Drifting Dragons (Kūtei Doragonzu): A Fun Take on the Seafaring Story – Netflix Anime Mini-Review

Netflix gives us an anime adaptation of a steampunk series about hunting dragons.

SUMMARY

Welcome aboard the Quin Zaza, an airship crewed by a group of “Drakers” or people who hunt dragons for a living. Far from the typical depictions of monstrous fire-breathing lizards that destroy villages, dragons in this world are preyed upon by humans who use their oils for various resources and feast on their delicious meat. Takita (Sora Amamiya/Cassandra Lee Morris) is the enthusiastic new recruit aboard the vessel, serving alongside/under her sister Vanabelle (Kana Hanazawa/Colleen O’Shaughnessey). Other crew members include the gluttonous gourmand Mika (Tomoaki Maeno/Billy Kametz) and the cool and collected Jiro (Sōma Saitō/Johnny Yong Bosch). Most of the series is following their attempts to travel between the distant human settlements and keep the ship afloat by draking. 

They’re an eclectic bunch of personalities.

END SUMMARY

I honestly wouldn’t have thought I’d like this show, but I’ll have to admit that it grew on me quickly. The set-up and setting are both pretty solid surrogates for the whaling cultures of the 18th and early 19th centuries. However, in order to simulate the same conditions of whalers, having to go weeks or months stuck on a boat, this society has human settlements spread apart in a mostly feudal society (similar to Japan’s Tokugawa Shogunate, which ruled during the 18th and early 19th centuries). As such, coming back to port is a big deal, despite the fact that they’re largely over land all of the time. The setting is kind of a perfect blend of steampunk elements with Western and Eastern history, but without all of the worries about historical issues complicating the narrative.

And people think Alaskan crab fishing is hard.

The nature of the show allows much of the story to focus less on the action of catching and killing dragons, but more on the slow character moments that take place aboard the ship. It has a lot of scenes dedicated to things like cooking and tasting the dragon meat, and I have to give the animation full credit here, it looks freaking delicious. Mika’s enthusiasm towards the subject and his very colorful descriptions of the taste and texture help sell it. In addition, a lot of the time on the ship is just spent trying to avoid boredom, filling it with chores and scheduling, just like you would imagine was true on a real whaling vessel. Much like Moby Dick, this forces the stories to be more character-driven and introspective. 

When you try to kill something bigger than your vehicle, you are probably a little nuts.

Overall, if you like Anime, this is probably a good one to check out. The episodes that are up really feel like a prelude, so I hope they keep the series going. 

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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Netflix Review/Amazon Prime Review/Reader Request – Killing Gunther: It’s A Real Niche Movie

A group of hitmen make a documentary about trying to kill the world’s greatest assassin.

SUMMARY

Blake (Taran Killam) is an assassin who is just starting in his career. He decides that he wants to kill the world’s top killer-for-hire, an enigmatic man named Gunther (Arnold Schwarzenegger)… who may have banged Blake’s ex-girlfriend Lisa (Cobie Smulders). Blake hires a camera crew to film his efforts and assembles a team of professionals: His explosives expert friend Donnie (Bobby Moynihan), Sanaa (Hannah Simone) who is the daughter of legendary hitman Rahmat (Peter Kalamis), hacker Gabe (Paul Brittain), Blake’s mentor Ashley (Aubrey Sixto), cyborg terrorist Izzat (Amir Talai), poison master Yong (Aaron Yoo), Blake’s ex-partner Max (Steve Bacic), and psychotic murderous twins Mia and Barold Bellakalakova (Allison Tolman and Ryan Gaul). The group quickly finds out that Gunther knows they’re hunting him, and he is set on humiliating him.

Ever wonder what the village people might have looked like if they’d formed in the 90s?

END SUMMARY

So, when I first saw this movie a few years ago, I thought it was an okay film. It had a lot of flaws, to be sure, mostly because the idea was not designed to fill 90 minutes, but I was overall pretty entertained with how ridiculous it was. Then, I saw the critics and other viewers mostly decimate this film. I wasn’t sure exactly what happened that led so many people to despise this movie to the level that they did. Yeah, it’s not the best mockumentary out there, but it avoided some of the issues that style usually has. For example, the main character is keeping the film crew around through threats of violent retribution. Because of that, you never have to ask the question “why are they still filming this?” It’s a simple explanation, but that issue usually bugs me, so I appreciate it. 

