you’re knocked down. This isn’t a new theme, in fact it’s so overused it’s almost cliche, but the film actually gets to the implications of this statement, rather than just making it an empty platitude. A large part of this is that the art style in the film is very big on accentuating impacts. When a character gets knocked down, YOU FEEL IT. You know just how hurt they are right now and how hard it’s going to be to get up, which makes it actually feel like a heroic act when a hero, broken, bleeding, and beaten, still manages to continue.

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This is concept art that didn’t make it in, but see those impact lines? Yeah, that’s what you feel.

Another thing is that this movie knows one thing that so many movies forget: Even in superhero movies, we want heart. Most of this movie isn’t focused on just watching Miles be Spider-Man, but on how he feels. Yes, he’s dealing with new superpowers and interdimensional travelers, but he also is dealing with guilt over not being able to help people due to his inconsistent powers, feeling like he’s disappointing his parents and his mentor Spider-Man, and just dealing with the difficulties of being a teenager. Much like in Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man 2, Miles’ emotional instability makes his powers unstable, which culminates in a scene in the movie in which he finally finds emotional clarity and his powers at the same time. In most films, the “suddenly able to use your powers” moment is cliche and feels unearned (exception: “I’m always angry” due to Rule of Awesome). But, since the film tied his powers to his emotions, his emotional growth in that moment actually DOES justify the sudden use of his abilities, giving the audience a massive burst of catharsis right before leading us to the third-act ramp-up.

SpiderVerse - 5Miles
And they exaggerate the eyes just a little to make him more expressive. Love it.

The art style in the film is possibly the best I’ve ever seen in an animated film, including Disney and Pixar, mostly because it varies from character to character (based on universes) and looks like living comic book panels, complete with animated sound effects. SP//DR is drawn as an anime character, Spider-Man Noir has no color whatsoever, Spider-Gwen has power ballads (she’s a musician in her universe) and bright colors, and Spider-Ham is a Looney Tunes style pig. When they all work in concert, it somehow produces an unbelievable surge of beautiful images rather than being an overload of visuals.

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The script is comedic genius, as you’d expect from Phil Lord, but it contains a shocking amount of really dark moments. Death isn’t reserved for just Uncle Ben, because part of being Spider-Man is losing someone in the past, and we have a lot of Spider-Beings. This makes even the goofy parts of the movies feel like there are actual stakes to the fights.  Also, your villain gets a backstory that lasts maybe 45 seconds, but is so complete that it almost justifies all of his actions throughout the movie, something that continues the ambiguous Marvel villains series (Thanos was right-ish).

It also contains possibly the best Stan Lee cameo (R.I.P. you wonderful man).

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Not that one.

This isn’t just the best Spider-Man movie; this might be the best superhero film. If you can, see it in the theaters, because the visuals merit the big screen. If you can’t, see it anyway, because the script merits a small screen.

Ten Stars. Four thumbs up. 100% Fresh. Whatever you want to say, this movie is one of the best things I’ve seen in a while, maybe since How to Train Your Dragon. Even though it contains a heavy dose of every cliche in the origin story handbook, it manages to play all of them with just the right amount of variance and sincere love for the characters that it reminds us why all of those tropes get used in the first place. I love this film.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time 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.

Mary Poppins Returns – A Practically Perfect Presentation of the Paradox and Perils of Perpetuating Past Performances or, A Good Sequel Showing Why Great Sequels Are Hard (Spoiler-Free)

Mary Poppins returns (surprise!) to deal with another generation of the Banks family.

SUMMARY

It’s the 1930s in Britain and Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw), the prank-loving boy from the original film, is all grown up with three children of his own: Annabel, John, and Georgie (Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson). He’s recently lost his wife and, while his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) tries to help him, it’s revealed that he’s deeply in debt and in danger of losing his home to the very bank that he and his father worked at, Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, headed up by William “Weatherall” Wilkins (Colin Firth). Fortunately, his household receives a visit from Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) and Bert’s (Dick Van Dyke) apprentice Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) to help get the family through this trying time with magic, music, and the occasional strange relative.

