My Spy: It’s Cute, Just A Bit Too Adult – Amazon Prime Review

Dave Bautista stars in this action comedy about a spy being outsmarted by a 9 year old.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

JJ (Dave Bautista) is a former US Army Ranger who now works as an agent for the CIA. Unfortunately, he’s not particularly good at infiltration, so he blows his first major mission, resulting in him losing part of a plutonium core. Because of this, he’s assigned to keep an eye on Kate (Parisa Fitz-Henley) and her daughter Sophie (Chloe Coleman), the in-laws of a major illegal arms dealer. JJ is accompanied by his Tech Operator Bobbi (Kristen Schaal). Unfortunately, Sophie soon discovers that JJ and Bobbi are watching over her family and starts to blackmail JJ into being her friend and guardian while she tries to fit in at her new school. 

Also, she gets ice cream, because she broke the CIA. You get Cake for cracking the FBI.

END SUMMARY

There’s a long history of “action star with cute kid” comedy, ranging from fun movies like Kindergarten Cop and The Pacifier to terrible movies like Cop and a Half and The Tooth Fairy (I love The Rock, but that movie sucks). However, most of those movies are smart enough to be marketed and targeted towards children. This movie, bizarrely, decided to get a PG-13 rating, but only to add a little bit more violence and a few swears, without trying to make the movie more appealing to adults. 

This isn’t a scene that should be in a PG-13 movie.

It’s pretty sad that the film decided to make itself mostly inaccessible to children, because the chemistry between Bautista and Coleman is honestly pretty solid. Their interactions are really cute, particularly when Bautista is teaching her spycraft. Her desire to use him as a father figure is not really subtle, but it works anyway because of Bautista’s sincerity in being concerned for her. Unfortunately, the film mostly relies on “cute” over “funny,” which is also a bad call if you want it to be for everyone. 

A kid on a lie detector is cute, but the lines weren’t very funny.

It’s not like Bautista can’t be funny; he’s great as the straight-man in Guardians of the Galaxy and was pretty funny in Stuber with Kumail Nanjiani. Kristen Schaal, who is tragically underused in this movie, is typically hilarious. Coleman, although young, also has some decent comedy instincts. Yet, somehow, aside from a few scenes of Bautista’s tough-guy character being paired with Brittany Spears music, which is an old gag to begin with, there’s not a ton to laugh about in this film. There are a lot of heartwarming moments, but the humor isn’t there, at least not for adults. We get some scenes of Coleman humiliating the two grown spies, which should be funny, but it’s been done so much in other movies that it’s really predictable. I will admit that I liked the part where she just Googles how to find the source of the hidden cameras, because I constantly wonder why people don’t just search for answers in films more often.

How dare you not fully use Kristen Schaal!!!!

Even more bizarrely, the action sequences in this film aren’t particularly outstanding. The opening of the film does contain Bautista kicking a decent amount of villainous backside, but after that it is a long time before we see any more of his action chops, and the final fights just aren’t great. 

People falling and fire aren’t exactly blowing my skirt up.

Overall, I just don’t get why the heck this movie wasn’t just made into a kids film. It’s not like there would be a huge amount to change to do so, and I think kids would like it. Adults, though, not so much.

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 – The Vast of Night: Some Amazingly Solid Sci-Fi

Amazon Prime gives us a powerful character-driven 1950s sci-fi tale.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

You are watching an episode of Paradox Theatre, a Twilight Zone– or The Outer Limits-style show which is apparently airing in the 1950s or 1960s. This episode is called “The Vast of Night.” In the 1950s in a small town in New Mexico, Everett (Jake Horowitz) is a local radio DJ who has just invested in a new tape recording device. He shows it off to his friend and fellow teenager Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick), who works as a local switchboard operator. That evening, while the town is attending the local high school basketball game, Fay hears a strange noise during Everett’s broadcast. She and Everett set out to investigate the sound and end up finding out that there are more things in heaven and Earth than were dreamt of in their philosophy. 

Wow, a rotary phone. That prop is a miracle.

