Hulu/Cartoon Network/HBO Max Op-Ed: Why Everyone Should Watch Adventure Time

Come along with me to a show that managed to turn every cliche on its head.

SUMMARY

Welcome to the Land of Ooo, where magic thrives, princesses are plentiful, and heroes are born. Oh, it’s also Earth after a nuclear war wiped out almost all of humanity. Finn (Jeremy Shada) is the last human and a courageous hero with a love of adventure and fighting. His adopted brother is Jake (John DiMaggio), a magical shapeshifting dog who is laid-back and fairly lazy, mostly because his powers allow him to do almost anything. Finn and Jake act as protectors of the Candy Kingdom, which is ruled over by the supergenius nerd Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch). The pair often have to rescue her from the machinations of the Ice King (Tom Kenny), a magical king who is obsessed with kidnapping princesses. Finn is also friends with Marceline, the hard-rocking Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson). There’s also an adorable sentient computer named BMO (Niki Yang), the sarcastic Lumpy Space Princess (series creator Pendleton Ward), the fiery Flame Princess (Jessica DiCicco), Jake’s girlfriend Lady Rainicorn (Niki Yang), and an insane number of recurring characters.

Peppermint Butler, Cinnamon Bun, the Earl of Lemongrab, and Tree Trunks made the cut.

END SUMMARY

Adventure Time is the ultimate coming of age story, because it progresses in the same way that life tends to progress when going from childhood to the cusp of adulthood. This is embodied in Finn, who ages from 12 years old to 17 during the series and, apparently, 18 in the HBO Max revival that’s coming out this year. Likewise, the show itself starts off as a really simple and childish series about a magical land where dreams come true and heroes and villains are easily discernible. As the show goes on, though, everything starts to get more and more complicated, with the good guys revealed to be morally ambiguous and the bad guys revealed to be more sympathetic or having deeper motivations than we had previously been privy to. 

The show starts with a slumber party, ends with war and an eldritch demon.

That’s what really makes this show special, because it takes a simple outlook of “good people vs. bad people,” then slowly destroys it, the way that people will need to have it destroyed at some point in their lives. Now, the show doesn’t say that there aren’t truly bad people out there in the world, in fact it makes a point of having a few characters that are just truly bad and never really get redeemed, but it does show that a lot of them have been made the way they are, or that they’re really trying to do the right thing and they just haven’t been able to. Similarly, seemingly good or innocent characters are shown to have selfish or stupid motivations. “People are complicated” is one of the hardest lessons to learn, because even when you know that fact, we often still want to group people into “good” and “bad.” However, that’s rarely ever the case, when you see what made them that way. 

Even Magic Man, a character who exists to be a jerk, gets some motivation.

One of the other great things about this show is how thoroughly it blends storytelling ideas from throughout history, although it’s almost entirely Western history. We see a lot of influences from fairy tales, because Ooo is a world where you can spontaneously stumble upon an old woman offering cursed apples or magic beans or maybe just a random princess trapped in a tower. The randomness of happenings in the world allow for shorter-form storytelling, because they eschew set-ups. We also see a number of episodes derived from mythologies ranging from Greek and Roman to Egyptian, where our characters are just pawns caught in the grasps of higher beings. Then, there are the more modern stories where the characters are playing video games or addressing fan fiction. By combining all of these influences, the show gains a more timeless quality and a greater level of relevance to almost any viewer.

I mean, ghost gladiators are timeless.

The animation and the voice action are highly stylized, but that also lets the show play with styles more and convey more visually than many shows could. It mostly does a good job in making body horror and grotesqueries look cartoonish enough that they’re not really scary. The show does frequently do horror storylines or episodes, ranging from possession to murder to existential horror, but despite the darkness, the show’s animation and the emotional resilience of the characters manage to keep it bearable for any viewer. It helps that the show’s storytelling is unbelievably streamlined, with each episode being 12 minutes and yet often feeling like you’ve watched a full normal episode of television. They do this by using a lot of quick cuts and clever visual storytelling tricks to convey massive amounts of information in a few seconds.

3 Seconds of knife rain and you know why the characters can’t go outside.

The main reason why I want more people to watch this, aside from helping any viewer with their emotional development, is that the show teaches a valuable lesson that most shows can’t teach because they don’t grow the way this show does: Even though life is complicated, you can always keep fighting to do the right thing. What is “right” will always change as you get more information, so it’s tempting to just not learn more, but it’s better to learn and grow and change yourself. The right thing isn’t usually the easy thing, particularly when you have to accept that you might have been wrong in the past, but the world works out better for everyone, including you, when you work to change it for the better. 

Also, maybe be honest about your feelings before it’s too late.

The downside to the show’s brilliant structure is that the beginning of the show is extremely childish and simple, with humor that often is in the same vein. In other words, some of the episodes just aren’t that fun to watch for adults until around Season 3. If you want to just spend 15 minutes to test if the show will be for you, I would recommend watching the Season 3 episode “What was Missing.” If you like it, give the show a try. If, after seeing that, you want to get into the show without having to go through all of the early episodes, I recommend the following episodes in Season 1:

“The Enchiridion,” “Ricardio the Heart Guy (it’s got George Takei),” “Evicted,” “What Have You Done?” and “His Hero.”

