Invincible: A Solid Adaptation of a Great Comic – Amazon Prime Review

The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman’s teen hero comes to the small screen.

SUMMARY

Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) is the son of realtor Debbie Grayson (Sandra Oh) and writer Nolan Grayson (J.K. Simmons). Oh, and Nolan is actually Omni-Man, the world’s greatest superhero. Before his 18th birthday, Mark finally gets his superpowers and adopts the superhero moniker of Invincible. Now armed with flight, superstrength, superspeed, and the ability to make bad jokes mid-fight, Mark tries to live up to his father’s example. He works with the Teen Team, a group comprised of the Robot (Zachary Quinto), Atom Eve (Gillian Jacobs), Rex Splode (Jason Mantzoukas), and Dupli-Kate (Malese Jow). Shortly after this, the Guardians of the Globe, the most powerful superteam on the planet, are killed, leading the world to need the Teen Team and Invincible to start picking up the slack, as new threats seem to be constantly on the rise.

He doesn’t fly super well, but he tries hard.

END SUMMARY

I loved the Invincible comic, as it was a story in which the main character dealt with real problems, hero problems, and the intersection between what a superhero is supposed to do and what would actually help people. Mark grows a lot over the series in believable ways that sometimes reflect his loss of idealism and often demonstrate that this loss allows him to evolve his sense of right and wrong without being broken by the weight of trying to take on the world’s problems. Also, the writing was pretty funny. Naturally, when I heard it was getting an animated adaptation, I was very excited, but also concerned. Invincible, while it was well-done and liked by many comic fans, didn’t have a lot of mainstream success. Typically, this means two things can happen in an adaptation: Either they’ll change everything (hoping the new version gets more attention) or they’ll just adapt it as closely as possible (since not enough people know what’s going to happen for it to matter). 

The trailers included some iconic comic scenes, making me think the latter.

Fortunately, this show seems to be eschewing both of those and giving a mostly-faithful adaptation with enough differences that comic fans will not be sure where it’s going. The story is mostly the same as the comics, so far, dealing with Mark trying to come to terms with being a superhero and also being a teenager. His insecurities about living up to his father’s example are a bit more exaggerated in the show, but that will likely change a bit during this season. There’s a mystery angle going on in the series that didn’t really happen in the comics and I’m excited to see if they play it out the same.

Whatever gives us more Omni-Man.

The voice cast in this show is as good as it gets, possibly rivaled only by DuckTales (woo-oo). Steven Yeun gives a ton of extra personality to Mark and J.K. Simmons as Superman with a mustache is nothing short of awesome. The supporting cast of the Teen Team has a ton of talent, and their expanded roster includes veteran voice actors Grey Griffin and Khary Payton. Walton Goggins plays the uptight and slightly shady head of the Global Defense Agency, Zazie Beetz plays Mark’s love interest Amber, and there are too many other great cameos and recurring performances to count, including Mahershala Ali, Clancy Brown, and Mark Hamill (Applause). 

Clancy Brown voices a demon detective. Perfect.

Overall, give this show a shot if you like solid superhero stories. I can’t wait for it to keep going.

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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Sound of Metal: You Have to Lose to Find – Amazon Prime Review

A drummer who starts to go deaf tries to move forward with his life.

SUMMARY

Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed) is a drummer in a heavy metal duo, Blackgammon, with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke). They live in an RV and travel the country playing together, but Ruben suddenly seems to lose his hearing. When he’s diagnosed, it’s revealed that he can only hear 20-30% of the words that are spoken to him. He is told about cochlear implants, but they are prohibitively expensive and not covered by his insurance. Putting even more pressure on the situation, Ruben is a recovering heroin addict. Lou, upon finding out, helps Ruben get into a shelter which is run by a deaf recovering alcoholic named Joe (Paul Raci). Joe informs Lou that only Ruben will be allowed to stay there, and proceeds to start helping Ruben learn how to be deaf, including learning ASL under a teacher named Diane (Lauren Ridloff). However, it’s not so easy to get over the life you once had.

He’s very focused, as you might guess.