Although, some of the footage still seems questionable.

However, as I thought about the movie, I realized that the biggest problem might be Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now, I admit Arnold plays more of a comedic role in this film than he probably should, but that’s not what I mean. It’s that he’s too big of a star and too big of a draw not to be included in the marketing and promotion for this movie, but he’s only in like 10 minutes of it. The identity of “Gunther” is treated like a surprise twist throughout almost all of the film, so it should be a revelation when Arnold finally gets there. However, on all of the movie posters, Arnold is front and center. I think a lot of people probably resented the fact that it feels like a deception. It’s compounded by the fact that the movie, which was already a little heavy on the slapstick, moves almost straight into insane farce in the third act, giving Gunther abilities that so far surpass reality that it loses its grounding. I still thought it was kind of fun, but I would definitely understand if people thought it just derailed the whole film.

This poster only features a surprise character. Bad marketing.

The “humor,” and it is super niche, mostly revolves around how very incompetent the main team is compared with Gunther, combined with a number of other absurd jokes. For example, Sanaa’s father acts like an overly-supportive soccer parent, having customized shirts indicating his fandom for his offspring. This is despite the fact that he is a notorious cold-blooded murderer. The problem is that they have to keep adding scenes of different hitmen being quirky or failing in order to stretch the premise out to feature length. Eventually, it turns a bit into white noise.

At least Gunther can’t wear out his welcome in a glorified cameo.

Overall, If you like seeing a bunch of people regularly humiliated, you’ll probably have a good time in this film. If you like a bunch of dark humor combined with Three-Stooges-esque scenes, you’ll probably like it. If not, this probably won’t feel worth 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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Netflix Anime Mini-Review – Beastars: Zootopia, but For Adults

Ah, high school, with the drama, the murders, the random eating of classmates…

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s a world of anthropomorphic animals who have evolved enough to create legal systems and pocket watches, but not enough for the carnivores not to instinctively desire to prey on herbivores. Legoshi (Chikahiro Kobayashi/Jonah Scott) is a gray wolf who attends the Cherryton Academy. Generally quiet, he tries to suppress his carnivore instincts to bond with herbivore classmates, who he works with in the theater club. One night, an herbivore associate of his, Tem the alpaca (Takeo Otsuka/Kyle McCarley), is brutally murdered, leading to a wave of distrust between carnivores and herbivores throughout the school. One night, Legoshi’s instincts overtake him and he finds himself attacking a white dwarf rabbit. He stops himself, but when he later encounters the rabbit, named Haru (Sayaka Senbongi/Lara Jill Miller), he finds himself attracted to her. Unfortunately, his quiet personality and her promiscuous nature are as opposed as their natural roles. Additionally, Haru is in love with the red deer Louis (Yuki Ono/Griffin Puatu), the Star Performer at the academy. Human relationships, it seems, are even more complicated when mixed with animal ones.

Seating alone is a challenge.

END SUMMARY

I admit to watching this show because Netflix recommended it and I’m slightly concerned about what the hell I watched to create that algorithm. I’m guessing it was Zootopia and Sex Education, because that’s kind of the vibe I get from this show, but with a lot more drama than comedy. It’s like this show is insisting that you take this premise completely seriously, from the dialogue to the animation, and not consider that it’s kind of inherently ridiculous. Unlike some shows like Aggretsuko, these animals are not just surrogates for people, meaning that you’re trying to show how a high school would work with half of the class wanting to eat the rest of them (non-sexually… or maybe sexually too). 

Metaphors ahoy.

Honestly, I got into this show as it went on. A lot of what kept my interest is that the world here is so inherently different than most others. We find out that there are huge issues in balancing a society where everyone is sentient, but also still bound by their instincts. Outside of the academy, most of society is fairly segregated because of the constant fear that predators will eat their neighbors. While there are work-arounds in place for how predators get their meat, that doesn’t seem to sate everyone, particularly criminals. While interspecies relationships don’t appear to be too forbidden, there appears to be a taboo in predator/prey couples. The worldbuilding is naturally interesting, because no human society can really be compared to this one, even if there are similarities.

The Lions club here is WAY different than the US.

