She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: A Criticism of Criticisms

by: The Grouch on the Couch

I’m gonna talk about some of the complaints that have been levied at this show (to the point that people have been harassing the crew) and say which ones are stupid and which ones actually have merit.

First, people have been complaining that the new She-Ra doesn’t look feminine enough. As to that, I just say: The 8-foot-tall superhuman woman does not necessarily need to be Wonder Woman’s level of curvaceous. Hate to break your mind, but not all women are super-buxom. It’s just that in fiction, they almost always are, since gravity-defying and somehow non-cumbersome big boobs are literally called the “most common super power.”

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HOW DID HER ORIGINAL TOP EVEN STAY ON???? 

However, as to the point that Adora’s outfit as She-Ra isn’t actually any more armored or battle-ready than the original She-Ra outfit, yeah, that’s true. I mean, since she’s nigh-invulnerable, armor might not make much of a difference, but that is technically true and the show could have actually given her a practical outfit if they were already going out of their way to subvert stereotypes.

Second, every comment involving “SJW” needs to be burned. Look, I’m not someone who’s super into shows that focus every episode on the characters learning a new lesson about tolerance, but that’s not what happens in this show. In fact, differences in appearance, culture, or sexuality mostly just get the response of “okay, now let’s do real stuff” if they’re commented on at all. Since this is a planet where people can be part-cat, part-scorpion, part-angel, or have magical sentient hair, it actually makes sense that being black or Inuit doesn’t particularly come off as “unusual.” The show isn’t trying to jam a message about tolerance down your throat, it just HAS characters who happen to be callipygian or LGTBQ+ or non-caucasian. Thinking that the mere existence of non-white, non-idealized, non-traditional characters automatically makes it SJW propaganda is just denying the fact that those people EXIST IN THE REAL WORLD. So, f*ck you.

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Also, they’re still mostly Caucasian, because TV show.

Also, complaining that they changed the race/gender/sexuality/appearance of a character is just not recognizing that the original show’s world was almost entirely white and was entirely hetero, because that was the only market that the creators believed mattered. Hell, the main character is still a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, white girl. The only human character on the original who wasn’t caucasian was Netossa, so… congrats, there was a token minority in the original show, and maybe that’s something that needs to change. The show’s not spending forty minutes on “the plight of black people” or “the history of gay discrimination,” which sometimes CAN be seemingly self-congratulatory social-awareness, it’s just got characters who happen to be minorities. What does it say about you that you’re willing to accept a woman with tentacles coming out of her back but not a black guy?

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The Diversity was based solely around Hair Color.

Third, a reboot/remake is not de-facto bad. You know what’s a reboot? The 1939 Wizard of Oz, the Charlton Heston Ben-Hur, Casino Royale, and The Dark Knight. And this attitude of automatically assuming they’re ruining your childhood is getting annoying. Do you remember how many people thought that Heath Ledger couldn’t play the Joker, or James Bond couldn’t be Blond, or that we didn’t need another Mad Max movie? If you can use the reboot to show the audience something they haven’t seen before, then the reboot has a purpose. In this case, the show is very different from the original, while still paying tribute to it. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it, but it’s not because it’s a reboot.

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Hell, this PoS apparently produced a decent movie. Still not watching it, though.

Look, I’m not saying this show is perfect. Hell, I didn’t think it was more than slightly above average, and it has the benefit of following other kids’ shows that have been bold enough to have more-developed characters and diverse casts like Steven Universe. The plots aren’t great, a lot of the episodes feel formulaic, and some of the dialogue makes me want to stab my ears with the Sword of Omens (Yes, I know that’s Thundercats). But, some of the shots being leveled at it are completely inane, and that forces me into the position of defending something I don’t care that much about. So, f*cking stop it, so I can move on to better shows… like Ducktales.

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 (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.

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Netflix Review – She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Good, But Not Quite the Reboot It Needed (Spoiler-Free)

SpoilerFree

Well, Netflix decided to reboot She-Ra: Princess of Power and, while I think it’s actually superior to the original show, it really just served to remind me of how mediocre the original franchise was, not to make something particularly new or exciting. Still, it has potential.

SUMMARY

Adora (Aimee Carrero) is a trainee of the Horde, an army that lives within the “Fright Zone” of the Planet Etheria. Adora is one of the top candidates to become a leader of the forces of the Horde against the evil Rebels, followed closely by her best friend Catra (AJ Michalka). However, when the two sneak out of the Fright Zone, Adora finds a sword and is told that she has been chosen to wield the power of She-Ra. She also finds two others searching for it, Princess Glimmer (Karen Fukuhara), the daughter of the leader of the Rebellion, and her best friend Bow (Marcus Scribner). They capture Adora, who quickly realizes that, surprise, the people called “The Horde” who live in the “Fright Zone” are actually the bad guys. She then joins the rebellion as She-Ra, a superpowered version of herself, and works to gain support of other princesses around the world to fight back against the Horde.

