Concrete Cowboy: The Real Urban Cowboys – Netflix Review

Idris Elba tries to bond with his estranged son.


Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) is a high schooler who keeps getting in trouble. His mother sends him from Detroit to Philadelphia to stay with his father, Harp (Idris Elba). When Harp brings Cole inside, Cole finds a horse in the living room. It turns out that Harp is a member of the Fletcher Street Riding Club, a group of equestrians located in urban North Philadelphia. Despite being estranged, Cole and Harp start to bond. However, the riding club is being attacked by the City of Philadelphia, who doesn’t like having people on horseback going through the streets. At the same time, Cole is questioning his involvement with his drug-dealing cousin Smush (Jharrel Jerome). Smush was himself a rider in the past, but now is selling narcotics in order to save up to move out West. Cole finds himself caught between Smush and Harp.

That’s a damned cowboy.


I’m going to skip my usual Idris Elba fanboying and just assume that by this point everyone knows that he’s an amazing actor who deserves any role that Hollywood needs filled. He’s a damned treasure. This is not his best role, but his natural charisma really helps sell his place as a cowboy living in the inner city in a modern era. The other performances in the movie, particularly Caleb McLaughlin, are also fantastic. McLaughlin has to balance out his character’s insecurities that lead to his troublemaking and rule breaking while also making him self-aware enough to eventually realize that’s why he does it.  

The other ride.

Much of the film’s strength comes from exposing this little-known and definitely unexpected subculture. As the characters point out, most real-life cowboys were minorities, but the depiction of Westerns has essentially erased that. When the real members of the Fletcher Street Riding Club speak, they point out that no one believes them when they say that they manage horses in a primarily urban area, not just because of the lack of fields, but because they assume black people don’t ride horses. The more the film exposes the realities of trying to be a rider in a place like Philadelphia, the more you start to realize how impressive it is that this even exists and how hard the people involved have to fight to keep it. While that’s not the main emotional focus of the movie, it’s the part that’ll stick with you longer.

Welcome to North Philly.

The downside to the movie is that it does tend to take its time on things. They even try to justify the slow pace at points, but it still tends to weigh down some parts of the film if you aren’t really into the plot. The performances can keep you engaged, but the pacing is just a little off. Maybe it should have been 90 minutes instead of almost two hours. 

Strong moments, for sure.

Overall, solid film, but some parts are best watched at 1.25 speed.

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Cats – It’s Im-purr-fect, but Not A Total Cat-tastrophe 

Critics seem to be coughing up hairballs, but I think they fur-got what the show was in the first place.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for a musical older than almost any of you reading this)

There are few summaries as Cat-sh*t crazy as this film’s plot, but it’s mostly the same as the musical. 

Victoria (Francesca Hayward) is an abandoned cat in the middle of London. She is greeted by a group of “Jellicle” cats who inform her that they are on their way to the Jellicle Ball. Jellicles will be judged for their singing by Old Deuteronomy (Dame Judi “Thank the Phoenicians” Dench) and the winner will be given a unique gift: They’ll be reborn into a new life. Along the way, Victoria meets the “narrator” Munkustrap (Robbie Fairchild), the magical cat Mr. Mistoffelees (Laurie Davidson), the theatre cat Gus (Ian McKellen), the twin cat burglars Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer (Danny Collins and Naoimh Morgan), the railway cat Skimbleshanks (Steven McRae), the fickle Rum Tum Tugger (Jason Derulo), the fat elite cat Bustopher Jones (James Corden), and the more-than-a-little-stir-crazy cat Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson). Trying to upset the contest is the mystery cat Macavity (Idris “Black Superman” Elba) and his agents Captain Growltiger (Ray “Come on, you know who I am” Winstone) and Bombalurina (Taylor “Tay-Tay Von Swizzlesticks” Swift), who attempt to abduct the competitors and the judge. However, in the end, the contest is won by Jennifer Hudson when she sings “Memory.” Yeah, her character’s name is Grizabella, but it’s Jennifer Hudson and YOU WILL RESPECT HER.

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Respect her, even as this.


This movie has been beaten by critics with every known implement of cinematic abuse, including bad puns. Hell, the Rotten Tomatoes summary says “Despite its fur-midable cast, this Cats adaptation is a clawful mistake that will leave most viewers begging to be put out of their mew-sery.” I admit that I, myself, only saw this film because I was dragged, clawing and hissing, by another person who has tolerated similar-caliber films on my behalf and I expected a travesty of near Biblical proportions. 

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Their opening in Egypt was apparently pretty rough.

Instead, I got a mediocre adaptation of a musical. 

Yes, as everyone has been talking about, the actors in this movie are given coverings of CGI cat bodies and they are fairly unnerving. Yes, the sets are designed to give the actors the same proportional sizes as a regular cat, which can be extremely disorienting. Those are going to turn a lot of people off very quickly from the film and I get why. Honestly, I was surprised how little it ended up bothering me after I acclimated to it. Given that Cats has always been super weird I think others would have felt the same if the film didn’t have what I’m now realizing is Tom Hooper’s musical signature: Pointless realism. 

