Netflix Review – Da 5 Bloods: Spike Lee’s Apocalypse Now

Four former soldiers return to Vietnam.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

During the Vietnam War, five black men serve together in the US Army: Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.), and their squad leader ‘Stormin’ Norman (Chadwick Boseman). Dubbing themselves the “Bloods,” the five secure the site of a CIA airplane crash, finding that it’s full of gold bars. Thinking about the state of black people in America, they decide to bury the gold and retrieve it later for their own gain. Unfortunately, a bombing kills Norman and destroys the area, preventing them from finding the gold before they go back to the USA. 

Spike Lee playing the fifth blood in this shot.

Decades later, the four survivors reunite in Vietnam in order to track down the gold after a landslide uncovers part of the plane. They are tailed by Paul’s estranged son David (Jonathan Majors), who joins the group along with their guide Vinh (Johnny Trí Nguyễn). Otis also discovers that his Vietnamese flame Tiên (Lê Y Lan)  was pregnant when he left, leading him to meet his daughter Michon (Sandy Hương Phạm) for the first time. Tiên also puts Otis in contact with Desroche (Jean Reno), a French businessman who agrees to buy the gold from them. David meets Hedy (Mélanie Thierry), a French woman who runs a landmine removal group, and her two assistants Simon and Seppo (Paul Walter Hauser and Jasper Pääkkönen). As the group makes their way into the jungle, tensions start to run high, and money never tends to make that better. 

END SUMMARY

I call this Spike Lee’s Apocalypse Now not so much because there are a lot of similarities with that film, but because this film is really long and set in Vietnam and I’m sure will be given awards and critical acclaim out the wazoo. This isn’t to say this film isn’t worthy of praise, it is an absolutely amazing film, but by Spike Lee standards, this is not his best work. I think the biggest indicator of that is how much the phrase “most ambitious work” is being used to promote it, rather than best. The film is definitely ambitious, but that doesn’t mean it is flawless. It does a good job telling the story and it does a good job trying to do social commentary, unfortunately it doesn’t do a great job of doing them together. Instead, it feels like the story is periodically interrupted for a clip of Hanoi Hannah (Veronica Ngo) telling US soldiers, particularly the African-Americans, about how abusive the US is to its own citizens, or some other short segue about race in America. 

A lot more digital watches than Apocalypse Now, though.

It’s pretty easy to see why this is when you take a look at the film’s history. This movie was originally written for Oliver Stone to direct, I guess as a fourth entry in his Vietnam series, this one taking place long after the war was over. However, after Blackkklansman was released, the film was given to Spike Lee, who rewrote it to be about African-American soldiers during Vietnam. So, the initial bones likely didn’t have any of the civil rights messages that the final product had, which might be why they feel a little more tacked-on than scripts that Lee started himself. That doesn’t make the messages any less valid, and maybe the fact that they kind of interrupt the film makes them more impactful, but I admit that once you’re 60 minutes into a 150 minute movie, you don’t really want a cut-away. It may just be that I have a gap in my movie knowledge, but I think this might be the first Vietnam War film which is focused entirely on black soldiers. Given that over 7,000 black soldiers died in Vietnam, over 10% of the casualties, that absence is more than notable.

The movie is a nice blend of genres, too. Aside from the war movie elements, the film also includes a decent amount of comedy between the leads (to be expected from Lee and Kevin Willmott, writer of C.S.A. and co-writer of Blackkklansman) and a heavy dose of heist movie staples as the plot moves forward. As with many heist films, getting to the prize is only the first half, getting away with it is the real challenge. The movie pays homage to a number of other films, mostly classic war movies, in ways ranging from soundtrack to cinematography, but it also decides to subvert the tropes of those films by being less dramatic and more just plain brutal with its violence. 

Not that there isn’t plenty of drama in the film.

The performances are all amazing in this film, but I will have to say that Delroy Lindo seems to do a lot of the heavy lifting. He plays a black conservative, which already puts him at odds with his fellow Bloods, who has PTSD and a son that he barely talks to. The range of his character traits allows him to have emotional scenes that the others just don’t get. I will also say that, while his role is limited, Chadwick Boseman’s performance as Norman is unbelievably memorable. The cinematography highlights the beauty of Vietnam, but also shows us how devastating the war was to its people and geography. 

There are some touching moments, too.

Overall, this is a really well-done film. I may not put it up at the top of either Vietnam films or Spike Lee films, but it is definitely one of the best movies that has come out this year.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Hulu Review – Crossing Swords: The Dirtiest Show Invoking Fisher Price

The creators of Robot Chicken make a serial about the worst kingdom ever. 

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Patrick (Nicholas Hoult) is a peasant who wishes to become a knight in order to help people. His siblings, however, are all villains, including the grifter clown Blarney (Tony Hale), the thief Ruben (Adam Ray), and the pirate queen Coral (Tara Strong). Patrick manages to become a squire for King Merriman (Luke Evans) and Queen Tulip (Alanna Ubach), only to find out that they’re both horrible people and their daughter, Blossom (Maya Erskine) is not much better. There’s also the incompetent other squire Broth (Adam Pally) and the shady wizard Blinkerquartz (Seth Green). How does a guy become a good knight when the whole system is broken and corrupt?