END SUMMARY

This movie took what should have been an astoundingly boring series of events and somehow made it extremely compelling. This is honestly a testament to how things can be but through a masterful combination of cinematography, sound editing, great scripting, and excellent performances. Most of this movie is the leads conducting interviews or talking over phones or radio, things that are much better done over a podcast or radio drama than a film, but this film manages to make all of those conversations intense and, somehow, fresh. This, despite the fact that the movie follows the same steps that dozens, if not hundreds, of films from the 1950s and 60s through today have already taken. Normally, to move a genre like “something mysterious in a small town” forward, you have to use the same cliches, then build upon them. This movie tends to just eschew the cliches in favor of having sincere character conversations. I once said that the reason that my favorite episode of Gravity Falls is “Not What He Seems” is that the show focused on how the characters felt about what was happening, rather than just focusing on what happens. This film does the same thing, and I applaud it.

Also, I love the set decoration.

I think the framing device of being an episode of an old sci-fi show might be one of the most brilliant things about the film. Because it’s an episode of Paradox Theatre, we are cued in that everything is going to look like a stereotypical 1950s small town, the way that shows from that time would convey them. It means that we’re going to address some themes, like government secrecy or racism, but that the focus is still going to be on a compelling narrative. It just tells us what kind of story we’re going to get, something involving science fiction, and it makes it easier to accept the long gap between the movie starting and the plot really gaining steam, because we’re not waiting for a reveal. 

Not enough poodle skirts, though.

I think one of the best things about this movie is how well it uses the medium of film and radio. There are scenes that are completely dark in this film which give us the same feelings that we would get if the information were coming in over the phone or the radio, the way that the characters are experiencing them. Then there are other, long, sweeping shots in a single take that basically covers the entire town. We get single take shots of Fay monitoring the switchboard as calls come in that start to tell her that there is something happening on the outskirts of town, which makes all of the building concern much more impactful. 

Overall, just a great movie. I really recommend it. This is the director’s only credit on IMDB, but I would like to see what Andrew Patterson does when he has more than a shoestring budget. 

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 – Man Vs.: Pretty Good, but Not Quite Wild Enough

A survivalist TV host finds himself in trouble when something in the woods is stalking him.

SUMMARY  (Spoiler-Free)

Doug Woods (Chris Diamantopoulos) is the host of Woods Vs., a show in which he is dropped into the middle of nowhere and has to survive for five days. He leaves his wife and daughter (Chloe Bradt and Kate Ziegler) and sets off with his camera crew (Michael Cram, Kelly Fanson, Alex Karzis) and his brother Terry (Drew Nelson). After being dropped into the woods, he hears a loud noise and feels the Earth shake beneath him. The next day, he finds that a number of fish in the lake are dead and the local wildlife are behaving strangely. It seems something has come into the woods besides him, and that something is toying with him. Now, Doug has to make his way back to civilization while avoiding this new threat, which, unfortunately, seems to be smarter than he is. 

He’s just the right level of handsome and rugged to get a show.

END SUMMARY

I want to start out by saying that I desperately want someone to try a premise like this again, but do it just a little better. Hell, you can use Chris Diamantopoulos again, since his portrayal of Doug Woods was actually pretty captivating, demonstrating a nice blend between survivalist and showman. His interactions with his audience are the majority of the film, with him speaking to the camera both as part of the show and as part of a surrogate confessional. It’s fun to watch him start swearing and complaining the minute he’s not “officially” recording. At no point do his conversations ever seem awkward or forced, which is impressive for a solo performance. Honestly, if they just had him film a show like that, I would have watched it. 

He does good camera work, too.

The fact that the show-within-the-movie is so close to shows like Survivorman or Man Vs. Wild gives the plot a level of credibility. Normally, the idea of a random person stranded in the wilderness falls thin, because the person would just try to find civilization rather than trying to stay in the area where they’re being stalked. Instead, Doug is forced to at least try to ignore the threat, allowing for the audience to watch his slowly growing unease. I also like that they had almost everything that Doug shows the audience pay off later in the film, but not in the way that you would expect. 

Foreshadowing via teaching… foreteaching?

The problem is that the movie is NOT just watching Doug survive for five days. The movie introduces the threat indirectly, which is good, but it tries to focus the audience’s attention on it a bit too much. It starts to be a bit less believable that Doug doesn’t realize the full extent of what is happening when so many odd things are happening, but it also removes a little bit of the terror to see things happen so blatantly. The timing and the framing of each appearance is off just a little. When Doug finally starts to realize something else is definitely there, though, the initial reveal that the creature has been watching him and duplicating his survival techniques (including trying to treat Doug as prey) are really well-done. You can finally see Doug break down and Diamantopoulos really sells the fear. 

