Amazon Prime Review – Fleabag: The Truth Hurts (Spoiler-Free)

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s fourth-wall breaking comedy ends after two seasons of hilariously blunt social commentary.

SUMMARY

Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) is a single woman living in London who is fond of drinking, sex, wisecracking her way out of her own misery, and being the subject of ridicule at the hands of others and, more commonly, herself. She runs a café that she opened with her deceased friend Boo (Jenny Rainsford), fights with her sister, Claire (Sian Clifford), deals with the sh*tbag that Claire married, Martin (Brett Gelman), and tries to tolerate the relationship between her widower father (Bill Paterson) and her Godmother (Olivia FREAKING Colman). In the second season, she begins to have a crush on her family’s Catholic priest (Andrew Scott). 

Fleabag - 2Church.jpg
She wants to genuflect so badly.

END SUMMARY

I’ve mentioned before that horror and comedy are always related. They’re both our ways of dealing with the absurdity of reality, both are often based on showing us a deviation from expectation, and the primary difference is really whether we’re being cued to respond to the situation with revulsion or relief. This is why a comedy genius like Jordan Peele can be so good at horror or why John Carpenter can make a hilarious action-comedy like Big Trouble in Little China, because the genres are naturally separated only by the relief/revulsion response. This show frequently eschews that distinction and asks that we feel both. We should feel absolutely revolted at some of the things that are said and done to our lead in the show, as well as how often we’ve seen or heard them done to people in real life. The relief comes not just from the quip or hilarious face that Fleabag makes to the audience, assuring us that she’s fine, but also from the fact that someone is actually willing to say some of the stuff that this show is saying. I watched the entirety of this show with a woman and, to quote the Faceless Old Lady Who Lives on My Couch (and who did not get to select her pen name), the show is “the brutal comedy of everyday life.” I think that pretty much nails it, but more on that in a second.

Fleabag - 1Crying
This.

While Fleabag’s life and her family and the people she encounters are all absurd, the absurdity is closer to a type of hyperrealism. You know some people who are similar to ALL of the characters, because they’re all “that girl/guy” archetypes. It’s made even more pronounced by the fact that, aside from Claire, Martin, Claire’s extremely creepy stepson Jake (Angus Imrie), and Fleabag’s overly-emotional ex-boyfriend Harry (Hugh Skinner), none of the recurring characters in the series actually has a name. Appropriately, though, those characters are, if anything, even more familiar archetypes than the others: The uptight workaholic/woman who married an a**hole and doesn’t leave him, the a**hole who somehow is still married, the creepy kid, and the guy who thrives on making sure everyone knows that he’s in touch with his emotions. All of these characters are played completely honestly with almost no other defining attributes, but the solid performances and great writing keep them from feeling tired. It helps that they’re only used sparingly (aside from Claire) and that the show is only 12 episodes long. 

Fleabag - 3OliviaColman
Claire’s hair, however, is quite prominent.

One of the keys to the show is the device of allowing the main character to directly address the audience through the fourth wall, but I have rarely seen a show play with it so well. It’s particularly interesting to see her fourth wall breaks when she’s dealing with the Priest, because his belief in a comforting higher power (God) gives him an insight into Fleabag’s belief in a comforting lie (the Audience), to a shocking and unnerving degree. Rather than doing the traditional fourth wall breaks, which are derived from Shakespearean soliloquies and thus given time and weight, Fleabag’s fourth-wall breaks are quick and often in the middle of conversations or even sentences, acting as quick punctuations rather than explanations. It gives the show a unique feel and the dialogue a distinct style and pacing.

Fleabag - 4Priest.png
Seriously, this is an amazing medium disruption.