The main characters are pretty interesting, too. Legoshi lives in fear of his own instincts, to the point where he worries that he might be a killer and not even realize it. This leads him to keep people at a distance. I also like that he’s on the stage crew of the theater, because that allows him to watch the drama play out without having to be the focus of it, something that speaks to his character. Haru, on the other hand, is ostracized due to her brazen sexuality. Many women hate her because their boyfriends either slept with her or want to, but she never apologizes for it. Since she is naturally smaller than almost anyone else, due to being a dwarf rabbit, she feels a constant state of vulnerability that she fights through her promiscuity. It’s an interesting way to give a character a trait associated with rabbits but also tie it in with human psychology.

Louis is a stereotypical lead actor, probably to compensate for being prey.

Overall, I enjoyed the series, honestly. It’s slow, but if you’re an anime fan it’s probably worth 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.

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Netflix Review – Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts (Season 2): It’s So Fluffy!

We find revelations and some fluffy mutants in this season.

SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)

It’s the future and humanity blew it. After we wrecked the environment, the surviving humans fled underground into “burrows.” Kipo Oak (Karen Fukuhara) was blown out of a burrow when it was attacked by a “mega-mute,” a building-sized mutant animal. Washed to the surface of the post-apocalyptic landscape, Kipo meets the fierce warrior girl Wolf (Sydney Mikayla), the mini mutant pig Mandu (Dee Bradley Baker), the friendly con-man Benson (Coy Stewart), and Benson’s mutant insect pal Dave (Deon Cole). Together, the group managed to return Kipo to her burrow and her father, Lio (Sterling K. Brown), only for him and the rest of the burrow to be kidnapped by the mutant mandrill dictator Scarlemagne (Dan Stevens). However, Kipo has started to develop some strange abilities that might make her the perfect person to save all of the humans.

These kids are alright.

END SUMMARY

When I reviewed the first season of this show, I said that it’s difficult for a show to be set in the post-apocalypse and not get super dark as more and more things are revealed. This season has proven that to be true, as things have gotten a bit darker due to the setting, but the show still overall remains positive. Just as before, the key is that Kipo, Benson, and even Wolf are extremely emotionally resilient. Yes, they get hurt and sometimes suffer a loss of faith, but they quickly fight through it in order to keep going. It helps that the world in which this show is set is a unique kind of charmingly horrifying. Sure, there are giant monsters that hate humans everywhere, but they’re also giant bunnies or frogs wearing suits, so it’s still somewhat goofy and amusing. I think the basic rule is that it’s very hard for something to be both fluffy and depressing.

Cats in plaid can’t be sad.

The show has struck a solid balance between doing relatively self-contained episodes and episodes that advance the overarching narrative, but this season it managed to set up things in some of the more isolated stories that paid off as part of the larger story. It really allows for the show to always feel like it’s progressing while still being able to do some solid world-building. The show is, after all, as much about the crazy world filled with axe-wielding lumberjack cats and mind-eating tardigrades as much as it is about Kipo. 

This season also managed to develop the supporting characters, not just by fleshing out their backstories, but by having them grow emotionally. Benson becomes a little more serious at times and Wolf manages to become a little more trusting and a little less uptight. Even Mandu, a non-verbal animal companion, gets some extra traits over the season.

And the villain gets a TON of development.

Overall, the show is doing a great job. It’s still cute, fun, creative, and entertaining.

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.

Netflix Op-Ed – Why Everyone Should Watch Avatar: The Last Airbender

Not to be confused with the terrible live action film. Or the other live action film with blue cat people.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony, each possessing some citizens who had the ability to control, or “bend,” their respective elements. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished. A hundred years passed and two children from the water tribe, Katara (Mae Whitman) and Sokka (Jack DeSena), discover a young boy trapped in an iceberg. It turns out that this boy is Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen), the most recent reincarnation of the Avatar. He was frozen for a century, during which time Fire Lord Ozai (Mark Hamill *Applause*), the new head of the fire nation, has been slowly attempting to dominate all four of the nations, having wiped out all of the Air Nomads, the benders of the Air nation, except for Aang. Together, the three set off to try and save the world. They are pursued by the Fire Prince Zuko (Dante “Rufio” Basco) and his sweet-hearted uncle, Iroh (Mako *May He Reign Forever*), as they journey through the water, earth, and fire nations. They are eventually joined by the blind Earthbender Toph Beifong (Jessie Flower) and opposed further by Zuko’s sister Azula (Grey DeLisle).