END SUMMARY

I honestly hesitated a little bit in reviewing this movie. Not that it isn’t a good film, in fact it’s fantastic, but this film features a controversy which I don’t seem to fully understand (mostly because I’m not deaf). This movie brings that conflict to the forefront, and it’s whether or not cochlear implants are an affront to deaf culture. In the film, much like in real life, cochlear implants are viewed by many deaf people as a way of destroying their culture and treating deafness as a handicap. I’m going to try to avoid weighing in on that too much beyond saying that it is an issue that the film addresses.

Pictured: Controversy.

There are really two central reasons that this film succeeds: Great sound editing and Riz Ahmed. As to the former, this is some of the best sound work that I’ve heard since A Quiet Place (which, notably, did NOT win the Oscar). The film has to convey what Ruben is going through, which is not quite deafness in the way that many movies portray it (where everything is just silent). If you’ve seen the horror movie Hush, for example, the film goes completely silent when scenes are portrayed from the protagonist’s P.O.V. Sound of Metal instead has to portray everything as muted, but not consistently so, because Ruben’s ears are not equally damaged. This would be an amazing film to watch in a theater, but, of course, this year is not the time for that. If you’ve got surround sound, though, this is the time to use it. As to Riz Ahmed, he just nails it. He has to play a person who is going through a massive life change which affects everything and, somehow, he always seems believable. He’s scared, he’s curious, he’s worried that he’s going to be tempted back into drugs, and he’s always feeling like he’s lost something. 

His scenes with the deaf kids are amazing.

The major supporting character of the movie is Paul Raci as Joe. Raci, who apparently was born to deaf parents and thus has about as much understanding for deaf culture as a hearing person can, constantly comes off as trying to touch Ruben’s heart in an attempt to make him feel whole. He’s not trying to tell him to get over it, nor even to accept it, he’s just trying to tell him to exist as he is. It’s amazing that he can do this while also appearing to be the kind of badass that would have punched his way through Vietnam if the Army hadn’t given him a gun. He takes no shit, but he gives a lot of affection and understanding.

The face kinda sums it up.

Overall, this is a great film and I really recommend 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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The Goes Wrong Show: Unbelievably Funny and Creative – Amazon Prime Review

A British Comedy theater company brings us a hilarious concept that somehow doesn’t get old.

SUMMARY

Welcome to Play of the Week, a program in which the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society attempts to put on an original play every week and broadcast it live to the whole of the UK. The troupe is led by director Chris Dean (Henry Shields), and includes the “great” actors Robert Groves (Henry Lewis), Dennis Tyde (Jonathan Sayer), Max Bennett (Dave Hearn), Sandra Wilkinson (Charlie Russell), Vanessa Wilcock-Wynn-Carroway (Bryony Corrigan), Annie Twilloil (Nancy Zamit), Trevor Watson (Chris Leask), Jonathan Harris (Greg Tannahill), and a studio audience who is apparently having a great time. Unfortunately, it seems that the members are never quite able to get all of their ducks in a row. The actors forget lines, the stages are improperly built, and, occasionally, someone gets arrested for petty crimes. 

They’re a talented bunch.

END SUMMARY

Back in 2015, when the world was so very different, the “Mischief Theater” debuted “The Play That Goes Wrong,” in which a troupe attempts to debut a The Mousetrap-style mystery play that, as you would guess from the title, goes completely off-the-rails. It was apparently a hit, because the people behind it were given this show in which they have to do exactly the same thing, over and over again, without it getting stale. Sure, you may think that doesn’t sound that difficult, but how many ways do you really think a play can “go wrong?” Saying the wrong lines or missing cues can only be surprising so many times. Unbelievably, this show manages to keep coming up with refreshing, original, and genuinely hilarious every episode. Granted, there are only 6 episodes at present, but even that is damned impressive.

Sometimes there’s fire.

Part of the reason the show works is that the cast are phenomenal. It takes a lot of talent to act, believably, like someone with no talent, and most of the cast have to not only do that, but to do that in different ways every time. Additionally, the physical stunts on this show sometimes border on the insane. Characters will fall off of the second story regularly, a thing that looks much more impressive when you see the insane buildup. They also will routinely get knocked around by other cast members (on purpose or on accident), get shoved through walls, and get catapulted across the stage. The fact that they’re recording this in front of a studio audience makes it even more impressive. 