He’s really an underrated actor.

Overall, the movie was pretty enjoyable for the first half. Unfortunately, I am going to have to put the negatives after the Spoiler Warning. I’d still recommend this for horror fans, but I’ll go ahead and warn you that the ending let me down hard on a lot of levels. Not enough to ruin the movie, but it’s like watching someone make a show that perfectly crafts character interactions for 6 seasons, then the writing makes people think a main character goes crazy because her nephew won’t bang her. Disappointing.

****SPOILER WARNING****

Okay, so, the creature is revealed to be an alien, which was probably pretty obvious from the crash at the beginning. Unfortunately, the alien is a conquering invader, which wrecks a lot of the movie. If the alien was like the predator, trying to hunt Doug for honor or sport, then it makes sense to study him and steal his techniques. Instead, we find out that aliens pretty much took over the Earth in the last 3 days, meaning that the creature followed Doug and didn’t just instantly kill him with its sonic weapon for… reasons? Also, despite having a main character who is a survivalist, he doesn’t actually deal with the alien using any survival techniques. The alien, who has superior technology and can apparently jump almost 100 feet, just happens to fall backwards into a pit and then succumbs to stones thrown by an injured person. Then, when it returns at the end, it just doesn’t avoid Doug shoving a motor into it. I’m not saying I needed Doug to prepare a series of Predator-style log traps, because I’ve seen that, but having the main character defeat a creature that apparently can learn what chess is and also how to beat a good player at it in 2 days using pretty much pure luck is unsatisfying. Also… CGI not great, sorry.

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 – Sex and the Single Alien (Original and Remake): Hitting a New Low

My fans just like to watch me suffer.

SUMMARY (They’re basically the same, differences go 1993[2015])

Harry Smith [Delamo] (Eric Kohner / Alexi Stavrou) is a strip [cabaret] club owner with his wife, Olivia (Melanie Rose / Rachel Alig). Olivia is obsessed with UFOs to the point that she has had no interest in sex with Harry for 4 [2] months. A new girl, named Thousand Ways (Michaela Stoicov / Roberta Sparta) arrives at the club and flirts with Harry. Harry’s best friend (Frank Fowler / Ben Gillman) comes up with a strategy to help Harry have an affair with Thousand Ways and fakes an alien abduction. After a night with Thousand Ways, Harry returns and tells his wife the truth, but Olivia believes that the aliens just erased his memory. A few nights later, he plans another “abduction,” only for him to actually be abducted by aliens. The aliens (Uncredited / Albert Minero, Jr. and Josiah Black) return Harry to Earth and give him a special ability – Whenever he looks at a woman, he can make her orgasm. Eventually, after some hijinks, Olivia gets rid of Harry’s ability by satisfying him sexually [using voodoo to attack the aliens] and they have some kind of happily ever after.

SatSA - 1Harry
Harry, meet Harry. You are both scumbags.

END SUMMARY

So, this movie was requested because the reader had remembered the movie from the classic USA Up All Night series hosted by Gilbert Gottfried and Rhonda Shear. The show’s premise was that the comedians would host two films, starting late at night on Saturday, with comedy skits or commentary during the commercial breaks and then there would be a third movie or a repeat of the first film, but that was usually unhosted. If, like me, you liked Duckman in the 90s (and like me had parents that didn’t notice that you were watching Duckman), then you might remember this as the show that came on after it. The series ran from 1989 to 1998 and the late-night movies continued until 2002. During the show’s run, it featured films ranging from legitimately great movies like the original Halloween to B-movies like the Puppet Master films to heavily-edited soft-core pornography like The Bikini Carwash Company. The 1993 version of this movie is definitely one of the latter. I actually didn’t catch this movie during the USA Up All Night run, due to being 10 the last time it aired, but I did see it on Cinemax years later. It was truly made for the “13 and can’t find actual porn” audience.

SatSA - 2UpAllNight
Man, the 90s did not have great resolution.