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And looking damned good for someone who’s at least 50… centuries.

END SUMMARY

Mary Poppins is a hard movie not to love. The songs are so catchy that I bet you can hum two right now, the animation was unbelievable for its time, the performances by Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, and David Tomlinson are all so defined that they’ve basically become archetypes since the 60s, and the style and tone of the movie are the epitome of whimsy. It’s got a rare 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is an example of a movie where even the imperfect things (e.g. Dick Van Dyke’s Fake Accent) only served to make it more unique and enjoyable. This pretty much doomed any sequel from the beginning, because it’s so hard to follow something that had this many solid elements blended together perfectly.

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This was the Google result for “whimsical.” 

Mary Poppins Returns is destined to divide. Reading a sample of the reviews right now, it seems like that’s a lot of what it’s doing. Honestly, it’s to its credit that it can even do that. This film manages to try to avert most of what makes a sequel terrible, but also manages to commit two of the biggest sequel mistakes. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Emily Blunt takes over as Mary Poppins and she is wonderful. She’s clever, she’s mischievous, she can be very proper when she needs to be, but, mostly, she’s different enough from Julie Andrews’ portrayal that it doesn’t feel like she’s trying to copy what we’ve already seen while still being similar enough to believably be the same character. She’s a little more explicitly magical in this and smiles a lot more, but it still feels like it’s just the same character handling slightly different circumstances. The only time in the film where I thought “this is not Mary Poppins” is when she performs the song “A Cover is Not the Book.” It’s not that the song is bad, in fact I think it’s one of the more original songs within the film, but she performs it in the style of a Vaudeville Music Hall, something that, while appropriate for the time period of the movie, seems like something I could NEVER imagine Julie Andrews doing as Poppins. Other than that, though, she nails it.

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Admittedly, they don’t look alike. 

Similarly, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance as Jack is similar enough to Dick Van Dyke as Bert to complement Mary Poppins’ character, but it still is distinctly different. Bert and Mary seemed to have a history and a mostly unspoken level of attraction, whereas Jack is more akin to a fanboy finally meeting his idol, but in a good way. Jack’s style of performance is also different, favoring more song and dance over Bert’s physical comedy, and it works.

MaryPoppinsReturns - 4LinManuel
Jack was later shot by Aaron Burr. 

Another big change is the children. In contrast to the disobedient Jane and Michael Banks of the original, the three children we are show in this film are well-behaved and, for the most part, are almost more adult than the adults. They’ve been forced to grow up based on the fact that they’ve lost their mother and their father is more of an artist than an earner. So, unlike the original where Mary has to straighten out the Banks children while loosening up their father, she’s doing the opposite in this and it does play well for Blunt to be a little less uptight than Andrews was in her version.

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Georgie’s the most mysterious in that he sometimes walks on the grass.

But, now, we get to the problems of the movie: First, the plot is much more serious. It’s a sequel, so there’s always a tendency to try and raise the stakes, but in this we have the quest to save the Banks home which doesn’t quite gel with most of the scenes. It’s not like there are multiple side-stories that feed into the overall narrative like in the original, this feels like they had 2 ideas for a movie and just jammed them in together. It doesn’t quite work. Also, not only is Michael’s wife dead, but so are Mr. and Mrs. Banks? It’s only been 25 years, people, and they were both in their 30s in the original! Hell, the actress who played Mrs. Banks, Glynis Johns, is still alive in real life. Just saying, it felt like they intentionally shrank the family so the plot felt more dire.

Second, the film has a lot of plot “twinning” with the original, by which I mean that there are a lot of scenes in this that clearly were put in less because they needed to be in the film, but more because they called back to a scene in the original. It’s another common sin of sequels: Trying to do the same thing over again. Sure, the characters feel a little different, but some of the scenes are very clearly just in there to match stuff from the original.

