Pig: Maybe Nicolas Cage’s Best Movie

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

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

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

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

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

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

A mountain man makes good cuisine.

Overall, just a fabulous movie. Watch it. 

Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans: Tales of Arcadia Comes to a Bitter End – Netflix Review

After several years and three series, we get the last chapter of Trollhunters.

Back in 2016, Guillermo del Toro debuted his Trollhunters series as the first entry in the franchise that he called “Tales of Arcadia,” after the town in which the shows take place. It ended up being a blend of genres with magical realism and science-fiction both working in the same space. Moreover, the shows did a good job of focusing on the characters and their motivations, giving the stories a lot of emotional weight beyond many shows designed for children. They also shared characters, with several secondary characters from one show becoming leads in the next. While Trollhunters and 3Below mostly stood on their own, Wizards was less self-contained and relied heavily on the audience to have watched Trollhunters in order to follow the plot. Naturally, as the conclusion, you really had to watch all of those series to get this film. 

Big cast.

At the conclusion of Wizards, there was a strong hint that the greatest threat to all of the characters was still ahead, even though Nari (Angel Lin) of the Arcane Order had switched sides. Sure enough, the film reveals that the two remaining members, Bellroc and Skrael (Piotr Michael and Kay Bess), can kidnap her and force her to help summon the Titans, beasts that will remake the Earth back to the moment of creation. Merlin’s apprentice Douxie (Colin O’Donoghue) tries to buy time, but ultimately, the Titans arise. Now it’s up to the Trollhunter Jim Lake (Emile Hirsch), whose powers currently aren’t working, as well as his girlfriend and powerful spellcaster Claire Nunez (Lexi Medrano), his best friend Toby (Charlie Saxton), and the trolls Blinky and Aaaaargh (Kelsey Grammer and Fred Tatasciore) to stop them. Fortunately, they’ve got a lot of help coming, ranging from dragons to aliens to the occasional suburban mom. 

Which you need when fighting a volcano that walks.

I’m going to go ahead and say that this film was probably re-written at some point. The film, like the franchise, is built around the nature of sacrifice and what heroes do in order to help the rest of the world. Jim is a hero because he is willing to risk his life for others. Krel and Aja (Diego Luna and Tatiana Maslany) are willing to sacrifice their freedom in order to keep the peace. Douxie has sacrificed centuries to try and be a guardian of magic and the Earth itself. The end of this series was probably always going to have a lot of loss, because that’s usually the price we pay for keeping the world safe, and much of this movie really drives that home. A lot of characters die or sacrifice themselves, and those losses really hit you in the gut. I was really glad that a series took the stakes of the film seriously and didn’t just wave everything away. ***SPOILERS*** At least until the ending, which undoes the events of literally everything that’s happened in the entire franchise. I’m not kidding, everything is undone and, honestly, I’m not sure that I believe the new timeline won’t result in everything dying. It’s genuinely selfish of Jim to go from a situation in which some of his friends are dead but the world is safe to putting everything back up in the air, completely, out of a hope of saving them. It really not only ruined the movie, it ruined the character.

There’s a Pacific Rim nod somewhere.

Overall, until the end, it was a solid film, but man, did they drop the ball. 

Rick and Mondays – S5E5 “Amortycan Grickfitti”

Let’s play through some teen films, Rick and Morty style.

Rick and Morty is often great for taking a traditional movie format, like the buddy road trip, and throwing in a ridiculous twist, like getting involved in interdimensional genocide. This episode takes two traditional teen and college comedy plotlines and injects them with two very odd twists. I think that one is a funnier premise than the other, but they are both still good. I particularly appreciate them bringing back the feud between Rick’s car’s AI and Summer from “The Ricks must be Crazy.” 

Rick and Jerry (Justin Roiland and Chris Parnell) are heading out for a “guys’ night,” much to Beth’s (Sarah Chalke) suspicion, only for it to be revealed that they are joined by Cenobite-like demons that feed off of pain. It turns out that Rick owes them money and is paying them back by allowing them to experience the pain of spending an evening with Jerry, particularly doing “Jerry-oke.” Jerry is completely unaware that the creatures don’t legitimately enjoy spending time with him. Beth surprises the group and, while she is angry at Rick for doing this to Jerry, she starts drinking and eventually ends up dunking on him with the demons. Jerry finally discovers that they’re making fun of him, leading the demons to abduct him. Rick and Beth follow them and, after dealing with the weird backwards rules of the Hell dimension, eventually rescue Jerry by building a device that converts the pain that the demons convert to pleasure back into pain. Rick ends up apologizing to Jerry and Beth offers to have sex with Jerry as an apology. 