Also, they have Appa, the flying bison, and Momo, the winged lemur. They fly and are cute.

END SUMMARY

While I always have a soft spot for Disney and have to admire the number of good series that they have put forth over the years, including now, they have sometimes played it too safe. Even during the 80s and 90s, when Disney shows dominated the afternoon cartoon lineup, most of them were, in retrospect, pretty formulaic, from the stories to the characters to the art style. There were exceptions, of course, like Gargoyles, but for the most part they all kind of looked the same and felt the same. You could tell they all were cut from the same cloth. Then there was Nickelodeon, who due to starting out by importing cartoons from multiple different cultures, decided to take things in another direction with Nicktoons. If you can remember this far back, think about the fact that the same studio made the gross and shocking Ren and Stimpy, the slice-of-life Doug, the surprisingly lovable Rugrats, the brilliant and dark Invader Zim, and the zany Angry Beavers. If I’ve missed one of your favorites, sorry, but my point is that all of those shows were massively different, from tone to art style to audience, but Nickelodeon was willing to give them a chance. Avatar was no different, in that it was completely different.

Just saying, variety is the spice of life.

Taking inspiration from anime for its art style and Wuxia martial arts films for its fighting sequences, Avatar forged a world that was simultaneously easy to understand and yet so complex that it kept you wanting to know more about it. Part of that was that it always blended together different storytelling elements and artistic styles while still celebrating and honoring what made each of the originals great. Each of the four nations was inspired by a real life culture, with the Water Tribes being based on Arctic tribes, like the Inuits, the Earth kingdom being based on Imperial China, and the Air Nomads being monks based on Tibetan or Shaolin Monks. The Fire Nation’s a little harder to nail down, but I think that’s because as a conquering empire, they’ve blended a ton of cultures together. Despite the fact that characters from each of these nations work together towards a common goal, their cultures are always respected and honored for their own unique traits. Given that the central villain in the series is an empire trying to destroy everyone that isn’t them, it’s safe to say that the concept of respecting other people’s heritage was going to be a central theme of the show, despite how much of a minefield that can be.

Also, everyone loves tea. It’s universal.

Part of what makes me love Avatar was that as the show went on, it stopped trying to give definitive, easy answers to issues. For example, a character seeks revenge on the person who killed their mother, but finds out that the murderer is just a pathetic coward. They decide not to kill the murderer, because he’s not worth it, but also refuse to ever forgive him. And that’s just where it stays. Sometimes you can’t force yourself to forgive someone. You can stop letting that pain dictate your actions, but that doesn’t mean that you have to pretend that things can ever be right. That’s not a typical message for a show like this and the show is filled with them. There are messages about overzealous dedication to a cause, dealing with abuse, nationalism, and a major one about propaganda. Also one about coping with your girlfriend becoming the moon, but that’s not super common.

There’s the obligatory environmental episode, of course.

Rather than ever start to devolve into simpler, Flanderized versions of their characters, Avatar constantly kept building more and more complexity into them. They actually keep growing to the point that in the third season, towards the end of the show, there is an episode that lampoons how much more basic they were at the beginning. To that end, I do have to warn you that some of the earlier Avatar episodes are a little weak. Honestly, I don’t think the show gets going until episode 12, “The Storm,” and that is a long time to wait. I can’t even tell you to skip them (aside from “The Great Divide,” which everyone should skip) because they all set up for stuff that pays off later. However, it is absolutely worth a little bit of boredom to eventually find out what this show grows into. 

It’s on Netflix right now, at least for a little while, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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.

Netflix Review – The Last Days of American Crime: The Length is Criminal

Well, they could not have timed this film worse, on many levels.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s sometime in the future and Bricke (Édgar Ramírez) is a career thief. Unfortunately for him, the US is rolling out the American Peace Initiative (API), a device that sends out a signal that makes it fundamentally impossible for people to do things that are illegal. Bricke is recruited by Kevin Cash (Michael Pitt), the son of a major crime family, to help his hacker girlfriend Shelby Dupree (Anna Brewster) find out where the government is liquidating a ton of currency in preparation for a transfer to digital commerce and steal a billion dollars. They then plan on fleeing to Canada right before the API goes live so that they can spend the money, because spending stolen goods is, itself, a crime that the API prevents. Meanwhile, William Sawyer (Sharlto Copley), a policeman in the last days of police, is trying to deal with the changing of Law Enforcement and trying to make up for some mistakes. 