The 1993 version of the movie starts off with nudity. It’s literally just a stripper dancing and collecting money, and that’s actually what a large percentage of this movie is. Even in scenes where characters are being developed or the plot is supposed to be progressing, the camera is usually focused on a scantily clad or nude female. The movie is, I guess, supposed to be a sex comedy, but I don’t think anything in the movie was ever actually funny. The acting in it ranges from bad to terrible and the script isn’t better. It mostly stands out because the film feels like two completely different ideas stitched together poorly, that of a guy faking abductions for an affair and of a guy who can make a woman orgasm by looking. Also, they clearly pad the script with scenes about Harry’s and Olivia’s neighbor having an affair with a detective and throw in a weird element of having the aliens drop Harry off wearing a Roman uniform. It’s like the people who made the movie just wanted to sell boobs and butts, which means this movie probably made a fortune.

SatSA - 3Roman
There’s something about a man in uniform.

The 2015 version, on the other hand, explicitly starts the film by saying that they aren’t going to be rated R. However, if a viewer were to think that this means that this movie might actually be decent on its own merit, that’s a mistake. The acting in this version is better, in the sense that it’s not awful, but much of the script is either exactly the same or somehow worse. A big thing is that they expand the roles of the aliens in the movie. Whereas in the 1993 version, the aliens just appear for a moment then release Harry, in this one they are actively monitoring Harry and they actually are on a mission to fix his sex life, revealed to be at the request of Thousand Ways, who is an alien hosting a reality show in this version. The aliens start to provide the “comic relief” and they are anything but funny. They talk in broken English which is only funny if you have some sort of brain injury, and say things like “how you know which one is ‘hot’?” about the women in Harry’s life. Also, they end up leaving when Olivia uses Voodoo on them, something that HAS NOT BEEN IN THE MOVIE UNTIL NOW OR EVEN MENTIONED. But at least the deus ex machina means this movie comes in at a mercifully short 69 (heh) minutes.

SatSA - 4Aliens
These guys were a rejected Mad TV sketch. Very rejected.

I’m absolutely perplexed at why this movie was remade. Moreover, why would you remake a movie whose primarily plots are sex-based without any nudity and with lessened sexuality? They not only remove the nudity, but the women orgasming (a major part of the movie) is now portrayed by women singing a high soprano note. Even some of the lines are just altered slightly to be less offensive, like how Thousand Ways goes from meaning “a thousand ways to have an affair” to “a thousand ways to have a man,” and having her line go from the moderately clever entendre “I love screwing my bosses” to the awkward “I love having sex with my bosses.” However, both versions have an awkward moment where Harry is worried about looking at an underage girl with his powers, before being assured that she’s over 18, and in both I feel dirty from having watched the exchange. 

SatSA - 5ThousandWaysEdited
At least one movie makes me have to censor things.

I will be frank, neither of these movies is good, but the first one never pretends to be anything other than an excuse to show off some very sexy ladies in little to no clothing. The bad acting, stupid scripts, and the fact that most of the conversations of the film are played over stripping is the film just delivering on its promise to the audience. The remake tried to be a film and completely failed. If you’re really wanting to relive the age before internet porn, they’re both on Amazon.

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 – Blow the Man Down: Weigh, Hey, and Check This Film Out

A Maine fishing town isn’t quite as quaint as it would seem.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Sisters Priscilla and Mary Beth Connolly (Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor) lose their mother and find themselves massively in debt. The two have a fight at the funeral, leading Mary Beth to go out and get a drink or ten. At the bar, she meets a man named Gorski (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), who she tries to go home with, only for him to attack her. She kills him in self-defense, setting events in motion that bring her into conflict with her mother’s old friend, local brothel owner Enid Devlin (character actress Margo Martindale). It turns out the history of the town of Easter Cove is not just fishermen and vacationers. 

BtMD - 1Cast
I’d point out stuff about them looking broken, but $10.99/lb lobster is distracting me. 

END SUMMARY

This movie is a strange blend of mystery, drama, and dark comedy and yet it always manages to work. The entire town, from the businesses to the people, is always a bit off-kilter, starting with the Singing Fisherman (David Coffin) who ushers us into the film with the title song. It seems like this is the kind of town that would be home to a bunch of rough-and-tumble fishermen, and it is, but since they’re usually out on the boat, it turns out that women do much of the actual running of the town, which is something that’s typically accurate of places dependent on such an industry. What isn’t typical is what the women in this town were willing to do to keep it running and what they feel about their actions. It’s peeling off all of the layers of deception in the town that makes the movie constantly compelling.