While the adults are away, Morty and Summer (Spencer Grammer) spend the evening unsupervised with the new “cool” kid at school, Bruce Chutback (Darren Criss). The kids try to impress Chutback and ultimately end up taking him on a joyride in Rick’s car. They do a bunch of stupid kid stuff, including destroying mailbox-shaped aliens, only for the car to reveal that it plans on ratting them out. When the car meets a “changeformer,” however, it offers to cover for them if they help it lose its virginity. This ends, as most quests to end virginity do in movies, with a lot of corpses and the kids having to escape from jail. They make it home just in time to avoid the parents, but Bruce reveals himself to be a jerk who only wants to be friends with popular kids. He is then subsequently humiliated by the cool kids and becomes an outcast below even Summer and Morty. 

The two plots here are both pretty common. The former plot is based on spending time with the lame kid at school and realizing that he might not be the loser you thought and the latter is spending time with the cool kid in order to raise social status (though they throw in the “I desperately need to lose my virginity” plot). Naturally, since it’s Rick and Morty, one literally involves demons that derive erotic pleasure from mocking the lame person, which is just a hilarious joke. The Cenobites from Hellraiser were a demonic sect that believed that pain and pleasure could be interchangeable, it just had to be as powerful of an experience as possible. In this case, they constantly interpret anything that is bad or painful as being pleasurable, which leads to some absolutely great dialogue. But the idea that an annoying person’s general cringeworthiness can be considered painful in a way equivalent to sticking hooks through your body is just freaking hilarious to me. The other plot, of Morty and Summer trying to impress Bruce Chutback, is similarly over-the-top, since it ends up with genocide, but also is fundamentally funny because Morty and Summer, who regularly travel the universe, the multiverse, and who have done things that would baffle most mortal minds, still are desperate to be liked by the cool kid. The ending, in which Bruce says he’ll only talk to them again if they are judged to be cool, is a great subversion of how these stories usually end. 

Five Short Reviews

Here are the things I didn’t have time to review this week.

Happily

Tom and Janet (Joel McHale and Kerry Bishé) have been married for 14 years and still act like horny newlyweds, constantly in love and lust with each other and doing caring gestures towards each other. This, naturally, drives all of their friends insane. Eventually, they get a visit from a stranger (Stephen Root) before going on a couples’ retreat that changes everyone involved. The thing about this movie is that the idea of having a couple that is so in love that everyone hates them is pretty solid. After all, as they point out, why are you married if you don’t think of your partner as your best friend? The problem is that the movie ends up going too far beyond reality and, honestly, it just plays out pretty blandly. Good premise, bad execution. The performances are really good, which only hurts me more.

This is a Tuesday for them.

The Ones Below

Kate and Justin (Clémence Poésy and Stephen Campbell Moore) are a couple expecting a baby who, through an accident, are blamed by their neighbors for the loss of their pregnancy. Kate begins to suspect that Jon and Theresa (David Morrissey and Laura Birn) are trying to steal her baby, but Justin believes she’s just having a mental breakdown. The biggest problem with this movie is that it doesn’t leave as much ambiguity as you would want for this kind of set-up, nor is the payoff big enough to justify being able to guess the ending early on. Still, there are some good parts to it. It’s not a “must-see,” but it’s shot very well and for a first-time director, there are a number of solid elements. 

Not a fun time.

Leverage: Redemption

If you loved the show Leverage, good news, it’s back. With Noah Wyle coming in as the newby and Aleyse Shannon replacing Aldis Hodge in some of the episodes as the tech person, the team is (mostly) back, albeit without Timothy Hutton (possibly due to the statutory rape allegations). The show pretty much starts to go back to formula, but when it’s a formula as fun as Leverage, you’re not too upset about that. I still absolutely love Gina Bellman, Christian Kane, and Beth Riesgraf in their roles as con-woman, hitter, and thief, respectively. It’s notable that the show has done a lot more “ripped from the headlines” this season, clearly addressing actual criminal behavior in the world that’s going unpunished, which will work for some people more than others. Personally, I liked it.

