Central Park: A Musical Masterpiece – Apple+ Review

Another hit from the Bob’s Burgers team.

SUMMARY

Owen Tillerman (Leslie Odom, Jr.) is the manager of Central Park in New York City. He’s married to reporter Paige Hunter (Kathryn “Agatha All Along” Hahn) and the father of young kids Molly and Cole (Kristen Bell and Tituss Burgess). The family lives inside of the Edendale Castle in the park and are watched over by the narrating busker Birdie (Josh Gad). Unfortunately, it turns out that local businesswoman Bitsy Brandenham (Stanley Tucci), along with her henchwoman/assistant Helen (Daveed Diggs), has decided to start scheming in order to purchase Central Park and turn it into a series of apartment buildings. The Tillermans not only have to deal with their own problems, but now they have to overcome Bitsy’s plans to destroy their lives. Fortunately, they have the power of song… and also a ton of cameos by famous singers.

I would watch this cast in literally anything. Give them a WandaVision spin-off.

END SUMMARY

I was told this show was mediocre and thus didn’t watch it (also, didn’t have Apple+ until recently). The person who told me that clearly had no joy in their soul. This show is everything I wanted and more. Aside from having an absolutely dynamite cast that has multiple Tony and Emmy award winners, the show’s music is absolutely amazing. It includes a wide variety of musical styles, ranging from the big band numbers of old Broadway to the hip-hop influenced music of Hamilton, and it does all of them well. It’s amazing to realize that there are 46 songs in a 10 episode half-hour show, but somehow they managed to pull it off. It helps that people like Cyndi Lauper, Alan Menken, Darren Criss, Aimee Mann, and even Fiona Apple contributed songs to the show.

Stanley Tucci and Daveed Diggs as two old ladies with schemes. Amazing.

The characters are pretty varied, although all of them are quirky, much like on Bob’s Burgers. While the Tillermans don’t quite stand out as much as the Belchers, they definitely have a lot of the same weirdness mixed with genuineness to make them eventually become just as lovable. The number of songs does sometimes hinder both the character development and the plot development, but the odds are good you’ll be too hooked on them to care. The guest characters are usually amazing, ranging from people like a tour guide of the deleted scenes of Home Alone 2 to a busker who competes with Birdie for narrating duties. It’s actually a great element that the narrator (who has omniscience over everything that’s happening) also interacts with the characters. It’s like something out of a Greek comedy.

Josh Gad probably sings about people’s lives all the time.

Overall, just a great show. Highly recommend. 

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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One Night in Miami: A Fake Story of Four Real Men – Amazon Prime Review

A football player, a civil rights activist, a musician, and a boxer walk into a hotel room.

SUMMARY

It’s February 25, 1964 and boxer Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) defeats Sonny Liston (Aaron D. Alexander) for the first time to become the world Heavyweight Champion. Among the observers in the audience are: Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), who is currently at odds with Elijah Muhammad (Jerome A. Wilson), the head of the Nation of Islam; Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge), who is currently coming off of one of the greatest NFL seasons of all time; and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom, Jr.), who has recently been playing to predominantly unsupportive and all-white audiences. The four men agree to meet up after the match in Malcolm X’s hotel room, where personalities clash, friendships and loyalties are tested, opinions and passions are shared, and a lot of history might just have been made… if it were real. 

There is a photo of Muhammad Ali taken by Malcolm X on that night. Really.

END SUMMARY

It’s always hard to address films like this where the people involved are real, as are many of the events depicted or referenced, but the actual conversations that are the focus of the story are fiction. This story is really just a study in what happens when you throw four major personalities into the same room. All of these men were legends in their respective fields and their contributions are still well-known. Malcolm X is frequently referenced as a civil rights leader during one of the most tumultuous times in US History (which will probably end one day), Jim Brown still holds 10 NFL records and appeared in a number of great films, Sam Cooke’s songs are still covered frequently, and Cassius Clay, as Muhammad Ali, is probably the most famous boxer of all time. It’s amazing how well the movie points out their extreme talent and success while still pointing out that they faced challenges that no white person would face. There’s a particularly disturbing scene between Jim Brown and a man played by Beau Bridges which is, apparently, directly lifted from Jim Brown’s autobiography. 