Sometimes it’s a hair issue… or something more.

Another solid trait is that each episode has some sort of “prompt,” which has nothing to do with the theme of the play. For example, they need to stretch for time so they are adding words to the script. Each of these prompts means that there’s already something that is “off” about the play, which makes it even more intense when the actors not only have other things go wrong, but also still have to keep the prompt going. 

A lot of the time, it’s that the set designers got drunk at lunch.

Overall, it’s a great show and I really recommend checking it out. One of the funniest shows I’ve watched in a while.

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.

One Night in Miami: A Fake Story of Four Real Men – Amazon Prime Review

A football player, a civil rights activist, a musician, and a boxer walk into a hotel room.

SUMMARY

It’s February 25, 1964 and boxer Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) defeats Sonny Liston (Aaron D. Alexander) for the first time to become the world Heavyweight Champion. Among the observers in the audience are: Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), who is currently at odds with Elijah Muhammad (Jerome A. Wilson), the head of the Nation of Islam; Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), who is currently coming off of one of the greatest NFL seasons of all time; and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom, Jr.), who has recently been playing to predominantly unsupportive and all-white audiences. The four men agree to meet up after the match in Malcolm X’s hotel room, where personalities clash, friendships and loyalties are tested, opinions and passions are shared, and a lot of history might just have been made… if it were real. 

There is a photo of Muhammad Ali taken by Malcolm X on that night. Really.

END SUMMARY

It’s always hard to address films like this where the people involved are real, as are many of the events depicted or referenced, but the actual conversations that are the focus of the story are fiction. This story is really just a study in what happens when you throw four major personalities into the same room. All of these men were legends in their respective fields and their contributions are still well-known. Malcolm X is frequently referenced as a civil rights leader during one of the most tumultuous times in US History (which will probably end one day), Jim Brown still holds 10 NFL records and appeared in a number of great films, Sam Cooke’s songs are still covered frequently, and Cassius Clay, as Muhammad Ali, is probably the most famous boxer of all time. It’s amazing how well the movie points out their extreme talent and success while still pointing out that they faced challenges that no white person would face. There’s a particularly disturbing scene between Jim Brown and a man played by Beau Bridges which is, apparently, directly lifted from Jim Brown’s autobiography. 

Some variety in the attire, to be sure. All stylish, very different.

As with most movies that take place largely in one single location, the film’s strength is in the performances. Each of the four leads has to both represent a known historical figure and also to stand up to the performances of each of the others, which is a hell of a challenge. All four, though, pull it off amazingly. Eli Goree manages to portray Cassius Clay as both the self-promoting egomaniac that he was in public and also as a person with doubts about his conversion and about his life in general. Aldis Hodge plays Brown as a bit of an outsider to the group, with the least radical agenda, but an ambition beyond just being a football player (even though he was one of the best). Also, he nails the voice. Kingsley Ben-Adir captures the persona of Malcolm X as well as almost any actor does, but he adds a wonderful level of vulnerability that many portrayals don’t. Leslie Odom Jr. manages to not only play Sam Cooke, but give several great song performances while doing so. It’s not surprising that he earned a nomination. 

He’s so damned talented.

The one thing that this movie does portray, even if indirectly, is that while these are all great men, they are also deeply flawed people. They all have their own selfish tendencies, their own flaws, and their own opinions about their roles as representatives of the black community. They all have their own fears and ambitions and I like that they feel like four real people, even if their public personas often dominated their lives. It takes a lot of control to make a movie that walks the line between making them legends and making them men and Regina King managed it in her directorial debut. Amazing.

Hail to the Queen, baby.

Overall, it’s a great film and I really recommend 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.

Bliss: It Never Quite Finds Its Feet – Amazon Prime Review

Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson bring us a new take on simulated reality.

