Wizards: Tales of Arcadia (Part 3) – Netflix Review

Guillermo Del Toro’s fantasy/sci-fi world comes to a final chapter.


Starting right where 3Below left off, it turns out that alien gods and Troll lords were not the only threat to Arcadia and the world at large. The forces of darkness, commanded by the Green Knight, have been attacking Jim Lake, Jr. (Emile Hirsch), the Trollhunter, along with Merlin (David Bradley), Blinky (Kelsey Grammer), and Claire Nuñez (Lexi Medrano), resulting in Jim being mortally wounded. Merlin picks up his apprentice Hisirdoux “Douxie” Casperan (Colin O’Donoghue), along with Douxie’s familiar Archie (Alfred Molina), Toby Domzalski (Charlie Saxton), Aaarrrgghh (Fred Tatasciore), and Steve Palchuk (Steven Yeun). They arrive in the now-floating city of Camelot, only for an attack by the Green Knight to send Douxie, Claire, Jim, and Steve back in time to the original reign of King Arthur (James Faulkner). Now they have to try to preserve the past and stop Morgan le Fay (Lena Headey) and the Arcane Order to save the present, with the help of some of the people of the past, including the troll Callista (Stephanie Beatriz), Sir Galahad (John Rhys-Davies), and Sir Lancelot (Rupert Penry-Jones). 

Douxie, please wear some dang armor.


So, it turns out that there’s a movie coming out next year, so this won’t be the last entry into the Tales of Arcadia series. Still, this is the culmination of four years of television and two prior series (Trollhunters and 3Below) that were from relatively different genres, and that deserves respect. I can’t ever really tell how much Guillermo Del Toro was involved in the actual plotting of the shows, but even if he just came up with the premises of the three shows, I have to give him credit for coming up with several distinct worlds that all intersect in interesting ways. Obviously, given that he wrote a book of it, he put most of the work into Trollhunters, but the other two series manage to keep expanding and compounding the mythology in interesting ways until the conclusion. 

This series also does a good job of making magic look like sci-fi technology.

The show’s main focus is on Douxie, which works well because he’s been a secondary character up until this point but his design, voice actor, and the way characters interact with him has always made him stand out appropriately. He was first shown to be a musician in the third season of Trollhunters, something that doesn’t really come up for part of this series, then becomes relevant towards the end. Douxie benefits from being both young in spirit but also over 900 years old, giving him a wealth of experience. Compared to anyone aside from Merlin, whose approval he craves, Douxie is a powerhouse, but since Merlin is always there, he has massive insecurities. It makes him an easy protagonist to get behind. As for returning characters, Steve Palchuck maintains his status as comic relief, Claire and Jim maintain their dynamic as protagonist couple with added magic baggage, and Merlin continues to be an overbearing jerk who has the terrible trait of usually being right. 

But tragic protagonists now, sadly.

I’ll admit that the show’s biggest drawback is that it is only one season of ten episodes. They manage to wrap up a bunch of plotlines, but it is done really quickly, leaving a lot of things to feel like deus ex machinae. We get some happy endings and quality story moments, but it comes at you so fast that you don’t really get a proper amount of time to react to the information before the next thing. Still, being able to rely on the past shows allows them to shortcut a lot of the storytelling, so it doesn’t bother me as much as it would with many shows. 

Plus, we get the big epic battle sequence that a finale needs.

Overall, a really solid conclusion to the Tales of Arcadia… or it would be, except they’re doing a movie next year and that’ll probably lead to more shows. Which is cool, cuz I enjoy this universe.

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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An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn: A Bizarre and Surreal Comedy – Netflix Mini-Review

Aubrey Plaza, Craig Robinson, Jemaine Clement, Emile Hirsch, and Matt Berry star in a weird movie of a single night show.


Lulu Danger (Aubrey Plaza) is a waitress for her husband, Shane (Emile Hirsch). Lulu sees an ad for a performance by Beverly Luff Linn (Craig Robinson), whose pictures she has in a drawer. Shane finds out that Lulu’s brother, Adjay (Sam Dissanayake), has a lot of money, so Shane and his employees Carl and Tyrone (Sky Elobar and Zachary Cherry) rob him. Adjay recognizes Shane and hires a drifter named Colin (Jemaine Clement) to get his money back. Colin pulls a gun on Shane, but Lulu takes Adjay’s money, as well as Colin, and heads to the hotel where Beverly Luff Linn is set to perform with his assistant, Rodney (Matt Berry). It’s going to be a magical night.