For Season 2:

“It Came From The Nightosphere,” “The Eyes,” “To Cut a Woman’s Hair,” “The Silent King,” “Guardians of Sunshine,” “Death in Bloom,” “Susan Strong,” “Heat Signature,” and “Mortal Folly/Mortal Recoil.” 

So, if you just watch those episodes, you get most of the show’s set-up, but you only need like 3 hours to do it. Once you get to Season 3, the show quickly starts to get much stronger, especially when you get to “What was Missing,” and “Holly Jolly Secrets,” an episode that I put on my list of the best episodes of television

Overall, this is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and the fact that it’s still going brings me nothing but joy. Please give it a watch. 

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

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Hulu Review – Into The Dark: Good Boy : Woman’s Best Friend (Ending Explained)

A woman adopts an adorable puppy who helps with her anxieties… by removing them.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Maggie (Judy Greer) is a journalist who is approaching 40 and still trying to find Mr. Right. After discovering that her paper is going digital and that her job has been downgraded to independent contractor by her boss (Steve Guttenberg), she decides to get an emotional support dog. She finds a small dog named Reuben (Chico the Dog) and adopts him. Despite Reuben being temperamental, she still starts to bond with the dog, eventually becoming one of those dog moms that you know you’ve seen before. However, it turns out that Reuben is more than what he seems. Whenever something starts to cause Maggie stress, Reuben attacks it, including all of the people. Also, the movie has Ellen Wong, Elise Neal, and Maria Conchita Alonso.

Do you rub his nose in it?

END SUMMARY

Honestly, I liked this movie pretty well, despite the fact that it’s not much of a horror film. There’s almost no terror at any point in the movie, because a lot of the kills and attacks lack any atmospheric buildup. There are a few strange mind-bending scenes, but they don’t seem to have much of an impact on Maggie, so they don’t leave much of an impact on the viewer. There’s not a ton of traditional “horror” either, since the movie doesn’t really focus on the repulsive nature of the deaths. Without atmosphere or gore, you’re missing the two things that usually make a horror movie work. However, what you do have is an interesting blend of a romantic comedy, drama, and horror that mostly manages to stay upright because they cast Judy Greer, an incredibly talented comic actress, as the lead.

This woman is a treasure.

The film is mostly about how Maggie is trying to deal with being a woman whose life just didn’t work out the way she wanted. Despite being smart, good looking, and, apparently, a talented writer, Maggie can’t seem to find someone who wants a family and she doesn’t make enough money to do it on her own. While she does start to meet a nice guy (McKinley Freeman) during the film, she still finds herself having severe issues trusting his intentions. That’s why she becomes so attached to Reuben, because he’s a dog and therefore isn’t going to betray her. In the hands of any other performer, this kind of thing would clash with the horror elements, but somehow Judy Greer keeps it balanced. 

Occasionally the balance is literal.

I thought it was a bold move on the part of the series to use June’s holiday (every Into The Dark is based on a holiday) on Pet Appreciation Week as opposed to Father’s Day (although they did that last year, they have used Mother’s Day twice). The movie does actually do a pretty good job of showing why people can become so attached to their pets, particularly in the modern world where a lot of human connections suffer due to distance or societal pressures. I also like the fact that nobody in the movie really questions the merit of having an emotional support dog. 

Especially such a cute little pupper.

Overall, though, the movie just stays a bit too tame for horror and has too many horror tropes to work as a black comedy. I still enjoyed it, but a lot of that is that the cast was really solid for an Into the Dark film. 

ENDING EXPLAINED (SPOILERS)

Okay, so the movie is actually pretty sparse on details of exactly what Reuben is. We know that he’s clearly not just a normal dog or even a really smart dog, because we see that he is strong enough to tear a cage apart despite his size. Then, towards the end of the movie, we even see him grow in size to the point that he’s roughly the size of a bullmastiff. However, the film does give us a few flashes in the film that we can piece together a little bit of what he is. 

This is separation anxiety.

Here are the things the movie makes explicit: Reuben makes other dogs very anxious. His bloodwork is abnormal, to the point that the veterinarian says that it’s “all over the place.” This just seems to confirm what we already knew, that Reuben isn’t really a dog. We see a jump scare that shows one of Reuben’s victims, Maggie’s landlady, as an ethereal specter. We also see that the more Maggie loves Reuben, the stronger he seems to get and the more aggressive that he gets. We also get a hint that this film is just one of many times that Reuben does this exact same thing, as his previous owner was in jail for murder, just like Maggie is at the end of the film. So, what is Reuben? 

One of Reuben’s victims.