Another big thing about the show is it is not hopeful nor is it crushing. It doesn’t make the world out to be a darker and more cruel place than it is, but it also doesn’t give us any of the comfort that we typically expect from our media. We’re not told, at any point, that things are going to be okay. We aren’t told that love conquers all. We aren’t told that you’re going to find fairness or happiness. We’re just shown the world of the show that so closely mirrors ours, with all the nerves exposed. In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, one of the characters, Samuel Vimes, is described as “two drinks sober,” meaning that he was always so sober that he couldn’t even tell himself the harmless lies that people have developed as part of society in order to sleep at night. That’s what this show is for media: It’s two drinks sober. It’s a hair too real to give us the comfort we expect or the painful distancing we secretly crave. It isn’t the show we want, it’s the show we need.

Fleabag - 5BigButt
It asks the real questions.

Overall, I loved this series. I thought it was funny, exciting, and so novel that it deserves an audience. However, I do concede that I might not have gotten out if it the same things that other people might have, particularly The Faceless Old Lady Who Lives on My Couch. So, in a first for this blog, I asked her to give me her perspective, rather than try to interpret hers through my own lens. She submitted this: 

*SPOILERS*

As absurd as the show can get, it’s absurd in a very real, human way and it just doesn’t stray that far from the ordinary kind of ridiculous. It’s not only hilarious but extremely cathartic. When Claire tells Martin to leave her and Martin’s counter-argument includes “I vacuum” and “I made dessert at Easter” and “I pick up my son from bassoon lessons” I actually put my face in my hands and said “Oh my god that is literally men.” It’s just such a perfect sendup of the ways we pat men on the back for doing the bare minimum in domestic life and relationships. 

I’d been struggling to describe why this show feels different and refreshing compared to other shows that could also be described as both “brutal” and “funny,” but it’s best encapsulated by a speech in the show itself from a savvy businesswoman Fleabag has a martini with (Kristin Scott Thomas). “Women are born with pain built in. It’s our physical destiny. Period pain, sore boobs, childbirth, you know. We carry it within ourselves throughout our lives. Men don’t. They have to seek it out. They invent all these gods and demons and things just so they can feel guilty about things, which is something we do very well on her own. Then they create wars so they can feel things and touch each other, and when there aren’t any wars they can play rugby.” The show goes for honesty over melodrama, and there just isn’t the feeling of the writers trying to wring all the emotion out of you like there is in a lot of prestige TV. (Why it takes me forever to watch most of it.) And the comedy doesn’t feel like a bunch of writers in a room thinking about what the most offensive thing to say is. The show puts its trust in the writing and in the hearts and jagged edges of its characters and as a result it doesn’t have to try so fucking hard.

“I love you,” says Fleabag.

“It’ll pass,” says the Priest.

It’s brutal, without brute force.

*END SPOILERS*

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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Amazon Prime Review – Carnival Row: Great Visuals, Good Storytelling, Classic Metaphor

Amazon gives us a new urban fantasy series with a few fresh takes on old tropes.

SUMMARY

Fairies, Trolls, Satyrs (“Pucks”) and other such things are real, they come from the lands of the Fae. Humans plundered the Fae lands, started a war, and ended up abandoning the Fae to their mortal enemies “the Pact.” Because of this, the Fae flee to the closest human empire, Burgue. Rycroft “Philo” Philostrate (Orlando Bloom) is a war veteran who works as an inspector for the local constabulary. Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) is a former soldier in the Fae army and Philo’s former lover who thinks he’s dead. Vignette flees from the Fae lands and ends up in the Burgue capital city where Philo now works to track down a serial murderer or two. As racial tensions are rising in the land, Philo and Vignette seem to be caught in the middle of everything. Because they’re the main characters and that’s how it works.

CarnivalRow - 1Leads
Their child will be beautiful. 

END SUMMARY

So, there are a lot of good things in this show. First, the show looks fantastic. Despite the amount of CGI they’ve had to blend in with practical effects, the visuals very rarely look unnatural, and those that do are typically SUPPOSED to look unnatural. The city looks like a 1910s Urban Fantasy and it really helps to give the setting an identity, something that any alternate history setting needs. The ways in which the fantasy characters have adapted to their new lifestyle and locale are clever, if at times a little crude (I admit that people probably would pay for fairie prostitutes, but it’s weird that they seem so cheap). It’s also odd that the humans understand the advantages of using some of the abilities of the magical creatures (using fairies to reconnect down telegraph wires, for example), but they don’t really exploit them very well. The show implies that the reason is just pure discrimination and, while that might fight the narrative, I just find it odd that any business would forego having flying delivery people or superhumanly strong laborers in the name of racism… or I would if so many industries have in the past foregone advanced employees because of it. Bigotry is one of the few things that really can outperform human greed. Which brings us to the themes of the show…

CarnivalRow - 2Boom.png
Surprisingly, “War is Hell” is relatively low on the list.