SUMMARY

Greg Wittle (Owen Wilson) is a recently divorced office worker who spends his days daydreaming. He gets fired and accidentally kills his boss, Bjorn (Steve Zissis), before covering up the murder and heading to a bar to try and hide. He meets Isabel (Salma Hayek) a seemingly homeless woman who tells Greg that she created this world and that he is one of the few “real” people in it. She offers him some crystals that give him telekinetic powers. The two soon start spending time together, with Isabel warning him not to associate with any people who are not “real,” which includes Greg’s daughter Emily (Nesta Cooper). Eventually, Isabel pulls the two of them out of the simulation and reveals that they actually live on a utopian future Earth. However, Greg cannot remember any of his former life, and instead only remembers his life in the simulation. 

They’re homeless because reasons.

END SUMMARY

This movie has some fun elements to it, but ultimately cashes in on none of the potentially interesting ideas. The idea of “simulated reality” has been used repeatedly since The Matrix became a massively successful hit, but that means that a movie that just says “what if reality is fake” doesn’t really count as innovative. While the idea of being the only two real people in a world of fiction or a real person having beliefs that he has a real daughter in a false reality might be good, the film barely touches on them. Instead, it mostly features some odd scenes of the pair messing around with their powers (which are weirdly dependent on drugs for some reason) and a bunch of exposition that, like Matrix Reloaded, is mostly more complicated than the ideas that it’s trying to convey. It’s like someone audited a first year philosophy class, watched The Thirteenth Floor, and then churned out a screenplay.

And apparently lives near a roller rink.

About halfway through the movie, the film changes completely by heading to the futuristic world that is supposedly the “real” one. In it, humanity has entered an enlightened golden age thanks to science, making almost everyone on Earth desire to be an artist or an engineer. Also, Bill Nye and Slavoj Zizek are there, which raises so many questions about who they would be in a world that has largely moved into a completely different kind of existence. However, since Greg doesn’t remember it, he has to learn everything anew, which is good for the audience, but no one seems bothered by the fact that he has essentially been replaced by a new person. It’s an element that seems obvious and is completely overlooked. 

Also, the future is cool, but not cool enough.

Overall, it’s just not that great of a film. It seems like this should, at least, have some stuff to contemplate, but instead it’s just a waste of time.

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.

To Your Last Death: We Are the Pawns of Fate – Amazon Prime Review

Could you win a horror film if you barely survived it once already?

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Miriam DeKalb (Dani Lennon) is the sole survivor of a brutal death game which was arranged by her billionaire father Cyrus DeKalb (Ray Wise) which killed her brothers Ethan and Colin (Damien Haas and Ben Siemon) and her sister, Kelsy (Florence Hartigan). Cyrus apparently covers up the killings and Miriam, who has a history of mental health issues, starts to get accused of committing the murders herself. She is approached by the Gamemaster (Morena Baccarin), a being who offers her a chance to go back and replay the events, now forewarned about what will happen. The only caveat is that the gods are wagering on the fight, so she can’t be boring. Miriam now has another chance to stop her siblings from being brutally murdered and to clear her name, but it turns out that the gods may have other plans, all under the eyes of the mysterious Overseer (William Shatner).

The art style is a bit comic-booky, including the dimensions of the characters.

END SUMMARY

Basically, this film’s premise is “what if you survived Saw and got a second chance to save everyone else?” Maybe it’s Saw II, really, since that’s the one with more people, but the idea is the same. The set-up is that the DeKalb children tanked their father’s attempt to become president and he’s seeking revenge. Given that he’s voiced by Ray Wise, he is naturally believable as a ruthless corporate bastard who would kill his own progeny out of spite. This alone would be a generic horror movie and that’s what the film’s counting on, because it skips over the first run-through (for the most part) and lets us just assume it played out like a horror film. We then have to watch Miriam try to “win” the next play-through.

Which is easier with a nail-bat.

