The Trial of the Chicago 7: Sorkin Cares Not for Truth – Oscar Netflix Review

A true story of one of the most insane trials, only not true.


In August 1968, Vice President Hubert Humphrey was set to be nominated as the candidate for the Democratic Party. Eight activist leaders from various groups were in attendance when a riot broke out: Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), Jerry Rubin (Jeremy Strong), Rennie Davis (Alex Sharp), David Dellinger (John Carroll Lynch), Lee Weiner (Noah Robbins), Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), John Froines (Daniel Flaherty), and Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II). After Richard Nixon becomes president, Attorney General John N. Mitchell (John Doman) tells prosecutors Richard Schultz (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Tom Foran (J.C. MacKenzie) to prosecute the eight as a way to punish their protests. Aside from Seale, who is the only black Defendant and the head of the Black Panthers, the defendants are represented by ACLU lawyer William Kunstler (Mark Rylance) and Leonard Weinglass (Ben Shenkman). When the trial begins before Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella), what follows is one of the most bizarre trials in US History.

Oooh, Eddie Redmayne glare.


So, the story of the Chicago 7 (or 8, depending on if you count Seale) is one of those things that’s almost too crazy to be true. Much like the Scopes Monkey Trial, the trial of the Chicago 7 was never meant to be anything like actual prosecution. It was a political move by everyone involved except, perhaps, for the judge. Many of the witnesses, questions, and even actions by the lawyers were abnormal for any trial. Part of it, and something that the film does somewhat capture, was that the people on trial were largely doing this as a way to emphasize their message. Since this was 1970 and public perception was beginning to turn against the Vietnam War and almost all of them were part of anti-Vietnam groups, this publicized event was an easy soapbox and they mostly used it just to put on a spectacle, and, by court standards, it was a hell of a spectacle.

Strolling into your Federal Trial like it’s a fun day out.

Unfortunately, apparently Aaron Sorkin didn’t think it was interesting enough, because he decided to screw around with it massively. So much of this film heavily fictionalized the events to make them more palatable, but also to try and remove some of the ambiguity from the trial. After all, we have to be rooting for the Chicago 8, regardless of the fact that they were a group of very diverse people whose only common ground was their desire to end the Vietnam War. Some of them did advocate violence as part of their mission, even though the film tries to make them all appear to be completely peaceful. The timeline of many parts of the story is completely rewritten in order to keep certain characters around longer. The most notable one is that Bobby Seale, whose dismissal from the trial resulted in the Chicago 8 becoming the Chicago 7, is kept in the trial for an additional 2 months so that there can be a scene announcing the death of Fred Hampton. In the film, Hampton is constantly at Seale’s trial, whereas in reality Fred Hampton was working on other stuff the entire period before his murder. I do think it’s interesting that two films (the other being Judas and the Black Messiah) involving the murder of Fred Hampton are nominated for Best Picture, but this one forces it it.

That said, Yahya Abdul-Mateen is great in the movie.

My dislike of heavily fictionalizing stuff like this comes from the fact that it’s done to make a story easier on the audience. Hell, they even make Richard Schultz much more affable towards the defendants than he was in real life. It’s even more annoying in court films because there is a literal transcription of this entire trial that can be used as a source. Instead, Sorkin focused on trying to make it an easily consumable morality tale in which the good guys win and everyone is now united on that page. 

Pictured: A guy who would not have stood at the end of the movie.

The performances in the film are solid, particularly Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, who is both a stand-up comic narrating parts of the film and also one of the sassiest people to ever be put on trial. Frank Langella is great as the overly irritating and often infuriating Judge Hoffman, because he makes him easy to hate without falling into a stereotypical racist judge character. 

Not the worst Judge I’ve seen, though.

Overall, it’s not that it’s a bad movie, it’s that it personally irritates me by its choice to inaccurately portray these events just to make it easier to pick a side. History is complicated, and our obsession with making it more black-and-white just makes people think less when dealing with reality.

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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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.


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. 


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


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. 


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.

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Project Power: A Man’s Reach Should Exceed His Grasp, Or What’s a Superpower For? – Netflix Review

Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt star in a new-ish take on Superpowers.


In the near future, next Sunday A.D., a new drug has hit the streets of New Orleans: Power. As the name itself implies, whoever takes the drugs is given a random superpower for five minutes. Some people can become invisible, some become bulletproof, some can only see in the dark, and some blow up. Frank Shaver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an officer in the New Orleans Police Department, has been investigating the drug, and using it in the process. His dealer is a young girl named Robin (Dominique Fishback), who gets the drug from her cousin, Newt (Colson Baker). At the same time, another man, called “The Major” (Jamie Foxx) has been in town tracking down the source of the drug. After Newt gets killed in a fight with The Major, The Major abducts Robin to use as an informant. It’s revealed that the Major is a former soldier named Art who was used as a guinea pig by a private defense firm to manufacture superpowers, and the firm kidnapped his daughter, Tracy (Kyanna Simone Simpson). Eventually, Art and Frank have to work together to stop this super plague upon the streets.

Yes, the hero is literally wearing a Saints outfit.


This movie attempts to make a grittier and more grounded style of superhero film in the vein of Code 8 or Upgrade, but doesn’t quite push the envelope as much as you would hope. It does contain some original uses of superpowers and some fun imagery and fight sequences, as well as some realistic side effects of using such powers, but the film feels to me like it lacked some depth. Maybe it’s because Netflix required it to be a little more palatable to everyone, or maybe I was just reading into it too much. All of the pieces are there for a solid superhero film, although the dialogue can be a little slow in any scene that doesn’t have Jamie Foxx. That man can make almost anything sound interesting.  The problem is that I felt like they seeded a bunch of themes, but ultimately only touched upon them lightly.

This scene was pretty damned awesome.

The power sets in the film range from the standard (Bulletproof, invisibility) to the weird (bone weapons, hyper jointedness), which keeps the fights interesting. The five minute time limit is basically a way to force fast action set pieces, because if you waste another second before you lose your invulnerability or superspeed, the game is over. Everyone gets their own power, the same one they will get every time they take the drug, which means that you can have people who have thought about the limits of their abilities and worked around them. One of the fight scenes uses creative powers and some clever camera work to particularly great effect. 

And sometimes they are just plain cool looking.

The characters in the film are very generic. You have the cop who plays by his own rules in order to get the job done and the dad who is willing to go to almost any length in order to get his child back as the leads. If they weren’t played by actors who can maneuver a line as well as Foxx and Gordon-Levitt, the characters would be mostly forgettable, but sometimes that’s enough. Robin, played extremely well by Dominique Fishback, is probably the most interesting character, because she doesn’t fall into any narrow trope. She’s a drug dealing kid, but it’s because her mom is sick. She’s an aspiring rapper and has pride in her skills, but has stage fright. Her moments bonding with the two leads are some of the better non-action scenes in the film. 

Yes, the sidekick is named Robin. Fortunately, she’s still awesome.

My biggest problem is that the movie is about a company with government ties conducting what are essentially unsanctioned clinical trials on an unsuspecting population of mostly impoverished and minority people, but nothing more is said of that. That’s a thing that has happened, multiple times, throughout the history of the US in various capacities. The government and private companies have used the poor as guinea pigs without their knowledge on multiple occasions, ranging from the Tuskegee Experiments to paying doctors in poor areas to distribute oxycodone, and I think the film should have drawn these comparisons a little more directly. I know that’s a nitpick, but it was right there. 

Seriously, they were so close to hitting it at a few points.

Overall, still a pretty solid movie. Yeah, it’s not going to blow any minds, but it was fun.

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 (, follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.