This is the logo, but I still think it’s adorable.

END SUMMARY

So, before you watch this show, ask yourself: Did you ever want to see those Fisher Price Little People naked? Not just, like, without paint, but with drawn-on genitals. If so, then you have found your new happy place. Go and enjoy this new treat. If you answered no to that question, ask yourself how disturbed you were by someone even asking that? If you’re saying “very” then you probably aren’t going to like this show. However, if you’re not too disgusted by that, you may well like this show.

Also, hope you like a lot of awkward death.

The humor on this show is mostly based around a massive and fairly graphic subversion of the medieval chivalric ideal. Rather than the Arthurian Knights of the Round Table, everyone in the kingdom here is selfish and, honestly, pretty gross from the very beginning. The King and Queen are constantly cheating on each other, the squires frequently cheat to get ahead, and almost every episode points out that the ruling class pretty much constantly avoid doing anything decent for the poor. I will admit that sometimes that led me to chuckle, particularly when one of the King’s advisors reminds him that, without social safety nets or elections, the people’s only option is to revolt and murder him. Meanwhile, Patrick constantly brings attention to the shitty state of the lower-class.

Galahad never did as many kegstands.

The humor in the show is sophomoric, much like Robot Chicken, but it always has a level of inherent situational humor that comes from the fact that all of the characters are just painted pegs. They don’t have hands, so all of the objects they hold just appear to be floating in front of them, which sometimes creates a fun effect. There is a surprising amount of nudity, but an unsurprisingly large amount of swearing. Unlike many other series, though, they often do use the adult content for more than just shock value, which makes sense given that they’re just drawn-on genitals. The show is a serial, with the events of each of the episodes feeding into the next, and actually leading to a finale that is a culmination of most of the events of the season in a satisfying way. Still, each episode’s plot is usually pretty funny on its own.

I mean, he has water wings but no arms. Adorable.

Overall, I honestly thought this show was amusing and has just the right blend of commentary and comedy. 

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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Netflix Review – Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts (Season 2): It’s So Fluffy!

We find revelations and some fluffy mutants in this season.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)

It’s the future and humanity blew it. After we wrecked the environment, the surviving humans fled underground into “burrows.” Kipo Oak (Karen Fukuhara) was blown out of a burrow when it was attacked by a “mega-mute,” a building-sized mutant animal. Washed to the surface of the post-apocalyptic landscape, Kipo meets the fierce warrior girl Wolf (Sydney Mikayla), the mini mutant pig Mandu (Dee Bradley Baker), the friendly con-man Benson (Coy Stewart), and Benson’s mutant insect pal Dave (Deon Cole). Together, the group managed to return Kipo to her burrow and her father, Lio (Sterling K. Brown), only for him and the rest of the burrow to be kidnapped by the mutant mandrill dictator Scarlemagne (Dan Stevens). However, Kipo has started to develop some strange abilities that might make her the perfect person to save all of the humans.

These kids are alright.

END SUMMARY

When I reviewed the first season of this show, I said that it’s difficult for a show to be set in the post-apocalypse and not get super dark as more and more things are revealed. This season has proven that to be true, as things have gotten a bit darker due to the setting, but the show still overall remains positive. Just as before, the key is that Kipo, Benson, and even Wolf are extremely emotionally resilient. Yes, they get hurt and sometimes suffer a loss of faith, but they quickly fight through it in order to keep going. It helps that the world in which this show is set is a unique kind of charmingly horrifying. Sure, there are giant monsters that hate humans everywhere, but they’re also giant bunnies or frogs wearing suits, so it’s still somewhat goofy and amusing. I think the basic rule is that it’s very hard for something to be both fluffy and depressing.

Cats in plaid can’t be sad.

The show has struck a solid balance between doing relatively self-contained episodes and episodes that advance the overarching narrative, but this season it managed to set up things in some of the more isolated stories that paid off as part of the larger story. It really allows for the show to always feel like it’s progressing while still being able to do some solid world-building. The show is, after all, as much about the crazy world filled with axe-wielding lumberjack cats and mind-eating tardigrades as much as it is about Kipo. 

This season also managed to develop the supporting characters, not just by fleshing out their backstories, but by having them grow emotionally. Benson becomes a little more serious at times and Wolf manages to become a little more trusting and a little less uptight. Even Mandu, a non-verbal animal companion, gets some extra traits over the season.

And the villain gets a TON of development.

Overall, the show is doing a great job. It’s still cute, fun, creative, and entertaining.

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.