While other films, like the Happy Death Day franchise, have used the Groundhog Day set-up for a horror story, this is not that. There’s only one single replay, but with the added element that the gods who are betting on the outcome, including the Gamemaster, will change things they don’t like at any point. That’s both the best and worst part of the film. On the one hand, it means that this isn’t like Groundhog Day where a screw-up can just be reset. On the other hand, the fact that the gods can just get bored and undo anything at any point, something that they do multiple times in the film, means that there aren’t really any “stakes” because it’s all subject to the whims of strange higher powers. If the film focused more on the horror of that situation, I think it would have been better, but instead it just uses it to artificially prolong the fighting. I found that disappointing.

The guy on the right is armed with a power-suit.

I do want to address the animation style, because I’m sure that a lot of people probably will be thrown off by that. It’s done in the style of a moving comic book, I think, which is a little less fluid and less natural than most animated films, but I think it works for the presentation given. Others may find it to be lazy, but I think it’s just a way to get the point across while also reducing animation costs. 

Plus it allows for more focus on some of the gorier elements.

Overall, it’s not the best movie, but it’s definitely a unique film and I think it was worth watching. This kind of idea needs to be played through again, because it could work very well on a different level. Maybe even by the same team that made this film, since the gods clearly want more wagers in the future.

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.

END OF 2020 FILMS (Death to 2020, Yearly Departed): Laugh So You Don’t Cry – Netflix/Amazon Prime Review

If you missed these, we’re almost a month into the next year and it’s time to set the last one on fire.

SUMMARY

Death to 2020 – Presented as a mockumentary about the last year and how completely and ridiculously unbelievable it was from an objective viewpoint, this special has performances by Samuel L. Jackson as a reporter, Hugh Grant as a historian, Lisa Kudrow as a conservative pundit, Leslie Jones as a behavioral psychologist, Joe Keery as a millennial, Kumail Nanjiani as a tech billionaire, Tracy Ullman as Queen Elizabeth II, Cristin Milioti as a “Karen,” Diane Morgan as a British person, and Laurence Fishburne as a voice. 

Shut the f*ck up, Karen.

Yearly Departed – Presented as a complicated funeral for the year, a group of female comedians (Rachel Brosnahan, Sarah Silverman, Natasha Leggero, Tiffany Haddish, Patti Harrison, Natasha Rothwell, Ziwe Fumudoh, and Phoebe Robinson) all give hilarious eulogies about various things that “died” in 2020.

Like most of us watching this, she’s not wearing pants.

END SUMMARY

2020 sucked. There was a lot of death, a lot of loneliness, and a lot of my neighbors planning an insurrection to overthrow the US government unless their candidate won (HEY, FBI, THEY’RE NEXT DOOR AND THEY HAVE A LOT OF GUNS). However, through it all, we found out that there is a lot of shit in this world that really isn’t necessary (working in an office building for many jobs) and a bunch that is more necessary than we could ever have imagined (teachers, nurses, and other people we don’t pay well enough). These films are a testament to the insanity that was the last year. What’s funniest, I think, is how many of the things in these films you will have forgotten about because other, crazier things happened afterwards. 

Remember how people were quickly cancelling cop shows and films?

If I had to choose between them, and I don’t really because they’re both fairly short, but if I did, I would say that I enjoyed the mockumentary format of Death to 2020 more than the fake funeral of Yearly Departed. Viewing last year through a semi-objective lens and just reminding us how much shit actually happened during it feels almost like a self-parody. Like when the movie Airplane! just lifted lines directly from the film Zero Hour and that made it apparent that Zero Hour was itself a terrible and ridiculous movie. However, I did appreciate that Yearly Departed focused almost entirely on female comics, giving it a distinction that most specials don’t have. They each essentially give different comedy monologues and they are all amazingly funny, it’s just that the format gets a little old eventually.

Plus, only Samuel L. Jackson is capable of expressing the frustration of 2020.

Overall, I recommend checking both of these out to help you move forward into the new year strong.

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.