Third, some of the new characters don’t feel “whimsical” as much as “weird.” In the original, all of the magical characters, like the band that plays “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (btw, got it in 1 try) and Uncle Albert, the man on the ceiling, and even the chimney sweeps, all feel like they’re magical characters straight out of a fairy tale. In this… not quite as much. They all have a little too much darkness and reflection to them. A stand-out example of not quite working as well is, sadly, Meryl Streep’s character of Topsy, the upside-down fixer-upper. It’s not that Meryl Streep does anything wrong, it’s that the character needed to be performed by someone who has no intrinsic gravitas, which is the opposite of Meryl “I have 4 Oscars for drama” Streep. She’s great in comedies and portrays the character exactly as it was probably envisioned, but this just wasn’t the right fit. Also, her song is not great, which brings me to…

MaryPoppinsReturns - 6Meryl
WHY WOULDN’T YOU MAKE HER THE ELDER MRS. BANKS?

Fourth, the music is only okay. There are like 3 really good songs in this movie, but, of those three, only one doesn’t blatantly sample from the original Sherman Brothers music. I don’t mean to undercut Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, because they’ve both done great work (Hairspray), but they didn’t come close to matching the Sherman Brothers’ level of quality from the original. “The Perfect Nanny,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Jolly Holiday,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “I Love to Laugh,” “Feed the Birds,” Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “Step in Time,” and “Let’s Go Fly A Kite.” I can sing most of every line of these songs at almost any point in my life. I only saw Mary Poppins Returns last night and I can only remember 3 songs well. The sequel’s music just isn’t in the same league. It’s like Chumawumba trying to outsell the Beatles; it’s not that they’re bad, it’s that they were never really competing.

All four of these problems come not necessarily from the movie itself, but from the nature of making a sequel. If you try to completely ignore the previous movie, then you’re not paying the proper respect. If you don’t do enough on your own, then you feel like there was no point in making the sequel. That’s why it’s so hard to continue a story that’s complete. Sure, Godfather II, Aliens, and Terminator 2 all work great, but that’s because they’re either A) telling the rest of the story that was still going, B) switching genres, or C) doing a little bit of both in an inventive way. This film tries to tell the rest of the story and add some genre switch (romantic subplot and central villain), but it just never quite pulled away from the original enough. Again, it’s tough to do.

Overall, I do want to say that I enjoyed the movie even if it’s not the lightning in a bottle that the original represented. It’s definitely a movie that everyone should see, if only to make up their mind on whether it’s good or bad.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time 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 – Sick Note Seasons 1 and 2 (Spoiler Free)

Nick Frost and Rupert Grint star in this serial sitcom based around constantly-accelerating lies and cover-ups.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Daniel Glass (Rupert Grint) is kind of a shithead. He’s lazy, a habitual liar, and has finally hit the breaking point with both his job and his girlfriend, Becca (Pippa Bennett-Warner), with both of them ready to dump him on the same day. He fakes an injury in an attempt to buy time and sympathy, but his doctor, the absent-minded Dr. Iain Glennis (Nick Frost), informs him that he has esophageal cancer. Suddenly, everyone treats him better, his girlfriend takes him back, and his boss, Kenny West (Don Johnson), gives him a job as a spokesperson for the company.

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The show also nails the feeling of being diagnosed with cancer. 

However, Dr. Glennis arrives to tell him that there was an error due to his own incompetence and that Daniel does NOT have cancer. Daniel, not willing to go back to the life he had, blackmails Glennis into pretending to treat his non-existent cancer. Naturally, the pair keep having to cover things up and each lie escalates to the point of insanity as they try to maintain this con.

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Yes, he does use the “Cancer Card” to get laid. No, it doesn’t work if you’re not Rupert Grint.

END SUMMARY

This show is in the vein of Fawlty Towers or The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, where the humor is derived largely from a series of increasing schemes and counter-schemes. Every lie told on this show, by necessity, has to be an escalation of the previous lie. Beyond that, though, one of the recurring themes in the show is that everyone around Daniel is often being just as dishonest as he is, just about something else. There is only one character in the show that tends to be honest with people (so far) and that’s Linda (Marama Corlett), one of Daniel’s co-workers who is often depicted as being almost creepily open with people.

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This is her response to someone telling her they have cancer.

