Grave of the Fireflies: I’m Just Gonna Go Cry Now – Hulu Review (Day 18)

This is my third watch-through of a movie I tell everyone should be watched exactly once.

SUMMARY (CW: Children dying horribly)

On September 21, 1945, less than three weeks after WWII ends, a young boy named Seita (Tsutomu Tatsumi/Adam Gibbs) starves to death in a train station. As a janitor goes through Seita’s possessions, he finds a tin of Sakuma drops (a hard candy from Japan) and discards it into a field. Several small bones fall out, and, along with some fireflies, the spirit of a small girl, Seita’s younger sister Setsuko (Ayano Shiraishi/ Emily Neves), emerges. Together, Seita and Setsuko’s spirits board an ethereal train. 

Seita dies of hunger surrounded by people.

The film then moves a few months back to the end of WWII. Seita and Setsuko live in Kobe with their mother (Yoshiko Shinohara / Shellee Calene-Black), who dies when the US firebombs the city, getting burned to the point that she is unrecognizable. Seita and Setsuko move in with a distant aunt (Akemi Yamaguchi/Marcy Bannor). The aunt is kind to the children at first, but eventually she convinces Seita to let her sell his mother’s valuable silk kimonos in exchange for rice. Seita also gives his aunt all of their possession, except for a tin of Sakuma drops that he keeps for Setsuko. As the war gets to the final stages, rations start to decrease and the number of people in the house starts to increase. The aunt starts to accuse Seita, whose school has been burned down and who can’t get work due to the factories being destroyed, of being lazy and ungrateful. Seita, who wants independence, buys a stove using his mother’s savings and cooks for just himself and Setsuko. Eventually, he decides that the pair should live in an abandoned bomb shelter. 

The bomb shelter is not cozy.

The pair survive off of the land for a brief period while living in the shelter. When Setsuko gets scared of the dark, Seita catches fireflies and keeps them in the shelter with them. The next morning, all of the insects are dead. Setsuko buries all of them in a grave and starts to ask why everything has to die, like their mother. After their supplies start to run low, Seita tries to trade with the farmers, but is refused. Eventually, he starts stealing from farms and running into houses to steal during bombing raids. Eventually, he’s caught and beaten, but is saved from prosecution by a friend of his father, who is currently in the Japanese Navy. 

It’s a cute scene that ends badly.

Setsuko starts to fall ill and a doctor tells Seita that it’s just malnutrition. Seita withdraws the last of the money from their mother’s bank account just as he learns that Japan has surrendered and that his father is probably dead. Seita returns with food for Setsuko, but she dies before he finishes cooking it. Seita cremates her body and stores her remains in the candy tin. In the present, their spirits arrive in modern Kobe, sitting on a hilltop and watching the world happily.

END SUMMARY

I absolutely hate whoever came up with “Film that Depresses You Horribly” as a prompt, but I hate the fact that I didn’t get rid of it even more. Trying to decide which horribly depressing film you want to watch is like asking what brand of liquid laxative to drink before your colonoscopy. No matter what you pick, it’s a shitty time. Anyway, after nominating Sophie’s Choice, Blue Velvet, Lars Von Trier’s Depression Trilogy, and this film, I picked this one because it seems the most relevant. No, not because we’re fighting a war with Japan right now (we’re not, right?), but because of the actual intended message of the film.

Also, it does at least have some light scenes.

People who watch this movie will almost uniformly declare it to be an anti-war film, something which the late director, Studio Ghibli founder Isao Takahata, would say was incorrect. In fact, he directly opposed the idea that this is an anti-war anime, because he believed that anyone that used the suffering of the citizens as a justification to avoid war could also use it as a justification for just attacking first. After all, if you kill all of their innocent citizens first, then yours get to live. Not hard to imagine why a guy born in Japan in the 1930s and who lived through a 1945 bombing might have some negative opinions about trying to justify starting a war. 

Look at all the fireflies the planes create.

However, I think that the film does successfully convey the horror of being a citizen when your country is being attacked. There is one scene in the film in which almost everything on screen is on fire, with the entire block just being erased from existence by the bombers. When we next see the area, it’s now a completely scorched landscape, with factories, homes, and even people rendered into a charred mass. It’s incredibly disturbing, but it’s only compounded when we are shown the image of Seita’s mother burned over her entire body. She’s unrecognizable to almost anyone, and later, her wounds are filled with insects and rot. The movie makes sure that we understand that this was not a pleasant end. The same is true of Seita and Setsuko starving to death. It’s not a fast ending, it’s slow and painful. Moreover, it was easily preventable by any number of people.