Uncle Frank: Great Performances, Mediocre Film – Amazon Prime Review

Paul Bettany brings some heavy emotions, but the film can’t hold up.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

In 1973, Beth Bledsoe (Sophia Lillis) moves from her traditional Southern family in South Carolina to go to college in New York where her uncle, Frank (Paul Bettany), teaches. Beth attends a party and finds out that Frank is gay and has been living with his boyfriend Wally (Peter Macdissi) for a decade. Beth agrees to keep Frank’s secret, but this is quickly put to the test when Frank’s dad, Frank Sr. (Stephen Root), dies. Frank has to go visit his mother (Famous Celebrity Character Actress Margo Martindale), brother Mike (Steve Zahn) and his wife Kitty (Judy Greer), and the rest of his family, which is complicated when Wally tries to secretly follow along. 

You could guess what decade it is just from this shot.

END SUMMARY

I constantly go back and forth about how much a good performance can salvage a mediocre or even bad film, but this movie is proof that a bunch of good performances can at least keep a mediocre outing interesting. What’s really sad is that, with relatively few changes, it feels like this movie could have been amazing, because Bettany and Lillis really seem to nail their characters far beyond what was on the page. 

Their interplay is strong.

The problem with this movie is the same problem that many films about a queer character coming out to a conservative family has: It wants to have it both ways. It wants the main character to go through the dread of interacting with a family that might reject him (despite the fact that he’s used a beard for a while) and also to have the family not really be monstrous towards him so that it seems reasonable that he still wants to be with them. To its credit, the film does a better job than many movies, like Happiest Season for example, because not everyone in the film goes immediately from “gays are defective” to “rainbow pride,” but it still makes a lot of the characters come off as less real than they need to be for this kind of drama. 

Stephen Root’s character is too unbelievable in a different way.

The other problem with this movie is that they actually waste a ton of the talent in the cast by not giving them more to work with. While I may have thought Judy Greer ended up being a little underused in Halloween, this is exactly the kind of film where she could have shone if given something good to say. The same is true of Margo Martindale, who, as BoJack Horseman repeatedly informed us, makes everything she’s in better, as well as Steve Zahn, who, honestly, has a few decent scenes as Beth’s cantankerous and somewhat off-putting father. 

Margo Martindale is a treasure. Always.

Overall, the movie isn’t bad. It’s actually pretty good. It just needed a little polish to be great and I think it’s sad that it didn’t reach that mark. 

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.

Santa Jaws: It’s Ho-Ho-Honestly Pretty Jawesome – Amazon Prime Review

The movie was better than the subtitle pun. Hopefully Street Sharks won’t sue me.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Cody (Reid Miller) is a young illustrator who has made a comic with his friend Steve (Hawn Tran) called “Santa Jaws” about a magical shark that ate an evil Santa Claus (Creek Wilson). On Christmas Eve, Cody has a fight with his family and his Grandfather, Papa Joe (Ritchie Montgomery), gives him an antique pen. Cody angrily uses it to ink a drawing of Santa Jaws, but it turns out the pen is magic and it brings the Christmas-themed Carcharodon to life. The shark quickly starts attacking the town of Port City, including Cody’s family. Now it’s up to Cody, Steve, and Cody’s crush Jena (Courtney Lauren Cummings) to stop the beast.

She eats you when you’re sleeping…

END SUMMARY

When I saw this title, I knew it was going to be a perfect watch for my bad movie group. This was supposed to be a complete and utter trainwreck of a film. Instead, this was one of the rare gold nuggets that you can find going through the river of crap that is the “horror film based on bad pun” genre. One of the best decisions in the film was to make the central conceit that it’s a comic book come to life. Comics are frequently full of weird physics and terrible puns, which allow for the movie to do over-the-top moments that might not work as well in other films. Since the main characters either wrote or read the comic, it seems more justified that they are willing to start engaging in the surreal logic… and making glorious puns while dealing with the shark. It also adds in a lot of great Christmas atmosphere, like having “Carol of the Bells” and “Ave Maria” in the movie soundtrack, and has a strong family theme.

She bites when you’re awake…

Santa Jaws, the shark, is everything that I wanted out of this film. It’s not just that she (yes, despite the name, Santa Jaws is female) wears a Santa hat on her fin, as the movie goes on, she acquires progressively more holiday-themed accessories to become a living tribute to the holiday. Perhaps I should say weapons rather than just accessories, since the shark actually manages to use them in its killing spree, like using Christmas lights as a rope to pull people into the water. The shark is also mostly invulnerable and it’s weakness is nothing short of hilarious. While you’ll probably guess the ending a mile away (the film foreshadows it pretty well), it also allows the film to go pretty extreme on how it gets there, and I mean that in the best way. 