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Magic sword = Protagonist. It’s a law.

END SUMMARY

Okay, first thing’s first, I like to keep my work relatively positive, when I can, so I’m not going to go into addressing the criticisms that have been levied at the show and instead focus on my own opinions. Fortunately, by the time I finish this, my Grouchier counterpart should be done watching the show and fully ready to address them. I’ll let him publish that as an addendum, since he’ll enjoy ranting about the stupidity of people.

As to the things the show does right, there are quite a few:

The biggest strength of the show is the characters’ personalities. Each of the characters is distinct, they’re not one-dimensional, they have complex relationships, and some of them even have personalities that we often can’t see on television in their particular capacities. For example, Princess Entrapta (Christine Woods) is literally amoral and is therefore my favorite character. We tend to associate amorality with evil, and the show points out that this is with good reason, but she’s not evil in a traditional sense. She doesn’t want to hurt people. She literally just loves scientific advancement so much that she doesn’t care much about anything else including the fact that evil people will use her technology. I think she’s comparable to Werner von Braun… or maybe some of the characters from Fullmetal Alchemist. She’s truly neutral in her ideology.

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She just builds the weapons. She doesn’t fire them. Naturally, the bad guys love her more.

The relationships in the show are also well-developed and complex, with the best being the relationship between Catra and Adora. They used to be close, to the point that the show implies a modest sexual attraction between the pair. At one point, they dance together and it is as intense an interaction as you’re likely to see on an animated show which is primarily for kids. Of course, now they’re both on opposing sides of a war and are the field commanders on each side, but each one constantly misses the other, even if they don’t always admit it. The best thing about their relationship is that it’s constantly shifting, depending on how each one is viewing the other’s side and how much they’re willing to admit their feelings to themselves. If everything in the show was as well-done as their relationship, this show would be legendary. 

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Seriously, look at Catra in this and tell me she’s not at least slightly hot for her.

The show also has a decent sense of humor about itself, sometimes even pointing out how ludicrous the rules of the the world in which it’s set can be. My personal favorite is Netossa’s line “What do I do? It’s right there in the name! Netossa. Net-tossa. I TOSS NETS.” Sadly, that’s about the only line that takes a shot at how lame the naming conventions were in the original show, in retrospect. I mean, guys, they named a sorceress Castaspella. There’s a creature named Loo-Kee the Kon-Seal, who hides in the background and looks at people. It’s fine that they were named that (I mean, one of my favorite books has a bearded tree called Treebeard), but you have to at least acknowledge that it’s goofy.

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They are EXCELLENT nets, by the way.

The voice acting is solid. I think every voice fits the character and all the performances are filled with the emotion that you need. As you may remember from my entry on Disenchantment, this can give a mediocre script the flair it needs to succeed anyway. 

The character designs and animation are subject to taste. I do appreciate that they actually have a varied cast, with each of the kingdoms basically being a different country (it’s a planet, that makes sense), and therefore having a different culture and sometimes race. I also appreciate that the character body types are not all the same, something that most shows are not exactly great about, particularly the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power. I don’t actually care for the animation style that much, but it started to grow on me as the show continued.

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I mean, there were pros and cons to the old style, too. 

As to the things that it doesn’t do great:

The plotlines are weak, as are many of the plots. A series of episodes are basically the core three of Glimmer, Bow, and Adora going out to try and “recruit” princesses, each of which has a suitable quirk, power, and problem. They’re fairly repetitive and not particularly stimulating, aside from the fact that most of the princesses are all fairly entertaining. They also progress the characterizations too fast at times, particularly Adora’s switch from the Horde to the Rebellion. She spent her entire life being brainwashed as a soldier, but she decides she was wrong in one afternoon, something that would have been much more interesting if it had taken longer or hadn’t been as certain.

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And even when they come together, it gets contrived FAST.

The show does the popular thing of undercutting tension with humor. Normally, I’m a fan of this, particularly with things like Deadpool or Steven Universe or Adventure Time, but it does require that the tension being cut is particularly dire. In this, they were a little too tame with how the threats are presented. Basically, the Horde almost never seems like an actual threat. They are stated to be one, but every time they are engaged by anyone, they basically get routed. She-Ra almost takes out armies of them singlehandedly. Without letting the tension really be built up, the undercutting just starts to make everything feel like there are no stakes and that’s bad.

She-Ra’s abilities are inconsistent, but that feels like it’ll be explained within the show. Also, in the original show, She-Ra and He-Man’s powers were explicitly stated to be “always slightly greater than whatever threat they faced,” so power fluctuation can make sense, but it still gets old fast. However, I don’t think this She-Ra, or Adora, uses their wits as much as the original one, which annoys me in a protagonist in the modern age.

