Joker’s Top 10 films of 2020

I’m sure there were a ton of these lists out there, but here’s another. 

10) Enola Holmes – Netflix

Look, I was as surprised as you that I enjoyed this film, but I really thought the film did a great job bringing a fun and new character to life inside of a fairly established universe. Millie Bobby Brown nailed the role, being just the right amount of charming to be a fourth-wall breaker in an only moderately comedic film. I also appreciate that the mystery at the core of the film is one worthy of a Holmes character.

9) Birds of Prey (Harley Quinn) – HBO Max

This film should have failed completely but somehow just decided to be as fun and possible and it worked. While the structure of the film isn’t the best, the performances of all of the main characters are great and the humor is on point. The action sequences, also, are some of the best in the DCU despite almost no one in the film having superpowers. Plus, it gave us more of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn despite that awful Suicide Squad film.

8) Hamilton – Disney+

I never thought we were going to get this film, but, at a time when we needed it most, Disney decided to go ahead and drop one of the absolute best musicals I’ve seen in my life. Hamilton brings everything: Amazing cast, great songs, creative choreography, and f*cking rap battles in place of boring policy debates. It’d be higher on here if it was more of a movie, honestly, but it’s still one of the highlights of last year.

7) The Old Guard – Netflix

If you had pitched me the idea of the Director of Love and Basketball doing a superhero film about Charlize Theron being a Scythian who wields a battle-axe in the modern day leading a team of immortals, I’d have offered to help you find a doctor for your stroke. However, this film worked brilliantly. Great action sequences, great acting, and deeper characters than you’d think this film could manage; this was a pleasant surprise.

6) Bill and Ted Face the Music

We had to wait a long time for this film, but it finally arrived and it managed to somehow secure Bill and Ted as one of the most successful trilogies of all time. In addition to having the talents of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, it incorporated Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine as their daughters who perfectly duplicate their fathers’ idiosyncrasies. The film is hilarious and it ends with one of the best messages in a film we got all year. Just a great end to a franchise.

5) Dick Johnson is Dead – Netflix

This is the blackest comedy I have ever seen. It’s a documentary by a daughter, Kirsten Johnson, discussing and acting out with her dementia-suffering father, Dick, all of the ways in which is he likely going to die.  It’s truly disturbing because her father constantly plays along with her in a grim acceptance of her mortality. It’s also the only film I couldn’t bring myself to review on here, but it’s still one that has stuck with me and will stick with you.

4) Love and Monsters – Rent on Prime

One of my friends messaged my movie group to say that this was a great new “boy and his dog” film and that is definitely a solid aspect of this story. However, this film is much bigger than that. It’s got drama, comedy, a pupper, and, of course, an unrequited romance all contained in a well-designed apocalyptic setting. It needs to get on streaming so that more people can appreciate this.

3) Soul – Disney+

Coming in right at the end of this year, Pixar gave us a true return to form. Everything in this movie is well done. Animation, pacing, writing, voice cast, and design all combined to create something that ranks among the best animated films Pixar has done. Moreover, it’s one of the most mature stories they’ve ever done and I appreciated that decision.

2) Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Netflix

Helmed by great performances by Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis, this adaptation of August Wilson’s play is captivating in the truest sense of the term. You will be completely entranced by the monologues and dialogue as the characters share their loves, losses, hopes, and dreams. It’ll hit you in places you didn’t even know you had.

1) Palm Springs – Hulu

I know people will disagree with this ranking, but this was the only film this year where I had to pause it just to let myself express how much I was enjoying the experience. This new take on Groundhog Day featured Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti and brought an amazing amount of novelty to an overdone trope. It made me laugh as hard as any movie has in a while and I needed some laughs this year. 

Disagree? Tell me in the comments.

Happy New Year from the Joker

Well, 2020 is, mercifully, over now. My resolution during the previous year was to post a review every single day. Naturally, I thought that I would get bored or fail within a month. Somehow, I did it. I wrote more than 365 reviews last year. It paid off, too, as apparently over 4000 more of you are reading every month now than at the beginning of the year. I’m not planning on keeping up a review every day for the next year, but I also have gotten used to writing them whenever I have spare time, so who knows? In any case, the blog will continue.