Hey, humans can be racist and hate things they don’t understand and can be classist and all the other morals that five million previous urban fantasy novels and shows have told us previously. It’s not particularly new, is what I’m saying. While the theme may be old, the show does try to show us a multitude of viewpoints of people dealing with it, with a particularly interesting one being the story of Agreus (David Gyasi), a very wealthy Puck, and Imogen (Tamzin Merchant), a broke heiress who offers to take money from him in exchange for granting him social status. While that is itself an old story (and the subject of William Hogarth’s “A Rake’s Progress), this combines it with the element of interracial romance (even if it’s for money). The show demonstrates that Agreus does not have sympathy for any of the other fae, because he believes that he made it on his own, therefore he doesn’t believe the others are being suppressed… until finally he runs into an issue where his wealth cannot buy past his race. In addition, the show demonstrates the conflicts arising from the recent influx of refugees on every level, from local workers to employers to law enforcement to lawmakers. While it definitely appears to be based primarily on the English Immigrant Debate from the late 60s, including having a version of the “Rivers of Blood” speech, it holds up as a representation of almost any country’s debate of such an issue. Much like any of those times, too, the show demonstrates that while some people do believe in discriminating, others merely state the talking point because it allows them to claim the support of the regressive elements of the country.

CarnivalRow - 3Agreus
Oh, and skin color is ALSO a thing in this world, so double lesson.

The biggest flaw in the series is that the “mystery” is basically answered in the first 3 episodes if you’re paying attention closely. While it’s still a decent narrative, it doesn’t feel like much of a reveal at the end when you’ve been waiting 5 hours to confirm what you already know. Still, the fact that it holds up even if you know what’s going to happen is a sign of decent storytelling.

Overall, the show’s pretty good. It’s not quite what I was hoping it would be, but it’s still worth watching if you like urban fantasy. I get why critics are down on it for the overused metaphor and the lousy dialogue, but I enjoyed it, so screw them.

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 Prime Review/Reader Request : Gravy – James Roday’s Dark, Dark Comedy (Spoiler-free)

James Roday of Psych fame brings us an unbelievably dark and gory horror-comedy and it mostly works.

SUMMARY

It’s Halloween and the workers at Chuy’s Mexican Bar and Cantina are getting ready to close. They consist of the bartender Kerry (Sutton Foster), a waitress nicknamed Cricket (Molly Ephraim), Yannick (Lothaire Bluteau) the French cook, Chuy (Paul Rodriguez) the manager, Hector (Gabriel Luna) the busboy and aspiring MMA fighter, and security guard Winketta (Gabourey Sidibe). The only customers are the recently dumped Bert (Ethan Sandler), the exceedingly affectionate couple Stef (Jimmi Simpson) and Mimi (Lily Cole), and Stef’s clown-costumed brother Anson (Michael Weston). However, it’s soon revealed that all the doors have been welded shut, all the phones are down, and that Stef, Mimi, and Anson are taking over the restaurant and making a few changes to the menu… namely, who’s on it.

Gravy - 1Bunny
Also, Sarah Silverman has a bunny suit at some point.

END SUMMARY

James Roday, best known as Shawn Spencer on Psych, wrote and directed this film and, I’ll be honest, it’s a pretty impressive effort for a first-time feature film. This is a dark comedy, which is something that’s usually pretty hard to pull off to begin with, that decides to go to some insanely dark places, but it still mostly works.

Gravy - 2Hostage
Yes, they’re trying to eat an Oscar Nominee.