BtMD - 2Margo
Also, there are lots of layers because it’s in Maine and it’s cold as hell. 

The performances in the film are all amazing, and I cannot help but say that Margo Martindale lives up to her status as the legendary character actress BoJack Horseman reminded us she always was. She seems like she’s always in control, but also aware that things are potentially going to fall apart soon. The Connolly Sisters are both strong characters who depend on each other even though they are constantly at each other’s throats. The supporting characters range from the women who want to close down the brothel to the officers investigating Corski’s “disappearance” and all of them manage to enhance both the unusual nature of the town and also the complexity of the plot. The dialogue in the film merits such performances, which is an accomplishment.

BtMD - 3Cooler
I mean, they manage to make 5 minutes of dealing with a cooler compelling.

Overall, this film is excellent and I recommend giving it a try. 

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 Prime Review – Upload: Welcome To Paradise, That’ll Be $9.95

Amazon gives us a look at the future of death. It’s mostly ads. 

SUMMARY (SPOILER-FREE)

Nathan Brown (Robbie Amell) is a computer programmer who is dating the wealthy Ingrid Kannerman (Allegra Edwards). However, Nathan gets into an auto-driving car accident and is sent to the hospital. He is given the option to be sent to Lake View, an expensive digital afterlife into which people’s consciousnesses can be digitally transferred, but only because Ingrid agrees to pay for the monthly fees. He agrees, and is sent to the very ritzy resort-like afterlife where he is supervised and supported by Nora Antony (Andy Allo) and her coworker Aleesha (Zainab Johnson). He quickly is befriended by Luke (Kevin Bigley), another Lake View resident. Soon, however, Nathan starts to develop a closeness with Nora, despite the fact that Ingrid is the only one keeping him “alive.”

Upload - 2Nathan
Right before the Upload.

END SUMMARY

This show is a blend of a number of episodes of Black Mirror, but as a comedy. The future is filled with ads and in-app purchases that populate the digital afterlife. People hook up almost exclusively using Tinder-like applications that require video consent, but also allow for public ratings and reviews of the encounters afterwards. Funerals have the deceased present, which has mostly reduced any of the impact of death and thus any need to mourn. You can wear a special suit that allows you to have sex with anyone over the internet or even in the afterlife. In short, we’re in a strange dystopia because death no longer has its sting. 

Upload - 1Stars
Although not rating it 5 stars stings a bit.

The biggest theme in the series, aside from the fact that humanity has largely been altered forever by the fact that death is no longer the great unknown, is how much corporations and capitalism in general have started to subvert all of humanity and direct existence towards their will. As I said, one of the first things that’s revealed is that you have to pay thousands of dollars a month to CONTINUE LIVING in a digital environment. During that existence, ads are constantly pitched to you, you aren’t allowed to work (because it would destroy the economy for the working man), and any “luxuries” cost a large surcharge, despite the fact that this is all just code. In short, you’re having to pay constantly for stuff that costs next to nothing to replicate. The justification given is that it costs money to maintain the system, but… it’s literally people’s lives. If you can’t think of something for which this might be a metaphor… well, try harder.

Upload - 3Beer
The beer costs extra. Again, it is not real. Also, apparently it doesn’t taste like real beer.

The humor in the show isn’t quite as on-point as, say, The Good Place, but it still keeps you interested. Mostly, the series keeps you interested by having some very elaborate world-building and solid chemistry between Nathan and Nora. The supporting characters are also compelling, usually having some fun sub-plots or interesting twists. Still, I recommend giving it a try. 

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 Monster of Phantom Lake: It’s Chock Full O’ Nostalgic Goodness

I check into the first entry to the franchise that gave us Weresquito.

SUMMARY

It’s the 1950s, which means that radioactive ooze is everywhere and teens are partying in the woods listening to that newfangled rock music. Phantom Lake is a peaceful Wisconsin camping spot, but unfortunately it is also a place where companies can pay local rubes (Director Christopher R. Mihm and Dustin Booth) to “dispose” of their toxic chemicals, including some radioactive waste. It’s patrolled by two local officers, the Canoe Cops (Mike Cook and M. Scott Taulman), who somehow haven’t noticed all the dumping, or the crazed local WWII vet who lives in the woods, Michael “Lobo” Kaiser (Mike Mason). Kaiser tries to attack the two dumpers while in a delusional state, but falls into the water, which mutates him into THE MONSTER (Applause). 

