Happy Easter, everyone! Eat some candy in the shape of a bunny or a chick, eat some jelly beans, paint some eggs, go to church for the first time since Christmas, and blow up a cart in front of the Duomo. In honor of this most oddly-celebrated of holidays, I present to you the 5 best TV Easter episodes of all time:
Runner up: The Turtles and the Hare (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle)
It’s Easter, and Krang and Shredder are trying to use their “Docilizer” ray to turn everyone as docile as rabbits (because they haven’t seen Watership Down). A Bunny-Suited Bebop and Rocksteady even manage to get April O’Neil just as she’s calling the Turtles for help. To counteract the ray, the Turtles need a crystal from a “fairy tale dimension.” When they go there, they encounter Hokum Hare, the rabbit from “The Tortoise and the Hare,”…
This review is dedicated to the amazing Timothy Omundson, who I first saw here and who almost made this film great.
Kyle Johnson (Ryan Merriman) is a high-schooler who is supernaturally lucky. His love interest Bonnie (Alexis Lopez), the head of the Heritage Committee, asks him about his family lineage. His parents, Bobby and Kathleen (Paul Kiernan, Marita Geraghty) both claim they’re from Cleveland, acting very suspiciously, and refuse to explain anything further. On the way home from basketball practice with his best friend Russell (Glenndon Chatman), he sees the symbol on his lucky coin advertising an Irish festival. He attends, meeting a strange old man (Henry Gibson), and watching a performance by Seamus McTiernan (Timothy Omundson), an irish folk dancer. He gets knocked down at the festival, but thinks nothing of it.
His heart’s full of Blarney.
The next morning, Kyle finds his luck has soured, his…
I take a look at a YouTube series about a group of demonic assassins.
Blitzo (the o is silent)(Brandon Rogers) is the head of I.M.P., the Immediate Murder Professionals. They’re a group of assassins that operate out of Hell through a portal to the human realm. Essentially, if you are in Hell and have the money, you can take revenge upon the living. Blitzo is accompanied by married couple Moxxie and Millie (Richard Steven Horowitz and Erica Lindbeck/Vivian Nixon) and his adopted hellhound daughter Loona (Lindbeck). Despite the fact that they are generally dysfunctional and incompetent, they still manage to do a decent job of murdering the living in hilariously over-the-top ways.
If you missed it back in 2019, artist Vivienne “VivziePop” Medrano posted the unique pilot for a show called “Hazbin Hotel” on her YouTube channel. It was an incredible work of twisted art and disturbed humor that has since been picked up for production but not debuted yet. However, shortly after that, she posted a second, shorter, pilot for a show set in the same universe. That one was called, you guessed it, Helluva Boss. That one was also picked up and has started airing on Medrano’s YouTube channel and we are all the better for it.
A lot of the humor in this show comes from the fact that this group of killers are basically a massively dysfunctional family. Blitzo is way too involved in Moxxie and Millie’s lives, constantly berates Moxxie, and treats Loona like she’s his precious baby despite the fact that she does almost no work and often abuses her co-workers. Moxxie is massively insecure while Millie is mostly aloof. However, all of these traits are taken to the point of absurdity and it’s more naturally believable because they’re not human. The supporting characters are likewise over-the-top because, well, they’re almost all in Hell and thus had exaggerated qualities.
The other big source of humor in the show is the ridiculous ultraviolence that regularly ensues and the dark jokes that come from it, like being paid to murder a child and questioning the morality only to find out that the kid’s an asshole and seemingly has it coming. The show has a ton of dirty jokes and sexual humor as well as some solid references (including being the second animated show to use Dan Harmon’s horrifying phrase “cum gutters”). I find it consistently hilarious.
Overall, I love this show. There are only three episodes and a pilot so far, but they’re all free on YouTube. Check them out and Hazbin Hotel as well.
Two kids find an omnicidal alien warlord and turn him into their playmate.
Siblings Mimi and Luke (Nita-Josee Hanna and Owen Myre) discover a gem in their backyard after digging a large hole. That night, an alien (Matthew Ninaber; voice Steven Vlahos) crawls out of the hole and massacres a local group of thieves. The next day, the two children follow a trail left by the alien, who identifies himself as the “arch-duke of nightmares,” a nameless creature who has been imprisoned on Earth after trying to destroy the galaxy. He tries to murder the children, only for Mimi to order him to stop with the gem. It turns out that whoever has the gem can command him. Dubbing him “Psycho Goreman,” or PG for short, Mimi uses the gem to force him to become her friend, much to his frustration. The Planetary Alliance discovers that PG is alive and sends Pandora (Kristen MacCulloch), one of their agents, to kill him. Meanwhile, PG just wants to be free. Free to massacre at will.
I love this movie. I love everything about it. It’s basically the idea of “What if E.T. had been an actual monster but the kids still loved him?” The whole film is a combination of great monster designs, horrifying gorefest, and hilarious juxtaposition with the kids. Every time that Psycho Goreman speaks, he tries to turn it into some grand exposition about his backstory or a tale of a planet he destroyed or a torture he’s performed, but the kids keep interrupting and saying he’s boring or something like that. They don’t do it enough times for the novelty to wear off, so it stays fairly funny. This movie is constantly pushing the boundaries of crazy while still following many of the basic plot elements of the “kid befriends strange creature” films that inspired it. I particularly love that PG straight-up murders a guy for mocking him during the “fun time” montage.
I would watch a documentary just about all of the creature designs in this film. Some of them are unbelievably elaborate and creative even while still looking like a person in a costume. There was a villain who appeared to just be a sentient bucket of body parts and I wanted to know exactly how that works. I can’t imagine how much time and effort must have gone into all of these, so I really have to respect the production for going the extra mile on characters that often die within a few minutes.
I also like that a big sub-plot of the movie is the conflict between Mimi and Luke’s parents, because their mom (Alexis Hancey) is a hard-working type-A personality while their father (Adam Brooks) is a lazy slob who avoids doing anything. It gets even funnier when they become embroiled in the conflict between the Planetary Alliance and Psycho Goreman, because they each pick opposite sides. It’s so unbelievably ridiculous that it somehow works.
Overall, I’ll admit that this is a niche film. You really have to love cheesy monster movies and have a lot of nostalgia for things like E.T. or Dragonworld (10 points if you remember that one), but if you do like both of those things, this is your movie.
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.
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:
A solid cast and a good premise couldn’t stop this film from failing hard.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Overall, this movie should have been a hit, but it just fell flat.
Dana Terrace, formerly of Gravity Falls and the DuckTales reboot, brings us this story of an imaginative young girl.
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…
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Overall, though, it does a great job of setting up the characters for their own adventures while still leaving crossovers open.
Seriously, this might be the most Diablo Cody movie that isn’t Juno.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.