Netflix Op-Ed – Why Everyone Should Watch Avatar: The Last Airbender

Not to be confused with the terrible live action film. Or the other live action film with blue cat people.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony, each possessing some citizens who had the ability to control, or “bend,” their respective elements. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed and two children from the water tribe, Katara (Mae Whitman) and Sokka (Jack DeSena), discover a young boy trapped in an iceberg. It turns out that this boy is Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen), the most recent reincarnation of the Avatar. He was frozen for a century, during which time Fire Lord Ozai (Mark Hamill *Applause*), the new head of the fire nation, has been slowly attempting to dominate all four of the nations, having wiped out all of the Air Nomads, the benders of the Air nation, except for Aang. Together, the three set off to try and save the world. They are pursued by the Fire Prince Zuko (Dante “Rufio” Basco) and his sweet-hearted uncle, Iroh (Mako *May He Reign Forever*), as they journey through the water, earth, and fire nations. They are eventually joined by the blind Earthbender Toph Beifong (Jessie Flower) and opposed further by Zuko’s sister Azula (Grey DeLisle).

Also, they have Appa, the flying bison, and Momo, the winged lemur. They fly and are cute.

END SUMMARY

While I always have a soft spot for Disney and have to admire the number of good series that they have put forth over the years, including now, they have sometimes played it too safe. Even during the 80s and 90s, when Disney shows dominated the afternoon cartoon lineup, most of them were, in retrospect, pretty formulaic, from the stories to the characters to the art style. There were exceptions, of course, like Gargoyles, but for the most part they all kind of looked the same and felt the same. You could tell they all were cut from the same cloth. Then there was Nickelodeon, who due to starting out by importing cartoons from multiple different cultures, decided to take things in another direction with Nicktoons. If you can remember this far back, think about the fact that the same studio made the gross and shocking Ren and Stimpy, the slice-of-life Doug, the surprisingly lovable Rugrats, the brilliant and dark Invader Zim, and the zany Angry Beavers. If I’ve missed one of your favorites, sorry, but my point is that all of those shows were massively different, from tone to art style to audience, but Nickelodeon was willing to give them a chance. Avatar was no different, in that it was completely different.

Just saying, variety is the spice of life.

Taking inspiration from anime for its art style and Wuxia martial arts films for its fighting sequences, Avatar forged a world that was simultaneously easy to understand and yet so complex that it kept you wanting to know more about it. Part of that was that it always blended together different storytelling elements and artistic styles while still celebrating and honoring what made each of the originals great. Each of the four nations was inspired by a real life culture, with the Water Tribes being based on Arctic tribes, like the Inuits, the Earth kingdom being based on Imperial China, and the Air Nomads being monks based on Tibetan or Shaolin Monks. The Fire Nation’s a little harder to nail down, but I think that’s because as a conquering empire, they’ve blended a ton of cultures together. Despite the fact that characters from each of these nations work together towards a common goal, their cultures are always respected and honored for their own unique traits. Given that the central villain in the series is an empire trying to destroy everyone that isn’t them, it’s safe to say that the concept of respecting other people’s heritage was going to be a central theme of the show, despite how much of a minefield that can be.

Also, everyone loves tea. It’s universal.

Part of what makes me love Avatar was that as the show went on, it stopped trying to give definitive, easy answers to issues. For example, a character seeks revenge on the person who killed their mother, but finds out that the murderer is just a pathetic coward. They decide not to kill the murderer, because he’s not worth it, but also refuse to ever forgive him. And that’s just where it stays. Sometimes you can’t force yourself to forgive someone. You can stop letting that pain dictate your actions, but that doesn’t mean that you have to pretend that things can ever be right. That’s not a typical message for a show like this and the show is filled with them. There are messages about overzealous dedication to a cause, dealing with abuse, nationalism, and a major one about propaganda. Also one about coping with your girlfriend becoming the moon, but that’s not super common.

There’s the obligatory environmental episode, of course.

Rather than ever start to devolve into simpler, Flanderized versions of their characters, Avatar constantly kept building more and more complexity into them. They actually keep growing to the point that in the third season, towards the end of the show, there is an episode that lampoons how much more basic they were at the beginning. To that end, I do have to warn you that some of the earlier Avatar episodes are a little weak. Honestly, I don’t think the show gets going until episode 12, “The Storm,” and that is a long time to wait. I can’t even tell you to skip them (aside from “The Great Divide,” which everyone should skip) because they all set up for stuff that pays off later. However, it is absolutely worth a little bit of boredom to eventually find out what this show grows into. 

It’s on Netflix right now, at least for a little while, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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.

Reader Request – Cool World: Too Inane To Hate

A family member requested that I review this, or I never would watch this again.

SUMMARY

In 1945, WWII Vet Frank Harris (Brad Pitt) arrives back from the war and takes his mother (Janni Brenn-Lowen) for a ride on a motorcycle. He crashes, killing his mother, but before he dies he is transported to an animated world called the “Cool World,” by Dr. Vincent Whiskers (Maurice LaMarche). The movie then jumps to 1992 where cartoonist Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne) is in prison for murdering a man who was sleeping with his wife. Jack is a creator and illustrator of a comic strip which is also called “Cool World,” starring a femme fatale named Holli Would (Kim Basinger). He frequently has visions of himself going to Cool World, culminating in Holli pulling him into the world through the pages of his comic. Jack is confronted by Frank, who is now apparently Cool World law enforcement. There is only one rule in Cool World, and that’s that “noids” (humans) don’t have sex with “doodles” (animated characters). This puts a strain on Frank’s relationship with his girlfriend Lonette (Candi Milo).