Reuben appears to be a variant on an incubus, an evil demon that typically feeds on sexual energy. Like most demons, it’s repulsive to animals and can change shape. However, rather than trying to devour Maggie’s sexual energy, Reuben apparently feeds on her affection, and in return kills all of the things that make her anxious. His victims end up being seen as shades, due to their unnatural deaths. At the end of the film, when given a choice between Reuben and Nate, Maggie actually realizes that she has more affection for Reuben, which is what ends up allowing the “dog” to kill Nate, but seals Maggie’s fate. 

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.

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

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

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

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

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

END SUMMARY

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

Also, hope you like a lot of awkward death.

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

Galahad never did as many kegstands.

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

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

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

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

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.

Hulu Review – The Lodge: A Cult Film in the Making

A woman left alone with her new step-children finds her world turned upside-down.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

After their mother (Alicia Silverstone) dies, Aidan and Mia Hall (Jaeden Martell and Lia McHugh) are sent to live with their father, Richard (Richard Armitage), and his fiancé, Grace (Riley Keough). Richard met Grace while researching a book on cults, because she was the only survivor of her father’s death cult’s mass suicide. Richard announces that the children will spend the holidays with Grace and him at the family’s isolated cabin. The kids refuse to bond with Grace, something that becomes even more stressful when Richard gets called back in to work. One morning, Grace awakens to find that someone, or something, has taken all of the belongings out of the house and destroyed the generators. Even more strange occurrences start to occur, leading Grace to question her reality, or what’s left of it, as she tries to survive with the children.

Lodge - 1Grace
She’s not good at winter, so that’s a bad start. 

END SUMMARY

This movie is a great example of how you can make horror without needing to have a lot of jump-scares or a ton of disturbing images. While we get some flashbacks to some cult activity, the majority of the tension in the film is just Grace’s slow descent into paranoia. Honestly, Riley Keough makes this movie work. The two kids, played by Martell and McHugh, are both great, but the focus of the story is on Grace, who is dealing with both her past and her future. Since her father led a psychotic religious cult, she naturally has a fear of the Catholic iconography that decorates the cabin, and Keough manages to add a level of subtle intensity to her reactions that really sells her growing madness. If you enjoyed the Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala film Goodnight Mommy, you’ll like this.

Lodge - 3Grace
The directors really like to mess up faces.

Throughout much of the movie, the terror comes from the uncertainty of what is happening to Grace and the kids and how much of it is just within Grace’s mind. The fact that the audience doesn’t really know either, and that some of our own experiences may have felt just as ambiguous in the past, really starts to make the events hit home hard. The atmosphere of the cabin is as unsettling as it gets, constantly casting an otherworldly pallor over everything that the characters are experiencing. So many of the shots really drive home the isolation and the dread that Grace is dealing with that you can empathize with her desperation. 

Lodge - 4Kids
The kids also have a bad time. 

I will say that the biggest problem with the film is the actual plot. Since so much of the movie is ambiguous, it really does take a hit when it tries to explain what’s happening, mostly because the explanation doesn’t really make sense. The ending is powerful, though, and will leave you feeling a lot of emotions, but I’d hate to tell you which ones.

Lodge - 2Article
Who knew a suicide cult could have lasting repercussions?

Overall, honestly, I really liked the film. If you like movies that are driven primarily by a single great performance, or atmospheric horror, check it out on Hulu.

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.

Hulu Review – Solar Opposites: Justin Roiland Has Good Weed

I take a look at the new series by the co-creator of Rick and Morty.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Planet Shlorp was a perfect utopia until the asteroid hit. 100 adults and their “replicants,” which is to say children, escaped into space along with a pupa (Liam Cunningham), which will one day destroy the planet they land on and create a new planet Shlorp. Korvo (Justin Roiland) and Terry (Thomas Middleditch) and their children Yumyulack (Sean Giambrone) and Jesse (Mary Mack) land on Earth and, after living there for a year, are still having trouble adjusting to Earth life. Also, Yumyulack keeps shrinking people and forcing them to live in a small prison run by the Duke (Alfred Molina). 

SolarOpposites - 1Cast
The pupa’s in the Baby Bjorn. 

END SUMMARY

I can’t help but look at this show as an example of what Rick and Morty would be without Dan Harmon. The answer appears to be “still hilarious, but without structure.” This show is a lot more freeform, similar to the episodes of Rick and Morty that Roiland performed on weed, but that doesn’t change the fact that the show’s off-the-wall nature allows it to produce a lot of unique situations. Since the show feels a little less predictable and formulaic, the jokes tend to be harder to guess and that tends to make more of them land. The animation style is also similar to Rick or Morty, but with less random genital duplication. 

SolarOpposites - 2Aquarium
The pupa in the background is frequently hilarious.

The show tends to have an a-plot involving Korvo and Terry as an “odd couple,” a b-plot with Yumyulack and Jesse learning about being children on Earth, and a c-plot involving the shrunken prison. However, it doesn’t have the amazing a-plot and b-plot interplay that Rick and Morty so often excelled in. Instead, we usually see the plots just shifting from one to another and then back, pretty much picking back up where they left off the last time it was featured. Still, the subplots are usually funny and the loose continuity makes the c-plot in the shrunken prison cumulative, which allows for some more serious character development.