So I just want to say thank you, dear readers. Your support keeps me going.

Also, just to drive home how random readership can be, here are the five most-read articles of last year:

5) Cabin 28: The Worst Movie Ever

4) Await Further Instructions: An Anti-Vaxxer Horror Film?

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

2) Shark Lords: Messed Up, but Funny

1) Seven In Heaven: WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?

Yeah, I wrote like four pages on Orson Welles’s amazing performance in The Third Man, but people really just want to try and understand a crappy Blumhouse movie. Well, that’s the internet for you.

The New Mutants: The Fault was Not in the Stars – Amazon Review

A solid cast and a good premise couldn’t stop this film from failing hard.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt) is orphaned when her Cheyenne reservation is seemingly destroyed by a tornado. She wakes up in a hospital under the care of Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga), who informs Dani that she is a mutant and that she is to remain in the hospital until she learns to control her abilities, whatever they are. The facility has four other teenagers who also have superpowers: Sam Guthrie (Charlie Heaton), who can turn himself into a human cannonball; Illyana Rasputin (Anya Taylor-Joy), who has powers that mimic magic; Rahne Sinclair (Maisie Williams), who is functionally a werewolf; and Bobby da Costa (Henry Zaga), a mutant who can manipulate solar power. All of them are orphans and all have tragic backstories related to their powers. However, soon things begin to happen around the facility that are weird even for mutants. It turns out that the facility may not be the hospital it seems, nor are all of the people in it.

They’re all young enough that they could have stayed with the franchise for a while.

END SUMMARY

I find it almost impressive that this movie failed this badly, because it seems like it has everything going for it. The premise of “what if we had a horror movie that involved superheroes” has been tried before, with Split being an example of superpowers making a horror trope better, but this one was basically pitched as “haunted school, but the haunting is a reality warper out of control.” That’s such a fun way to revitalize an old trope, particularly by adding in that the teen victims all have their own superpowers, so you could put them in even greater mortal danger and it would be survivable. The idea of a superteam forming in that situation for future films seems easily workable. All of this shows signs of almost inevitable success. Instead, we get a movie that clearly never knew what it wanted to be made by people who didn’t know what they were supposed to be in.

There are actually some decent horror images, too.

Looking into it, this film’s faults don’t seem to be entirely on director Josh Boone. Apparently he and writer Knate Lee had envisioned this as being a full-on horror film, but were told by the studio to tone it down into more of a young adult film. Then, after the success of IT, they were told to go and reshoot it into MORE of a horror film, but still not the hard R or very borderline PG-13 film that Boone had originally wanted. If I hadn’t found out this was the case, I would have assumed something like this had happened. The film seems like it constantly is fighting against itself. 

Also, they needed a little more Breakfast Club.

It doesn’t help that the film starts with a voiceover narration of the “two wolves” story that everyone knows already, but with bears instead of wolves. They don’t finish the parable until the very end of the movie, but since you already know what it ends with, there’s not much of a surprise or a win in the reveal. Similarly, there’s not much of a big win when we see the New Mutants finally start to fight because we always knew that’s what would happen and nothing about the sequence sets it apart. Also, we weirdly have almost no investment in the characters, despite the fact that they’re all mutant kids with tragic backstories and mental issues that should make them perfect for this kind of movie, but we never really get the connection.

If you can’t give Anya Taylor-Joy enough time to make me invested, you have failed.

It’s also incredible that one of my notes is “most of them seem uninterested” about the actors, because these are all very good performers with decent material to work with. Maisie Williams plays a girl whose powers and sexual orientation conflict with her religious upbringing. Anya Taylor-Joy plays a victim of child trafficking whose only friend is a purple dragon. These are two great performers who could absolutely bring these characters to life, but it feels like they never knew what they were supposed to be going for in any scene. Maybe that’s because the director didn’t know either.

And their powers are pretty cool, so it’s not that.

Overall, this movie should have been a hit, but it just fell flat.

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.

Disney Review – The Owl House: A Magical Family Show

OWL HOUSE IS NOW ON DISNEY+!

The Joker On The Sofa

Dana Terrace, formerly of Gravity Falls and the DuckTales reboot, brings us this story of an imaginative young girl.