It’s set in the 90s, but this is the 80s portion of the 90s.


This was a very bizarre movie, to say the least. Everything in it, from the characters to the dialogue to the plot reveals, is done in an off-kilter style that seems to blend the works of Wes Anderson and David Lynch. If you have seen Director Jim Hosking’s previous film, The Greasy Strangler, then you already have an idea of how heavily stylized his work can be. It’s going to be off-putting to a lot of people, because at no point do you ever feel like anything happening is “real.” However, even if you don’t like it, it does make for a more inherently unique cinema experience, which is often preferable to being forgettably generic.

This cast, meanwhile, is preferable to almost anything else.

Unfortunately, once you move past the quirky nature of the film, the problem is that the movie doesn’t really have anything keeping you interested for the entire length of the show. While it is funny to hear some people deliver absurd lines in a monotone and overly serious voice, particularly Jemaine Clement and Aubrey Plaza, the absurdism is never quite enough to keep it sufficiently funny. The movie keeps having the performance by Beverly delayed over and over again in order to stretch the time out so that more of the characters can interact, but they just don’t create enough conflict to be either funny or compelling. 

Although you might laugh at those shorts.

It doesn’t help that the film is so tight with any information about the characters, saving it up for the big reveal at the end. While the reveal is ultimately pretty solid, explaining who Beverly Luff Linn is and also giving many of our characters deeper motivations for their actions, the fact that we spend so much time with them without much of a background makes us care less about what they do. This isn’t a mystery where the audience should be trying to figure stuff out, because nothing about the ending actually can be derived from anything in the film. The climax of the film is almost a joke on the viewer, and while I admire someone for having the guts to try it, I think that it didn’t overcome the damage it did to the first two acts. 

It does have Craig Robinson in this outfit at the end, so… that’s awesome.

Overall, not a great movie, but it’s not a complete waste of time, either. I think if you’re a fan of weird stylistic cinema, you probably would like 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.

Netflix Review – Freaks (2018): Parenting in a Broken World

Emile Hirsch and Bruce Dern star in a sci-fi dystopian story of what parents will do for their children.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Chloe Lewis (Lexy Kolker) is a seven-year-old girl who lives alone with her father (Emile Hirsch) in a broken down house. Her father has a set of very strict rules that he enforces, including that she can’t leave the house, can’t talk to people, can’t react to strange accusations, and has to practice having a fake identity. One day, she hears an ice cream truck outside and uses her voice to force a local girl to buy her ice cream. Her father gets angry at her for violating the rules. Later, her father comes back from outside with a bullet wound. Chloe uses this opportunity to leave and meet with the ice cream man (Bruce Dern). He tells Chloe he’s been waiting for her, and soon gets her embroiled in a plot to rescue her mother (Amanda Crew) from a shadowy government agency and its investigator Agent Ray (Grace Park). 

Freaks - 1Chloe
It’s a hard-knock life for her.


This is kind of a dystopian X-Men movie, taking place in a future where people with superhuman powers are being hunted by the government and kept in prison camps or used as weapons by the government. While that becomes obvious pretty early on in the film, we never see a grand explanation or anything like that, because we’re just seeing this society through the eyes of one family. We aren’t privy to the inner workings of the government or anything about the origins of the “Freaks,” because that’s not what the family knows or talks about, and there wasn’t a way to do it organically. It adds a layer of realism to an entirely unbelievable story, which helps the viewer bond with the characters, and that’s what the core of this film is: bonds.

Freaks - 2Hirsch
The name’s bonds. Emotional bonds.

While this movie takes place in a dystopian future filled with mutants, it’s not an action or adventure movie like most of those. Instead, it’s mostly a slow, sincere film about a family trying to deal with a bad situation. Emile Hirsch’s performance as a father who is going to extreme lengths to try and keep his daughter safe from a very real threat is amazing. Bruce Dern’s character, trying to avenge a lost loved one, is equally powerful. The pair of them represent opposing viewpoints about how to handle the situation involving “Freaks.” It resembles the positions held by Charles Xavier and Magneto in the X-Men series or their real-life inspirations Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Both are presented as reasonable positions to hold, but at the end of the day they both wouldn’t have to hold them if the government would stop trying to oppress its own citizens.