SolarOpposites - 3Shrunk
It’s less Mad Max and more Mad Min. I APOLOGIZE FOR NOTHING!!!

Overall, the show’s pretty solid. It doesn’t have, so far, any of the sort of existential commentary and insight of Rick and Morty, but it’s funny and that’s really all you need sometimes.

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.

Hulu Review – Devs: A Techno-Odyssey

Nick Offerman and Sonoya Mizuno star in a show about the bleeding edge of technology.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Lily Chan (Sonoya Mizuno) is a computer engineer with her code-monkey boyfriend Sergei (Karl Glusman) at Amaya, a leading tech company founded by Forest (Nick Offerman). Sergei is offered a job opportunity at Devs, the top-secret quantum computer research and development division of Amaya. Devs is run by Katie (Alison Pill), a quantum physics prodigy, and staffed by Lyndon (Cailee Spaeny) and Stewart (Stephen McKinley Henderson), two technical geniuses.. However, after his first day, Sergei goes missing. Lily, suspecting foul play, starts to investigate Amaya and Forest, bringing in her ex-boyfriend Jamie (Jin Ha), and getting the two caught going down a rabbit hole that is bigger than anyone could have conceived.

Devs - 1Cast
Also, a lot of yellow.

END SUMMARY

First off, the acting in this is phenomenal. Nick Offerman’s character stands as a stark contrast to his longest-lasting role as Ron Swanson on Parks and Recreation in all of the best ways. Forest is serious, he is depressed, he is brilliant, and he is focused on a relatable goal throughout the series, even though he may have done a lot of things that he shouldn’t have. He’s not funny, nor is serious in a fun way, like Swanson, even though you might expect the characters to seem similar. It’s genuinely impressive to watch how well he handles the emotions of a mentally broken tech billionaire. Similarly, Mizuno does a great job at playing a character whose emotions are always a little more in flux, due to her circumstances. She’s asking her ex-boyfriend to help her investigate a company over her current boyfriend, after all, and that’s never going to have a clearly defined emotional state.

Devs - 2Offerman
He clearly has so much wisdom and also can field dress a deer with his keys.

Second, the design of Amaya and Devs is a perfect representation of the supposed blend of style and functionality that Silicon Valley always seems so proud of, while the team and project is a representation of the constant seeking of progress without thinking about the consequences that also tends to permeate Silicon Valley businesses. It’s a nice dig at the new Tech Industry culture while still valuing the constant advancements that they produce. 

Devs - 3Lab
First rule of Devs Club is: Don’t ask about the giant child.

As it’s a miniseries, the pacing is excellent, and the story it tells is entirely wrapped up at the end. I’m sure some people will say it’s a little slow, but I think it’s done in a way that’s designed to give you time to think about some of the interesting concepts that the show explores about the nature of humanity and the possibilities of technology in the future. It gives an interesting solution to some of the biggest philosophical questions that we have faced over the last century, and indirectly some that we’ve had for much longer.

Devs - 4Symbolism
I can’t tell if there’s any symbolism in the show, though. May be too subtle. 

I recommend it to sci-fi fans and fans of dramatic shows alike. Or just people who like Nick Offerman in a lumberjack beard.

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.

Hulu Review – Into the Dark: POOKA LIVES!!!! – The Evil Doll Goes Viral (Ending Explained)

In the first Into The Dark sequel, the mischievous doll returns.

SUMMARY 

Pooka is a popular toy created by a woman named Ellie (Rachel Bloom) who quits the day that the company decides to change it without her approval. Her husband David (Wil Wheaton) yells at her, resulting in her killing him with scissors and then burning herself alive. Later, the Pooka company hires disgraced author Derrick (Malcolm Barrett) as a copywriter. Derrick is being harassed constantly by fans of an internet celebrity that he insulted, Jax (Motoki Maxted). He stays with his two friends, Matt and Molly (Jonah Ray and Felicia Day), and works with his ex-girlfriend Susan (Lyndie Greenwood). After getting annoyed by the internet’s harassment of Derrick, the four, along with their friend Bennie (Gavin Stenhouse), create a story about a ritual involving Pooka being summoned in vengeance. They post it online, only for the “Pooka Challenge” to go viral… and the monstrous doll to start showing up in real life.

PookaLives - 1Dolls
Somehow Rachel Bloom seems perfect casting to make a murder doll. 

END SUMMARY

It’s odd that Pooka! is the first Into The Dark movie to get a sequel, because it was also the one which was revealed to take place within the mind of the main character. However, after reviewing that film, the doll itself was in the “real” world so this movie doesn’t have to also be part of a hallucination. In some ways, that’s more disturbing, because the doll was a creepy idea already. Pooka will repeat things it hears in either a “nice” or “naughty” way, with no discernable way to know when or how. It’s basically a schizophrenic Furby.

PookaLives - 2Pooka
This is the friendly kind.