Noah Wyle is in good company.

Too Hot to Handle (Season 2)

Well, the show about hot and horny people trying to find real romance is back and… yeah, it’s still dumb and trashy and I still watched the whole thing. I think they gave commentator Desiree Birch some better lines this season and it does help. Other than that, it is much the same as last season, with you rooting for some couples and against others. This season seemed to have a lot more brazen rule-breaking, so if you are into that, you will enjoy the show. If you don’t like trash, this will not be your thing.

Marvin and Melinda made me want to scream a lot.

The Naked Director

This show is a fictionalized account of the rise of Japanese adult film director Toru Muranishi (Takayuki Yamada) and adult film star Kaoru Kuroki (Misato Morita). It’s mostly an exploration of the Japanese pornograpnic film industry throughout the 1970s to 90s and how it reshaped Japan’s perception of indecency. It’s very interesting to see how restrictive japanese society was towards sexuality and how it has impacted their societal development over the last few decades.

He’s also an actor.

Descendants (1, 2, 3): These Were Cute – Disney+ Review/Reader Request

My niece forced me to review these, but they were fine.

My sister-in-law forwarded one of the cutest videos ever of my young niece singing a song I had never heard before, complete with some attempted choreography. I was told that the song was from one of the Descendants movies on Disney+. Unfortunately, this somehow snowballed into my niece being told that she could ask me to watch all three of these movies and review them. I tried to say no, but then she used the term “reader request.” I was stuck. Fortunately, they were surprisingly decent movies with increasingly good musical numbers. They’re not going to go down in history as the pinnacle of cinema, but they’re pretty fun movies that pay off more if you’re a big fan of Disney’s classic films.

You can tell which ones are evil because they dress like they listen to My Chemical Romance.

The premise of Descendants is that there is a country called Auradon ruled by Belle and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast (Keegan Connor Tracy and Dan Payne). As part of setting up their perfect kingdom, they banished all of the villains to the “Isle of the Lost” which is behind a barrier that eliminates magic. Belle’s and Beast’s son, Ben (Mitchell Hope), decides to offer a chance to come to Auradon to the children of the villains. It starts with Carlos de Vil, Jay the son of Jafar, Evie the daughter of the Evil Queen, and Maleficent’s daughter Mal (Cameron Boyce, Booboo Stewart, Sofia Carson, Dove Cameron), then eventually includes other children like Gaston’s son Gil, Ursula’s daughter Uma, Harry Hook, Dizzy Tremaine, Celia Facilier, and Smee’s boys Squeaky and Squirmy (Dylan Playfair, China Anne McClain, Thomas Doherty, Anna Cathcart, Jadah Marie, Christian Convery, and Luke Roessler). They basically attend high school with the children of the heroes, like Sleeping Beauty’s daughter Audrey, Dopey’s son Doug, Mulan’s daughter Lonnie, Fairy Godmother’s daughter Jane, and Cinderella’s son Chad (Sarah Jeffery, Zachary Gibson, Dianne Doan, Brenna D’Amico, Jedidiah Goodacre). Naturally, there are a lot of villain schemes that try to play out as the bad guys try to escape their prison and a lot of kids switch sides. There are songs and a happy ending for everyone that isn’t evil. 

And some very odd reveals along the way.

The idea behind these movies is actually pretty solid. It’s basically directly challenging the notion that you’re born good or evil and are rewarded accordingly by wealth, a thing which was so common among America’s founders that we are still dealing with it. Of course, most people nowadays recognize that most people are driven to bad acts by bad situations and the movies are about the adoption of this new ideology. It’s basically a generational story of how societal complexity forces the move away from people just being “good” and “evil.” The films point out that while most of the kids of the villains might start off with bad tendencies, that stems in part from the fact that they grew up in a poor area populated entirely by people who are literally condemned by society as irreparably evil by their nature. While many of their parents continue to be villains, most of the kids, when put in an area that rewards their hard work, grants them independence, and doesn’t say that they’re inherently evil, actually start to become better people. On the other hand, many of the heroes’ kids are a bit dickish because A) they’re rich and entitled and B) they’re literally told that they’re heroes and good people because their parents were. This plays out really well in the third movie. The songs are great and, honestly, they get better as the films go on. While the stories and conflicts get a little repetitive as they go on, the movies still have some fun moments. 