So much LSD went into this scene.

Despite Jack believing he created Cool World, Frank tells Jack that Cool World is older than Jack is. Holli Would is one of the most powerful figures in Cool World, but she wants out. The only way to get out is to break the law and have sex with a human, so she seduces Jack and is turned into a real person. She and Jack head to the real world, where it’s revealed that they’re both now part doodle and part noid. Holli tells Jack about the “spike of power,” an object that controls the barrier between the two worlds which is now atop a Vegas casino. When Jack doubts the story of the spike, Holli abandons him. 

Kim Basinger somehow underplays a live-action 2-D character.

Frank follows the pair into the real world and tries to stop Holli, who kills him. Holli seizes the spike and the barrier between Cool World and the real world start breaking down, unleashing doodles into the real world. Jack turns himself into a cartoon superhero and returns the spike, restoring the worlds and sending Jack and Holli back to Cool World as doodles. Frank is apparently turned into a doodle because he was killed by a doodle, so he can finally date Lonette. 

END SUMMARY

As much as I would love to tell you all how much I despise this ridiculous, nonsensical, bordering on pointless film, I can’t. It’s so difficult to figure out what the film was going for and what part of the process tanked it that I can’t bring myself to be angry, only confused and annoyed at having to watch it. 

Angry and confused is a common emotion in this film.

This movie has a notoriously bad production history with a huge number of rumors arising about the various people involved. A big part of that is that director Ralph Bakshi is, at best, very eccentric and, at worst, bordering on delusional. He has produced some of the most distinct animated work of the past century, including Wizards, Fritz the Cat, American Pop, and Heavy Traffic (possibly his best film that doesn’t get enough recognition). If you’ve seen any of those movies, though, you know they’re not the product of a well mind. While he is the guy who was right about the possibility of making a film based around elves discovering Nazi propaganda, he’s also the kind of guy who would think of that premise in the first place. Putting him in charge of any project is playing with fire, but in this case, everyone at the studio apparently decided to pour gasoline for good measure. 

Admit it, he looks like the crazy uncle who shows up for Thanksgiving.

The original pitch for the movie by writers Michael Grais and Mark Victor (who wrote Poltergeist) was about an imprisoned artist who creates a comic series that makes him an underground comics star. He then has sex with one of his creations and spawns a half-animated, half-human child, who grows up to seek revenge on his parents. It was supposed to be a hard-R horror film that was in the vein of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which had only just come out. Rather than just animation and live-action blending, Bakshi decided that he wanted the film to look like a living painting, ordering elaborate sets and backgrounds to be built for the movie while he worked on the screenplay, which the studio now wanted to be PG-13. However, and the following is based solely on Bakshi’s statements and unconfirmed, apparently on the first day of filming he was handed a script that was completely different than what he had worked on. Subsequently, in the middle of filming, Kim Basinger tried to have the movie re-written to be a PG film so that she could show it to kids, but Bakshi refused to tone it down further. While almost everything Bakshi has claimed is heavily disputed, it would explain a lot about this movie if it was being crafted by a number of sources fighting against each other. 

The backgrounds are often amazing. Look at those paintings. Many of them were real.

Everything about this movie is a giant mess, almost all of which seems to be because nobody could agree on what the plot was supposed to be, what the rules of the world are, or whether or not the audience should be able to follow it. Half the time it feels like the movie just starts pulling stuff out of its ass because time is running out, the other half it feels like the entire point was that someone wanted Jessica Rabbit to ride Gabriel Byrne like a 10 dollar stud. We don’t know exactly how people get in or out of Cool World, except for Frank being pulled in by the spike, we don’t know any character’s motivations except for Holli wanting to orgasm her way into reality, and we have no idea what the hell the spike is or why it apparently needs to be stuck in the top of a building in Vegas. Every time we’re given a hint about any of these things, like that people have been pulled in by Holli before Jack, they just raise even more questions. 

Also, she says she doesn’t “feel real,” so… is she like an animation cell?

Then there’s the Cool World itself, which either looks like a really well done painting, a great animated setting, or a shitty last-second sketch by a Senior who got drunk and forgot his final project is due. There’s a statement from some of the background animators on the film that they weren’t actually given a screenplay, they were just told to draw stuff that seemed funny, which explains why there are constantly random things happening in the background. Now, the idea of a cartoon world that obeys the rules of crazy old-school animation like Betty Boop, where everything is moving or alive or just defying all reason would be kind of neat, but the film never does anything with it. It’s even more annoying because the Cool World is described as a place where there are no rules, aside from the one rule, so it should be dirty, crazy, and filled with murder and perversion. That sounds closer to what Bakshi originally said he wanted, and that might at least have been entertaining in its audacity. Instead, it feels like what an 11 year old boy thought was the ultimate in adult stuff before the internet existed: There’s a hot lady with boobs and a bunch of swears and sex involves her bouncing on you while you’re both fully clothed.

I mean, random background sex cats. Which would be a good band name.