I will say that this has the best cast of any of the entries in the Into The Dark series. Even though Wil Wheaton and Rachel Bloom are only in it for a little while, Malcolm Barrett from Better Off Ted, Timeless, and Preacher manages to do a great job as the main character who has a major chip on his shoulder. Jonah Ray and Felicia Day make a great pair, having previously been on the reboot of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Lyndie Greenwood is great at playing off of strange circumstances, as she did throughout the run of Sleepy Hollow. The fact that all of them work well as comedic relief allows for the film to have a lot of fairly explicit gore without ever feeling quite as heavy as it could be. It also drives home that this is, mostly, a tongue-in-cheek horror movie. 

PookaLives - 3Monster
Also, they mention they’re ripping off Slenderman and Momo.

When the movie is being more traditional as a horror movie, it’s pretty effective. When it’s being a goofy retread of a horror movie, it also works, mostly because the image of a giant stuffed animal attacking people is kind of inherently funny. However, the movie decided that it needed to have a “moral” about internet bullying and how it can get out of control, which kind of drags down the film’s momentum. It’s not that the message wouldn’t work in this kind of movie, but it really doesn’t mesh with the rest of the film. The fact that it becomes the focus of the third act doesn’t help either.

PookaLives - 4Bat
Rather than focusing on Felicia Day with a baseball bat.

Overall, not a bad entry, but it could definitely have been a bit stronger. 

ENDING EXPLAINED

While it’s kind of strange and indirect, at the end of the movie, it’s revealed that the Pooka army are actually composed of Tulpas (ideas brought to life by powerful beliefs) which were likely empowered into being by the angry spirit of Ellie, Pooka’s creator, because of the change to Pooka’s design. Because every person online added their own spin to it, each of the Pookas is different, reflecting the particular variant that went viral. Despite the fact that the main characters believe that they’ve figured out a way to make the monstrous Pookas vulnerable by adding a weakness to the creepypasta chain, they find that even though they killed the monster Pooka, the internet still decided that the Apookalypse had to happen, because that was more popular than the video of the group smiting the Tulpooka. Basically, since the internet is more focused on rooting for destruction than happy endings, the toys are going to go on a massacre. 

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.

Hulu Mini-Review – Future Man (Seasons 1-3): It’s Back… to the Finale!

The out-of-control Time Travel comedy comes to a fun and powerful ending.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Seasons 1 and 2 in that you know they’re not the finale)

Josh Futturman (Josh Hutcherson) is a janitor who lives in his parents’ house and spends most of his time playing the game “Biotic Wars,” a game which apparently no one has ever beaten. Josh becomes the first person to finish it, but this summons two soldiers from the future, Tiger and Wolf (Eliza Coupe and Derek Wilson). It turns out that the game was designed to help them find their savior to help save the future from the real Biotics. It turns out they’ll be created as a byproduct of the research of Doctor Elias Kronish (Keith David), Josh’s employer. Josh attempts to manipulate Kronish in the 60s, but when he returns to the present, he finds out that the world is subtly different and he still failed. They keep trying again and again to mess with history and eventually kind of succeed, but Josh gets pulled into the new future that is caused by Kronish’s partner Stu Camillo (Haley Joel Osment). After ultimately thwarting this new future, Josh, Tiger, and Wolf discover that their actions have killed billions upon billions of people and are now being prosecuted via a horrible reality show.

FutureMan - 1Cast
There’s a lot to unpack in basically every image. 

END SUMMARY

Future Man was a time travel show that basically lampooned every single time-travel movie by pointing out all of the vast logical inconsistencies that typically populate the genre, as well as by playing out the implications of time travel that normally would be ignored because they’re disturbing. Josh, the supposed savior, believes he is extremely genre savvy, in contrast to his completely uncultured companions, but he frequently is shown to be out of his depth. In response to screwing up his time travel missions, Josh’s response is usually to go travel in again, thinking that the repercussions will all work themselves out despite the fact that they never do. Tiger and Wolf, on the other hand, start out knowing pretty much one thing: How to kill anyone using anything at hand. Their complete and utter lack of social skills (having lived in the apocalyptic sewers for most of their lives) is a treasure trove of comedy for the first season.

A Fuel’s Errand
This is them on an average Tuesday.

The best part, though, is that all three of the characters change frequently during the show. During the first season, for example, Wolf stays in the 1980s due to his love of Corey Hart, Josh stays in an alternate present, and Tiger heads back to the 1940s. As a result, Josh realizes he’s a bit of a douche, Wolf becomes a coke addicted chef, and Tiger starts to resemble the mom from Leave It To Beaver. Then they change again multiple times in each season, usually growing in response to their circumstances. As a fan of character arcs, I love a show that has tons of them.

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Here’s Josh in a typical future slave group.

Similarly, the premise of the show changes frequently, based on the fact that time travel constantly shifts the world they’re in. Because of this, there can be huge differences in the tone or humor in any given episode, keeping the show fresh throughout most of the run. 

FutureMan - 4Astro
Everyone was awkward in the 1960s. 

Honestly, I liked this show a lot, and I enjoyed the ending quite a bit. I recommend giving it a try, particularly if you were born in the 80s or early 90s. One of my favorite jokes is contained in the end of the last episode, so I can say I found it pretty consistent.