The core lie in the series, that Daniel has cancer, is interesting in that it forces most of the other people to be dishonest out of a desire not to be seen as crapping on someone that has a serious illness. Having had cancer, I found this to be a refreshingly honest statement about how people deal with cancer patients. Most people who were in your life will treat you better because you’re already dealing with enough (which is true) and they love you (which they do), but a few people will treat you nicer solely because they just don’t want to be perceived as being mean to the sick guy. It’s usually very obvious, but we generally tend to approve of it because they’re being nicer even if it’s insincere. This show, however, turns this up to eleven by having the people go out of their way to try and hide all of the things that they thought or felt about Daniel, many of which were completely justified, as Daniel was a lying crapbag even before he decided not to tell people that he doesn’t have cancer.

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The rare image of someone flipping off NOT having cancer.

Another source of humor is the interactions between Dr. Glennis and Daniel, because, even though Glennis is presumed to be learned based on his position, Nick Frost perfectly portrays him as an absent-minded, unfocused bumbler. He manages to commit fundamentally stupid mistakes on almost any given task. He forgets his phone with incriminating texts, he loses other patients, and he routinely leaves incriminating evidence at scenes of cover-ups. At any given point, he’s basically a fountain of Murphy’s Law. Despite this, Glennis actually starts to become relatively successful during the course of the series, mostly because of his association with Daniel’s “miraculous” appearance during his supposed chemotherapy treatment.

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And Glennis is so dumb he botoxed his own eye shut.

The supporting characters are all fantastic, from Daniel’s best friend Ash (Tolu Ogunmefun), to his online friend Will_5000 (Dustin Demri-Burns), to Ash’s wife, Vanessa (Camilla Beeput), to his boss’s daughter Katerina (Lindsay Lohan). They’re all hiding their own secrets, some of which are arguably much worse than Daniel’s. Much like Daniel, they constantly have to go increasingly unbelievable lengths to cover up their sins. Hilarity ensues.

Overall, this is a pretty solid show if you like black comedies, Nick Frost, or Rupert Grint. Give it a shot sometime.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time 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 Last Dragon: Cocaine Makes a Hell of a Film

Before I start, several people related to this film died from drug-related illnesses, including Vanity. If you or anyone you know has substance abuse problems, please contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s hotline (https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline) at 1-800-662-HELP. Thank you.

Now that I’ve done my due diligence, I’m going to spend the next 30 minutes (for me, 5 for you) thinking about how coked-out of their minds the people behind this film clearly had to be. Does that make me a bad person? Yes, it absolutely does, but I’m doing it anyway. Let’s try to remember that I probably do good things sometimes.

SUMMARY (Spoilers)

Leroy “Bruce Lee-roy” Green (Taimak) is a martial artist out of Harlem who has recently achieved the final level of martial arts skill under his master (Thomas Ikeda). However, he desires to reach the level of true mastery, which is referred to as “the glow.” His master says nothing more can be taught to him, but advises him to find a Master Sum Dum Goy if he wishes to know more and gives him a medallion which belonged to Bruce Lee. Leroy’s reputation as the best fighter in Harlem antagonizes Sho’nuff, the Shogun of Harlem (Julius J. Carry III), a martial-artist and gang leader. He is also the best part of the movie, as you might expect from that description. Leroy refuses to fight Sho’nuff on principle, further angering him. He tries to harass Leroy by attacking his martial arts students and Leroy’s father’s pizzeria.

LastDragon - 1LeroyShonuff.jpg
This is the Shogun of Harlem versus a guy wearing Bruce Lee’s Game of Death outfit.

On the other side of the plot, video game arcade mogul Eddie Arkadian (Chris Murney) tries to kidnap Laura Charles (Vanity), the host of a popular music video show called Seventh Heaven, in order to get a career in music for his girlfriend, Angela (Faith Prince). His thugs happen to pick a time when Leroy is nearby, resulting in Leroy beating them senseless before he disappears without telling Laura his name. Later, he happens to see Laura when Arkadian’s main henchman, Rock (Mike Starr), kidnaps her. Leroy then follows them, breaks into Arkadian’s building and frees Laura. This time she sees him and falls for him immediately. Arkadian, now consumed by anger at Leroy and Laura, hires Sho’nuff’s gang to defeat Leroy. Leroy and Laura share some awkward romantic moments until Leroy is inspired by a clip of Bruce Lee that Laura shows him and runs off to find Master Sum Dum Goy. Immediately after that, the villains kidnap Laura and Leroy’s younger brother, Richie (Leo O’Brien) and take over Laura’s studio.