Then there’s the third act, where everything somehow becomes even more incoherent. Brad Pitt’s character is killed off in a tragically bad stunt for no reason, Gabrielle Byrne suddenly literally gets kicked out of the movie to become an animated character voiced by someone else, and Holli decides to help destroy the barrier between the worlds, something that is completely different than anything she wanted before. Even for a movie with tragically stupid character motives, everything just seems to randomly shift to a completely different movie so that they can just end it, which, honestly, was probably what everyone making the movie felt about the situation by that point. 

Also, killing a human makes them a toon, so… why didn’t she kill him before now?

Despite all of the crap, the movie does have some good points. Some of the animation in the film is actually really great. Some of the concepts in the movie are interesting enough that they should actually get a movie. The soundtrack is actually really great, including having an original song by David Freaking Bowie. The voices for the animated characters include some great voice actors like Maurice LaMarche and Charlie Adler, all of whom do good work. However, this is looking for a nugget of gold in a shallow river of trash. 

David Bowie, I miss you.

Overall, I can’t say that I hate this movie, because I think I would have to feel more about it to even get to that point. The weird thing is that I think everyone should actually watch it just to get an idea of what it looks like when a movie has so much potential and then squanders it spectacularly. Unfortunately, it is not free on any f*cking streaming service, so you’ll have to rent it.

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.

Futurama Fridays – S6E15 “Möbius Dick”

It’s time to hunt the deadliest game: Space Whale. Why do people think it’s Man? 

SUMMARY

Professor Farnsworth (Billy West) is celebrating the anniversary of the loss of his first crew, aside from Zoidberg (West), who doesn’t remember what happened to them. He orders the current crew to pick up their memorial statue. Due to Leela (Katey Sagal) noticing a grammatical error, the job takes longer than expected and requires the crew to fly back via the Bermuda Tetrahedron, the very same place that the first crew was lost. They find the wreckage of the first Planet Express ship and inspect it, only to find out that a giant space whale ate it. The crew is attacked by the whale, which eats one of their engines and then the statue they were delivering. Leela resolves to kill the whale. She orders the crew to use “Solar Sails” to propel the ship and starts trying to hunt down the whale using 19th Century techniques. Amy (Lauren Tom) becomes the harpooner and Bender (John DiMaggio) mans the crow’s nest. 

Just remember, space actually does have giant diamonds. Maybe fund it?

During a “spaceberg” storm, Bender gets injured trying to catch one of the “bergs,” which turn out to be giant diamonds. Leela refuses to save him, leading the crew to mutiny against her increasing insanity. While they try to perform a rescue, the whale returns and swallows Fry, Bender, Hermes (Phil LaMarr), and Amy. Leela attempts to kill the whale with a cheese knife, but gets swallowed. Zoidberg escapes back to Earth. Inside the whale, Leela meets the former captain, Lando Tucker (David Herman), and is told that the whale feeds on obsession, the kind that is found within spaceship captains. Having mostly drained Lando, it will now eat Leela. However, after Leela gets absorbed into the whale, she pilots it back to Earth, having overpowered it with her obsession. The crowd kills the whale and all of the whale’s victims reunite with their loved ones.

The whale has a scar because it looks cool. Otherwise, it would heal it.

END SUMMARY

This episode should be terrible, since it’s just a space parody of Moby Dick, a book that is famously difficult to adapt to film. However, they actually put enough effort into keeping it humorous that it ended up working out, and even played with the themes of revenge and obsession in an interesting way. Rather than having her obsession consume her at the end of the story, Leela’s obsession with doing her job is actually what saves the day. She then admits that her revenge against the whale was what made it a monster… only to change her mind and have people kill it out of revenge. Having Leela go crazy like this is actually pretty solidly within her character, so unlike many other parody episodes, this worked out organically.

She often seems like she wants to call the crew “space dogs.”

I love the concept of the 4-D space whale. It exists outside of our concept of reality, seemingly moving through time and space at will, but only emerging into 3-D space in order to hunt and, apparently, breathe in vacuum. While that may seem like an insane concept, if the whale were to exist outside of time, then normal cause and effect would not apply to its biology. Rather than filling its lungs with air, it always has air in its lungs and has to find a way to exhale while static in time. “Inhaling vacuum” might somehow also explain how it can accelerate through space. 

Also, it’s immune to cheese knives.

Overall, I like this episode pretty well. It’s a fun diversion that has no real impact on anything else in the series.

FAVORITE JOKE

It’s a countdown:

3) I love that Inez Wong says “My days of joy and luck are over, guess I gotta quit that club.” This is a reference to the Joy Luck Club, a book whose movie adaptation featured Inez Wong’s actress Lauren Tom. Just a fun line.

I think Amy’s first name comes from this.

2) The Tom Baker version of the Doctor from Doctor Who emerges from the space whale. Given that the Doctor is also a time-traveler via the TARDIS, it makes sense that the whale might be the only thing that can attack the TARDIS in flight. Later, Doctor Who actually had an episode with a space whale, so that’s a fun bonus.

I once saw him play first base.

1) The title of the episode, Mobius Dick. It combines Moby Dick with the mobius strip, a non-orientable surface. It’s such a funny term that it was my nickname in Mu Alpha Theta mathletics in high school. I have so many regrets. 