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It’s impressive to take humans and put them back in the uncanny valley.

If you watched the film adaptation of Les Miserables, I’m sure you have an idea of what I’m talking about, but if you haven’t, the movie has several scenes of realism that bring the audience out of the movie. Musicals aren’t supposed to be accurate to life, after all, so we don’t need to hear the sick “crack” of Javert’s head hitting the ground when he jumps off of a bridge or the bloody splatters of Gavroche getting shot. Those moments don’t make us more immersed in the experience, they create a greater incongruity between the musical parts and the rest of the film. Similarly, watching Rebel Wilson eating a bunch of roaches (even tap-dancing ones) and scratching her thighs while spread eagled like a regular cat doesn’t exactly mesh well with her subsequently unzipping her skin to reveal another outfit underneath. This is the kind of thing that permeates the film… too much realism matched with too much surrealism or theatrical realism. Now, I can say that I see what they were going for, having the cats sometimes act more beastial and sometimes more human in order to emphasize their emotions, but it just doesn’t feel like it. It feels… well, gross. 

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Yes, she unzips her body TWICE and it makes no damned sense. 

Having said all of that, the movie does have some good things going for it. Almost every performer is cast perfectly. They added a little talking and gave the film a slightly more exciting plot by expanding Macavity’s character, even though the plot is still minimal (and always has been). The song that Taylor Swift wrote for the movie, “Beautiful Ghosts,” gives Victoria a solid number that helps expand her character and give her more of a connection with Grizabella. Several of the songs were given a few updates and changes that were really solid and the performance of “Macavity: The Mystery Cat” by Taylor Swift and Idris Elba was freaking amazing. Lastly, Jennifer Hudson did absolutely nail “Memory.” I know that the song has been overdone and covered so many times that there is a joke in the film Jersey Girl about every single child at a talent show singing it, but it’s still a great song and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t misty-eyed after it. 

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She’s the T.S. in T.S. Eliot. 

Overall, this movie wasn’t necessarily “bad” as much as it is “disappointing.” With so many great performances and so much going for it, the film still falls flat because of some really bad creative decisions. Can we maybe just keep Tom Hooper away from musicals from now on? 

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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Fast and the Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw – The Comedy of Violence (Spoiler-Free)

The Fast and the Furious franchise gives us a spin-off focused on the odd-couple of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Shaw.


DSS Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Actor Formerly Known as The Rock” Johnson) gets called in by his old “friend” Locke (Ryan Reynolds) to catch a virus-infected MI6 agent named Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby). However, Hattie is the sister of Hobbs’s former rival, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who also joins the hunt. The three are soon on the run from the forces of evil organization Eteon and Shaw’s former partner Brixton Lore (Idris Freaking Elba), a literal superhuman. 

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I’m amazed that this picture doesn’t explode from awesome.


Okay, so I’m gonna have to give a little disclosure here: I started off kind of cold towards the Fast and the Furious films. I didn’t really care for the first two and I didn’t watch the others until part 6 came out, only to find out that parts 4-6 are freaking awesome. They’re basically just loose plot threads built around awesome action set pieces of continually increasing ridiculousness and cast sizes. Physics is more of a suggestion in the world of Fast and the Furious now and the main characters are more immortal than John McClane, but it’s just so fun to watch them fight a tank or jump cars between skyscrapers. The name of the game is “just don’t think about it and enjoy the show.” 

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I love how often I can re-use this image.

This movie took it a step further.  While many of the previous films had hints of self-awareness, this one knows exactly what the audience is likely there to see and plays it up perfectly. Hobbs and Shaw is basically just a slapstick comedy film where some of the gags just happen to be giant explosions and car stunts. I notice, looking over Rotten Tomatoes, that many of the people who actually get paid to review films consider this a step down from the over-the-top action entries that the franchise has produced lately. I go in the exact opposite direction and praise the series for not just trying to make this the same as the main films. I admit it’s subjective, but I honestly liked this film as much as any of the other ones. Probably more. 

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Vanessa Kirby definitely helped.

At its core, I think this movie works for the same reason that I think the John Wick films work: The comic potential of violence. Humor is often derived from giving us an outlet for something that’s uncomfortable or repulsive by giving us a distance from the subject and subverting our expectations. A person getting shot in the face is horrifying. A coyote getting blown up by a rocket is hilarious. Some people say comedy = tragedy + time; I say comedy = horror + distance. Whereas John Wick plays out killing sequences with the same sense of timing as a Buster Keaton or a Jackie Chan film (even having Buster Keaton movies playing at the beginning of the second and third films to show respect), this movie is more akin to a Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoon. The rivalry between them is hilarious, but when they work together to humiliate a mutual enemy, it’s even better. 