A lot of it comes from the talent in the cast. Michael Weston, an actor who is one of the ultimate “that guy in that thing” answers, manages to balance playing a complete sociopath with a genuinely somewhat sympathetic character. Jimmi Simpson, a talented actor who hadn’t yet broken out for his Westworld performance, plays his even more insane but also somewhat likable brother. Everyone else is similarly amazing, all managing to get laughs out of how horrifying the situation their stuck in really is. 

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Seriously, the cannibal family is somewhat charming. That’s disturbing.

As this is a B-Grade Horror Movie, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that some people die, and holy heck do they have some fun kills. They’re so absurd that you almost find yourself laughing at it even though they are VERY graphically depicted. Part of it is that all of the characters don’t really show a ton of emotional damage at the other deaths, which makes it easy for the audience to detach from what the reality of the situation would be. One of the best recurring bits is the interactions between Stef and Yannick, who reveals that he is a world-class chef capable of cooking anything, including people, to perfection. Their banter is pretty much always funny, even though it’s literally about cannibalism. Comedy is frequently just horror from a distance, as I have now gotten in the habit of repeating, and this movie needs a lot of distance. 

Gravy - 5Chef
So. Much. Distance. 

 

That’s actually part of the downside to the movie: It’s definitely going to be too dark and too gory for most audiences. Hell, even I felt uneasy at some parts of the movie, though usually someone would quickly say something funny enough to bring me back. Also, without spoiling it, the movie does subvert a lot of tropes, including never really making you feel like any of the victims deserve anything that happen to them. Even in regular horror movies, we usually like our characters to earn their fates, even if only slightly, whereas these characters often die during moments of nobility. Still, it mostly works.

If you have a dark sense of humor, this is a great film to watch. It’s on Amazon Prime right now if you’ve got it. Really, I have to give James Roday credit for putting this together. I hope he tries to make another movie 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.

Amazon Prime Review – The Boys (Season 1): Adapting to the Audience (Spoiler-Free)

Amazon Prime makes a television show based off of the famously exploitative comic book by Garth Ennis and manages to make it stronger by toning it down. 

SUMMARY

Boys - 1Seven.jpg
Ironically, crime was all to their left.

In this world, Superheroes are real and they pretty much all have sold the hell out. The most powerful heroes are The Seven: The Superman-esque Homelander (Antony Starr), Amazon Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), Speedster A-Train (Jessie Usher), Sea King The Deep (Chace Crawford), Mysterious Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell), Invisible and Invulnerable Translucent (Alex Hassell), and new girl Starlight (Erin Moriarity).  The team works for Vought-American, a company that makes films depicting the fictional exploits of their real heroes and is attempting to militarize superheroes, under Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue). However, with great power comes the great likelihood that you’re going to abuse it, which most of the superheroes do liberally, often at the cost of the lives of the citizens. When a supe goes too far, that’s when The Boys come in.

Boys - 2Boys
Karl Urban makes that shirt look bad-ass. That’s an accomplishment.

The Boys are a team of vigilantes loosely associated with the CIA who take down the superheroes who go too far. The Boys had been disbanded for a while before the series starts, until Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) loses his girlfriend Robin (Jess Salguerio) to a Superhero and is dragged into the world of anti-heroics by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), the former leader of the Boys. Together with The Frenchman (Tomer Kapon), Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), and the Female (Karen Fukuhara), the Boys work to take down superheroes, using just their wits, guts, and occasionally powerful explosives.

Boys - 3Female
The Female of the Species is deadlier. Yes, that’s a poem. 

END SUMMARY

The Boys was Garth Ennis’s attempt to, and this is a quote, “Out-Preacher Preacher.” This is a reference to the series Preacher’s famously over-the-top violence and sexuality which The Boys took to literally insane levels. There are things in The Boys that are clearly designed to disturb even those who were already pretty disturbed and no, I’m not going to mention the worst of them here. Let’s just say that in the TV show they put a rape warning that is well-deserved on the first episode, but the scene is still SIGNIFICANTLY less horrifying than the same events from the comic book. 