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 90: The Silence of the Clamps

NEXT – Episode 92: Law and Oracle

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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Hulu Review – The Day Shall Come: A Solid Work of Satire

The director of Four Lions brings us a story of law enforcement framing a group of people for their own gain.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Moses Al Shabazz (Marchánt Davis) is the leader of a small commune in Miami called the Star of Six. He has a wife, Venus (Danielle “Taystee” Brooks), a daughter, Rosa (Calah Lane), and two followers X (Malcolm Mays) and Afrika (Andrel McPherson). Moses is depicted as being mentally ill and off of his anti-psychotic meds, leading his commune in worshipping Allah, Black Santa, and Toussaint Louverture. Despite his claims of wanting to overthrow the entrenched white powers, Moses strongly opposes any firearms. FBI Agent Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick) sees Moses during a live-stream and decides to use him as a patsy. She intends to bait him into dealing with Reza (Kayvan Novak), a pedophile shopkeeper that the FBI uses to act as a fake terrorist go-between, so that she can claim Moses is engaged in revolutionary terrorist activities to advance her career. 

He’s on a horse.

END SUMMARY

If you’re not familiar with the writer/director of this film and Four Lions, Chris Morris, he’s a British satirist who appeared in the first season of The IT Crowd and directed some of the comedy Veep. He’s notable for his off-kilter humor and dark satire. This film is no exception to that legacy. I consider it to be in the same vein as Sorry to Bother You, although that movie is much more surreal. If you don’t like that kind of humor, you will not like this film at all.

This is probably his most famous role.

The key to this movie is how well Davis plays the lead. He is an active revolutionary who, ultimately, just wants to help everyone more than just glorify himself. When negotiating with what he thinks are terrorists, Moses only asks for farm equipment and a horse, because he thinks those will ultimately be more helpful to his cause than guns. Despite the fact that he is definitely insane, Moses is not a threat. In fact, he’s unquestionably more moral than all of the members of the FBI who deal with him. While his psychosis is the thing that makes him have difficulties getting support or keeping his farm active, it’s also what drives him to try to fight against oppression in the first place. If Davis hadn’t done such a great job walking the line in his portrayal, this could have come off with the exact opposite message that the film was going for. 

It’s tough to have us laugh at a tragic character while sympathizing with a comic one.

That’s not to say that the supporting cast aren’t equally important. Many of the best actual “joke” sequences arise from watching Afrika and X try to work under the strange and sometimes conflicting orders of their leader. I also have to give credit to the delivery of all of the FBI agents in the film, because it’s hard to put so much fake gravitas into the absurd things they’re saying. Danielle Brooks is also hilarious as the long-suffering wife of a man with such insane ambitions. 

I mean, at least they work for a guy with a horse.

The downside to the film is that it never quite goes as extreme as it probably should for a satire, although I think that’s because Chris Morris wanted to keep it realistic enough to draw comparisons from potential COINTELPRO actions and the like. It also definitely isn’t as quotable as most satires are. 

Overall, I recommend it for people that have a dark sense of humor. The ending is one of the best parts, so make sure to stick with it.

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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CW / DC Universe Review – Stargirl: Luke Wilson in a Giant Robot

No, seriously, Luke Wilson in a GIANT ROBOT.

SUMMARY 

LUKE WILSON IN A GIANT ROBOT!!!
Okay, wait, give me a second. …Alright, I’m calm. 

Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger) is a sophomore in high school who has just moved with her family to the seemingly innocent small town of Blue Valley. Naturally, she quickly becomes a social outcast for standing up to bully Henry King, Jr. (Jake Austin Walker), resulting in her sitting at the “losers” table with delinquent Rick Tyler (Cameron Gellman), nerd Beth Chapel (Anjelika Washington), and former popular girl Yolanda Montez (Yvette Monreal). However, she finds a strange glowing staff in a box in her basement which gives her superpowers. It turns out that her stepfather, Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson inagiantrobot), was the former sidekick to superhero Starman (Joel McHale) and the only surviving member of the Justice Society of America. It turns out that Blue Valley is under the control of the Injustice Society of America, run by Icicle (Neil Jackson), Brainwave (Christopher James Baker), Sportsmaster (Neil Hopkins), Gambler (Eric Goins), Dragon King (Nelson Lee), Wizard (Joe Knezevich), and Solomon Grundy. Courtney decides to take up the fight as Stargirl and Pat guards her by fighting in a giant robot. 

If you hate her outfit, you hate America.