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.

Hulu Review – Shrill (Season 2): Relationship Boogaloo

Annie returns for another season of dealing with writing, work, and having a boyfriend whose personality is mostly “beard.” 

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

At the end of the last season, Annie (Aidy Bryant) quits her job after fighting with her boss Gabe (John Cameron “Angry Inch” Mitchell), her mother Vera (Julia Sweeney) heads to Vancouver to take some alone time after stressing over her father Bill’s cancer (Daniel Stern), and she confronts her stalker (Beck Bennett). As this season starts, Annie and her boyfriend, Ryan (Luka Jones), deal with both of them being unemployed as she tries to get a new job writing, only to find out it’s harder than she expected. She eventually takes her job back from Gabe, with Amadi’s help (Ian Owens), and tries to advance herself within the institution, but finds that Ryan is not helping that. Meanwhile, her roommate Fran (Lolly Adefope) is dealing with being single for the first time in a while.

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Just like Madonna, she made it through the wilderness.

END SUMMARY

Now, as with last time, I didn’t think that I was the best person to comment fully on this show. Unlike last time, I thought her breakdown needed to go in front of mine. So I present to you, the Faceless Old Woman that Lives on my Sofa:

The Faceless Old Woman’s Review

There was a lot I loved in this season that I’m not going to go into detail about (some great development for Ruthie, Amadi, Fran, and Vera, John Cameron Mitchell singing Moonage Daydream!!)

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This image kind of summarizes a lot for this section.

A lot of what makes this show great is the attention to detail. Like when Annie gets chub rub from walking around a women’s empowerment conference all day. Or when she needs to charge her phone after camping and leans over an entire family in a restaurant to use an outlet. Or when Annie goes to a hospital and people keep trying to give her directions but she still keeps getting lost, because hospitals are fucking mazes. It’s all of these little things that make the show feel real and relatable. 

The “little things” are also where Ryan falls short in his relationship with Annie, even as he attempts to play a real boyfriend who isn’t embarrassed to go out in public with her. He’ll go to a work party with her that he doesn’t really like, but he’ll definitely use that fact later in an argument when he’s not getting what he wants. He’ll give her a gift, but it’s a pillow for her so she can actually sleep at his house, which had been an issue for…months, now? He’ll say “I love you” but he doesn’t actually listen to her when she says that she needs space or that her work is important to her. Also he has a gun??? That he’ll brandish in alarmingly irresponsible ways??? 

(I wish I could pretend that gun bit was outlandish but I know people who have dated men like that. Specifically, I can think of at least two women I know who have found a gun while sleeping in a guy’s bed. Like, under the pillow. I digress.) 

The point is, that Ryan is the kind of guy who is willing to go through the motions of “boyfriend’ but isn’t capable of being a full partner. These things can seem like momentary misunderstandings or minor incompatibilities, but when there are a lot of them, they’re pointing to bigger things.

Ryan can often come off as a slightly clueless but well-intentioned goof in this season. Amadi says, “Yeah, he’s dumb. But he’s got a great heart.” But the moment Ryan says to Annie, in the midst of a work party where she’s having fun and making important professional connections, that he’s made “an executive decision” that they’re going to leave – you remember, “Oh, right. This guy isn’t just stupid. He’s a selfish asshole.” As they’re fighting over the fact that Ryan told his coworker that he and Annie had sex in the office, Ryan says “I just spent, like, two hours at this stupid party for you.” A person whose expectation is “nice thing I did for you is a transaction and you owe me” is a walking red flag.

In the season finale, Ryan says, “You just tell me what to do, and I will do it. I’ll do whatever you want.”

And fortunately for us, the audience, Annie says, “Yeah, but I don’t wanna have to tell you what to do.” She says she doesn’t want to be his mom and she wants a real partner. It brings to mind the various discussions feminists are having re: emotional labor. If you haven’t read the essay by the guy who left dishes by the sink, let me clue you in: it’s stressful and unsustainable if your partner constantly has to be “the manager” of life’s details or “the adult” or “the better half” of the relationship.

Ryan asks her if they can work it out, like they did with the back fence.

A lot of times, when you’re in a bad situation, everyone can see the totality of its shittiness but you. Until something clicks into place and you can see things the way they really are. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Now, after Ryan’s attempts to improve, he reminds Annie of where he started – with a complete lack of respect for her, and her going along with whatever he asked.

“Our very solid foundation for our relationship?” she retorts.

“I’m past that.” Ryan says.

“Yeah, well I’m not.”

She realizes that she’s stuck with Ryan because it feels easier than facing the possibility of putting herself out there and dealing with rejection from men. 

There are different reasons we all stay in relationships that aren’t good for us, but they mostly boil down to: What if I leave and I’ve made a huge mistake? You’re calculating whether all these problems are really as bad as an indefinite period of “being alone.” It’s partially our society’s obsession with being partnered (see: the wedding industry.) But it’s also our very real loneliness.