Boys - 4BlowUp
There are a lot fewer “headsplosions” in the TV show.

Actually, that’s something that happens in general throughout this adaptation. This show has some horrifyingly graphic deaths and other traumatic images, but all of it has been extremely sanitized in order to operate within the medium. See, in an exaggerated comic book where some things can just be referenced with a reaction panel, it can be somewhat ignored that your main characters curb-stomp someone to death or, as above, a bunch of heads explode. It’s so far removed from reality, that it’s like a Tom and Jerry cartoon: Yes, it’s hyper-violent, but it’s also not real and therefore more amusing or easily processed. Hell, some shows like SuperJail or Metalocalypse basically made that the source of their humor. But once you move that to live action, your audience (hopefully) cannot enjoy hyperviolence in the same way because they’re naturally going to feel the pain of the victims more. Similarly, the fact that SO MUCH of the comic also relies on similar hyperbolic exaggeration of rape, drug use, racism, and sexism means that if they shifted those elements to the live-action show, people would probably be vomiting with rage at every episode. And probably just vomiting at the thought of the realities of some of the things that the comic depicts, come to think of it. I’d also say that it helps that the show feels like the sex and violence actually tends to serve the plot and the themes, rather than just being there for gags, but there’s still a bunch of gratuitous elements. 

Boys - 5Blood.jpg
They skipped the room literally painted with the blood of the innocent.

However, that’s not to say that this show is tame. Even though it’s restrained when compared to the source material, the show pushes a ton of boundaries, but, by reducing the ridiculous violence and over-the-top conduct of the characters somewhat, the villainous superheroes actually become more relatable and therefore more detestable. A genocidal maniac with a god complex isn’t someone you’re likely to run into, but you probably have met a guy who would use his position at a company to try and coerce a woman into sex. Rather than just being amoral psychopaths, many of the heroes are more common figures: The athlete who uses performance enhancing drugs because he’s worried of slowing, the hypocritical evangelical preacher, the alcoholic who used to be a dreamer, etc. There’s a reason people hate Dolores Umbridge more than Voldemort – You probably don’t know Hitler, but you probably know a teacher who picks on kids to make herself feel bigger.

Boys - 6Umbridge.png
People literally hate her more than Wizard Hitler and it’s completely understandable.

The key thing that the show does have in common with the source material is the themes: Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Or, as Butcher puts it, “with great power comes the total f*ckin’ certainty that you’re gonna turn into a c**t.” The show explores how power affects people and it picks a number of sources of power, ranging from Money (Vought-American), Emotional Manipulation (Stillwell), Political Power (various politicians and Vought-American), and finally good-old-fashioned violence (The Seven). Vought’s political and financial influence tends to make them just as immune to consequences as Homelander’s invulnerability and their immorality grows as they find that they can do more and more without it coming back to bite them. The purpose of The Boys is to try and remind these entities that they can actually be punished for their bad conduct, because that’s the only way to keep them in check. They attack Vought with bad publicity and they attack the Seven by finding ways to actually hurt or kill them, something that’s much more impressive because in this version the Boys don’t have superpowers. 

Boys - 7Boom.jpeg
They do have trigger fingers, though.

The performances in the show are, for the most part, excellent, though Karl Urban’s Billy Butcher does tend to overshadow others when in a scene with them just due to the nature of the actor and the character. Elisabeth Shue, likewise, manages to be simultaneously more human than her comic counterpart James Stillwell and also much more cruel and manipulative, making for a great character that you can believe puts a Man of Steel in his place. A lot of the plot additions are great and serve to flesh out the world that they can afford to build. The female characters have been fleshed out quite a bit compared to Ennis’s versions of them. While his versions were supposed to be pastiches and grotesque parodies of female superheroes, that tended to make many of them weak characterizations in some ways. 

Overall, the show’s not going to be for everyone, but if you can get past the visceral elements, it does have some great performances and themes. Still, I wouldn’t blame anyone for not making it past them. 