They make you feel it.

That’s apparently closer to the film’s actual aim, at least from what I can find. Obviously, if you’re a fan of ignoring authorial intent, then that’s a completely valid point of view, but I do like to consider it, particularly in films like this. It seems that the intent in this film wasn’t to say that war is terrible, but instead to say that these children died because no one helped them. They were socially isolated because their aunt kept telling them that they were ungrateful, leading them to leave, and she never checked on them again. Children become aware that the two are living there, but no one comes to check on them. Seita takes Setsuko to a doctor who tells him the child is malnourished, but when Seita asks how to feed her, the doctor just ignores him. The farmers don’t offer to help the children. Even the janitor seems unphased by the dead pre-teen in front of him. The society has become cold and insular because of the stresses from the war, rather than working together or trying to help each other. These children die because everyone abandons them. 

Right, a child asking for help from an adult is unacceptable.

Overall, this is a great film, but it’s hard to watch. Not just because it revolves around kids dying, but because the message isn’t just about war, but about humanity. People need to care for each other, even more when everything is going badly. 

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.

10 Things I Hate About You: Kiss Me, Heath – Disney +/Hulu Review (Day 4)

I legitimately forgot how awesome this movie was, and I remembered it being great.

SUMMARY

Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles) is an antisocial student at Padua High School outside of Seattle. Her father, Walter (Larry Miller), is overprotective of Kat and her sister Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) due to the loss of his wife and the fact that he is an obstetrician who works with teenage pregnancy. While he originally forbade the pair from dating, he modifies it so that Bianca can only date when Kat does. Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a new student at Padua, wants to ask out Bianca. Realizing that the way to Bianca requires Kat to get a date despite her hostile attitude, he decides to recruit local delinquent Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) to date Kat. Cameron, using his friend Michael (David Krumholtz), convinces Joey (Andrew “Apparently I run a Cult now” Keegan), the wealthy jerk who has made a bet that he can bed Bianca, to hire Patrick to seduce Kat. 

Yes, this is the 90s, why do you ask?

Kat immediately rebuffs Patrick, but Michael and Cameron provide him with insider information gleaned from Bianca. Patrick starts to gain Kat’s trust and interest, leading to the two going to a party together. Bianca also gets to go and upsets Kat by talking to Joey over Kat’s objection. Kat gets drunk and cuts loose, then knocks herself out on a chandelier. Patrick takes care of her and she finally opens up, but he can’t reciprocate when she attempts to kiss him. Meanwhile, Joey’s behavior angers Bianca and she ends up kissing Cameron. 

Gabrielle Union was 27 here. Gordon-Levitt was 18. She has earned that look.

Joey, still wanting to sleep with Bianca, hires Patrick to ask Kat to prom. Though she’s still mad about him not kissing her, he wins her back by arranging for the marching band to play Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” and serenading her. However, Kat refuses to go to prom with him due to her hatred of popular and sexist events. She finally confesses to Bianca that her rejection of social norms is because she slept with Joey years ago due to peer pressure. Bianca tells Kat not to make decisions for her, so Kat relents and goes to Prom with Patrick. Bianca goes with Cameron despite Joey asking her, leading Joey to take Chastity (Gabrielle Union), Bianca’s former best friend. 

The opposite of a Joker smile.

At Prom, Chastity tells Bianca about Joey’s bet to sleep with her and Joey reveals that he paid Patrick to date Kat. Kat storms off and Joey punches Cameron, only for Bianca to beat Joey up for his actions. The next day, Bianca reconciles with Kat, as do Kat and Walter. Kat reads aloud a poem entitled “10 Things I Hate About You” which reveals that she still loves Patrick and the two reconcile. 

I MADE A THING AND I THINK IT LOOKS GOOD!

Also, Daryl Mitchell plays the most aggressive English teacher ever and Allison Janney plays an erotica-writing guidance counselor.  