And some moments where you’re just wondering how we got here.

Overall, there are much better films, but these would be cute to watch with your kids, particularly since they have a message that will always apply more to the next generation than the current one.

Fear Street Trilogy (1994, 1978, 1666): A Nice Variety of Horror – Netflix Review

R.L. Stine’s more adult series gets a three-film deal and the results are pretty solid.

If you grew up in the 90s, you probably saw Goosebumps books constantly. You might even have watched the television show which managed to last four seasons. It was a big deal for kids. At the same time, R.L. Stine was also releasing a series of books aimed at older kids and young adults called the Fear Street series. The books took place in a town called Shadyside which was cursed due to a family named the Fiers, later the Fears, burning a family called the Goodes at the stake for witchcraft, falsely. Now Shadyside is filled with malicious spirits and killers. The film trilogy follows a similar premise, but focuses more on the serial killers that inhabit Shadyside, dubbing it the murder capital of the US, and explores it through three different time periods.

The 1994 outfit seems similar to Scream. Just saying.

In 1994, a random mall employee seemingly snaps and kills his girlfriend and several other people before being killed. This is considered a normal thing in Shadyside, whereas its neighbor town, Sunnyvale, is filled with success and peace. Deena Johnson (Kiana Madeira) has recently broken up with her closeted girlfriend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), who has moved to Sunnyvale. Deena’s brother, Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) is obsessed with the town’s history and the fact that it was cursed by the witch named Sarah Fier before her execution in 1666. After a car crash involving Sam and Deena, Sam is now being stalked by the murderers that have plagued Shadyside since the 17th Century. Unfortunately, law enforcement, particularly Sheriff Goode (Ashley Zukerman), doesn’t believe in ghosts. Deena, Josh, and their friends end up thwarting the attack by killing Sam and reviving her, only for Sam to become possessed and be the next killer. The only thing that might save them is talking to the only survivor of another massacre in 1978 (Gillian Jacobs) and finding out what connection that murder has to the modern one, then figuring out the real truth of the events of 1666. 

There’s a guy with a bag on his head and an axe. Sound familiar?

I have to credit Netflix for the ambition of filming three movies set in three different time periods and releasing them as part of one long film. Each one feels a little different, not just because they’re in different time periods, but because they often feel like different kinds of horror films. The 90s one heavily involves the undead slashers pursuing the kids who are relatively genre savvy, much like Scream. The 1978 film features a classic summer camp killer in the vein of Friday the 13th. The 1666 film addresses the Puritan witch hunts where many women were accused less because of any ability, but more because the towns need a scapegoat or to keep order. The final one also manages to wrap up the plot of the 1990s film in the process, literally feeling like two complete films that tie together solidly. The horror is well done, the performances are better than I would have expected for a young adult horror series, and, again, the scope of the story is impressive. 

They’re not actually diverse, it’s just a vision using duplicate casting. Puritans were racist, man.

Overall, I really recommend the films if you liked the Fear Street books or even Goosebumps, but know that it’s a bit scarier than the latter.

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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Space Jam: A New Legacy: It Had Its Moments – HBO Max Review

Pretty sure I just watched the longest commercial not starring Adam Sandler, but it did make me laugh.

The original Space Jam is a complicated movie. On the one hand, it was part of my childhood and I have a lot of nostalgia for it, it has one of my favorite Bill Murray cameos, and it perfectly encapsulates the year 1996 by being part of a giant commercial featuring Michael Jordan. On the other hand, it is a giant commercial featuring Michael Jordan (who cannot act), it has a lot of jokes that really don’t hold up when you aren’t a kid, and it is so dated that it probably seems absolutely bonkers to a modern audience. They have been speculating about making a sequel to this movie for *checks calendar* over twenty years and now have decided to use the nostalgia cash in at the very end of a pandemic, I guess. But at least this time it’s featuring LeBron James, so that’s different, right?