END SUMMARY

I have no idea why I love the idea of a giant robot speaking like Luke Wilson, but I’m gonna say that it amused me to an obviously unhealthy degree. Beyond that, this show just surprised me with how much I enjoyed it in general. Yes, it’s filled with basically every superhero trope and every high school show trope at the same time, but somehow it manages to play them together in a distinct and interesting way. Since the show airs on the CW the day after it premieres on DC Universe, it was never going to be able to try and be the “edgy, adult” show that Titans wants to be (or that Swamp Thing actually was). However, since it’s airing on DC Universe, it didn’t have to focus on getting an audience quickly in order to stay on television. These factors seemed to combine in a way where the show spent a lot of its first two episodes trying to set up a large number of threads for the future, something I previously praised The Flash pilot for doing. In this case, the show opens 10 years in the past, showing what happened to the previous Justice Society of America, as well as showing how interconnected the high school and superhero plotlines are going to be, since several of the supervillains have kids around Courtney’s age. Actually, now that I type that out, that means that almost all of the supervillains had kids between the ages of 4 and 8 when they took over the city of Blue Valley. I would love for the show to go deeper into how the hell parenting worked as a wanted supervillain, which they might, since we’re only on episode 4.

Yes, it has Rocket Fists.

A big part of the show’s success is definitely Wilson and Bassinger. Despite the fact that we’ve seen two different versions of the character on Smallville and Legends of Tomorrow, Bassinger’s take on a new and inexperienced Stargirl is distinct. Her performance captures the combination of fear and excitement that someone would feel if they suddenly found themselves in possession of superpowers. There are some corny comic moments, but a lot of it comes off as sincere, including her fear when actually dealing with a supervillain. Wilson, meanwhile, is a combination of awkward sidekick (he’s always been older than the superhero he aids) and awkward stepdad (yes, they do the “you’re not my real dad” thing). It’s important that they maintain strong presences given the extremely large supporting cast that the show has introduced. I can only assume that we’re going to start getting more episodes focused on other characters soon, which will make some consistent, strong characters even more important. 

The marketing might be spoiling stuff a bit.

Overall, I really think this show has a lot of potential. Give it a try on the CW. 

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.

Netflix Review – The Last Days of American Crime: The Length is Criminal

Well, they could not have timed this film worse, on many levels.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s sometime in the future and Bricke (Édgar Ramírez) is a career thief. Unfortunately for him, the US is rolling out the American Peace Initiative (API), a device that sends out a signal that makes it fundamentally impossible for people to do things that are illegal. Bricke is recruited by Kevin Cash (Michael Pitt), the son of a major crime family, to help his hacker girlfriend Shelby Dupree (Anna Brewster) find out where the government is liquidating a ton of currency in preparation for a transfer to digital commerce and steal a billion dollars. They then plan on fleeing to Canada right before the API goes live so that they can spend the money, because spending stolen goods is, itself, a crime that the API prevents. Meanwhile, William Sawyer (Sharlto Copley), a policeman in the last days of police, is trying to deal with the changing of Law Enforcement and trying to make up for some mistakes. 

Ah yes, you can tell he’s a criminal because he’s meticulously coiffed.

END SUMMARY

F*cking hell, this movie is a waste of potential. I’m not sure I really should have expected better from a director who mostly specializes in taking franchises on after they’re already successful (Transporter 3, Taken 2, Taken 3), but I feel like Olivier Megaton (cool name, though) just did not know how to craft a story. I also think he didn’t have anyone telling him “no” enough on set. 

Like, maybe don’t introduce your female lead with dirty bathroom sex.

This movie is 149 minutes. To put that in perspective, you can watch the original Frankenstein twice and make a drink. What We Do In the Shadows is an hour shorter. The Dark Knight is roughly the same length and has like… I dunno… 7 acts in it? This movie is way too long, is my point. You’d think that in 149 minutes there would be enough time to play with the, admittedly really interesting, premise… but no, not really. There’s not a lot of debate about the morality of forcing people to obey, nor any real consideration of why people are okay with this in America, or even what the hell happened that made this seem necessary. I’d even take a joke about the fact that having politicians subject to a wave that makes illegal conduct impossible would mean there’s no chance in hell this passed Congress. Bribery would, presumably, be covered in the no-no list (although wage theft, being civil, would still be kosher). Instead, the movie really just uses the API for a few scenes in which the police use it on targets and to give the movie a ticking clock. 

Are you telling me the gun industry was okay with this?

You’d think a lack of exploration would mean that the film focused on character development or plot, but you would be wrong. Bricke has two facial expressions and they both suck. Rather than worry about things like explaining the heist or having developed characters, the movie instead decides to try to have a large number of action set pieces… that are unbelievably generic and forgettable. At least Extraction went big and bold with its action sequences, but this film just kind of forgets to push any particular envelope.

There’s a lot of just firing guns while screaming.

Another big problem with this movie is that they released it during a wide-scale protest about police violence and the film contains a number of instances of police violence, including a scene in which guards use API to disable a criminal and then beat him to death as he lies there helpless. 

This… I’m just not touching this one.

Really the only thing that stands out in the film is Michael Pitt’s performance, because he DOES go all out at points, just being a complete and utter sociopath at times. However, that really just drives home how painfully uninteresting and bland the rest of the characters are. 

At least he’s trying.

Overall, I can’t recommend this one. If it was 60 minutes shorter, it might have been tolerable, but it isn’t. 

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.

Amazon Review – Just Mercy: The Title Says It All

Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan star in this true story about a wrongful conviction.