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/Amazon Review – Weresquito: Nazi Hunter – YES, THIS IS REAL (Spoiler-Free)

There’s a movie that is about a man who turns into a half-man half-mosquito that hunts Nazis. It delivers exactly what it promises. Also, it has an amazing trailer that I will embed at the bottom and use liberally for this review.

SUMMARY

Weresquito - 1Soldier.png
This trailer really tells you what they were going for.

Much of the film is told through flashbacks to WWII, where a man in POV is being tortured and experimented on by a Nazi Doctor named Schramm (James Norgard). Schramm keeps most of what he’s doing fairly concealed, but since the movie is called “Weresquito,” I think you can guess. 

Weresquito - 2Science.png
Lies. Science is neither good nor evil. Nazis, however, are evil, so Nazi Scientists are evil.

In the 1950s, Cpl. John Baker (Douglas Sidney) is in a small Wisconsin town called New Berlin that has a high population of German citizens. He awakens on the side of the road with blood dripping from his mouth and makes his way to a diner where he meets a woman named Leisl (Rachel Grubb). The two hit it off, with a romance blooming until it is revealed that John is actually on a mission to kill off all of the Nazis who turned him into a monstrosity. Whenever John sees blood, he cannot resist changing into the awesome, the terrifying, the unbelievable: WERESQUITO!!!!

END SUMMARY

Christopher R. Mihm, the director, is a man who knows exactly what he wants to do. Mihm has stated that he was a fan of the cheap black-and-white horror films from the 1950s and 60s, such as The Amazing Colossal Man or Cat-women of the Moon, which were genuine and creative, but also cheap and straightforward. Mihm’s entire filmography is nothing but a tribute to that, with him creating one cheap horror film in the signature style of that period every year since 2006. Titles include gems like Attack of the Moon Zombies, It Came from Another World!, Demon with the Atomic Brain, and Terror from Beneath the Earth. The thing is, they’re not bad films, nor so-bad-they’re-good films, nor are they great films. They’re all films that are designed to match a style, tone, and feel of a specific time period and, if I’m being honest, this movie seems to nail it. 

Weresquito - 3Hair.png
Seriously, the suits must have actually been from an old movie.

The dialogue in this movie is mediocre, containing a lot of trope lines from B-movies of the Cold War Era, and it is all delivered in an extremely stilted manner, reminiscent of those films. The thing is, it’s not parodying or satirizing those films, nor is it exactly a tribute to that cinematic period, it’s just doing an original movie in that particular style. If you don’t like it, you probably will hate this movie. If you enjoy that kind of corny, old format, then you’ll probably enjoy this film.

Weresquito - 5Weresquito.png
BEHOLD THE TERROR!!!!!

The special effects consist of… well, really only the one effect, that of John turning into Weresquito. As far as I can remember seeing, no photomorphing is used, the transformation is always done offscreen and it cuts back to the now menacing “Weresquito” (Michael G. Kaiser). The Weresquito mask is exactly the level of quality that you would expect from this kind of film if it has been made 60 years ago. It’s cool looking, but you’d never actually think it was real, nor are you supposed to. That said, it’s still fun to watch him fight people as the Weresquito. The only other notable effect is that blood in this film is always bright red, which, in an otherwise black-and-white movie, stands out and creates a solid effect that, in a subtle way, makes us inevitably drawn to look at the blood in the same way that Weresquito does. 

Weresquito - 4Blood.png
I don’t think it’s ketchup. I think it’s raspberry jam.

The only complaint I can really give for this movie, since it’s mostly insulated from traditional criticism by its own nature, is that filming it on digital makes the shots a little too clear. The definition is a little too high. Those movies in the 1950s were all blurry and awkward because that’s what you got from filming a movie without a super-high lighting budget. It’s not that it makes the movie any worse, although it does make the already cheap sets and effects look even cheaper, but it kills a little bit of the feel that the movie was going for. 

Overall, like I said, I can’t say that this movie is anything other than exactly what it was trying to be, a cheap 1950s horror film.

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 Prime Review – Good Omens (Season 1): It’s the End of the World as We Know It and this Show’s… Okay?