Freaks - 3Carrying

I’d also like to say that Lexy Kolker’s performance in this movie is amazing. Despite the fact that she is only 9 years old when she was filming the movie, her portrayal of an isolated and nearly-tortured child is spot-on. She shows a level of dedicated affection to Emile Hirsch’s character that seems genuine, as does her frustration at his strict rules. She also perfectly encapsulates the innocence of a child of 7, seeming to not be able to comprehend the situation she’s in fully. 

Freaks - 4Chloe
Also, she’s a badass for someone who just got out of pull-ups.

The special effects in the movie are used sparingly, but they’re used well. The powers in the movie are used creatively, showing that the people using them can maximize abilities beyond what most people would consider. 

Overall, I really recommend this film to almost anyone. It was a solid film and it had some genuinely powerful emotional moments in it. It’s on Netflix, so give 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.

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Netflix Review – 3Below: Tales of Arcadia Part 2 (Season 2) (Spoiler-Free)


Guillermo del Toro’s Tales of Arcadia Trilogy wraps up the second act in a solid season of sci-fi and fantasy comedy.


It’s been a few weeks since the events of the Season 1 finale that coincided with the final episode of Trollhunters. Arcadia is now aware that trolls exist, but the troll battle managed to conceal the presence of any alien life, including the Akiridion protagonists Aja and Krel Tarron (Tatiana Maslany and Diego Luna), as well as their dog Luug (Frank Welker) and their ship’s AI Mother (Glenn “Yes, that Glenn Close” Close). They are joined by Akiridion-5 Lieutenant Zadra (Hayley Atwell), who arrived last season to save them from Varvatos Vex (Nick Offerman), who is revealed to have aided General Morando (Alon Aboutboul) in overthrowing the planet before changing back to serve the royals. Varvatos Vex ended up imprisoned on the moon by the Zeron Brotherhood (Darin De Paul and Ann Dowd). 

3Below - 4Crossover.jpg
Raise your hands if you think that’s a lot of cast members.

The siblings are still being pursued by bounty hunters, including the powerful Trono (Danny Trejo), sought by the US Government, particularly Colonel Kubritz (Uzo Aduba) who is now willing to start dealing with some devils to get the Akiridion Royals, and soon will face threats to Earth, Akiridion, and the very universe itself.


This season was a massive step up in a lot of ways. 

First, it moves the timeline past the end of Trollhunters and the changes to Arcadia that arose from the events of the series finale are played out through this season. A lot of the supporting cast are now quite a bit funnier and more absurd now that the world itself has become more absurd, particularly Stuart the alien (Nick Frost), Coach Steve (Thomas F. “I’m not just Biff” Wilson), and Principal Uhl (Fred Tatasciore). Each of them is just a little bit more exaggerated than their already unusual character traits had allowed and it really helps. Expanding Colonel Kubritz’s role, particularly in a world that has just dealt with an apocalyptic scenario, creates a more compelling villain who progressively represents the kind of hypocritical and almost insane xenophobia seen throughout the world. 

3Below - 5Uzo.jpg
Plus, Uzo Aduba just makes her so darned charming and evil.

Steve Palchuk (Steven Yeun) and Eli Pepperjack (Cole Sand) have evolved from just their roles as the stereotypical bully and nerd to being legitimate heroes, something that both feels natural and compelling. Making them have such major character arcs without having them be the main characters of either series is a great set-up for their presumably bigger role in the third Tales from Arcadia series, Wizards

3Below - 6Creepslayers.jpg
They also have the “Creepslayers” handshake worked out.

One expansion that I don’t actually think worked was playing up the role of Toby Domzalski (Charlie Saxton) as the comic relief. Without Jim Lake (Anton Yelchin (R.I.P.)/Emile Hirsch) and Claire Nuñez (Lexi Madrano) to balance them out and provide emotional moments, Toby and AAARRRGGHH (Fred Tatasciore) rely too hard on the “dumb, weird characters” archetype in this season. Granted, the mix of Sci-Fi and Fantasy does work at several points, including having AAARRRGGHH’s magical nature basically trump a sci-fi trope in a humorous way, but it still needed to give them a little more maturity. 

3Below - 7Aaarrrgghh
I do like that nobody finds Aaarrgghh weird. Everyone acclimated immediately.