She spears you if you’re bad or good…

The supporting characters are all pretty archetypal. Cody’s parents, Peter and Caroline (Jim Klock and Carrie Lazar), run a restaurant (and Peter teaches physics) and don’t listen to the kids no matter what they say. His brother, Josh (Arthur Marroquin), is the favorite who mocks Cody. His uncle, Mike (Miles Doleac), is a businessman so stereotypical that he first appears while talking on the phone about business and accompanied by his younger instagram model girlfriend Georgia (Haviland Stillwell). Oh, and there’s the comic-book store owner, Clark (Scott Allen Perry), who is, naturally, a pervy scumbag. While the basic roles are normal for this kind of film, the performances are definitely above average for “pun-based horror.”

So stay on land for goodness sake. Seriously, it’s a shark, just stay on land.

Honestly, if you’re a fan of low-budget horror movies, this should immediately jump to the top of your list this season. 

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

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Christmas Catch: A Masterpiece of Cheesy Xmas Movies – Netflix/Amazon Prime Review

I may have just watched too many bad movies, because I enjoyed this.

SUMMARY

Detective Mackenzie “Mack” Bennett (Emily Alatalo) is single at Christmas and, due to her natural awkwardness, has trouble finding dates. This causes no end of derision from her partner, Reid (Andrew Bushell), and her superior/mom (yes, her boss is her mom) Captain Bennett (Lauren Holly). However, when trying to find a guy at a singles night, she accidentally falls, literally, into the arms of Carson (Franco Lo Presti), a perfect guy with whom she immediately connects. The only problem is that the next day FBI Special Agent Robertson (Genelle Williams) arrives to inform the local police that Carson is a professional diamond thief along with his ex-wife. Now Mack has to go undercover, as herself, and date Carson in order to find the diamond encrusted reindeer that he supposedly stole. 

Yes, there’s a Santa sting.

END SUMMARY

Cheesy Christmas movies usually tend to involve two people who learn to love each other despite starting out disliking or not understanding each other. This movie kind of eschews that by having the two main characters fall in love at first sight. Literally, when he catches her (get it?) as she falls, they immediately are attracted to each other and bond quickly. There’s no question that they’re going to get together. Honestly, I buy their chemistry a little more than I should, because the dialogue they exchange is actually more than just “oh hey, you’re a hot guy and I’m a hot girl and it’s Christmas.” It’s a genuinely decent meet-cute scene that actually makes you root for them throughout the film. 

Also, this film lets the lead guy be more roguish than usual.

The general plot of the movie is predictable, of course, but the actual way it plays out has some fun moments, mostly because Mack’s character is almost entirely defined as “can’t flirt, not good under pressure.” It doesn’t help that her mother is her boss and combines the tropes of those roles we usually see in these films: too involved, inappropriate comments, lots of catchphrases, etc. It’s an insane conceit that her mother could somehow also be her commanding officer and no one seems to question that, but it leads to some interesting moments. 

Nepotism. It’s a thing.

The actual humor that comes from the characters interacting is not bad, the only problem is that almost no one ever quite nails the delivery. I will be frank, aside from Franco Lo Presti (whose appearances on Letterkenny might make me biased), most of the performances are a little too clearly composed of people acting. Line delivery is often unnatural, but I admit that it is more challenging to do the style of comedy the film is asking for from the actors. Alatalo is being asked to flirt badly at one point and, while she does flirt badly, it’s not quite the trainwreck that the screenplay seems to call for. The other person is supposed to be repulsed, but it’s hard to buy that from what Alatalo does in the scene. Still, there are at least some genuinely funny moments. 

There’s a lot of Christmas in it, too.

Overall, I have to say this was close to one of the best cheesy Xmas movies I’ve ever seen. Yes, it’s got some bad acting moments, but it actually skips the “will they won’t they” facade and I appreciate that. 

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.