LastDragon - 2Vanity
Yes, their chemistry is like water and… water that has less acting ability.

Leroy discovers that Master Sum Dum Goy lives in a fortune cookie factory in Harlem, because why not? He attempts many Wile E. Coyote-esque schemes to get past the guards before finally just beating them up. However, the guards show him that Master Sum Dum Goy is actually a computer that randomly generates fortunes. He asks his master to explain, but the master says that Leroy already has all the answers. Arkadian’s girlfriend Angela decides that she doesn’t want people to suffer for her fame, so she leaves Arkadian and tells Leroy’s student to warn him. Leroy heads to the movie studio where he’s ambushed by an army of thugs, but his students show up to help him, including Tai (a young Ernie Reyes, Jr.) and Johnny (Glen Eaton).

LastDragon - 3Arkadian.jpg
Look at those eyes and tell me there wasn’t cocaine on every shot.

Leroy finds Arkadian and Laura, but is attacked by Sho’nuff. Leroy appears to be winning the fight until Sho’nuff reveals that he possesses a limited form of “the glow” which appears as a red aura around his hands. Sho’nuff proceeds to dominate Leroy before asking him “who’s the master, now?” Leroy realizes that his master’s last lesson is that there are no more lessons and he needs to find his own answers, which apparently gives Leroy “the glow” and bathes him in yellow light. He then destroys Sho’nuff, but Arkadian appears and shoots him. Leroy catches the bullet in his teeth, because this movie is amazing, and he and Laura dance on her show as the film ends.

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Yes. This is an actual, unedited, shot of this film.

END SUMMARY

Look, there’s no doubt in my mind that this movie could only be made in the 80s, when cocaine blew through Hollywood like the Santa Ana winds. There were clearly NO bad ideas during the concept phase of this movie. For example:

“What are we going to call the villain who owns an arcade?”

“I know! ARKADIAN. GET IT? ARCADE-IAN?”

*Snorting sounds*

“F*CK YEAH, BEST NAME EVER.”

Why is he an arcade mogul? Why do none of the criminals in this movie carry guns until Arkadian shoots Leroy? How does kidnapping Vanity get Arkadian’s girlfriend a spot on the show? Why is there a Shogun of Harlem? Why is the great master a fortune cookie generator? All of these questions were clearly answered with “one sec, I need some blow.”

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Good plan! – Rick James

Do you see how long and insane the summary is? That’s WITHOUT all of the subplots, of which there are many and they’re even more insane than the main plot. There’s a random tank containing some sort of carnivorous fish or monster. Richie (14) tries to seduce Vanity (26) at several points. Johnny tries to develop a fighting style based on yelling loudly while being Asian (yes, that’s what he says). Daddy Green’s Pizza restaurant gets destroyed by Sho’nuff (and has the best slogan: Just direct-a your feets-a to Daddy Green’s Pizza!). There are several sequences that are just music videos as part of Vanity’s show.

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Best Pizza Place on Film.

That brings me to one of the most surprising parts of the movie: This is the source of the song “Rhythm of the Night” by DeBarge. I know it’s not the most famous 80s song, but it was the first major song written by 9 time Academy Award nominee Diane Warren. Given that she later wrote “How Do I Live” from Con Air, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” from Mannequin, and “I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing” from Armageddon, it’s completely understandable that she’d write a song that would end up in The Last Dragon. She’s basically the queen of “great song, insane movie.” There’s also clips from Smokey Robinson’s “First Time on a Ferris Wheel” and Stevie Wonder’s “Upset Stomach.” Vanity herself debuted a song in this film, called “7th Heaven” but it didn’t make much of a splash.