Also, the action sequences in the show need a little work. In the original show, She-Ra was forbidden from punching or cutting things due to the censors, but that’s not a thing anymore, so I would appreciate some more action in my action scenes. As it stands, it’s mostly either She-Ra destroying everything instantly in an explosion, or failing to hit anything, with little in between.

Overall, the show has some potential, because the characters are all distinct and interesting, but they really need to give the characters more worthwhile things to do.

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 (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 – Seven in Heaven: WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT???

I can’t do a spoiler-free version of this, but I also think it’s literally impossible to spoil this film, because I’ve now watched it twice and I’m not 100% sure what I saw. Anyway, let’s do this.

SUMMARY

Jude (Travis Tope) is a nerd. We know this because he likes classwork and talks down to a substitute math teacher and gets bullied by Derek (Jake Manley), a guy who literally looks like he’d be the bullied one in any other movie. He’s still haunted by memories of losing his father and his only companions are his friend Kent (Dylan Everett) and his girlfriend, Nell (Clark Backo).

SevenInHeaven - 1JudeNell
Despite being a nerd, he doesn’t finish his major essay until minutes before due, though.

One night he goes to a party at another student’s house and gets dragged into a game of “Seven Minutes in Heaven” by Derek and his girlfriend, June (Haley Ramm). In order to decide who is paired up, Derek deals out a deck of nude playing cards he found, one of which appears to be Jude’s mom. Jude and June get paired up and go into the closet where June offers to make out, despite both of them being in relationships (though she denies it). Jude declines and they wait out the whole seven minutes.

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Man, they sure have chemistry, right?

When they leave, the house has changed as have the behaviors of the people in the party, but neither of them notice. Overall, the party is now much more violent, leading Jude to leave and head home after texting Kent. When Jude gets home, he is surprised to find himself accosted by his father, who we earlier learned is dead. His father accuses Jude of murdering Derek by stabbing him with a pencil. When he goes upstairs, he finds that his room is completely different, being covered with darker and more violent imagery. Jude tries to flee the authorities and ends up running into his guidance counselor, Mr. Wallace (Gary Cole), who punches him and tries to shove him into his trunk, ultimately putting him in the back seat. Wallace reveals that Jude is in another world and needs to get back into the closet. Jude sneaks back into the house with the closet and waits seven minutes, but it doesn’t work. 

SevenInHeaven - 3Wallace
If you could go back to your universe, that’d be great…

Jude goes to find June, in the process finding out that in this universe he’s not friends with Kent, and tries to prove to her that they’re in another world. She believes him after her sister tries to smother her to death and Jude rescues her. Together, they find Mr. Wallace, who helps them get into the closet again. While in the closet, they have sex, something that eats up 3 of the 7 minutes.

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Finally, a movie that makes me feel superior to the protagonist.

Back at the original party, the guests have become concerned since Jude and June disappeared. The police arrive to stop the party, but Kent doesn’t want to explain the missing people, so he convinces the kids to refuse the officers entry. The officers respond by calling the parents of the kids, who still refuse to leave, until finally they get the homeowners’ mother to open the house. During the wait, Kent has suspicions that Jude and June are on another planet.

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Nell does nothing wrong in this movie, but gets screwed over. Just sayin’.

Jude and June exit, thinking they’re home, and talk to Jude’s mom, who says that she came by the party but they weren’t there. They then get chased down by Mr. Wallace’s car, which they flee, realizing that they are now in yet another dimension. They get a call from Nell telling them to come to Kent’s house, where they find versions of Nell, Kent, and Derek, all of whom are aware of everything that has happened in each dimension. They challenge the pair to a game called “Lie and Die” where, if they lie, one of their family members gets murdered. They manage to turn the game back on the group and escape, with Jude realizing that they can get back to their home if they destroy the closet while they’re in it. They’re successful, but as they walk out together, Derek walks into the closet and disappears, with only a bloody pencil left behind from his death in the other dimension.

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Bad way to go, man. 

END SUMMARY

This movie is best described as “really good idea, not great enough execution.” That happens with a lot of Blumhouse horror films like this. Let’s go over the good and the bad.

First, the good parts: I like the idea of being sent to other universes where you’re being held accountable for the bad deeds of another version of you, which has been done in comics but not so much in film. The movie actually does that part pretty well because it shows Jude holding a pencil earlier in the movie when being ridiculed by Derek, contemplating stabbing Derek in the throat, which is exactly how his other-dimensional counterpart killed him. Basically, it creates an implication that, in a world where violence is slightly more acceptable, Jude would have done it. The third, even darker, universe is also a great idea, except that it’s so rushed and so little of it is explained beyond “this is a world where everyone’s worst thoughts drive them” that it doesn’t really land like it should.

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At least they light this like it’s a worst-case universe.