SUMMARY

Luz Noceda (Sarah-Nicole Robles) is a teenage girl with an affinity for fantasy stories and a lack of restraint. She gets in trouble after her imagination gets the best of her and is sent to “reality check camp” by her mother. However, along the way she sees a small owl stealing her property. She gives chase through a magical doorway and finds herself on the Boiling Isles, a magical land that is responsible for most of human mythology. The owl is revealed to belong to Eda, the Owl Lady (Wendie Malick), the most powerful witch in the land… who makes her living selling stuff she stole from the human world. Luz proves to be an expert on human “artifacts,” so she’s taken back to Eda’s home, the Owl House, and…

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Ducktales (2017): Let’s Get Dangerous – How To Do A Backdoor Pilot in Your Great Reboot – YouTube Review

Darkwing Duck, the terror that flaps in the night, gets the true reboot that the franchise deserves.

This is your spoiler warning. This episode is on YouTube right now. Here:

BACKGROUND

Within the reboot of DuckTales, Darkwing Duck is a television show from the 90s which starred a stuntman named Jim Starling (Original Darkwing voice Jim Cummings), famous for doing all his own stunts. Most of the world appears not to remember the series, but Launchpad McQuack (Beck Bennett) is a huge fan of the character. When Scrooge McDuck (David Tennant) tried to reboot the franchise with a film, the director, Alistair Borswan (Edgar Wright), cast a new actor who idolized Darkwing just as much as Launchpad, Drake Mallard (Chris Diamantopoulos). Starling went insane and tried to destroy the film, leading Mallard to adopt the actual identity of Darkwing Duck and stop him. He has since moved to St. Canard, the city which was the setting for the TV show, and set himself up as a real superhero. Or tried to, at least. 

He did steal Batgirl’s modern “detachable” cape.

SUMMARY

Launchpad takes Dewey Duck (Ben Schwartz) to go and do an interview with Drake as part of Dewey’s online show. They hope to see some crime fighting, but unfortunately new mayor of St. Canard Zan Owlson (Natasha Rothwell) has decreased crime to almost zero. Meanwhile, Scrooge, Huey (Danny Pudi), and Louie (Bobby Moynihan) all go to see a demonstration of a new technology by the great scientist Taurus Bulba (James Monroe Inglehart). Bulba shows them the RAMROD, a device that can seemingly make anything from nothing. A young girl tries to break into Taurus’s building, but is caught by Darkwing. The girl is revealed to be Gosalyn Waddlemeyer (Stephanie Beatriz), the granddaughter of Bulba’s missing partner. Her grandfather tried to warn Bulba of a flaw in the RAMROD then disappeared. Meanwhile, Huey discovers that the RAMROD actually pulls things in from other dimensions, meaning that it could potentially destroy all of reality if used too many times. 

Gosalyn is tougher in this version.

Darkwing confronts Bulba and it is revealed that Gosalyn’s grandfather is likely trapped in another dimension. Darkwing and Bulba fight, scarring Bulba. Bulba then uses the RAMROD to release four villains from the original Darkwing Duck show: Megavolt, Liquidator (both Keith Ferguson), Bushroot, and Quackerjack (Michael Bell). He also captures the triplets and traps Scrooge in a dimension resembling the 1987 DuckTales show. Bulba is confronted by Bradford Buzzard (Marc Evan Jackson), the leader of F.O.W.L., one of Scrooge’s chief enemies, but Bulba turns on him. Huey, Dewey, and Louie all escape with Bradford, discovering his identity as a F.O.W.L. leader in the process. Darkwing heads to fight the villains at Bulba’s layer and is defeated, but he is rescued by Launchpad and Gosalyn. Together, the three send the supervillains back to their own dimension, rescue Scrooge, and destroy the RAMROD. Gosalyn decides to become Darkwing’s partner and Launchpad agrees to join them by going back and forth from Duckburg to St. Canard. 

Yeah, I got some chills. What of it?