The jerseys are different… and worse?

The story this time is that LeBron James and his son Dom (Cedric Joe) are at a meeting at Warner Brothers Studios. LeBron is a bit overbearing as a dad and wants his son to attend basketball camp rather than game design camp. After the Warner Bros. algorithm, an AI named Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle), pitches an idea that LeBron rejects, Al-G abducts LeBron and Dom into cyberspace (thus the space in the title) and forces LeBron to play basketball against a group of CGI players called the Goon Squad (Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, Nneka Ogwumike, Diana Taurasi). LeBron’s only hope is, unfortunately, Bugs Bunny (Jeff Bergman) and the rest of the Looney Tunes (due mostly to Bugs Bunny being a sociopath). 

Rabbit season.

This movie mostly failed on a lot of levels. On the most basic level, it hurts that this film is little more than a giant add for Warner Brothers properties. They reference Harry Potter, The Matrix, and Game of Thrones (proving this movie was written before the last season of that aired) constantly. The actual basketball game features a variety of cameos by WB animated and live-action characters that boggle the mind, particularly since a number of them are NOT kid friendly (the Droogs from A Clockwork Orange, the Nun from The Devils, Pennywise from IT, etc.). Hell, Rick and Morty have a speaking cameo which, admittedly, was funny. The film constantly has a tone of “look at what we own!” Then there are some of the style choices, most notably having CGI Looney Tunes for the actual game that really never stop looking unsettling. Also, LeBron James, who is a decent performer, is made into kind of a jerk towards his son for reasons that seem completely unnecessary. You can just have his son get abducted, guys, that’s a motive to play the game. Instead, they try to have Dom turn against his dad, which seemed like overkill. 

Oh look, Scooby Doo… and also a group of ultraviolent rapists.

On the other hand, this movie does actually have quite a few legitimate laughs. More than the original, for sure, even if I’m not sure it’s a more enjoyable film on the whole. A lot of them are at LeBron’s expense, something that Michael Jordan probably wouldn’t have tolerated. Michael also probably wouldn’t have tolerated being animated for so much of the film, which LeBron clearly endorsed. There is a Michael Jordan cameo and it is the absolute best joke for me in the film. Then there’s Don Cheadle. Don Cheadle puts way more effort into this than you would expect from someone of his caliber. He has to sell all of the over-the-top and borderline insane stuff that Al-G Rhythm comes up with and he pulls it off beautifully. Also, the Goon Squad is vastly superior to the Monstars in terms of creativity of both appearances and powers. 

Don Cheadle doing Ric Flair.

Overall, it’s not a great movie, but it wasn’t too bad. 

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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Gunpowder Milkshake: A Lighthearted Action Film – Netflix Review

It feels a little like John Wick, but in a good way.

Karen Gillan is a treasure. She made one of my favorite modern horror movies, Oculus, she was a companion on Doctor Who for years, and she displays an incredible amount of range despite prosthetics as Nebula in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, she wants to show you that she can kill a bunch of people in somehow hilarious and peppy ways. I’ve said repeatedly that one of my favorite tropes is a violent fight choreographed to an upbeat pop song, like the zombie fight to “Don’t Stop Me Now” in Shaun of the Dead. This movie uses that trope combined with a neon style and a glowing retro feel, best emphasized by the 1950s Diner that serves as a neutral ground for hitmen and mobsters. 

Now I want a milkshake and to shoot something.

Gillan plays Sam, a professional assassin working for Nathan (Paul Giamatti) an agent of “The Firm,” a group of men who apparently control everything. When she is hired to kill David (Samuel Anderson), an accountant who stole money from the Firm, Sam realizes that David was being blackmailed. A group of men are holding his daughter captive. Sam accidentally kills David and decides to protect his daughter, Emily (Chloe Coleman). Unfortunately, it turns out that Sam also accidentally killed the son of Jim McAlester (Ralph Ineson), the leader of a crime family who now wants revenge. Sam will have to turn to the librarians, a group of female killers who run the arms distribution in town: Madeleine (Carla Gugino), Florence (Michelle Yeoh), Anna May (Angela Bassett), and Scarlet (Lena Headey). Lots of fun killing will follow.