MoPL - 2MonsterLake
Da. Da. DUNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!

Meanwhile, five teens (Deanne McDonald, Brad Tracy, Lindsey Holmes, Justen Overlander, Rachel Grubb) go camping in the woods while, at a different part of the woods, Scientist Professor Jackson (Josh Craig) and his grad student Stephanie Yates (Leigha Horton) are also taking a weekend. Sadly, the monster has inherited Lobo’s crazed aggression and has developed a lethal touch, so everyone is in trouble… particularly teen Elizabeth, who resembles Lobo’s dead wife.

END SUMMARY

So, having loved Weresquito: Nazi Hunter and its nostalgic appeal, I did some research into the movie and I was happy to discover that it was, in fact, the eleventh film in the “Mihmiverse,” a series of nostalgic B-Movie Sci-Fi and Horror films that are directed by Christopher R. Mihm. Since Weresquito absolutely nailed the nostalgic feeling of those classic drive-in double features like Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster or Invasion of the Saucer Men, I decided to watch some of his other works and was surprised to find out that there is actually some order to the films. Based on that, I decided A) I was going to work through this entire filmography and B) that I would watch them in order. Fortunately, they’re available on Amazon Prime, so it wasn’t much of a challenge. This is the first entry of the Mihmiverse and, honestly, I like it even more than I liked Weresquito.

MoPL - 3Guitar
Not just for the fun guitar interlude.

 

If you read my other review, I stated that a movie like this is hard to judge by the normal standard. This movie isn’t just trying to tell a story, it’s trying to capture a particular slice of film history and revive it, and with it bring back the feeling of both nostalgia and innovation that came from filmmaking after the decline of the Studio System in the late 40s/early 50s. 

MoPL - 4Rock
That’s what killed the studios. Rock music. Also court rulings.

Quick History Break (Skip the paragraph if you want): After the US Supreme Court ruled in 1948 that Studios couldn’t prohibit theaters from showing films from competing studios, independent filmmakers now had the ability to actually show their movies in major theaters. Additionally, drive-in theaters started heading to rural areas, because the independent films were cheaper to license or buy, meaning they could actually afford to show them, particularly if they got one good movie and one terrible, cheap, “B-Movie.” Shortly after, in 1952, the Supreme Court also ruled that films were art, and that US laws couldn’t censor them, leading to the decline of the Hays Code (which had only been enacted because the US threatened the film industry with censorship laws if they didn’t censor themselves). Thus, we now had a bunch of low-budget filmmakers, drive-in theaters looking to offer double-features, and less censorship: Welcome to B-Movie Heaven! This is the exact time period that the “Mihmiverse,” or at least the entries I’ve seen, are trying to replicate.

MoPL - 5CatWomen
Truly a golden age. 

Every performance in this movie is stilted, filled with strange intonations and odd dramatic pauses, and absolutely on point. One thing that I’ve learned from watching a lot of legitimately bad films, and even failed “so bad they’re good” attempts, is that it actually is hard to get actors to do an intentionally bad job believably. Most of the time, telling actors who don’t have talent to act like bad actors doesn’t really give you a “good” bad performance, instead being off-putting and even infuriating. This film perfectly replicates the awkward delivery we got from people in the 1960s trying to replicate the Classical Actors of the 30s and 40s and failing, which gives it the true 1950s B-Movie feel. Unlike my complaint in Weresquito that the film was “too clear and too in-focus,” this movie actually looks much more like an old B-Movie.  

MoPL - 6Kids
They really nailed the feel of the genre.

The plot of the movie is basically “it’s the Fifties and there’s a Monster,” but the dialogue between the Monster attacks is actually pretty entertaining. There’s a lot of discussion about relationships, something that was typically the subject of filler in this genre, but the characters here actually have some development, albeit minor. The Monster is largely off-screen, but when he’s onscreen he is the absolute cheapest looking costume I have seen in years, in all the best ways. It looks like someone hastily through together an outfit based on whatever was lying around the house or was reusable from a different, older movie’s leftovers, and that’s exactly what the film should be going for. 