END SUMMARY

If you watched the original Darkwing Duck, you probably recognize this as bearing a resemblance to the pilot for that series “Darkly Dawns the Duck.” In the original pilot, Taurus Bulba (Tim Curry) was a criminal mastermind who killed Gosalyn’s grandfather for his RAMROD device, which was a weapon then. In the original series, he resembled the Kingpin from Marvel Comics, whereas in this reboot he appears to be designed more as a supergenius in the vein of Lex Luthor. I think this is a great decision that matches the increased paranormality of the new DuckTales/Darkwing Duck compared to the original. While there were aliens and superpowers in the original, they were always treated as abnormal, whereas they are commonplace and expected in the new series. 

Bulba’s better at PR in this version.

I think one of the better decisions was to age up Gosalyn. Rather than just being a rambunctious tomboy, here she’s a focused young woman who is dedicated to finding her grandfather. Also, she chooses to sacrifice her chance at finding him at the end for the sake of the world, making her much more directly heroic. Having Stephanie Beatriz voice her is basically just icing on the cake of better characterization. 

Gosalyn’s eyebrows do a lot of talking.

I will admit that the episode does suffer a little bit from focusing overly heavily on callbacks to the prior series, but it stands on its own pretty well. They don’t really explain too much about any of the villains that appear, although I guess it doesn’t take much to understand “electrical guy, plant guy, evil clown, and water guy.” Still, some of the funnier jokes in the episode actually require you to have a decent knowledge of the former show to really hit in full, so I do think they could have cut those down a bit. For example, the Solego circuit is a reference to the Disney Adventures crossover between TaleSpin, Goof Troop, Rescue Rangers, DuckTales, and Darkwing Duck. I recognized it because I had a subscription when I was 7, but that’s a real reach. I do appreciate the research they put into the episode to make the joke, though. Since they have put all of those characters in this season, if this is foreshadowing, it is amazing.

Originally, he was a wizard in a ruby.

Overall, though, it does a great job of setting up the characters for their own adventures while still leaving crossovers open. 

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.

Jennifer’s Body: Diablo Cody Wrote This – 13 Reviews of Halloween

Seriously, this might be the most Diablo Cody movie that isn’t Juno.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Insecure high-schooler Anita “Needy” Lesnicki (Amanda Seyfried) is best friends with confident hot-girl Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) despite their differences, including that Jennifer hates Needy’s boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons). One night, Jennifer takes Needy to a concert at a local bar where Jennifer catches the eye of the lead singer, Nikolai (Adam Brody). A fire breaks out and kills a number of people in the bar, but Jennifer is taken away by the band, Low Shoulder, against Needy’s objections. Later that night, Jennifer returns, covered in blood and vomiting black bile. She seems okay the next day, but soon Needy begins to suspect that something evil has decided to take up residence in Jennifer’s body… oh, that’s why they call it that.

Trying to make Amanda Seyfried not hot is impossible, so they just go with “smart.”

END SUMMARY

This movie was Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman’s follow-up to Juno and, sadly, it bombed horribly. It’s not really hard to see why, honestly. Doing a horror/comedy is harder than it seems, because you have to embrace both film genres together, but it’s really hard to laugh during a gory scene even if the joke is funny. It requires a great sense of timing in switching genres in both the script and the direction. This film has got a lot of clever dialogue, but the timing on it is often just a little bit off putting, because it’s hard to get the full effect of a horror scene when someone makes a great one-liner as they rip open a victim’s stomach without a beat or vice-versa. This movie doesn’t quite pull that transition off as well as other horror-comedies. Despite that, though, the script alone should have made this movie at least a minor hit. It really just has some of the off-beat and laugh-out loud lines that made Juno work so well, just framed around the story of a woman becoming a succubus. The characters are all interesting and well-crafted, although the two leads are the core of the story. From the beginning of the film, you get a feeling that there may be more to their relationship than just friendship and the movie plays with that masterfully. Their dialogue also highlights that the two do get along well, even if they’re very different, and part of that is that they can only be their true selves when together. We see Needy with her boyfriend and he is never as accepting of her feelings and wants as Jennifer. Not that Jennifer isn’t a stereotypical mean girl who bosses Needy around, she is, but it does seem like they do always have each others’ backs until the possession. 

She’s always happy to see Needy.