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s collaboration is brought to the small screen.

SUMMARY

In the beginning, God (Frances McDormand) created the heavens and the Earth. This is generally regarded as a bad move. God then created people, which is just a giant mistake, because have you met people? Although, it did give us Douglas Adams, so maybe that’s a push. Well, in any case, people quickly got kicked out of paradise due to being tempted by a demon in the form of a snake. That demon, named Crowley (David Tennant), was sent to Earth by the forces of Hell to stir up trouble. Meanwhile, his counterpart, the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen), who was supposed to guard the gates of Eden, is stuck on Earth opposing Crowley. Over the millennia, the two have grown fonder of Earth, and of each other, than they are of either Heaven or Hell. However, it turns out that the apocalypse is drawing nigh, so the two are determined to work together to stop the antichrist (Adam Taylor Young) from accidentally ending the world, along the way meeting one of the last witchfinders (Jack Whitehall) and a witch (Adria Arjona) following a series of prophecies by her own great-great-great-grandmother (Josie Lawrence).

GoodOmens - 1JonHamm
Also, Jon Hamm buys pornography poorly.

END SUMMARY

I always compared Good Omens to the song “Under Pressure.” It’s thoroughly enjoyable, to be sure, and the product of a collaboration between two absolutely brilliant minds, but it’s not the best product of either of the authors. That said, it’s still a really fun book and has a lot of amazing character moments that clearly arise by having the creations of two very different writing styles interacting. One thing that consistently works about the book are all of the fun intercalary passages depicting the strange things happening as the world approaches the end times and all of the fun prophecies put forth by Agnes Nutter.

GoodOmens - 2Agnes
She also has the hottest execution on record.

This TV show is a solid adaptation of the material, but the material is difficult to adapt. The beauty of much of the writing of Good Omens is the almost lyrical language that the two authors carry into the narrative and the multitude of fun, well-developed characters.  Even with the huge amount of narration in this series, it’s still tough to get the humor to the screen without literally reading the entire thing. The series manages to do this well enough, mostly through having a lot of clever cuts and framing devices for different scenes. The fact that most of the characters are color coded and heavily distinctly costumed also helps to elaborate on their backstories without having to dwell on them. I particularly love what they did with the Antichrist’s friends, coloring them as the horsemen of the apocalypse. The thing is, though, they still can’t quite visually represent the same level of quirky humor and the endearing descriptions that are found in the novel. The show is definitely cute and funny, but only a handful of the scenes have any real staying power and only a few of the jokes really showcase the strengths of the source material.

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The Hellhound gag is still amazing, though.

There are a few highlights, though. First, Tennant and Sheen are just freaking magical in their scenes together. They really manage to convey “best frenemies” perfectly, with each of them clearly caring deeply for the other while making a show that they don’t. It’s pretty much summarized by a scene in the first episode where Aziraphale fiercely says “Get thee behind me, foul fiend,” before politely inviting him to enter the building, saying “after you.” One of the best sequences in the series is a depiction of their history from Egypt through the French Revolution.

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The Crucifixion was awkward, much like in real life.

Another highlight is that some of the characters are really well designed, particularly the demons. Almost all of the demons who are associated with flies are found with some type of insectivore living on their person, which is just funny. The angels are similarly depicted as being fussy and obsessed with order, particularly Gabriel (Jon Hamm), who loves human suits.

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Something he’s never done before.

The side-stories aren’t quite as good visually as they were when being described, mostly because a lot of them were just designed to be quick jokes that just colored the world, whereas the TV format kind of forces a little more time on them just to justify the expense of setting up the scene.

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Granted, if you get the four bikers of the apocalypse in costume, you use them.

Overall, it’s not the best show on TV, but it is definitely a pretty solid one. It’s fun and that’s about all it needed to be. I’d say give it a try if you have the time.

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

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Prime Review – The Tick: Seasons 1 and 2 (Spoiler-Free for Season 2)

Probably the most beloved superhero spoof of all time got his second (Patrick Warburton’s was short lived) live-action adaptation and it is filled with the sweet stench of mighty blue justice.

