A Whisker Away (Nakitai Watashi wa Neko wo Kaburu): IT’S SO CUTE!!! – Netflix Mini-Review

It starts off kind of creepy, then straight to adorable.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Miyo Sasaki (Mirai Shida/Cherami Leigh) is a middle school girl with a crush on her classmate Kento Hinode (Natsuki Hanae/Johnny Yong Bosch). Unfortunately, while she is an outgoing and emotional person, Hinode is usually cold and distant. However, Miyo receives a mask from a talking cat (Koichi Yamadera/Keith Silverstein) that lets her turn into a cat whenever she puts it on. She uses this mask to pretend to be a stray cat that Hinode plays with, named “Taro.” Using her time as Hinode’s cat, she tries to build her relationship with him. Unfortunately, it turns out that magic tends to have a price in stories like this.

And no, she doesn’t get 8 extra lives by wearing it.

END SUMMARY

Okay, so, I realize that there’s something inherently a little weird about a story of spying on your crush, but a big part of the movie is that Miyo (or “Muge” as she is called) is being immature. As the movie continues, she starts to realize that her worldview has always been undeveloped and she grows as a result. At the same time, she starts to get a better picture of who Hinode is, which does nothing to deter her feelings, but instead deepens them. We discover that both of them are hurting, but that they both have responded to their pain in completely different ways. Their relationships with their families are strained by circumstances beyond their control and, like kids do, they have difficulty really coping with it.

Playing with pets is a normal way to cope. Playing AS pets, not so much.

The depth of the characterizations of the two leads is what makes A Whisker Away work. Miyo’s need for affection may make her seem weird to the rest of the world, but it’s just a representation of her desire to receive love. As a cat, she receives all of the cuddles she could ever ask for from the object of her desire. On the opposite end, Hinode is always repressing his feelings due to having to provide for his family. Their financial burden embarasses him a little and puts unnatural pressure on him to get a job to support them, but his loyalty to them prevents him from complaining. This is presented mostly through show rather than narration, which benefits heavily from the very expressive animation style. 

You can even get ideas about characters from how they eat.

That brings me to the animation, which is… just so damned cute. Seriously, when Miyo is “Taro,” she is one of the most adorably animated animals I’ve ever seen. She still has a lot of expressions that reflect her status as having human consciousness, but anyone who has owned a cat will still acknowledge that they can give you those looks. It gets even better when the film decides to say that every cat out there really IS sentient, even having a secret place to go that is accessible only to cats. Despite relying on a supernatural premise, the movie doesn’t really dip heavily into fantasy until the third act, and the slow build-up really helps heighten the drama. 

Omg, I want hugs so bad.

Overall, just a really cute movie, if a bit weird. I recommend giving it 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 Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Warrior Nun: Who Doesn’t Love a Demon-Fighting Teenage Nun? – Netflix Review

There’s a nun named “Shotgun Mary.” ‘Nuff said.

SUMMARY

Based incredibly loosely off of a comic series. Ava Silva (Alba Baptista) is a recently deceased quadriplegic. When a demon attacks the orphanage where she lived, a nun is forced to shove an artifact known as the Halo into Ava’s corpse. She promptly revives, now with super-strength and other abilities. It turns out she is now the chosen one, the Warrior Nun, who fights against the forces of Hell on behalf of the Order of the Cruciform Sword, a secret Catholic organization. She is aided by the other members of the OCS: Sister “Shotgun” Mary (Toya Turner), Sister Lilith (Lorena Andrea), Sister Beatrice (Kristina Tonteri-Young), and Father Vincent (Tristan Ulloa). She must defeat an evil Tarrasque demon and deal with the machinations of the scientist Jillian Salvius (Thekla Reuten). 

Yes, they have holy weapons.

END SUMMARY

Did you miss Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Well, good news, here’s a more violent and less quippy show in the same vein. It’s not close enough that you ever feel like it’s cribbing, but it gives you some of the same beats. It’s a line of female superheroes that fight demonic powers that are presided over by an ancient and secret order, so it was naturally going to draw some comparisons. Still, aside from the broad strokes, Warrior Nun is its own animal. Also, I never read the comic this is based on, but a quick Google search tells me that it is wildly different than this series.

Some fetishists may be very disappointed by the difference.

Alba Baptista plays the main character with a decent level of complexity. That makes sense when you realize that she is a near-lifetime quadriplegic who lost her family and was tormented by her caretaker for years. She now has a level of freedom that almost no human will ever have. Watching her joy as she starts to move and run is captivating. We also get a lot of internal narration from her which comically sometimes comes out of her mouth. Her isolation in her life prior to this makes her an outcast almost as much as her status as a resurrected human does, and Baptista manages to make this endearing.

So much self doubt for someone who is basically invincible.

The supporting cast, too, are well-crafted. Some of them seem one-dimensional at first, but most of them are revealed to have deeper motivations, particularly Salvius and Shotgun Mary. While they’re all too divorced from reality by the nature of the show to seem like “real” people, they do seem like people that have had to deal with being privy to a hidden world. I also like the fact that, despite the show being called Warrior Nun, most of the nuns are not particularly holy, nor is the show particularly preachy. As Shotgun Mary tells us, she negotiated her way into only having to follow commandments 5 and 8 (murder and bearing false witness).

Sadly, Shotgun Mary’s name is from the comic, so I can’t thank the show for it.