The gore in the film isn’t the heaviest for a horror film, but a lot of the shots are too bloody for people to get over easily. It probably also doesn’t help that for a movie marketed for sexuality and featuring a succubus, a demon known for seduction, Jennifer almost always kills her victims before actually having sex with them. She just uses her allure to get men close and isolated then feeds upon them. While I think that was actually part of the subversion that the filmmakers were going for, and it works well in that regard, conflicts between marketing and product often piss off both critics and viewers. 

Yeah, it’s not a T&A horror-fest.

The film has been getting some decent respect recently because it’s a story about a woman literally being sacrificed by men so they can achieve fame and success. If that doesn’t sound familiar, I think you might have missed the last decade or so. Jennifer gets thrown away by them after and comes back traumatized and lashing out, seeking revenge on the kind of men that mistreated her. The only problem with this is that the victims we see her prey on mostly seem harmless. They aren’t even usually sexually aggressive towards her. While this could be a statement about how trauma can cause victims to attack others in attempts to reject the feeling of powerlessness that accompanies being assaulted, innocent victims tend to turn horror movie audiences off. 

Although some of them might deserve it for being just that dumb.

Overall, I think this movie deserves more recognition than it got. There might have been more that director Karyn Kusama could have done to make the humor and horror elements work together better, but I think it’s still a must-watch for horror fans. 

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.

Teen Wolf: Wow, So ‘80s – 13 Reviews of Halloween

I take a look at one of the two movies that made Michael J. Fox a star in 1985.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox) is a high-schooler who dreams of fame despite being on the perpetually losing varsity basketball team. He has a crush on popular girl Pamela Wells (Lorie Griffin), but she both is uninterested and also dating Scott’s basketball rival Mick (Mark Arnold). He also constantly ignores the fact that his best friend “Boof” (yes, that’s her nickname)(Susan Ursitti) has a crush on him, something even Scott’s father Harold (James Hampton) notices. However, he starts to find himself undergoing strange changes: Hair growth, teeth and nails getting sharper, and even his ears changing shape. It turns out that Scott is a werewolf, but when he changes during a basketball game and wins it mostly single-handed, this makes him a sensation. His friend Stiles (Jerry Levine) starts to even merchandise the new “Teen Wolf,” but Scott soon learns that even though he’s starting to stand out, he may not be getting what he really wanted. 

Not the worst werewolf condition to have, obviously.

END SUMMARY

I really don’t know how I was allowed to watch this movie as a kid, because these are among the most messed up high schoolers ever. The first party we see Scott attend has a game that involves tying two people together in their underwear, covering them in shaving cream, and seeing if they can untie themselves. We then watch Stiles dump a bowl of green Jell-O down a woman’s shirt and tell Chub (Mark Holton) to eat the Jell-O. Stiles’ assistant is wearing panties and a corset. We see Scott get laid as a werewolf, which is borderline bestiality. My point being, the PG rating in 1985 was so much better than it is now. 

A character wears this shirt in school.

I don’t think it’s really being crazy to say that this movie would probably have failed outright without Michael J. Fox. His natural charisma and likability shines through even under the wolf makeup, but without that this movie would be forgettably generic. The ‘80s and ‘90s had a ton of films which boil down to “loser gets some magic thing and becomes popular, but learns that popularity makes you lose yourself.” They even adapted a proposed female Teen Wolf sequel into Teen Witch, but it still uses that exact same formula. Granted, I also like Teen Witch, but that’s because Robyn Lively also has so much natural likability that you ignore the fact that her movie doesn’t even really have a conflict. 

I mean, it’s hard to make this look awesome, but he does it.

The other thing that stands out about this movie is just how insane parts of the premise are. First, werewolves are real, but apparently it’s hereditary rather than passed on by biting. For some reason, Scott’s father, who is also a werewolf, apparently decided to hide that from him, something that is not only stupid, but borders on dangerous. Second, everyone reacts with shock at werewolves being real, but then get on board with it in, and I checked, 80 seconds. No one even asks any real follow-up questions. No one questions whether or not lycanthropy gives him an unfair advantage (it does, he literally is faster and stronger than any human can be), they just take the win. Third, there’s Scott and Pamela and Mick. Scott becomes popular and Pamela sleeps with him, only to reveal that she’s still with Mick and apparently was just trying to make him jealous. It seems completely out of nowhere and mostly serves no point but to cement that Pamela is not the girl for Scott. Seems like overkill when her constant rejection should have made that obvious. Last, there’s the van surfing sequences. Apparently, in this small town in Nebraska, pretending to surf on top of a moving van is en vogue. It looks cool, sure, but also seems like there’d be at least a few dead kids associated with this.