SUMMARY

Arthur Everest (Griffin Newman) is a mild-mannered accountant… except that he’s not particularly mild-mannered, more neurotic and borderline PTSD. When he was young, his father was killed by the world’s greatest supervillain The Terror (Jackie Earle Haley), who then singled him out for torment before eventually being apparently killed by the world’s mightiest superhero, Superian (Brendan Hines). Arthur believes the Terror is still alive and sets out to prove it, before running into a giant blue man known only as The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz). The Tick is amnesiac, super-strong, nigh-invulnerable, overly-dramatic, and pretty much insane, but with a good heart and a desire for justice. The Tick gifts Arthur with an experimental flying suit he found in a warehouse and, after some initial complications, Arthur agrees to become his sidekick. Together, the two dive into the world of superheroes and supervillains, encountering the villainous Miss Lint (Yara Martinez), the violent anti-hero Overkill (Scott Speiser) and his sidekick Dangerboat (Alan “I’m amazing” Tudyk), Arthur’s sister Dot (Valorie Curry), and culminating in them gaining fame for helping defeat the still-alive Terror.

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He is very abdominal in this episode.

The second season focuses on the Tick and Arthur dealing with the return of the government agency A.E.G.I.S., the best S.H.I.E.L.D. knock-off on film so far, and trying to find their place in the new order.

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He also does the funniest costume change on film.

END SUMMARY

This show is one of the few Amazon Prime shows that were picked up based on their pilot and I don’t think I can tell you how happy that made me. It makes me even happier to say that they really fixed some of the problems that were present in the pilot almost immediately. See, the pilot’s core joke was basically “what if we stuck The Tick in a gritty reboot, but we didn’t make the Tick gritty or serious?” Admittedly, that premise was funny and every second The Tick was on film was amazing, particularly him dealing with realistic criminals in his goofy manner. The only problem was that the world itself was just a hair TOO gritty. One of the best parts of every version of The Tick is the other goofy characters that populate it. The show quickly managed to fill that void with a bunch of great supporting characters, many of whom are comical exaggerations of the “gritty” superhero image, particularly Overkill.

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He has to talk in a deep, gravely voice or his Alexa doesn’t recognize him.

The first season was flat-out hilarious to me once it found its rhythm, although it did take a few episodes to really get it. Griffin Newman and Valorie Curry both subtly adjusted their characters to fit a little better within the post-pilot world the show was developing. Arthur became more similar to his animated counterpart, though with a lot more realism and backstory, while Dot became a badass. Jackie Earle Haley, on the other hand, played the perfect self-indulgent villain from start to finish. I think few things will ever stick with me as well as his line “You don’t kill people because they call you names; you kill them because it’s fun.” It’s literally the most evil but also surprisingly reasonable thing you can say: Evil should be about enjoyment whether it’s at the expense of others or not. After all, why be evil if it’s not fun?

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He literally stops in the middle of a mass murder to harass a child. For fun.

I will say that there are two things in the pilot which did convince me that the show had a lot of potential. The first is the scene of The Tick effortlessly defeating a bunch of warehouse thugs while using his typical goofy dialogue. Second, at the end of the episode, The Tick is monologuing about his future with Arthur as superheroes and says “Destiny’s got her hand way up in their puppets.” That’s basically the perfect line for The Tick’s very specific brand of insanity and spoofing.

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Even the hero poses are perfectly exaggerated. 

The Second Season has the advantage of being able to introduce more of the bizarre and goofy characters that we were looking for because the world has now been expanded enough for someone to just randomly appear with superpowers. They also having a running plotline about coercion that plays out very well.

Overall, I love this show. It’s just a solid spoof of superheroes, particularly gritty reboots. Peter Serafinowicz is a treasure and is just as good in the role as Patrick Warburton was (though that show’s writing was nowhere near the level of this one, Warburton was amazing). If you’ve got a Prime subscription and love comedy, just power through the first 2-3 episodes and then get ready for a great 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.