END SUMMARY

Upon watching this film again, I realized that there’s nothing more appropriate for Shakespeare than to take a tired plot and revitalize it with clever lines and fun performances. As most of you probably remember from High School (where you might have been allowed to watch this film as part of the course), this is an updated version of the play The Taming of the Shrew. Much like this film, the core of the play consists of a man being hired by a suitor to seduce and marry the older sister of the second man’s intended. The twist is that the “Shrew” in the title, Kate (here Kat), is constantly rejecting proposals and has a harsh way with words. In the play, Petruchio (here Patrick), convinces Kate to marry him by being the only man willing to trade verbal jabs with her (in some of Shakespeare’s funniest dialogue). 

The promotional materials don’t capture the verbal exchanges that well…

However, the play doesn’t age well after that because he starts to psychologically torment her into being completely subservient to him and a “good” wife. This film mostly tries to avoid the latter part while keeping the harsh verbal jabs, which is probably the ultimate way to “update” the Bard. Instead of trying to “tame” Kat, Patrick mostly just tries to get her to open up about her interests and for him to realize that he actually likes her. Kat’s changes, while prompted by Patrick, are mostly internal, such as realizing that she only is anti-social because she has to push against any kind of peer pressure. While the film doesn’t make it explicit, it seems like part of her willingness to go to the prom is because she finally recognizes that only doing things because they’re against the crowd is still letting the crowd influence your behavior. 

You. You are the sheep.

I remembered this being a fun movie, to be sure, but I actually was amazed how much I had forgotten about it since the last time I watched it, which, and I’m dating myself, was probably in High School. Right at the beginning of the film, I had forgotten how we were introduced to the characters and the world. Most of it is through either David Krumholtz introducing the various “cliques” around the school (something that would be taken to the extreme in Mean Girls and parodied in Not Another Teen Movie) or through Allison Janney interviewing the various students as a guidance counselor while attempting to write her own pornography. Interestingly, the only two students who actually contribute to the erotic language are Kat (who contributes “quivering member”) and Patrick (whose antics motivate Ms. Perky to use Bratwurst as a euphemism). These are intercut with some witty dialogue exchanges between the various characters which gives us an idea of who everyone in the film is within just a few minutes. 

But Mean Girls didn’t have the “cowboys” subset.

Between Ms. Perky’s wildly inappropriate behavior with the students and Mr. Morgan’s tendency to bluntly berate the students for failing to acknowledge their privilege, the film doesn’t treat teachers like impartial authority figures as much as most high school stories, but more like regular people who somehow fail to get fired. In contrast, Larry Miller, the actual authority figure, is shown being genuinely just concerned for his daughters, even if he’s over the top. Mr. Morgan seems to mostly serve to keep taking the students down when they forget to check their privilege, something that becomes incredibly blatant when he tells Kat “[i]t must be tough for [her] to overcome all those years of upper middle class suburban oppression. His character seems a bit ahead of his time, when you consider this movie is from the late 90s and Mr. Morgan repeatedly points out that the school refuses to let him teach black authors and that Shakespeare’s prevalence, while valid, doesn’t mean that he wasn’t still complicated by being a white guy from the 1600s.  Both of the teachers just seem to exist to give the characters an opportunity for honest and funny interactions. 

YOU ARE ON A WORD PROCESSOR. IT HAS A THESAURUS.

While the story is an update of a play, I will acknowledge that this movie is very dated. From the slang to the outfits to the pop culture references to the soundtrack, this movie screams “welcome to the 90s.” If you were a kid in the 1990s, you’ll probably find almost everything nostalgic. If you weren’t, then there are a number of jokes in this film that will fall flat. While I do love the soundtrack, I will also acknowledge that the heavy presence of Letters to Cleo also feels off, since the band broke up shortly after this film. Their cover, with Save Ferris, of “Cruel to Be Kind” does really elevate the prom scene, though. However, all of the other music gets overshadowed by the sheer beauty of Heath Ledger’s iconic singing of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” That scene is so over-the-top and ballsy and genuine that it really should never have worked, except that Ledger completely commits. You can feel that he knows it’s ridiculous but that he is willing to do it anyway. It’s iconic for a reason.

Then there’s the poem that gives the movie its name. I remembered that it existed, but I will admit that I forgot that it really is the climax of the film. Kudos to Julia Stiles, it comes off as completely sincere even though the poem is slightly ridiculous. I mean, one of the lines is “I hate you so much it makes me sick – it even makes me rhyme.” That’s pretty corny. However, when she reaches the end, she finally breaks down as she openly admits that, as much as Patrick did to her, she still can’t hate him.