Until this viewing, I didn’t know this film was written by Jeph Loeb, the guy who wrote Commando and the comic Batman: The Long Halloween and was the head of Marvel Television since 2010 (he’s expected to resign next month). Despite his penchant for one-liners in other work, the only line that I really remember from this film is the coach’s speech to Scott: 

There are three rules that I live by: never get less than twelve hours sleep; never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city; and never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. Now you stick to that, and everything else is cream cheese.

Despite all of this, though, the film is a classic for a reason, and that reason is because it’s just fun. It’s not particularly insightful or clever, but watching a werewolf dunking a basketball and doing handstands on a moving car is pretty great. The weird characters are memorable even if the plot is somewhat generic. The soundtrack isn’t the best, but it is very, very ‘80s. The costuming is likewise. I get why it had wildly mixed reviews, because it’s not a great example of filmmaking, but it’s also fun.

You wouldn’t think this would help with 3-pointers, but I guess so.

Overall, I still think it’s fun.

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.

Love and Monsters: An Instant Classic – 13 Reviews of Halloween

This movie just came out and it’s amazing. 

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

An asteroid is about to hit Earth, so all of the nations fire their nukes in an attempt to stop it. They succeed, but the combined radiation and chemicals raining down upon the planet apparently mutate multiple types of non-mammalian life into gigantic monsters. During the initial attack by the creatures, Joel Dawson (Dylan O’Brien) is separated from his girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick). It’s now seven years later and Joel has been living in an underground bunker. Joel manages to make radio contact with Aimee, who is in another colony. Determined to see her again, Joel goes above ground and risks his life to join her colony. Along the way, he is joined by a stray dog, who he names Boy. Together, the pair must survive in a giant monster apocalypse.

He’s a good Boy. Yes, he is.

END SUMMARY

First, I have to apologize to the film Bubba Ho-Tep which is being bumped off of the 13 Reviews of Halloween because I cannot possibly ignore this film. It only came out last week, but I was told by two people that this was an amazing movie that I had to watch. They were completely right. Bruce Campbell, I will have to make it up to you later. 

I’m so sorry, King.

The first thing that I noticed about this film was that, despite not being an indie movie, it was apparently not based on a book or a comic. Amazingly, this was apparently an original spec script that somehow got green-lit without a major star or director attached. It does have Michael Rooker in a supporting role for a few minutes, but that’s about it. While the film has a lot of shared tropes with other apocalypse shows and movies, it’s still its own animal. The writers of the movie were Matthew Robinson, the guy behind The Invention of Lying and Dora and the Lost City of Gold, and Brian Duffield, who wrote The Babysitter and Underwater, so maybe I should have expected the combination of inventive scripting with fun dialogue. Add in some fun monster designs and you have a hit. Well, you WOULD have a hit, if theaters weren’t closed down almost everywhere and Video On Demand was more successful for non-Trolls movies.

I will never say no to a Rooker, though.

A big part of this movie is that Joel is fairly relatable. He’s the only single person in his colony, with everyone else paired up. That makes his desire to meet with Aimee at any cost a lot more rational and believable. Additionally, he tends to freeze up when he’s confronted by monsters, something that I’m pretty sure everyone can understand. If you saw a thirty foot tall crab, you might get scared out of your mind, too. By starting the film off with him being the lovable underdog, it naturally allows the story to have a great traditional character arc. It capitalizes even further by having him bond with Boy, who manages to help keep Joel alive at multiple points and vice-versa. The film uses traditional story tropes but puts them in this extremely hostile and creatively populated world so that they feel fresh again. 

I mean, you should probably be afraid of this.