Ah yes, you can tell he’s a criminal because he’s meticulously coiffed.

END SUMMARY

F*cking hell, this movie is a waste of potential. I’m not sure I really should have expected better from a director who mostly specializes in taking franchises on after they’re already successful (Transporter 3, Taken 2, Taken 3), but I feel like Olivier Megaton (cool name, though) just did not know how to craft a story. I also think he didn’t have anyone telling him “no” enough on set. 

Like, maybe don’t introduce your female lead with dirty bathroom sex.

This movie is 149 minutes. To put that in perspective, you can watch the original Frankenstein twice and make a drink. What We Do In the Shadows is an hour shorter. The Dark Knight is roughly the same length and has like… I dunno… 7 acts in it? This movie is way too long, is my point. You’d think that in 149 minutes there would be enough time to play with the, admittedly really interesting, premise… but no, not really. There’s not a lot of debate about the morality of forcing people to obey, nor any real consideration of why people are okay with this in America, or even what the hell happened that made this seem necessary. I’d even take a joke about the fact that having politicians subject to a wave that makes illegal conduct impossible would mean there’s no chance in hell this passed Congress. Bribery would, presumably, be covered in the no-no list (although wage theft, being civil, would still be kosher). Instead, the movie really just uses the API for a few scenes in which the police use it on targets and to give the movie a ticking clock. 

Are you telling me the gun industry was okay with this?

You’d think a lack of exploration would mean that the film focused on character development or plot, but you would be wrong. Bricke has two facial expressions and they both suck. Rather than worry about things like explaining the heist or having developed characters, the movie instead decides to try to have a large number of action set pieces… that are unbelievably generic and forgettable. At least Extraction went big and bold with its action sequences, but this film just kind of forgets to push any particular envelope.

There’s a lot of just firing guns while screaming.

Another big problem with this movie is that they released it during a wide-scale protest about police violence and the film contains a number of instances of police violence, including a scene in which guards use API to disable a criminal and then beat him to death as he lies there helpless. 

This… I’m just not touching this one.

Really the only thing that stands out in the film is Michael Pitt’s performance, because he DOES go all out at points, just being a complete and utter sociopath at times. However, that really just drives home how painfully uninteresting and bland the rest of the characters are. 

At least he’s trying.

Overall, I can’t recommend this one. If it was 60 minutes shorter, it might have been tolerable, but it isn’t. 

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.

Netflix Review – Hannah Gadsby: Douglas

The comedian who brought us Nanette gives us a completely different experience.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s a comedy special. There are jokes. There are also parts that have fewer jokes. I don’t want to describe it too much, because then the jokes won’t be as funny. 

Spoiler: Douglas is her doggy.

END SUMMARY

I know that it’s tough to do a review of this kind of thing. Humor will always come down to a matter of personal taste and, having been a failed stand-up comedian, I can say that audiences told me my taste was terrible. However, the thing about this, much like her previous special Nanette, is that it isn’t so much about entertaining as it is about making you feel something inside yourself that changes you a little. 

Gadsby is great.

If you didn’t see Nanette, it is one of the most impressive stand-up routines of all time. The main thing that Nanette pulls off that differentiated it from other specials is that it manages to draw the audience into the mindset of a human being in a discriminated class in the middle of an extremely vulnerable time, compelling a degree of empathy that can really hit anyone at their core. This performance is very similar, but it’s designed to put you in the mindset of Hannah Gadsby as a person who is autistic. It’s trying to get you to recognize that the way she sees things is just different, but that it is not worse or better than how neurotypical people see the world. She’s still trying to create empathy, but instead of trying to just make people feel the fear and anxiety of others, she’s also getting across the confusion that comes from thinking in a different way than the rest of the world.

Mic drop earned.

This isn’t to say that the show isn’t also hilarious. I was laughing pretty much the whole time, including having an awkward laugh at Gadsby’s statement that she blew all of her trauma on Nanette. Since trauma is often a great source of comedy material, I admit it was almost more impressive for her to say that and then do a routine that was based less on trauma than on just personal exploration. The only thing I really think she messed up was not mentioning the statue of Gattamelata, which is a funny sounding word that has never fit into any other stand-up routine.