At the end of episode two of this season, Annie and Fran are at a show and listen to a heartfelt cover of God Only Knows by the Beach Boys. Both are visibly emotional at the performance; Fran because she’s newly heartbroken and single and pretending that doesn’t bother her. I’d like to think Annie was also having a moment of, I want to have the level of feeling this song is conveying and I just…don’t. That is its own kind of loneliness: being partnered but lacking the depth of feeling you’re craving. 

Back in the season finale, Ryan asks in disbelief, “What are you gonna do now, you’re gonna go date other guys?”

“Yeah. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.” Annie says. She’s added the little things up.

Joker on the Sofa Review

In the first season, Annie started to try and move forward with her life by speaking honestly about how she felt for what may have been the first time. She found her voice and told everyone “I’m fat and I don’t give a damn what you think.” However, throughout much of this season she’s forced to walk a lot of that back because it turns out that the world is still kind of crap even if you have talent. Despite having what everyone acknowledges as being an excellent voice in her writing, her attempts to write for herself fail almost immediately, as do her attempts to get a job in a creative field that pays, and she’s forced to ask for her job back. Fortunately, her ambition has led Gabe to take her more seriously and try to nurture her talent, including trying to help her find a way to say something when she isn’t sure what she wants to say. 

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She gets confusing feelings about a female-driven conference.

The upside to this season, aside from being slightly longer, is that it does put Annie in a number of different positions from the previous one. We get to see her having to apologize to her parents for her behavior, we get to see her try to introduce people to her boyfriend, and we get to see her try to be adventurous in her new relationship. It allows us to explore more of her character and, frankly, some of the situations are just hilarious. Like meeting Fran’s family who all know that Annie slept with Fran’s brother and are very explicit about it, something that embarrasses her immensely. 

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I want Fran’s family. I’m not ashamed of that. 

The downside is that the Annie we have in this season isn’t much more assertive than she was in the last season. Hell, for part of the season, she’s acting a lot like she did at the beginning of the series, seeming desperate for approval despite the fact that she seemed like she was over that. It’s really annoying to see a character kind of devolve, even if it might be accurate to life. Progress isn’t linear, but it feels like after confronting her troll, Annie kind of devolves and loses herself for an episode or two, which is made more clear by her refusal to acknowledge Ryan’s obvious faults (as my counterpart already stated).

Shrill2 - 5Skating
Ryan commits a felony while at a work event. 

I will also say that Ruthie’s character was expanded in interesting ways in this season, mostly by making her scary and seemingly borderline insane. Every time she’s on-screen I question not only how she maintains her position, but how she is allowed to have contact with normal humans. It’s explained that she was adopted by Gabe and his partner, but her behavior goes far beyond what even being the boss’s child should let her get away with. I mean, she straight-up gropes Annie at one point and it’s laughed off. If Patti Harrison weren’t so damned fun and charming, it’d be even harder to understand.

Shrill2 - 6Ruthie
SHE SCARES ME!

Overall, I thought that the season was fine, but I never really got much more out of it than the last season. However, the ending gave me hope that a more definitive change is coming for Annie.

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.

Hulu Review: Shrill – Notes from a Loud Woman (Season 1)

Aidy Bryant stars as a journalist who wants to change everything about her life without changing her appearance.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Annie Easton (Aidy Bryant) is a Journalist who is stuck working on a magazine’s calendar despite her excellent writing skills. She has a boyfriend (of sorts) named Ryan (Luka Jones) who routinely hides her to keep others from knowing about their relationship. Her father (Daniel “Home Alone” Stern) has cancer and her mother (Julia “It’s Pat” Sweeney) is overbearing and critical. Her boss, Gabe (John Cameron Mitchell) is dismissive and condemnatory of overweight people. Her roommate, Fran (Lolly Adefope), is supportive but also very self-centered. Annie finally gets a break, but having a spotlight just means more people to criticize her, including one very dedicated internet troll.

Image result for shrill tv show
Pictured: A funny, talented, brilliant woman who people treat like sh*t.

END SUMMARY

Annie is fat and at no point does the show try to beat around that particular bush. At two points during the first episode, a woman (Katie Wee) who advertises as a personal trainer tries to convince Annie to hire her by using every trick in the book that society uses against fat people: “You actually have a really small frame,” “You weren’t meant to carry around all of this extra weight,” “You could be so pretty,””You don’t have to settle for [your body],” and a number of ways of saying that fat people are essentially diseased. Naturally, when Annie finally gets frustrated with her put-downs and says “f*ck you,” the woman responds with “I was just trying to help you, you fat bitch.” Annie walks away and smiles as the song “Pretty Ugly” by Tierra Whack plays, with the chorus “Don’t worry ’bout me, I’m doing good, I’m doing great, alright.”

Image result for katie wee shrill
Super cool to aggressively grab people, trainer lady!