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If you can’t see them doing “Rabbit Season/Duck Season,” you aren’t trying.

The chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham isn’t exactly flawless, but it’s not supposed to be. They’re two very different kinds of action heroes that clash in exactly the way that their characters do: Hobbs is all the power, Shaw is all the technique. The movie plays that up as much as possible by literally presenting them side-by-side in split-screen during the opening. It’s a little cliche, but they really use it to set the tone for this film and I think it works. The odd-couple dialogue and petty pranks between them is amusing and manages to keep the mood light between the giant action set pieces. However, when they have another outlet, typically the villain, it’s even funnier, and usually happens in the middle of an action set-piece.

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Yes, the film 100% tries to play this straight. 

Idris Elba decided to bring his B+ game to this film, which is more than most actors would to a role where he unironically calls himself Black Superman. He’s so perfectly cliche that his first line in the movie is to say he’s the “Bad Guy.” It’s just so fun to watch as he does all of the things that even this franchise recognizes that normal humans can’t do, and looks amazing doing them. You can genuinely imagine that he’s someone who can easily overpower either Hobbs or Shaw, because he’s stronger than the former and his technique is better than the latter.

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He also is a special kind of crazy.

The action in the film is, even by this franchise’s standards, ridiculous. There’s a scene that I believe is exploding for a solid 7 minutes, just explosion after explosion and it’s freaking awesome.

Also, the theme is family and, while it’s a little more literal in this one than in the other Fast and the Furious movies, it still feels like it’s keeping an important part of the series.

Overall, I loved this movie. It’s dumb as hell, but it’s the right kind of dumb as hell. Also, I’m convinced Ryan Reynolds took this role just so he could make a joke about some of the stuff he does when he plays Deadpool again. 

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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48) Middle Ground (The Wire)

The Wire exposes the vices of city of Baltimore season by season. First season, they did the drug trade, second season, they did the seaport system, and in the third season, they turned to government bureaucracy, where the real evil lies.

It is surprisingly difficult to find a cast photo of this show. Is that racist?

The characters on The Wire were the key to the show’s success, but the long and intricately interweaving plotlines were the secret to its longevity. The most popular characters of this season, and of the entire show, are Omar (Michael K. Williams), a privately tender, gay stick-up man known for robbing drug dealers and avoiding innocent bystanders, and Stringer Bell (Idris “GIVE HIM EVERY ROLE” Elba), a drug kingpin and expert economist trying to make his organization a little bit more legitimate. Mostly, Stringer starts trying to reduce the number of murders committed by his organization (murders get the police, drug deals get passed over). He also begins to work heavily with politicians in order to support his building project, which will both provide for easy laundering, and also a path towards a legitimate business. At the same time, Stringer is dealing with the return of the former head of the organization, Avon (Wood Harris), who is less concerned with trying to maintain a legitimate front, and more concerned with his reputation.

Every. Role.

In this season, Omar and Brother Mouzone (Michael Potts)(Mouzone means “judicious” in Arabic), a hitman and drug enforcer from New York who always speaks eloquently and wears a suit, have both had intense dealings with Stringer, who finally attempts to force Omar and Mouzone to kill each other. After a brief confrontation, Mouzone surprises everyone by suggesting that he and Omar instead kill Stringer. After confronting Stringer’s gang, Mouzone then proceeds to give Avon a choice: Stringer’s location, or Avon’s reputation. Avon chooses to give up the former.

This is one of the scariest men on TV.


This episode is as intense as television can normally get. Even the parts that don’t have to deal directly with Omar, Mouzone and Stringer are extremely tense, featuring the Mayor (Aidan Gillen) dealing with Hamsterdam, a series of drug-safe zones throughout Baltimore, and the major case unit failing to curb the extremely high crime rate in the city, despite pressure from the local government. In the end, every story involves someone trying to reach a middle-ground, and many are reached in the episode. The necessity of compromise is part of politics, because otherwise nothing gets done (though, of course, if your position is that you want nothing to get done, then you have no motive to compromise). This episode shows both the traditional political compromise of ideals and the compromise of economic triage, whereby you just give up and let some things die. The last middle ground, however, is in-between Mouzone and Omar, which is where Stringer finds himself, unarmed, at the end of the episode. Stringer pleas for his life, and claims that he has finally gone completely straight, but, in the end, he tells them there is nothing he can say to stop them. Then, Mouzone and Omar fire, and walk away without a word, leaving Stringer dead next to the sign for his prized building project.

It takes both of them to equal one Stringer Bell.


In the end, this episode highlights one of the more difficult parts of government: It’s composed of, and policed by, people. And one of the worst parts of being a person is: Even when you want to change for the better, the means by which you effect that change may destroy everything you want to save. Sometimes, you can only advance through losing a little in the process.

PREVIOUS – 49: Cheers

NEXT – 47: Psych

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

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