Well, that brings us to the bad parts: First, I don’t care about anyone in this movie. Seriously, Jude isn’t interesting, June is somehow even less interesting, and they never explain Mr. Wallace enough to have him be anything but a persistent deus ex machina. If I don’t really care what happens to these people, there really aren’t any stakes. The idea of Jude running into the father he lost should be a great scene, but it’s basically glossed over so that they can keep the plot running. There are a lot of scenes like that in this film, where they should be good scenes, but because I don’t really care about the characters, there’s literally no weight to them.

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Literally playing for her sister’s life, but it feels so unimportant.

That actually brings me to the second point, they went too plot heavy. There are just too many things happening in this film and with this many going on, none of them feel super important. We have a plotline about finding a naked playing card of Jude’s mom that is resolved with a really unsatisfying explanation. Jude cheats on his girlfriend, and loses his virginity in the process, and seems to feel no guilt  or concern apart from worrying that 3 minutes isn’t long enough for sex (Foreplay, Jude, foreplay). We have a huge amount of time dedicated to Kent keeping the police out of the house which, honestly, is interesting, but it kind of adds nothing to the A-plot.

Third, the performances are wildly uneven. I don’t want to call anyone out, but if you’re going to do “show, don’t tell” in a movie where the point is that the universes are only subtly different, then you need some strong performances to really sell the shock of being in a different world. I don’t think the movie delivers, nor do some of the actors. It’s made even more bizarre by the idea that Mr. Wallace apparently exists beyond realities and that, in one of the realities, the people all know what happened in the other ones and use it against our main characters. If you’re going to have a real “darkest timeline,” then you need someone to sell the darkest timeline and if you’re going to have an omniscient character to explain everything then, well, he needs to explain more or better.

Then there’s the ending, where Jude is implied to now be on the hook for murdering Derek in this world, which isn’t set-up well. While, yes, it’s going to look bad that Jude walked out of the building saying “I didn’t murder Derek,” any attempt to charge him with the murder is going to run into the problem that he never actually had the opportunity since the last time Derek was seen alive, and certainly didn’t have the opportunity to kill him and hide the body. It just doesn’t actually scream “trouble pending” as much as “minor inconvenience ahead.”

Overall, this movie had a lot of potential, but it just didn’t fulfill it.

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 (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 Haunting of Hill House (Spoiler-free)

I wrote this two weeks ago, when it would have been timely, then kept bumping it. So… hopefully this still works for some of you.

SpoilerFree

In 1959, Shirley Jackson wrote what is still considered to be one of the best horror stories of all time, famous for the relatively little amount of actual horror in it. “Horror” is usually defined as involving an actual scare or the feeling of revulsion and fear that comes after experiencing it, like what happens after you see Cthulhu or a Naked Steve Bannon. Instead, most of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House was heavily reliant on feelings of dread and the emotional instability of the characters.

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Has Netflix adapted “The Lottery” yet? That might be interesting.

In 1963, this film was adapted into The Haunting by famed director Robert Wise (West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Editor of Citizen Kane, etc.). The title changed to differentiate it from House on Haunted Hill. It was a solid terror film which managed to spend most of the movie making the characters, and the audience, uncertain if anything happening was supernatural or if it was all in the mind of the main character. It’s still regarded as a high point of cinema and is great upon rewatching. It’s not everyone’s favorite, mostly because it DOES rely heavily on dread rather than actual scares, but I personally love it.

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Did I mention the director was amazing at dramatic shots?

In 1999, Jan de Bont, fresh off of Speed 2, remade the movie and it was so bad that Catherine Zeta-Jones wearing nearly nothing couldn’t help it. Granted, I was 12 when it came out, so I didn’t have that opinion at the time, but I have seen it since and, wow, it really was not well thought-out. Roger Ebert thought the production design was good, which… okay, I guess is true, but that’s not what I look for in a movie. However, it did work as a great basis for parody in Scary Movie 2.

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Not even those… I mean She… could save this movie.

Well, this year Netflix decided to adapt it into a 10 episode TV series, the first one to be titled The Haunting of Hill House. While it had to change almost everything from all of the previous incarnations in order to fill the time, it captures the spirit of the book very well, despite being its own animal.

SUMMARY (Spoiler free)

Twenty-six years ago, the Crain family moved into Hill House. During their relatively short stay there, a large number of incidents involving the supernatural occurred, scaring and scarring every member of the family, before they were forced to flee after a particularly horrible event. Now, all of the family members are massively dysfunctional from the event and rarely communicate. However, after another family tragedy, they are all forced to confront the fact that none of them have ever fully left the house, resulting in them returning to resolve things.

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Also, this house is haunted, if it’s real. If not, the computer that generated it is haunted.

END SUMMARY

If you’re a fan of horror, you need to watch this show. It’s one of the best collections of horror images you can get in 10 episodes. The designs of the ghosts are fantastic, but one of the best parts is that they’re so well hidden that you can miss them throughout entire scenes until the end, but they’ve been there the entire time.

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There’s a hidden ghost in this image. Try to find it.