This is my weirdest take, I admit.

Overall, I cannot help but say this is recommended, bordering on required viewing. 

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.

Netflix Review – Space Force: It’s Out Of This World… Okay?

Steve Carrell stars as the first commander of the US Space Force.

SUMMARY

Four-star General Mark Naird (Steve Carell) is appointed by the President to be the first head of Space Force, a newly-created branch of the military. His only directive is that he is supposed to have “boots on the moon” in the near future. With that in mind, Naird moves his family, including his daughter Erin (Diana Silvers) and his wife Maggie (Lisa Kudrow) to Colorado. A year later, Naird and his chief scientist Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich) are ready to finally start launching stuff into space, but it turns out that rocket science is… well, rocket science. Despite the usual government incompetence, Naird’s team, including Captain Angela Ali (Tawny Newsome), scientist Dr. Chan Kaifang (Jimmy O. Yang),  and his social media advisor F. Tony Scarapiducci (Ben Schwartz) needs to shoot for the moon.

My god, so much talent in this image.

END SUMMARY

I admit that I had low expectations of this show, because almost any media that is based on something topical like this is likely to be rushed. Remember that show based on the Geico cavemen? You probably don’t, because it only aired six times and the ratings on it dropped so fast that it dented the floor of the ABC building, but that WAS a thing. However, since I honestly think Steve Carrell could read the phone book in a way that would make me laugh, I gave it a shot. 

So many medals.

This show is extremely hit-and-miss. Some of the jokes and performances are laugh-out-loud funny, particularly some of the scenes with John Malkovich. However, those scenes are often punctuated with long bouts of unfunny attempts to take shots at the current state of America. I get why they wanted to do them, but that kind of humor ages poorly and really doesn’t lend itself to scripted comedy that well, outside of topical shows like SNL or late-night TV. Saying “haha, this politician we’re parodying is a dick” isn’t a joke in itself, and the show tends to just say that and then not actually come up with a real joke. The best scenes are the ones that are based around the actual difficulties related to getting people into space or about the difficulties of dealing with how insane politics can be, not the ones where you can feel the screenwriters shouting “see, we made the female representative AYC, like AOC, get it?” 

Oh look, she’s holding an orange and asking angry questions. Funny!

However, since this is Netflix, the show probably does a great job of being really easy to follow and binge while also posting on Instagram or browsing a blog weighing the merits of various taco chains. The leads are all solid, there are a few funny running gags, there’s a monkey at one point, and some of the recurring actors, like Fred Willard (R.I.P. you funny genius), Jane Lynch, Patrick Warburton, or Kaitlin Olson manage to take even some mediocre lines and turn them into solid gold because they can go all-out. 

This isn’t from the show. I just really miss Fred Willard.

Overall, I would recommend not putting it on top of your list of must-see-TV, but if you just want something in the background, it’s a good choice. 

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.

Netflix Review – The Lovebirds: It’s Pretty Fun, But Lacks Heart

It’s not The Big Sick, but the leads carry the movie.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Jibran (Kumail Nanjiani) and Leilani (Issa Rae) have been a couple for several years. After their arguments come to a head, the two agree to break up, only to hit a man on a bicycle (Nicholas X. Parsons) a few moments later. The man on the bicycle flees. They are then commandeered by a police officer (Paul Sparks), who runs down and then shoots the bicyclist. He flees, leaving two bystanders to discover Jibran and Leilani over the body. The bystanders call the police and, worried that they’ll be the suspects, the couple flees. Now they need to find the murderer and clear their names, while also dealing with their own awkward situation.

Admittedly, the clothing is pretty great.

END SUMMARY

I almost loved this movie. I really wanted to, if I’m being honest, because I loved the last collaboration between director Michael Showalter and Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick. But while that movie had the heart of a tragic relationship to fall back on to break up the comedy and nailed the tone of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon (because they wrote it), this movie doesn’t quite pull it off. 

This movie had just a little more heart to it.