The film hinges on Dylan O’Brien’s performance. Despite his character being essentially the wimp in the apocalypse, he never comes off as annoying. He’s more likable than Jesse Eisenberg’s sidmilar character from Zombieland, which is necessary when you don’t have a grinning Woody Harrelson to play off of. He’s on his own, or accompanied solely by a dog, for much of the movie, so he has to carry a large portion of the film and he has to showcase his growth largely through his actions. During the film’s third act action set piece, though, he demonstrates that growth in such a way that both you and the characters will simultaneously say “holy sh*t.” 

There’s also a robot for like five minutes.

Overall, just a great movie. It’s worth the rental. I’d go see it at a drive in if I could. 

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.

Tales from the Hood: Spike Lee’s Anthology of Horror – Amazon Review / 13 Reviews of Halloween

The director of most of Chappelle’s Show brings us five tales of terror.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Three drug dealers, Stack (Joe Torry), Ball (De’Aundre Bonds), and Bulldog (Samuel Monroe, Jr.), arrive at a funeral home run by Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III) to purchase some drugs. As they head to where he stores the drugs, Mr. Simms relays four stories to them.

Trust this guy with your dead bodies.

“Rogue Cop Revelation” concerns a young black police officer named Clarence (Anthony Griffith) whose partner Newton (Michael Massee) pulls over a city councilman (Tom Wright) who has been trying to eliminate police corruption. Smith watches as Newton is joined by two other officers (Duane Whitaker and Wings Hauser) mercilessly beat the man up, then murder him after framing him for drug addiction. However, it turns out that the blue line is no match for the revenge of the dead.

That policeman sure was brutal. Good thing it’s fiction.

“Boys Do Get Bruised” is the tale of Walter Johnson (Brandon Hammond), a young boy who shows up to school with a black eye. His teacher, Mr. Garvy (Director Rusty Cundieff), asks about it and Walter says he was attacked by a monster. Later that night, Mr. Garvy visit’s Walter’s home, where his mother, Sissy (Paula Jai Parker), says that Walter is just clumsy. However, it soon becomes apparent that there is a monster living there when Sissy’s boyfriend Carl (David Alan Grier) shows up, but Walter finds out he has the power to deal with it.

David Alan Grier is surprisingly effective as an abuser.

“KKK Comeuppance” features Duke Metger (Corbin Bernsen), a former Klansman who is now a senator in the South. Rhodie (Roger Guenveur Smith), Metger’s image consultant, agrees to film a campaign commercial at Metger’s office, which is a former plantation. They find a mural of a former voodoo witch who supposedly put the souls of tortured and murdered slaves in her dolls. Slowly, Metger starts to realize that the dolls are hunting him.

Stop motion has never been creepier.

“Hard-Core Convert” features Lamont Bentley as Jerome “Crazy K” Johns, a murderous psychopath. He murders a rival gang leader, whose associates show up to enact revenge. While Crazy K survives the killing, he is put in an experimental rehabilitation treatment under Dr. Cushing (Rosalind Cash), which might be worse than death.

The nipple electrodes are essential to the healing.

END SUMMARY

This movie is one of the best examples of a horror anthology out there. I would put it in the same class of films as Creepshow, V/H/S, and Trick ‘r Treat, all of which combine great stylistic filming with creative horror stories. This movie was mostly the product of Rusty Cundieff, one of the few directors of Chappelle’s Show. The same kind of deep character-driven comedy that populated that show permeates this film, but it’s combined with some solid horror tropes and, most importantly, some strong social commentary. Unsurprisingly for a Spike Lee production, this film focuses largely on themes that affect African-Americans. I wish I could say the themes are no longer relevant, but, honestly, if you made this movie in 2020, the only thing that would shock everyone is the lack of cell phones.

Racists hiding behind the flag. Wow, fiction is wild.

While the stories are each very concise and powerful, the wrap-around segment contains an absolutely unforgettable performance by Clarence Williams III. If you’re older, you probably remember him as “Linc” from The Mod Squad or as Philby in the Mystery Woman series, and if you’re my age you probably remember him from Half Baked as drug kingpin Samson Simpson, but I will always remember him for his performance in this film as Mr. Simms. Sadly, he declined to reprise the role in either of the sequels (although he was replaced by the amazing Keith David and Tony Todd), but few people will ever forget his absolutely wild delivery, particularly of him riffing about “the shit” that the three dealers keep asking for.

This man is a f*cking legend.