SUMMARY (Spoilers, but not really, cuz true)

In 1989, Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a Harvard lawyer, travels to Alabama to head up the Southern Center for Human Rights, an organization dedicated to defend Death-Penalty cases and appeals.  This later became the non-profit Equal Justice Initiative (after Congress decided to cut funding for Death-Penalty resources). Together with Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), Bryan takes up a number of cases, including that of Walter “Johnny D.” McMillian (Jamie Foxx). Stevenson quickly begins to believe that McMillian, who was convicted of the murder of a white woman named Ronda Morrison, was innocent of the charges and had been used as a scapegoat by local law enforcement. Despite having a number of witnesses that McMillian was present at a public event at the time of the murder, the new prosecutor Tommy Chapman (Rafe Spall) refuses to look into the case and the court refuses to grant a new trial even after Stevenson gets the State’s primary witness, Ralph Myers (Tim Blake Nelson), to recant. It takes many years and multiple appeals, but eventually Stevenson is able to free McMillian. 

Just Mercy' moving and inspiring, even as it follows a formula ...
There are some rough times in the process.

END SUMMARY

In response to the recent (as of this writing) protests arising from the death of George Floyd, Amazon has removed the rental cost on a number of films, including this one. I recommend taking advantage of this, because the movies on the list are great. I selected this one, however, because I’m an attorney in the South. I’ve never witnessed any civil rights violation as bad as the ones alleged in this film (or in the events which form its basis), but I still have been around long enough to know that there are gross inequalities between states, counties, or even different judges, and that race, gender, or sexuality can massively amplify those inequalities. As events in the past… well, history of America, but also the last few weeks, have reminded us, racism is still an issue in this country. In fact, I had a disturbing realization during this movie that all of the events depicted are within my lifetime, including the revelation that another wrongful conviction took 28 years to reverse. 

Just Mercy': Michael B. Jordan on that harrowing execution scene
They also show one person that was guilty, but probably shouldn’t have been executed.

The strength of this movie, naturally, is in its performances. The leads are all unbelievably charismatic and believable, from Michael B. Jordan’s optimistic but not really naive portrayal of Stevenson to Foxx’s portrayal of a disillusioned and broken man to Tim Blake Nelson as a career criminal trying to do just one good thing. 

Who Is Eva Ansley, Brie Larson's Character In 'Just Mercy?' | True ...
They underused Brie Larson, though.

The plot of the movie is pretty standard for how courtroom dramas like these always play out. If you’ve seen Gideon’s Trumpet or The Hurricane, then you have seen this film before. In any story that’s based on a real life case, you can probably guess from the beginning that the end of the film is going to have someone getting exonerated. It would probably be a bummer to tell the story of a person who was executed and then later proven innocent (which has definitely happened), so the movie naturally picked a case with a “happy” ending. Unfortunately, that same logic is one of the weaknesses of the film, because it tries to portray most of what happened to McMillian as being a matter of figurative and literal black-and-white. 

Just Mercy accuracy: Fact vs. fiction in the Michael B. Jordan ...
Tim Blake Nelson absolutely nailed the real guy.

That’s not to say that there weren’t a number of extra culpable people in his case, there absolutely were, but the film only touches on the fact that almost all of the people responsible were not only elected, but continued to be elected after the charges against McMillian were dropped. While Jordan does deliver a short monologue on how a rural Southern jury might perceive McMillian (even in 1989), the fact is that any number of people might have wanted to speak out against this, but the entire community would have been at their throats for doing so. Hell, the prosecutor and Sheriff were both basically threatened by the voters if they didn’t have someone convicted for the murder. Racism isn’t just ten bad people in power, it’s the hundred bad people who want those ten people in power, but aren’t willing to do the dirty deeds themselves. The movie also shies away from emphasizing the fact that the media had long condemned McMillian from the moment he got arrested, a reminder that journalists can often contribute to injustice as much as they can fight against it. However, the movie DID go further into it than many other films, so I will still give it credit.

From the 60 Minutes archives: The true story behind “Just Mercy ...
Instead, they just say 60 Minutes freed him.

Honestly, this is still a really well-done film, even if it’s pretty formulaic by necessity. I think it also goes into some issues with the legal system that people should be aware are not just remnants of the 50s or 60s, but are still problems in the modern day. Hell, the Alabama rule that allowed a judge to overrule a jury and impose a one-sided Death Penalty, as happened in this case with Judge Robert E. Lee Key, Jr. (yes, that name is real), was only eliminated in 2017. This kind of regional or local inequality still exists. There’s a county line near me where on one side, possession of marijuana resulted in a dropped case for some community service, on the other side, possession was ten days jail (until Florida accidentally made it impossible to prosecute cannabis cases last year). 

County Line Movie | Official Site
Yes, I said cannabis is accidentally “legal” in Florida. Kinda.

I try not to get too political on this blog, but right now is a great time to watch a film based on real, and recent, events and get a picture of how our country has been in recent years and to realize that some problems are not just coming out of nowhere. There aren’t going to be a lot of easy solutions, and anything is going to take time, but the first step is to acknowledge there’s a problem. If you watch this movie, or read up on the case that it’s focused on, then it becomes really hard to claim that there aren’t issues in the country. Please, do yourself a favor, check it out.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.