MoPL - 1Monster
In no way does this look like someone had crepe paper and a tennis ball.

As I said, this movie can’t really be criticized in the normal sense, because it’s not a satire or a parody, it’s just a film capturing exactly the right slice of cinema history. If you’re like me and you have a love of old B-Movies, this will be great for you. If you don’t like that kind of thing, you won’t care for this. 

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 Mini-Review – Hunters: Nazi Punks F*ck Off

Amazon gives us a dark story of the people who try to thwart the rise of the American Reich.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman) is a math prodigy and a drug dealer who witnesses his grandmother (Jeannie Berlin) being murdered one night. It turns out that she was a member of the Hunters, a group of Nazi-killers led by Meyer Offerman (Al “Please Forget I Was In Jack and Jill” Pacino), a holocaust survivor. Meyer and the other Hunters reveal that there are a number of Nazis who escaped after the fall of the Third Reich and made their way to America where they have acquired positions of power and are conspiring to create a Fourth Reich under the Colonel (Lena Olin). 

Hunters - 1Pacino
Pacino’s still recovering from getting the Oscar for Scent of a Woman

END SUMMARY

So, Nazis suck. I’m told this is a political position nowadays, but my grandfather thought they sucked enough that he got a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star fighting them, so I’m going to stand by my position. Any further discussion on this post is going to contain anti-Nazi opinions. If that bothers you, well, go f*ck yourself, Snowflake. 

This show is pretty dark, mostly because it frequently, by necessity, addresses the horrors of the Holocaust and the treatment of Jewish people by the Nazis. People are frequently shown being murdered, tortured, humiliated, and worse, all because of the beliefs of the Third Reich. Moreover, it is shown that America is more willing to tolerate those same beliefs than we would like to admit, as long as they’re couched in something a little more subtle. While the show doesn’t go full-on into the relationship between American racism and the Third Reich, it does make it clear that the Hunters only do this because they are sure that the actual authorities won’t. 

Hunters - 2Cast
The fact that they’re a diverse group probably ensures the authorities don’t trust them.

However, weirdly, the show actually doesn’t go as heavy into the disgusting behavior of the Third Reich as you might want. Instead, it comes up with comic-book-esque supervillainy that, while not less horrible than some of the things that the Nazis DID do, come off as somewhat ridiculous and almost farcical. I understand why the Auschwitz Memorial didn’t appreciate some of the sequences, because there really isn’t any point in doing inaccurate portrayals of the Holocaust when an accurate one would do the job better. I mean, you have some of the worst monsters in world history, you don’t have to give them weirder kinks just for watchability.

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The chess sequence is particularly insane. 

That’s sort of where the show fails: It just keeps trying to give us some more enjoyable and familiar scenes at the cost of a consistent or grounded narrative. There are a lot of stylized cut-aways similar to the ones in Inglourious Basterds or Kill Bill or… well, a lot of Tarantino films, as well as many modern superhero movies, which kind of undercut the very grave nature of the subject matter. I mean, I don’t want to see Josh Radnor doing a fake PSA in character right after I’ve watched a realistic story about Auschwitz. 

Hunters - 4Nun
Also, action nun is a weird thing to put in this series. 

Despite that, the show still kind of works because of the performances. While Pacino’s accent may be a bit much, he’s still Al Pacino and, when the moment calls for it, even he remembers that he can be a subtle and convincing actor. Logan Lerman delivers an amazing performance as well, really holding the story together. Dylan Baker is excellent as one of the undercover Nazis, hamming it up in a surreal way that does actually perfectly match the tone of the series. 

Hunters - 6Baker
He’s wearing an apron during his first murder. 

It also helps that, since the bad guys are Nazis, you never really feel bad about what happens to them. The Hunters tend to work on a love of ironic punishments, making Nazis suffer what they did to the Jews, but there’s not a ton of moral ambiguity even when they’re being seemingly cruel. It also helps that the action sequences and the cutaways are really entertaining, even if they’re a bit jarring at times.

Overall, I did like the show. It’s not really as unique as I was hoping, but it was enjoyable. 

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.

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.

Tick2 - 1Partners.jpg
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.

Tick2 - 2Outfits.jpeg
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.

Tick2 - 3Overkill.jpg
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?

Tick2 - 4Terror.jpg
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.

Tick2 - 5Destiny
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.