The show is structured non-chronologically with many episodes containing events from both the past and present timelines running together, but this later becomes important to the story because some of the events don’t happen exactly chronologically either in the traditional sense. It ties the traumas of the past more directly with the issues that the Crains have in the present.

What’s really impressive about this show is that it doesn’t have any resemblance to the book whatsoever. The book and the original movie both contain a lot of hints that much of what’s going on is just in the head of the characters and that they’re letting their fears get the better of them. This show demonstrates ghosts about 10 minutes in and shows over a dozen of them. In that sense, it’s almost closer to *shudder* the 1999 reboot, but fortunately, it does everything right which that movie did wrong, while also doing more than the original film.

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The TV series, for example, doesn’t have a terrible, giant CGI ghost.

Earlier I brought up how the book mostly focused on terror and dread over horror and revulsion. This show actually manages to do both at the same time, because we’re following two different timelines. We see the horror of the characters reacting to the past events and in flashbacks we see the terror building up to these events, but we also get the horror coming from present events that scare the characters, while also building up the terror of the inevitable return to the house that both the audience and the characters know is coming.

The family dynamics also really sell the show. All of the characters are dysfunctional and resentful towards each other, but each one also has some other defining element, whether it be a connection to ghosts, psychic abilities, or just being high as hell all the time. Each of these distinctions adds to the level of resentment and conflict between the characters, because they literally have something that the other parties can’t understand.

Overall, I can’t talk too much about the show without spoiling it, which has made this difficult, but it’s really a solid show. If you like horror, you’ll like this. If you don’t… you’ll probably hate it for making you spill your lukewarm broth that you have for every meal.

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 (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 – Bleach (Film)

Up front, I was never the biggest fan of Bleach. I do like some anime and manga (One Piece is still amazing) and I did enjoy the first two or three arcs of the series (I don’t know how it’s organized), but it started to fall prey to Dragon Ball-esque Serial Escalation and the characters didn’t interest me enough to put up with it. If you’re not familiar with Serial Escalation, it’s where a series is forced to constantly increase the power of the opponents in order to maintain some semblance of threat to the hero. Basically, if you beat a demon, you then have to beat a super-demon, then the devil, then the super-devil, then the anti-God (this example is pulled from the show Supernatural). Bleach does this so badly, the final opponent in the series EATS GOD. Still, the art style and universe were always pretty creative and this adaptation manages to keep that as much as a live-action movie can.

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At least DBZ gives us new hairstyles with every level-up.

SUMMARY

Ichigo Kurosaki (Sota Fukushi) is a high-schooler who has three unusual traits: First, he has naturally strawberry blonde hair (and his name means strawberry, so his parents picked well). Second, he’s extremely strong and fast with solid instincts for fighting. Third, he can see ghosts. Guess which one this series is about?

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Trick Question: It’s his winning roguish smile.

Ichigo spends much of his time trying to bring peace to the spirits he finds around Karakura Town in West Tokyo, Japan. One day, however, he spots a girl wielding a sword and wearing a black kimono who seems surprised to see him. She reveals herself to be Rukia Kuchiki (Hana Sugisaki) a Shinigami (God of Death) or “Soul Reaper.” Basically, they guide souls to the afterlife. However, when a soul dies while filled with rage, despair, or teenage angst (I assume), then their ghost wanders around with a hole in it that eventually expands, turning them into a “Hollow,” a demonic ghost that has to be purified by being slain by a Soul Reaper. One of these Hollows attacks Ichigo’s family and Rukia is injured in the process. Deciding that there’s only one way to stop the monster, she gives Ichigo her powers, despite it being forbidden.

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I think she has issues with her job performance.

Rukia discovers that she can’t just take her powers back until she recharges her spiritual energy and Ichigo builds up his own, so she has to pretend to be a normal human for some time while training Ichigo to do her duties as a Soul Reaper. At the same time, her brother Byakuya (Miyavi) sends her friend Renji Abarai (Taichi Saotome) to bring her back, but he ends up misunderstanding the situation and threatens Ichigo until they’re interrupted by a third person shooting magic arrows. The shooter is revealed to be Ichigo’s classmate Uryu Ishida (Ryo Yoshizawa), a member of the Quincy race, a group of superpowered humans who fight hollows but were massacred by the Soul Reapers in the past. Renji flees.

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Also, his sword would give Cloud Strife a complex.

Uryu challenges Ichigo to a contest of banishing Hollows, which he does by summoning a number of them to the city. Renji returns with Byakuya, who issues an ultimatum to Rukia: Kill Ichigo by taking back her energy or face capital punishment. Ichigo points out that, if he slays a strong enough Hollow, he should be able to survive the transfer. So, he trains to build himself up to be able to kill the monster, known as the Grand Fisher. It’s also revealed that Grand Fisher actually killed Ichigo’s mother using its power, with which it conjures a luring image of a small girl to throw its prey off guard. He succeeds in killing the monster, but Renji returns to fight him. Ichigo manages to defeat him, however Byakuya finally intercedes and proves that he is on a completely different level. Rukia agrees to extract Ichigo’s energy to save his life and bids him farewell. As the movie ends, it appears that everyone has forgotten Rukia except, maybe, Ichigo.