And that’s pretty much the summary for the show: Annie just wants to be okay with who she is. She’s a fat woman, and no one seems to be able to see that as anything other than a problem that needs to be fixed. At the beginning of the series, Annie has a number of problems, but all of them are the result of not having self-esteem from years of being shamed for her body, as opposed to actual problems that derive from her weight. She lets Ryan treat her like crap (he won’t buy a second pillow, makes her sneak out the back door, and won’t use condoms), her boss be cruel to her, her mother belittle her, and even random strangers take shots at her, all because she’s been told that she’s not right the way that she is. However, throughout the season she starts gaining confidence until finally at least one of her critics is forced to admit that they’re jealous of the fact that she can feel confident as she is.

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She wears this outfit. You will never be this confident. Or this sparkly.

The music for the show is brilliant and almost always matches the theme perfectly. The acting is amazing, with both great regulars and excellent guest stars. The writing is, to me, sometimes a little inconsistent, but it never falls below “good” and often settles around “great.” It never feels trite or overdone, and there are some great quotes, particularly from Gabe. Overall, I liked this show a lot.

Image result for shrill tv show
Also, Fran knows how to work it.

However, I didn’t think that I could quite do justice to how well I thought this show handled its subject matter, I asked for a guest author to give her opinion. I hereby pass the mic to The Faceless Old Woman Who Lives On My Couch and go make a cocktail.

THE FACELESS OLD WOMAN WHO LIVES ON MY COUCH

I’d been meaning to read the memoir the series is based on for some time. I’ve missed Lindy West’s voice since she quit Twitter a few years ago. She’s still writing but without that social media pipeline I don’t see her articles as often, either. I adore Aidy Bryant and having the two of them working together is just a dream come true. The show is exceptionally and at times painfully good at illustrating the frustrations of being fat, being a woman, and especially being a fat woman.

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Lindy West, the writer of the book, next to producer Elizabeth Banks.

It’s set in Portland, Oregon, previously repped in comedy television in Portlandia. (Portlandia creator Carrie Brownstein directs Episode 2 of Shrill.) Whereas Portlandia was a surreal but loving lampoon of the liberal Elysium, Shrill digs a little deeper into the reality of living in a place where everyone thinks they’re a really good ally, and in that respect I think it’s a great addition to the small family of shows set in the City of Roses. I’ve never lived in Portland, but anyone who’s spent a lot of time in liberal circles knows someone who’s said something like, “Do I look like the establishment? I’m wearing fucking nail polish!” (John Cameron Mitchell is perfect in this series.)

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I mean, not THAT establishment, but AN establishment.

In talking to other fat women about this show, there’s a conflict between appreciating the show’s relatability and representation of the difficulties many people have with being fat, and the deep desire for a fat lady character to just have nice things for once.

On the “nice things” end, Annie does have a kickass wardrobe and apartment. Part of me is like “how would Annie have such a nice apartment with only one roommate if she worked as a blogger at an alt weekly, how could she afford all these cute plus size clothes, these things are expensive!” On the other hand, I’m also thinking “how awesome is it to have a fat leading lady who isn’t wearing a loudly printed potato sack?!” The wardrobe, the apartment, the various locations in Portland make a rich and colorful world for the show. The fat-friendly pool party scene is a major high point.

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It’s a hell of a party.

Annie’s job creates problems for her because she isn’t satisfied with the assignments she gets and her boss is extremely fatphobic. However, the biggest point of frustration for viewers is probably Annie’s shitty love interest, Ryan. Ryan is the quintessential Portland f*ckboy: disheveled beard, cohosts a shitty podcast, needs his mom to take care of him, doesn’t want his friends to know you exist, can’t commit to anything but texts nonstop if you aren’t around when he wants you. A lot of people can relate to dating a guy like this, but the rotten cherry on this garbage sundae of a human is that he pressured her into having unprotected sex with him, multiple times. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people can relate to that too. As a result, Annie has an abortion in the first episode. (Which is handled very well! It’s not a big deal!) (Side note on the morning-after pill subplot here: the evidence isn’t conclusive on whether it’s less effective on folks over 175 lbs, you should definitely still take the pill if you’re in a situation, but it’s still probably a poor choice for routine birth control. Talk to your doctor.)

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He takes mushrooms with a dog.

Ryan seemingly has no qualities that would explain why anyone would date him despite his faults. He’s not smart, charismatic, or handsome, nor does he play in a band. All of Annie’s friends know he is trash. We, the viewers, know he is trash. Annie thinks he’s “better than nothing.”

Image result for shrill tv show ryan
They sell better companions on Amazon.

I think some people are very tired of the narrative of the fat woman who has no self-esteem, and that’s extremely fair. I think the show finds a good balance in that Annie is learning how to stand up for herself at work, how to navigate her mother’s good-intentioned fat-shaming, and even confronts a vicious internet troll (a fantastic cameo from Beck Bennett). In her relationship with Ryan she also makes this sort of progress, but more slowly. I think this is, truly, very real when you’re attached to someone and you’ve envisioned them in your head as a future spouse. It’s hard to unwrap your head from that attachment, and you find yourself pushing away anyone who tries to clue you in. The show introduced another, really wonderful love interest for Annie midway through, and here’s hoping we see him again. But Annie’s just getting started and sometimes things get worse before they get better.

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