I originally picked this film because it was supposed to be on Hulu, but unfortunately it’s not, unless you have Starz. I will say, it’s worth the rental on Amazon, particularly if you’re looking for a fun movie that still celebrates the Halloween 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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Idle Hands: Not Quite the Devil’s Work – Amazon Review / 13 Reviews of Halloween

Stoner gets dealt the worst hand ever.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Anton Tobias (Devon Sawa) is one of the laziest human beings on Earth. He lives with his parents, doesn’t have a job, and just generally smokes pot all day. Shortly before Halloween, his hometown gets attacked by a serial killer that claims Anton’s parents (Fred Willard and Connie Ray). Anton, however, is so oblivious that he misses the bloodstains around the house for several days. After trying to get weed from his friends Mick (Seth Green) and Pnub (Elden Henson) and failing, Anton finally finds his parents’ bodies. Mick and Pnub come over and discover that the killer is, in fact, Anton, or, more accurately, Anton’s right hand, which is now possessed by a demon without his knowledge. The hand (Christopher Hart) then kills Mick and Pnub and tries to kill Anton’s cat, making him run into his neighbor and crush, Molly (Jessica Alba). The two end up making out as Anton covers for his murderous hand. Mick and Pnub come back to life as zombies and the three have to stop the hand from sending Molly to Hell, with a little help from a druidic priestess named Debi (Vivica A. Fox) and Anton’s neighbor Randy (Jack Noseworthy). 

Fun fact: Mick and Pnub are more successful as zombies.

END SUMMARY

I haven’t seen this movie in years, but my first thought on re-watching it was “man, Devon Sawa does some really good physical acting.” Throughout much of the movie, the humor is that he can’t control one of his hands and that he’s constantly fighting against it and he pulls it off pretty well. I know that later in the film, when the hand is cut off, it is played by Christopher Hart, the same actor who played Thing in Addams Family Values, but my understanding is that while it’s attached, all of the strange, angry, and inhuman motions were by Sawa. It’s not quite the level of comedic ability of Steve Martin in All of Me (which everyone should watch) or the amazing robotic movements of Logan Marshall-Green in Upgrade or even the horror/comedy of Evil Dead II, he still does a great job of playing a guy who is literally fighting his own body. I think the fact that I could even try to compare it to all of those great performances speaks highly of his acting. 

Honestly, it’s impressive how much you don’t doubt it.

Anton’s character is fairly different than most horror protagonists. His possession is seemingly a punishment for his sloth and, in order for that to make sense, he has to be far lazier and stupider than almost any normal slacker. He’s so oblivious and focused on getting high that he misses the obvious signs that his parents have been murdered. This level of ridiculous exaggeration should make him unlikeable, but Sawa plays him so naturally hapless that you can still end up rooting for him. 

He’s not a great guy, but he’s not a murderous demon.

Seth Green, Elden Hanson, and Jessica Alba are all great supporting roles. Green and Hanson are both the perfect “slightly more productive” stoners to act as comic relief. Their easy adjustment to being involved in the supernatural, particularly after being resurrected, is particularly humorous, and they’re both naturally great at delivering absurd lines in an amusing way. Alba’s main role is to somehow justify being attracted to Anton despite the fact that he literally never removes any article of clothing he’s wearing in the film over several days. Somehow, she almost makes it seem viable by seeming like she’s kind of an odd duck herself. It’s still insane that any woman, let alone this one, would want to sleep with Anton, but at least her performance lets you move past it.

Fun fact: He hasn’t bathed in 5 days and she wants him bad.

The movie itself suffers from a lot of issues with pacing and never quite nailing the tone. The opening to the film plays out like a legitimate horror movie, but the rest of the film is a farce. Debi and Randy only show up for a few minutes and, with anyone less than Vivica A. Fox, would be completely forgettable. It also relies more on the fact that it has a naturally ridiculous premise to keep it interesting than quality writing. Still, I find the film pretty funny for what it is and I think the hand serves as a pretty decent monster throughout. I can say that it deserves more than the 15% it has on Rotten Tomatoes.

She is a foxy lady. I won’t apologize.

Overall, I’m not going to say that you need to see it, but it’s worthwhile if you’re a horror/comedy fan.

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.