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Stab the big monster in the face. It works.

END SUMMARY

So, this movie tries to cram like three storylines into one film, something that usually produces a movie like The Last Airbender or Ghost Rider: Poorly paced and with mostly underdeveloped characters. This movie manages to avert that by avoiding exposition, letting the performances of the actors really handle the characterization and emotional aspects of the film, and making the film as streamlined as possible so you don’t really question how little of the universe is actually explained to you. This movie isn’t going to win any Oscars, but it’s not supposed to, it’s just supposed to be entertaining and that’s exactly what it delivers.

There are a few standout elements, though. For one, the characters manage to really look like a cross between their anime character models and physically possible Japanese people. If you look at them next to their designs, you wouldn’t say they’re identical or even that similar in some cases, but you also would immediately know who is supposed to be who. While some of the character aspects are made more realistic or grounded, they did also keep some of the more outlandish anime elements. This serves to emphasize those elements through contrast, which, since they’re some of the most memorable aspects of the series, is actually a good thing here.

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Yeah, you can tell he’s a main character.

Another big positive is how the characters play off of each other. When the manga first started, that was one of the most amusing and compelling parts of the series, before eventually becoming “get a higher power level.” Ichigo’s relationships to everyone, while fairly simple and direct, are obvious by how he relates to each of them, including how he becomes more familiar and open with Rukia over the course of the movie. Sota Fukushi plays everything over-the-top which, since this is supposed to be a cartoon, works perfectly.

The pacing is pretty solid, which was important. The movie never feels rushed. They cover a lot of ground, but at the end of the film you feel like it was just the right amount of ground to cover in 108 minutes. The ending is basically a teaser for the next movie, but I think years of Marvel films have led me to accept that this is something that just happens now.

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Admittedly, it is a touching ending.

There aren’t a ton of things I’ll take shots at within the movie, but here are a few:

Compared to the manga and anime, they do have fewer Hollows and overtly supernatural images, probably due to budget. However, they properly emphasize the ones they do have, which is the best thing you can hope for. This also serves to sort of streamline the mythos and the rules of the universe, something that, honestly, the anime itself should have done more often. This is like a survey course in Bleach: You get all of the key stuff, but if you want to get into why Hollows have Spanish names or how the Soul Society works, you’re going to have to break open a book.

Also, they seriously didn’t develop Rukia enough. She’s such a great character and she owns almost every scene she’s in. I think that Hana Sugisaki is probably the best actor in the film, managing to run the gamut of emotions when dealing with either normal people (who she doesn’t understand), Ichigo (who she feels both indebted to and anger towards), Renji (who she clearly has feelings for), and Byakuya (with whom she has an incredibly complicated relationship). She always sells a lot more with her delivery than the lines would normally merit, which makes it kind of sad that she doesn’t have more of them. Hell, I’d watch a remake of this movie’s arc that’s just more focused on her than Ichigo, but Bleach is Ichigo’s story, so that’s not going to happen.

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And her Harry and the Hendersons speech is pretty solid.

Overall, this isn’t going to go down as a movie that people who don’t like anime can still enjoy, like Oldboy, but if you’re a fan of the genre, this’ll work for you.
And hey, at least it isn’t Dragonball Evolution.

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 (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 – Castlevania Seasons 1 & 2 (Spoiler-Free on Season 2)

Yesterday, The Adventure Zone podcast did a Halloween special which had a reference to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night that I just couldn’t stop laughing at, even though it was so straightforward. But, either way, I decided to do a bonus review of Castlevania in their honor.

Netflix decided to take a shot at every other studio out there by adapting a video game and, despite all of the past history of adapting video games to a narrative (Phoenix Wright notwithstanding), did it really well. Admittedly, the history of adapting video games to television (particularly cartoon series) is much stronger than to the big screen, but those were mostly aimed towards children. This is very much aimed towards people who played the original Castlevania games on the NES, all of whom are now adults.

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Or, if you’re like me, on the SNES.

SUMMARY

Vlad Tepes Dracula (Graham McTavish) is… You f*cking know who Dracula is. Well, he’s out there Dracking it up when he is visited by a young woman named Lisa (Emily Swallow) who wishes to be a doctor and believes that Dracula would be the person who would know the most about human medicine, as he has collected books for centuries on every subject and read them all. Not only is she correct, surprisingly, but her resolve towards science and medicine takes Dracula off-guard and he ends up falling in love with her and marrying her. She tries to teach him of the positive traits of humanity and he begins to soften.

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A surprisingly solid relationship for a vampire and a snack.