Don’t ask why that jacket is so dirty.

Aside from having a ton of long-cuts and showing Keanu Reeves kicking more ass than a convention of donkey punters, part of what worked well about the movie John Wick was that it showed us that there is a secret world of hitmen and mobsters that is working underneath the normal world. This film has that exact feeling. There is a giant library dedicated to buying and exchanging weapons, there’s a retro diner that’s filled with killers, there’s a hospital that only serves the mob, etc. It lends some credence to the idea of an unstoppable force of violence like Sam when it turns out that there’s a massive infrastructure dedicated to killing out there in the world. The film’s worldbuilding is effective, even though it is relatively limited. The sets, costumes, and cinematography are fantastic. Early on in the movie Sam is forced into a bowling outfit that becomes her signature throughout the story and the fact that they’re willing to put the main character in what is normally considered a dorky outfit is the kind of feel the movie is going for. The fight sequences, while still having a mostly average number of cuts for an action film, are creative and fun. The music does a great job of making the movie light enough to balance out much of the carnage. There is a level of physical humor inherent in much of the violence as well. 

Great supporting cast.

Overall, a fun movie if you like action. 

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.

Black Widow: Not Marvel’s Best, but Still Good – Disney+ Review

Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow first appeared in Iron Man 2 over a decade ago and died in 2019. Naturally, this was the perfect time to finally give her a solo film. I will acknowledge that Black Widow isn’t quite as easy to do a film about as Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel. Black Widow’s origin story is horrifying when you think about it hard enough. This movie, while it essentially montages over that period, makes it clear that she was essentially abducted as a child, tortured, operated on against her will, and brainwashed to be a perfect killing machine. Essentially, she’s the bad guy in most movies. So, doing a movie about her confronting that past, while it didn’t get as dark as it could have, was naturally going to have a lot of uncomfortable moments. The film tries, and largely succeeds, to balance this out with humor, but there are still a lot of parts of the movie where you will likely squirm a bit in your seat. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s definitely not what you expect from a Marvel movie.

As opposed to her posing repeatedly, which is heavily expected.

The film takes place right after Captain America: Civil War with Natasha Romanov on the run from General Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt). After seemingly finding a good place to hideout, she receives a package that was sent by her sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh), and is attacked by the assassin codenamed Taskmaster. Escaping, Natasha reunites with Yelena to find out that the Black Widows and the Red Room that trains them are both still operating, despite the fact that Natasha believed she killed Dreykov (Ray Winstone), the man operating it, as well as his daughter Antonia (Olga Kurylenko). The pair decide to find the Red Room through their old handlers and fake parents, the Soviet Super-Soldier Red Guardian (David Harbour) and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz). 

They kill people and look good doing it.

There are a lot of things this movie does well. It spends a lot of time taking apart tropes forced onto female characters in action films, with Yelena even calling Natasha a “poser” and those conversations are usually pretty hilarious. Actually the humor is mostly on point, particularly with the banter between Johansson and Pugh as well as David Harbour’s self-deluded super-soldier persona. The action sequences are excellent and contain some of the more fun entries into Marvel due to the fact that almost all of the characters in this film are not superhuman. It’s a little harder to know when something is dangerous when the characters can bench-press a bus or hold a helicopter in place. When most of the people can suffer collateral damage from explosions or getting punched a lot, then it seems like they’re in more trouble when they are being chased by an armored vehicle. The movie also does a good job of distinguishing itself from most of the other female-led movies by not trying to be an origin story and not trying to make its main character a paragon of virtue. Black Widow is almost a reformed supervillain and that’s not a common main character for a blockbuster film. 

His knuckles say “Karl Marx.” He can punch you into class unconsciousness.

There are some downsides, though. The movie touching on the abuse that the girls suffer in the Red Room is deeply disturbing, but the fact that they end up bantering with Harbour and Weisz, their fake parents who essentially handed them over to be tortured, is almost more unnerving. They make jokes about genital mutilation at one point to make Red Guardian uncomfortable, but it still seems weird for them to not want to just put a bullet in his head for allowing them to go through that. While maybe you can forgive Red Guardian as he is kind of an idiot who really bought into the ideology that what happened to them for the best, Melina is a genius who helped design the program they went through. They should want her to die painfully, not be a surrogate mom again. Also, there’s nothing that can really happen in the movie that’s too surprising, because we know that Black Widow survives only to die five movies ago.