A big part of what this movie doesn’t get right is that we don’t get a lot of time with Jibran and Leilani as a couple before they’re fighting and breaking up, so we don’t ever really have a connection with them. I’m not saying that I needed an Up-style intro depicting the happy couple living together, but for a four year relationship, we really only get a short picture of them being together, going from the end of their apparent one-night stand which, within two-and-a-half minutes jumps to them fighting four years later. We then get six minutes of them fighting and breaking up. Less than nine minutes into the movie, the people we’re supposed to root for are not together and we spent most of that nine minutes just hearing them bicker, most of which was over nonsensical crap. Since this is a rom-com and we know they’re going to be back together at the end, I guess it’s good that most of their complaints are crap, aside from the marriage issue from the last thirty seconds of the fight. Again, it’s hard to root for people that we don’t know and don’t really have a reason to like, and the timing on this is so formulaic, I found multiple screenplay guides that describe it. 

Yeah, this is almost exactly the timing of this film.

Then there’s the plot, which appears to just borrow from other films whenever they had an idea for a scene that would be funnier with the addition of these two characters, going from weird torture to awkward shopping to police chase to Eyes Wide Shut. I’m pretty sure I followed the plot, but it was so dumb that missing out on it really wouldn’t have made a difference. 

I mean, Kumail is basically Tom Cruise.

The thing that almost makes this movie work, though, is that the leads are just that funny. No matter how weird or awkward or stupid the situation, they play off of each other perfectly. Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani are both charming, they’re both likable, they’re both attractive, and, even though the film is dialogue heavy, they actually do a good job of adding levels with their performances. Acting is, supposedly, reacting and they both nail it when dealing with each other. 

You can be in sync comedically, but out of sync romantically.

Overall, if you like either of the leads, you’ll like this movie. If you just want something on in the background to laugh at while you do other stuff, this movie’s a good choice. It’s got some pretty solid laughs at times, but there are much better comedies out there. 

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.

Netflix Review – The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend (Interactive Special)

THEY ALIVE, DAMMIT!!! IT’S A MIRACLE!!!

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s been a few years since the end of the show and Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) is a successful author and getting married to her English fiance Frederick (D–Censored for Surprise–e). Her former roommate Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) is trying to get his film career started with the help of his manager, Jacqueline White (Jane Krakowski), and his former landlady Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane). However, Kimmy finds a book in her backpack that forces her to once again deal with her nemesis and former captor the Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon “Sexual Dynamite” Hamm). 

I’m not saying you should pick Make Out, but… It’s Ellie Kemper.

END SUMMARY

I’ve enjoyed most of the Netflix Interactive specials so far, from Black Mirror’s film Bandersnatch to the Carmen Sandiego episode, although, honestly, the best thing they’ve put out in the format is probably Minecraft: Story Mode. However, in a lot of ways, this one is the most fun because it’s really just like an extra-long and meta-textual episode of Kimmy Schmidt

Lots of fourth wall breaks. Including one where they try to repair it.

Unlike Bandersnatch, which was largely based around playing through it a number of times to get all of the various endings (including some that were only accessible on a second or third playthrough), Kimmy Schmidt decided to make it fairly easy to get through on the first viewing. Since the episode’s framing device is a choose-your-own-adventure book, whenever you have a choice, you typically either get it right or you get to a dead end and the show resets back to the divergent point so you can go forward. If anything, it’s actually more fun to make the wrong decisions throughout the episode so that you can see all of the hilarious alternate endings. Theoretically, you can get to the end and get one of what I think are 3 wrong endings, but it’s actually harder to NOT get the happy ending in this particular instance. 

The dress is the most crucial decision ever. EVER.

As to the episode itself, I’m impressed with how well they managed to keep the timing of the humor despite how often the episode has to stop for 10 seconds to give the viewer a chance to select the next scene. A lot of that is just that all of the actors in the show are amazingly talented comedians who have a natural sense of timing and tone, but also the writing is appropriately snappy.

So much talent in one room.

It also helps that this serves as the epilogue to the show that manages to, seemingly canonically, add an extra happy ending onto the tale of a woman who deserves it. Even though we have never met Kimmy’s fiance before now, D—– ——–e manages to be charming, hilarious, and just as weird as Kimmy, making it a match made in heaven. Titus and Jacqueline similarly get a nice final chapter to their story that feels earned. Lillian… well, she’s hilarious and doesn’t need another chapter. 

The reverend gets another chapter of being amazingly funny and horrible.

Overall, I really recommend it to anyone who watched the show. I will give you two tips: 1) Try to skip the intro song. You will be pleasantly surprised. 2) When you get the option to spare or kill someone… kill them all the ways you can. You will be VERY pleasantly surprised. 

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.