Unfortunately, twenty-ish years later, Lisa is accused of being a witch (because she’s a doctor and a woman) and is burned at the stake. This leads Dracula to declare that he will spend one year creating an army of the damned, after which he will kill everyone in Wallachia, the kingdom that murdered her. The phrase “Y’all done f*cked up now” comes to mind. Sure enough, one year later, he kills everyone in the town in a gruesome fashion and declares war on humanity. All the noble houses get blamed, including a house known as Belmont.

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When this is how the guy tells you you’re screwed, YOU ARE SCREWED.

A few months later, Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage), the last of a line of monster hunters, is broke and drunk in a city that is besieged by the forces of darkness every night. The clergy (who started this whole mess) have used this as an opportunity to take power in the area, claiming to be the only force capable of repelling the evil, and blame a group of traveling magic users called the Speakers for Dracula’s assault. Trevor saves some of the Speakers and is told by the Elder (Tony Amendola) that there is a “sleeping soldier” beneath the city who may help save them. The Elder’s granddaughter already sought the soldier but has not returned. Trevor goes below the city and finds a cyclops guarding a crypt. Trevor slays the monster, which releases one of his petrified victims, the Elder’s granddaughter Sypha Belnades (Alejandra Reynoso). The pair continue and eventually discover the sleeping soldier is none other than Dracula’s half-human son, Adrian Tepes or “Alucard” (James Callis), who was wounded fighting his father a year prior. The three join forces to stop Dracula’s army from wiping out humanity.

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Cosplayers are getting aroused at this photo.

END SUMMARY

If I just watched Season 1 of this show, I’d say it was only kind of good. The first season has some great character designs, good action sequences, decent dialogue at some points, and the Bishop (Matt Frewer) is one of the most deeply despicable characters on film, overshadowing Dracula as an antagonist. However, the show doesn’t really hit its stride until Season 2, when you start to have Dracula’s War Council interacting and Trevor, Sypha, and Alucard bantering. All of the dialogue suddenly gets sharper and better, mostly because of all of the conflicting philosophies and backstories.

The show is, so far, an adaptation of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, something that was a great decision. It’s the first game chronologically, except for Castlevania: Lament of Innocence which doesn’t have Dracula in it, and was the first one to have multiple characters, giving the writers more to work with. I was surprised that they cut out the character of Grant Danasty, the pirate from the game, but maybe he’ll come back later. Still, even without him, we’re not short on great characters on either the hero or villain sides. As with most good series, most of the characters aren’t morally black and white, they’re all fairly flawed and driven by their own wants and histories. For example, two of Dracula’s Generals, Hector and Isaac (Theo James and Adetokumboh M’Cormack), are humans who have decided to side against humanity because of their personal histories, and Isaac’s backstory in particular will just hit you right in the heart.

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Man, this game cover was awesome in the 80s.

The animation style is a tribute to one of the most popular games in the series, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which gives it a strong anime influence, but still with a lot of gothic European character designs. The fight scenes look like elaborate video game cut-scenes, which is exactly what they should look like. The combat involving Alucard is particularly impressive, because his fighting style is literally impossible to do in reality.

Overall, I hope that they keep this series going. There are so many more interesting stories that can be told in the Castlevania universe. They’ve set up several more at the end of Season 2, and Dracula literally always comes back in the games, so they can reuse him as much as they need.

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 (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 – Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Spoiler-Free)

SpoilerFree

As many of you who read this blog regularly will already know, or anyone who sits near me for even a brief period will find out, I hate the show Riverdale. It strikes me as a generic CW show that only distinguishes itself by being based on Archie Comics, which also pisses me off because the comic book Riverdale was supposed to be like Mayberry: It’s a place where people are who they should be. They’re not perfect, but the good try to be better and the bad are taught to be good. Instead, this Riverdale is full of darkness and teen angst. This is the only kind of reboot or reimagining that I usually will protest: It’s profaning that which its source held sacred, but not doing anything imaginative with that profanity.  And yes, I watched the entire first season to give it a fair shot.  So, when they said they were going to do a spin-off of the show featuring Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, most people thought I would oppose it.

THOSE PEOPLE WERE WRONG.

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While Riverdale stands against everything that Archie Comics originally stood for, Sabrina the Teenage Witch has always been a little creepy and macabre. Even the 90s series with Melissa Joan Hart had a lot of stuff that, in retrospect, was dark as hell. I mean, she regularly manipulates memories, changes people’s personalities, causes giant weather phenomenon, and punishes people with curses for arbitrary reasons. Those are all things that, in a less comic setting, would be objectively horrifying. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is just taking that to its logical conclusion.

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Soulless monsters, the lot of them. Funny, entertaining, soulless monsters.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Sabrina Spellman (Kiernan Shipka) is about to turn 16 years old on Halloween under a Blood Moon… at which point she shall have to undergo her “Dark Baptism” and sign her soul into the Book of the Beast and pledge herself to the Dark Lord Satan. However, Sabrina is a rare existence, a half-witch half-human, which gives her a choice: She can embrace her magic side and gain longevity and power, or she can stay in her human life with her human friends, including her boyfriend Harvey Kinkle (Ross Lynch). Her aunts, Hilda and Zelda (Lucy Davis and Miranda Otto) and her cousin, Ambrose (Chance Perdomo), are all practitioners of the Dark Arts who give her guidance… and sometimes commands that she disobeys.