Some variety in the attire, to be sure. All stylish, very different.

As with most movies that take place largely in one single location, the film’s strength is in the performances. Each of the four leads has to both represent a known historical figure and also to stand up to the performances of each of the others, which is a hell of a challenge. All four, though, pull it off amazingly. Eli Goree manages to portray Cassius Clay as both the self-promoting egomaniac that he was in public and also as a person with doubts about his conversion and about his life in general. Aldis Hodge plays Brown as a bit of an outsider to the group, with the least radical agenda, but an ambition beyond just being a football player (even though he was one of the best). Also, he nails the voice. Kingsley Ben-Adir captures the persona of Malcolm X as well as almost any actor does, but he adds a wonderful level of vulnerability that many portrayals don’t. Leslie Odom Jr. manages to not only play Sam Cooke, but give several great song performances while doing so. It’s not surprising that he earned a nomination. 

He’s so damned talented.

The one thing that this movie does portray, even if indirectly, is that while these are all great men, they are also deeply flawed people. They all have their own selfish tendencies, their own flaws, and their own opinions about their roles as representatives of the black community. They all have their own fears and ambitions and I like that they feel like four real people, even if their public personas often dominated their lives. It takes a lot of control to make a movie that walks the line between making them legends and making them men and Regina King managed it in her directorial debut. Amazing.

Hail to the Queen, baby.

Overall, it’s a great film and I really recommend it.

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

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Only: (Dear God Wh)Y: The Last Woman – Netflix Review

Almost all of the women on Earth die, but misogyny does not.

SUMMARY

A comet passes Earth and its ash (that somehow makes it onto Earth and through the atmosphere intact) carries a virus that kills almost all of the women on Earth. Eva (Freida Pinto) is one of the last women alive and is traveling with her boyfriend Will (Leslie Odom, Jr.) to live out her final days after being exposed. She and Will travel to a waterfall that they saw when they were first dating while trying to avoid those who would try to take Eva to be dissected or to have her eggs harvested. 

The ash in her hair is death.

END SUMMARY

If you’ve never read Y: The Last Man, well, it’s much better than this. The premise of that series is that everything on Earth with a Y chromosome dies at the same time except for a guy named Yorick. A tv-show adaptation is set to come out next year. It will almost certainly be better than this movie. 

This movie could have used a tiny monkey sidekick.

Part of it is that much of the movie tries to feel “serious,” but comes off as “slow.” Having a lot of quiet scenes can sometimes be good for character development, but here it just felt like they hadn’t figured out how to actually fill 90 minutes. Much of the film is flashbacks of their relationship and subsequent quarantine mixed with somber moments of their journey to the waterfall, but the flashbacks are frequently repetitive and the scenes in the present just feel like a slog. 

This scene is cute, but goes on too long.

What’s most annoying about Only is how close it came to having a solid point. There are a ton of things this movie could have addressed, from a woman’s right to bodily autonomy to right to die with dignity to government overreach to the callous way people act in plagues if they aren’t personally affected (this one would have REALLY been prescient) to the way religion starts to dominate during times of crisis, but it instead chose to pay some slight lip service to feminism and then do absolutely nothing real. At the end of the film, I feel more like it was a giant misogynist mess, rather than a movie that was supposed to subvert or criticize that exact thing. Most of the flashbacks of Will and Eva’s relationship show Will being extremely controlling, particularly while they’re in quarantine. He spies on her texts, calls her emotional when she says he’s being overbearing, and basically gaslights her on any decision she makes. Meanwhile, the camera frequently treats her like a sex object, even when she’s supposed to be pretending to be a guy. It’s ridiculous that anyone is fooled by that disguise.

Yes, add a baseball cap and she’s basically a linebacker.

Overall, even though the two leads are both skilled actors, this movie can’t be saved by a good performance or two. Skip it. 

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

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