Overall, this film really does still work. Yes, it’s mostly for 90s kids, but I think anyone would appreciate the clever dialogue and great performances by most of the cast. 

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.

Higher Power: A Story of Divine Proportions – Hulu Review

A man is given superpowers, but is controlled by a mad scientist. 

SUMMARY

There is a black hole collapsing out in the galaxy and it is poised to release a huge burst of gamma rays. In the event that it does, Earth will be destroyed. A mysterious voice contacts a scientist (Colm Feore) and tells him that there is only one way to save the world. At the same time, Joe Steadman (Ron Eldard), a recovering alcoholic who lost his wife tries to reconnect with his daughters. When he meets with his oldest daughter, Zoe (Jordan Hinson), he loses his temper and attacks her physicist boyfriend, Michael (Austin Stowell). His youngest daughter, Rhea (Marielle Jaffe), is revealed to be a drug addict. Later, Joe is attacked and knocked unconscious. When he awakes, the scientist now has a chip embedded in Joe’s head and eye, and he forces Joe to start committing crimes, eventually causing him to overload an experimental energy source. Now Joe has control over the four fundamental forces of the universe, but they are tied to his emotions. He can potentially save mankind… if he doesn’t destroy everything first. 

The beam of death that renders all of human life pointless. Very pretty.

END SUMMARY

I’ve mentioned repeatedly that I tend to love horror movies especially when they serve as an effective metaphor for some kind of trauma. Even though this movie isn’t solidly in the horror genre, it still contains a lot of horror elements, and one of them is that this movie does convey an excellent metaphor. But more on that in a second.

For example.

Any movie that has Colm Feore in it, particularly as the bad guy, is off to a good start. While my favorite of his villainous performances is in The Chronicles of Riddick, Paycheck and even Stephen King’s Storm of the Century got a boost from his ability to play a calculating and sadistic character. In this, he mostly operates as a disembodied voice that controls Joe, but his voice adds a level of gravitas to it that other actors might not have been able to pull off. Ron Eldard, who I really only remember from the movie Ghost Ship, does a good job playing a morally ambiguous character. Joe is massively flawed, having lost faith in almost everything due to the loss of his wife and instead turned to alcohol and violence. He’s trying to get his life back together, but it’s obvious from his daughter’s reaction that he’s failed at this before and he immediately fails again upon hitting any hurdle. Then he gets dragged into a situation in which he is being forced to do things against his will because they can threaten his daughters. After he gets powers, he has to deal with trying to control his anger in order to become something more than himself. 

Seriously, Colm Feore is so great at villainy.

While the script for this film is kind of basic in terms of dialogue, often having some clunky exposition or over-the-top melodrama, the concepts are so neat and the film progresses so swiftly that you probably will overlook it. It helps that the movie contains a visual style that alternates between being drab and gritty and being vibrant and luminous to separate the local with the cosmic. The film frequently talks around the insignificance of humans on the universal scale, yet it embraces the idea that perhaps humanity can ascend. 

Ascend to control the universe itself.

The big metaphor for the film is that of recovering from addiction. The film’s title, and a few lines in the film itself, reference the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The first step of AA is to admit that you’re powerless over alcohol (i.e. that there is a problem), but the second step is to believe that a higher power (i.e. God) can restore you. In this film, Joe is revealed to be powerless over both his drinking and his anger. However, after the scientist takes control of him (the scientist is literally billed as “Control”), then Joe is forced to give himself up to a higher power who is literally controlling him. Eventually, after successfully giving himself up to it, Joe has recovered enough to finally take control himself, over both his addiction to alcohol and to anger, allowing him to self-actualize. As is common in addiction recovery, the film has Joe put something above himself in order to finally change: His children.

And aren’t we all the children of a god?

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. 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.

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.

Palm Springs: I Love This Movie – Hulu Review (Ending Explained)

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti star in this smart romantic comedy.

SUMMARY

It’s November 9th and Nyles (Andy Samberg) is at the wedding of Tala Wilder (Camila Mendes) and Abe Schlieffen (Tyler Hoechlin) with his girlfriend, Misty (Meredith Hagner). After the wedding, a drunken Nyles delivers an impromptu toast, which bails out Tala’s unprepared sister, Sarah (Cristin Milioti). Nyles starts up a conversation with her and the two hit it off. She and Nyles find Misty cheating on him, so they start to make out in the desert until they’re interrupted by someone named Roy (J.K. Simmons) shooting Nyles with arrows. Injured, Nyles crawls into a strange cave and Sarah follows. She finds herself waking up on November 9th, now stuck in a time loop with Nyles. Hijinks definitely ensue.