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She also has a cat… that is actually a goblin in the form of a cat. 

Ultimately, this choice and how she tries to avoid it, negotiate it, or pick a third option is most of her character arc for this season. At the same time, her magical presence is revealed to be impacting Harvey and her friends Susie (Lachlan Watson) and Roz (Jaz Sinclair). Additionally, she has to deal with the dark path offered by Father Blackwood (Richard Coyle), the head warlock of her coven, the temptations of Ms. Wardwell (Michelle Gomez), a demon inhabiting the body of her teacher, and the semi-racist ire of the Weird Sisters, three witches that act like the Plastics from Mean Girls (Adeline Rudolph, Tati Gabrielle, Abigail Cowen).

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Oh, and this guy… I think they call him Tim? Wait, no, Satan. That’s Satan.

END SUMMARY

Like most of Netflix’s shows, this is a serial that builds towards the season finale… which itself mostly just sets everything up for the next season. Since Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has already been given an order for a second season, this isn’t much of an issue. I think the pace of it is pretty solid, moreso than most of the Netflix Marvel series. There are a lot of subplots that start off fairly slow and do a great job building over the course of the season, while the main plot involving Sabrina keeps shifting enough that it doesn’t feel overly repetitive. Some of the episode gimmicks seem a little cliche or lame but, honestly, the show’s acting and atmosphere consistently overwhelm any of those issues.

The performances are pretty great. My favorite character has to be Chance Perdomo’s Ambrose, who is under house arrest throughout the series. In one of his first appearances, if not his first appearance, he’s shown having a laptop outside of the Spellman home, signalling that he is much more modern than any of the other witches and warlocks depicted. He is pansexual, and also genre-savvy and sassy as hell, which would normally make him the only sane man in the show, but his constant love of mischief, rebellion, and boning instead make him appear as a roguish mage, which… well, works.

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Ambrose only gives a f*ck about, well, f*cking. And also Sabrina, I guess.

Hilda and Zelda are both great characters as well, each one encouraging Sabrina in different ways and directions. Susie, Roz, and Harvey are all really great at selling the idea that they’re close to Sabrina and would be worth forsaking magic for. Then there’s Sabrina.

I think what surprises me most about Kiernan Shipka’s portrayal is that it both seems similar to Melissa Joan Hart’s Sabrina and yet is completely distinct. She’s very loyal, supportive, and upbeat, but has an enormous dark side (the kind where she accepts that she’s going to be bathed in human blood and pledged to wed Satan). The best thing is that she represents a lot of kids out there, just in a twisted way: She’s in a family that is firmly rooted in tradition and devotion to god (just… not the Christian God), but she wants to be independent and question why things are still done this way. It’s an old trope, but it’s one that’s been beautifully turned on its head by the show.

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She could either be saying “I cast you into the pit” or “what-ever.”

Another thing that I love in the show is the atmosphere. The town it’s set in, Greendale, is described as being a place where every day feels like Halloween, and the show really took that to heart. The trees, the stores, the characters, everything feels like it’s got a layer of cobwebs over it. But it’s still got the feeling of a small town underneath, where people still walk to school and work in coal mines and watch black-and-white horror films. It’s Real American Nostalgia, but with pumpkins.

And I can’t go without mentioning the Satanism. I think the way they handle Satanism in the show is literally the best part. Look, the show doesn’t beat around the bush: Everything that the witches do is suuuuuuper messed up. They eat people on holidays. They steal organs and blood from corpses. They alter memories and commune with demons. However, aside from when they’re actively doing those things… they’re Southern Baptists (or any equivalent small-town religion). I grew up in a Southern Baptist community, and all of the times that the show has a witch saying “hail Satan” is the exact moment when a Baptist woman would say “praise Jesus.” Sabrina is constantly told that things are just done a certain way and not to question it, she’s told to not fool around with her boyfriend (and she doesn’t), and everyone views the church as the social, political, and moral center of the community. Every time she tries to be “progressive,” her family loves her but they wish she’d just quit ruining their perception in the church, even if she’s right. That’s why it’s so easy to buy the way that the witches worship in the show; they’re literally just a dark reflection of an existing culture.

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Also, they’re really focused on baptisms.

Overall, I loved this series. It’s dark, but in a good way. It’s got actual morals and themes to discuss, even if it’s disguised them beneath a layer of blood and goblins. It’s progressive, but it’s not exactly preachy about it. The sets, music, and acting are all wonderful, and the end of the season shows that things are really just heating up. WATCH IT NOW!

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 (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.