The set pieces in the show are excellent, regularly featuring ornate cathedrals, as you might expect from any show with a lot of nuns. Similarly, the clothing is often a combination of religious and tactical garb, which can look pretty awesome. The special effects are pretty solid, given the amount of demonic creatures and superheroes that are featured. The biggest problem with the show is that it has a ten episode first season with the plot for about eight. It also drops a few subplots pretty cold, which may get picked back up later.

Like most of the plot with her and her “crew” of normals.

Overall, pretty fun show. I recommend it.

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

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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.

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/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.

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 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.

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 – 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 – 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 – Too Hot to Handle: Trashy As It Gets

Netflix gives us a reality show that does not deliver on its title.

SUMMARY

Ten single people who are known for their promiscuity are put on an island only to be told that they are in a competition for $100,000 that is dependent on them not doing anything sexual for the next four weeks. Every act they undertake will subtract from the total, including $3000 for a kiss. Meanwhile, the people are encouraged to look for deeper connections with their fellow competitors through a computer monitoring system, named Lana. The show is hosted by former Mayor of Night Vale Desiree Burch. 

If you think you see Jesus in the back row, you’re not the only one.

END SUMMARY

I was kind of hoping this would be the level of enjoyable trash that Netflix gave us with Love is Blind, but unfortunately this is back to the normal level of reality television. Most of the characters are not particularly likable, probably due to the fact that most of them are attractive enough that they’ve never had to develop actual personalities. There are some contestants that are more relatable and some that are more hateable, but they all rely on being dateable. 

Nicole, the Irish Girl is the best, but everyone already guessed that.

The main conflicts are usually between the group as a whole and some of the more reckless contestants, rather than just between individuals or teams, which creates an interesting dynamic. At the beginning, it is not announced who cause the losses of money, so we do see some interesting situations in which people try to blame each other or deny their guilt or frame others; however, that ultimately ends up falling to the wayside as it becomes more apparent that, despite the relative attractiveness and supposedly enhanced libidos of the people on the island, most of them don’t really have any difficulty in not having sex with strangers and, honestly, there’s not as much drama as you’d expect from a show like this. While the show tries to cover for this by having Desiree Burch provide color commentary, I think most of her “jokes” don’t really land. Given that I find her to be much funnier in interviews and other performances, I’m guessing it’s due to a combination of bad writers and boring subject matter. 

These two are most of the drama, but not in the fun way.

One of the more interesting things that they do in this show, though, is that they periodically have soul-enriching classes that some or all of the contestants participate in. Several of these are interesting, including classes about vulnerability or female empowerment, and I do appreciate a show with such a sex-charged premise encouraging self-care and therapy like this. 

The words workshop seems fun.

Overall, I just didn’t think this show kept my interest as much as I wanted. Since it’s only 9 episodes, it’s not much of an investment, though. I also find it funny that one of the contestants was the guy who made the movie Counterfeiters that was famous for being shot on essentially no budget. I might review that in the future.  For now, here’s an op-ed from another viewer:

THE FACELESS OLD WOMAN THAT LIVES ON MY COUCH

I’ve recently heard myself say “getting attached to people is stupid.” This is the mindset that the contestants on the show supposedly had coming in, and supposedly the show is supposed to correct them of their impulse to screw around. This was what I struggled with while watching the show – on the one hand, I strongly believe that sex outside of a relationship or any emotional attachment isn’t wrong or unhealthy on its face, and in many ways it’s the opposite. In particular, the relative ease of dating around in modern society helps keep people from getting stuck in bad relationships. At the same time, sex *is* intimate and kind of a big deal in some ways! You’re letting someone into your personal space, sometimes feelings get kicked up, and it involves a degree of personal risk (especially during these pandemic times.) Like all good things, it’s possible to use it in ways that aren’t healthy.

Pictured: Intimacy without sex.

The show claims a self-improvement premise. Lana states that by preventing the contestants from having sex, she is forcing them to form deeper emotional connections. Couples are rewarded for developing such connections. In one of the various self-improvement workshops, the women discuss the value of their “yoni.” It can all reek a bit of purity culture. Are the couples spending more time communicating and having quality time together because they can’t do other stuff? I don’t really know, these things aren’t mutually exclusive. Some of the relationships on the show didn’t work out, even with this extra time spent building an emotional connection first.

GIRL POWER!!!!

The thing is, it’s kind of a compelling experiment if you’ve spent some time in your life where you had access to many other single people. (College and young adulthood, for a lot of people. And retirement communities.) It’s easy to burn out on the way people conduct themselves in that space. How would things be different if you were forced to go a bit more slowly? I think Chloe benefits from this the most, even though she breaks the rules and kisses both the men she’s interested in. She learned from the first kiss that she wasn’t really into Bryce after all. Shortly after the second, Kori chooses to go out with another girl, and while Chloe is hurt, it could have been arguably more painful if their relationship had gone further physically – which was discouraged by the rules of the show.

Chloe is the best non-Irish contestant.

What really matters are 1. your own needs and expectations, and whether your patterns are helping you to fulfill them and 2. whether you’re communicating with others about their expectations and proceeding in good faith. Chloe described the show to the Sun as “sexual rehabilitation,” and there’s nothing wrong with trying something different to break out of a pattern. I think it’s food for thought in that respect, even if I completely reject the idea that jumping into bed with a person precludes a meaningful emotional connection. But you probably could have figured that out without watching a reality show.

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.