Some hijinks involve the pool and beer. Most, honestly.

END SUMMARY

So, I went into this movie totally blind. I was told that it was funny and it stars two people I like, so I figured I would watch it eventually, but I didn’t know anything about the film. I almost wish that I could talk about this movie without mentioning the central conceit. However, it is a hallmark of good filmmaking that I was able to guess the underlying time loop premise just based on a few scenes of Andy Samberg interacting with the crowd. It was at that point I paused the movie and said “This is awesome.” It would not be the last time I did so during this film. 

I really hope Andy Samberg got to drink some of that beer.

Actually, that amazing efficiency of storytelling is part of what works best about Palm Springs. It doesn’t have to really tell us everything that Nyles has gone through because we can see how he interacts with the world now. His nihilism (not saying that’s why his name is Nyles, but…) has taken over his life because literally nothing he does matters. He has been through so much that he barely feels human, but we also get the idea that he was never filled with an abundance of ambition before this. Nyles, despite having spent what has to be literal years in this loop, doesn’t appear to have actually used it to gain new skills or better himself, he’s just given up and gotten drunk. The movie takes advantage of the fact that you’re probably familiar with at least some other Groundhog Day loop media and uses that to skip over some of the more common stages in the trope, like moving past the suicide montage. It does the same with many tropes of romantic comedies, allowing us to skip quickly past some of the dumber formulaic elements and move towards some more genuine and compelling interactions.

They even make the wedding hijinks more interesting than most films.

Cristin Milioti is one of my favorite actresses in recent years, mostly due to her amazing performance as the titular Mother in How I Met Your Mother. In this film, she is damned near perfect and the chemistry between her and Andy Samberg is so natural that it never seems forced even under the most bizarre situations. Sarah is a screw-up and basically the black sheep of her family, something that doesn’t exactly seem undeserved based on some of her actions during the film, but we also see that unlike Nyles she doesn’t give up easily. Her growth throughout the film is hard-won, but it’s almost more satisfying than Nyles’s arc because we see her initial fall into depression after she realizes that she’s stuck in a loop. 

She’s so good at reaction shots. “Acting is reacting” is a real thing, guys.

Oh, and then there’s the comedy. My god, there’s the comedy. Andy Samberg isn’t exactly playing his usual goofy layabout like in Brooklyn Nine-Nine or the oblivious Rock Star from most of his Lonely Island projects. Instead, he’s a broken man, and he nails the humor that comes from that kind of darkness. His dialogue delivery and even his physical performances kept me laughing throughout the entire plot, but it only gets better when he’s with Milioti. Her comedy reactions are on-point, as is her delivery. She can give a good line a push into great, or give a look that moves a fun joke into uproarious. I was laughing so hard at points I almost broke, and a lot of that was just the two of them messing around with the time loops. All of the supporting characters, too, help create this hilarious environment.

Did I mention that hijinks ensue? Because they do.

Overall, I just loved this movie. It was one of the most fun times watching a film I’ve had in a while. I recommend it to everyone.

ENDING EXPLAINED

Just making sure that people get what happened at the end here. Sarah, having studied Quantum Mechanics, determines that the only way to get out of the time loop is to destroy the cave while the loop is actually transporting them back to the beginning of the day, because it’s a temporal wormhole. If they destroy the cave and themselves at the same time while the cave is transporting them back, that’ll cause the wormhole to try and restart twice at the same time, essentially overloading it and blowing them into tomorrow. Now, this is entirely insane, but why listen to me, I’m just a physicist. We don’t find out of they started the next day where the first loop ended or where the last loop ended, but since they both have memories of the full loops, probably the latter. 

At the end of the movie, we also see the dinosaurs which the pair saw while they were on mushrooms earlier. It turns out that these are the Cabazon dinosaurs, a set of giant roadside attractions that were previously in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. The dinosaurs are visible from Palm Springs due to their size and proximity. They appear to be moving in both scenes, but I think the first time that’s because of the drugs and the second time that’s because of the thermals coming off of the desert. However, it’s also possible that because there’s a magic time portal buried in the mountains, there might also sometimes be dinosaurs near the fake ones. After all, love is just as crazy as a time portal. 

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/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.

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: 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.