There are a lot of decent gags in the season as well. I particularly love all the jokes about the Foo-foos, a race of robot rabbits on the moon. It’s simultaneously a reference to “Little Bunny Foo-Foo,” even having characters threaten to bop them on the head, and to the Asian myth of the rabbit on the moon. Also, their primary battle strategy is breeding an army quickly, because… rabbits breed. Get it? Get it??? GET IT??? Eh, still, it’s mostly funny. Also, they take some solid shots at Michael Bay and I love that. 

3Below - 8FooFoo

One thing that really plays well is the season’s theme, because it’s much more coherent than in the last one. This season is mostly about intolerance and the fact that we as humans tend to immediately want to isolate people that are strange to us, but that it’s ultimately better to try to work together. It comes at it from a number of directions and I think it mostly gets the point across without being too preachy. 

Overall, it’s a pretty solid show for kids. I’d recommend parents work it into the rotation. If you’re an adult, well, you can enjoy it, too.

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

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

Netflix Review – Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia Part 1

Guillermo Del Toro takes an imaginative crack at a kids show.


Jim Lake Jr. (Anton Yelchin/Emile Hirsch) is a high-school outcast, because he’s the protagonist and that’s pretty much the only thing a teen protagonist can be since Peter Parker. One day, while biking to school with his friend Toby Domzalski (Charlie Saxton), he finds an amulet in what appears to be the remains of a shattered statue. Naturally, it turns out that it’s really a magical talisman left by Merlin (David Bradley) and the statue was actually the remains of its last wielder, the Troll Kanjigar (Tom Hiddleston/James Purefoy). Jim is gifted with the title of “Trollhunter,” the protector of all the good trolls and the slayer of evil ones. Jim is the first human to hold the title. It’s revealed that Jim’s hometown, Arcadia, is actually built on top of a portal to “Trollmarket,” a magical kingdom where Trolls live peacefully, for the most part. However, there is an evil troll named Gunmar (Clancy Brown) who, along with his son, Bular (Ron Perlman), is trying to take over the world. The only thing keeping both the troll and human worlds safe is Jim, along with Toby, his tutor Blinkous (Kelsey Grammer), his protector AAARRRGGHH (Fred Tatasciore), and Claire Nuñez (Lexi Medrano), a gifted martial artist and magically-inclined human.

Trollhunters - 1Cast.jpg
The gnome on the right is named “Chompsky.” Because that’s fun.


This show’s strength is world-building. Almost everything about the set-up is a cliche that we’ve seen a thousand times before, but the show uses the audience’s familiarity with the set-up to quickly start expanding its mythology and its setting. The recurring characters each become well fleshed-out and distinct as the show goes on. The locations are all interesting designs that each convey a lot more than any of the characters say, something that always gets credit from me. The villainous monsters-of-the-week, too, are usually very clever concepts or at least visually stimulating, ranging from hive-minded goblins who have amusing idiosyncrasies to mummy assassins.

trollhunters - 2bular
Oh, and big guy with swords. Gotta have swords.

The main strength of the show is that it’s not really “happy” like most kids shows from my youth. The good guys are good and the bad guys are, for the most part, bad, but we do get a lot of gray areas and the entire series constantly has a bittersweet tone. Everyone has to compromise for victory and the mark of the heroic characters is knowing when and where to make those compromises so that they don’t end up destroying the things that they were trying to preserve. The characters make mistakes, sometimes grave ones, when they try to make those calls, and they keep getting more and more consequences for their actions as the series progresses. The emotional growth of the characters is also a big part of the series, with everyone changing a great deal in order to deal with all of the events they go through.

Trollhunters - 3Gang.png
Also, the power of friendship is a big thing. 

The animation style is going to be divisive, but I thought it was actually pretty spectacular for a television series. The character designs are simple enough for ease of computer animation, but are all distinct enough that you never get anyone confused. Action sequences are, for the most part, very good for this kind of series. It takes a while for them to get more creative than slash and stab, but once it gets there, we start to get fairly inventive sequences.

Overall, this isn’t the best animated series for adults out there (BoJack Horseman exists), and it starts slow, but kids will like it and it does get better over time as you become more invested in the world that you’re watching. It also serves as the first chapter of Tales of Arcadia, which looks to be a very interesting meta-series, combining Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and whatever Wizards turns out to be.

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.