The rest of the music in this film runs from “forgettable” to “distractingly awful.” Notably, the songs “The Last Dragon” and “The Glow” which play during the title sequence and the final fight are so bad that I honestly don’t remember what happens in those scenes as well because my mind fears hearing the sounds again.

Neither Vanity nor Taimak can act, nor were they chosen for their acting ability. Since they’re the people who are onscreen the most during the film, that doesn’t exactly work out well, particularly during their scenes together.

Now, to counter all of that, I will say the following: This movie is so insane and so overloaded that it is never boring. No matter how ridiculous it gets, it always encourages you to suspend your disbelief to the appropriate level and never tries to impose “logic” or “reality.” You’re just supposed to enjoy it. It’s to the film’s credit that, despite how many random plot points there are, it’s pretty easy to follow. Also, there’s Julius Carry’s portrayal of Sho’nuff. He’s not in the movie as much as I would like, but that only makes the scenes that he is in all the more powerful. He’s so over-the-top and awesome that he immediately justifies any other corniness in the film. I would pay an extremely stupid amount of money to see a Sho’nuff origin story.

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This was a central plot point in the film. Really.

Is this movie going to change your life? Hell no. But is it a great way to spend 90 minutes, preferably buzzed? Hell yes.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time 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.

Happy New Year!!!

To everyone out there, have a happy New Year. My first post of the year will be today with the amazing film The Last Dragon.

My goal is to post at least 5 times per week this month, but unfortunately, I have had a number of problems getting stuff done in the last few weeks, so I don’t have a buffer. I will hope for your forgiveness if I only deliver on the regular pace.

Netflix Review – The Princess Switch (Spoiler-Free)

It’s not technically Hallmark, but it has most of the elements of a Hallmark Christmas Movie.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Stacy DeNovo (Vanessa Hudgens) is a recently-single baker in Chicago who runs a shop with her best friend Kevin (Nick Sagar) and his daughter Olivia (Alexa Adeosun). Kevin enters the shop in a baking contest the week before Christmas in the kingdom of Belgravia, for which they are accepted. The three head to the country, where Stacy is met by Lady Margaret Delacourt (also Vanessa Hudgens), the fiancee of the Crown Prince Edward of Belgravia (Sam Palladio). She reveals that she wants to switch places with Stacy in order to avoid the limelight for a few days. Stacy agrees and the pair engage in wacky shenanigans.

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My goodness, these people both appear to be interacting in a totally real way.

END SUMMARY

Okay, so, it’s a knock-off of The Prince and the Pauper but the pauper in this case is actually fairly successful and also they’re both girls and neither of them dies at the age of 15. Seriously, did you read the original? It’s messed up.

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Makes the cartoon seem a little more bleak, eh?

Anyway, this is basically a Hallmark movie so, if you’re familiar with them, I’m betting you can guess how the movie goes, probably down to most of the scenes and the lines. It’s corny. It’s predictable. It’s filled with scenes designed not to progress the story but instead to make us feel vicariously happy about what the characters are experiencing. In short: It’s the cinematic equivalent of just eating dessert instead of dinner.

Look, you’re not going to learn great truths about the world from this film. You’re not going to learn much about yourself from it. It doesn’t contain deep symbolism or major allusions and subversive themes. Conflict in the movie is almost entirely shoddily manufactured, quickly resolved, and has at least one heavy deus ex machina.

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Also, a random magical old man.

BUT YOU FEEL GOOD AT THE END.

Everything is happy. Everyone finds love that deserves it. Good is rewarded. Hard work is rewarded. Honesty is rewarded. These movies show us a world that actually can work out the way that it’s supposed to. In some ways, it hurts to watch them because it makes the real world feel so much less magical and so much more complicated, but these movies contain our real dreams. Our world should not be pursuit of money or status, it should be about connecting with each other, whether through friendship, true love, or just being kind to strangers. What’s wrong with wanting to watch a story about a world like that?

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The one without the knife fighting, obviously.

Honestly, compared to many similar Christmas romantic comedies, this one is at least somewhat well-written and much better acted. If you like Hallmark movies, you should see this one for your Christmas fix.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time 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.