At least Natasha tries to keep her sister safe.

Overall, though, this was definitely a movie that was worth seeing. 

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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Rick and Mondays: S5E4 “Rickdependence Spray”

Rick and Morty tries to prove that it is not, in fact, a show for smart people. They succeed.

I don’t know if this is the worst episode of this series, but I am willing to state that it is probably the least clever episode. The entire thing felt like the set-up to a Rick and Morty joke where everything is revealed to be a prank on Morty or something like in the “Vat of Acid Episode,” but instead it is just played straight. I think that might be either a set-up for something later on in the series or kind of a meta prank on the audience who, like me, would constantly spend the episode waiting for the clever twist. It’s not that they haven’t done linear episodes before, ranging from the miserable “Anatomy Park” to the absolutely amazing “Pickle Rick,” but this one really needed something to redeem it.

It begins with Morty sticking his genitals in a machine designed to catch horse sperm, so that’s not great.

The episode starts with Morty (Justin Roiland) meeting Beth (Sarah Chalke) at her veterinary office and seeing a machine that harvests horse semen. Morty then uses the machine to get off for a week before Rick (Roiland) steals a vat of the supposed horse semen to use in his war against the Cannibal Horse Underground Dwellers (CHUDs). Unfortunately, when Morty lies about having his semen in the container, it causes Rick to accidentally make Morty’s sperm gigantic and occasionally sentient. The sperm start attacking Earth and the President (Keith David) believes Morty’s lie about not knowing what happened. Rick and Morty join a pair of marines to find the sperm’s lair where Morty is captured by a talking sperm in a mech suit who reveals that Morty created them. Rick, disturbed by this revelation, helps Morty plant nukes in the sperm base, but find out that the sperm are heading to Vegas. Summer (Spencer Grammer) came up with the idea to have her egg enlarged to attract the sperm, only to have the credit stolen by a scientist working for the President named Shabooboo. Rick and Morty are captured by the CHUDs, but are saved by the revelation that Rick impregnated their princess. The CHUDs help Rick and Morty and the Army try to stop the sperm. They seem to succeed, only for a friendly sperm Morty had named “Sticky” to enter the egg, creating a giant incest baby that gets shot into space.

Yeah. Giant incest baby 2001: A Space Odyssey reference. Fun (except not).

This is a strong contender for the worst episode of this show so far. The plot is linear and not particularly interesting, beyond the intervention of the CHUDs. I admit horse cannibals who burrow through the ground were pretty funny. The only way they could have pulled this off something so straightforward was if the humor in the episode was really on point, but it definitely was not. The entire episode is mostly gross-out humor ranging from the giant sperm images to a literal incest baby. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its moments. The scene of Beth telling Summer that she’s finally a woman because a man stole her idea and didn’t give her credit is pretty solid, even if that joke has been played out a lot lately. The line from the sperm queen about them not bringing a woman who can kickbox was pretty great. Rick finally admitting his addiction when he realizes that he impregnated a mutant horse was absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough jokes to fill the whole time without making me think “am I really watching giant sperm right now?”

The horse people are pretty funny. Particularly the “burrowing horses.”

JOKER’S THEORY CORNER

Is this episode intentionally stupid? Here me out. This season has, so far, mostly been a series of really funny episodes that usually contain either great A-Plot and B-Plot interplay or, like Mortyplicity, an amazing premise that keeps surprising you. However, these episodes have been a bit harder to follow than some of the episodes in the earlier seasons, at least for people who don’t have great attention spans. So I think they might actually have made an episode that’s intentionally base and stupid so that the fandom that was complaining about the first few episodes would have something to grab onto. Dan Harmon is exactly the kind of guy who might troll the audience like that, perhaps even later calling this a “gas leak episode.” 

I mean, Amazing Jonathan has great talent at doing bad jokes as set-ups for great jokes.

Overall, I give this episode an

D

on the Rick and Morty scale.

Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you next week.

PREVIOUS – 44: A Rickconvenient Mort

NEXT – 46: Amortycan Grickfitti

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.