January 2021 Reviews

[A summary of my movie and TV reviews from last month, posted to Attrition.org, mixed in with other reviews.]


Soul (2020)
Medium: Movie (Disney)
Rating: 5/5 movie and music magic
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Disney
Disney knows how to do modern cartoons and this is no exception. The story follows Joe, a school band teacher who seems to have lost his way. As he sees a spark of passion in one student’s musical ability and then lands the gig of his life, he has a mishap and finds himself at the pearly gates but refuses to accept that fate. In limbo Joe runs into an odd one known as “22” and finds himself on an adventure to help 22 find a spark so that they can live a life on earth. The movie has a great stride and flows very well with an amazing cast of vocal talent as well as some incredible music by an unlikely trio, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for the original score and John Batiste with original jazz songs. The movie brings the laughs and the feels and is perfect for all ages.


Kajillionaire (2020)
Medium: Movie (Netflix)
Rating: 4.5/5 stick with it
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon
This quirky movie is billed as a Crime/Drama but as far as modern movies go, that is about the farthest thing from what it really is. It’s more of a slow-play dry commentary on the nature of humans and how odd we can be, with a splash of low-end grifting, wrapped into a family-dynamic sleeper hit that also moonlights as a love-story. For me, it started out slow and confused as I couldn’t figure out what type of movie it was. About half-way through I was hooked as I realized it wasn’t trying to be any specific genre; it just did its thing with Evan Rachel Wood stealing the show. If you dig on off-the-beaten-path flicks, this one is worth a go.


Greenland (2020)
Medium: Movie (Multiple)
Rating: 2/5 the title is the most redeeming quality
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon
It must have been a few years since the last earth-snuffing porn, as we tend to get one movie like that every so often, although more recently in the form of plagues and zombies. Gerard Butler and end of the world, pretty much tells you what you need to know about this movie. All the stereotypical things from this genre of movie too; poorly manufactured explosions to tide you over before the real city-snuffing comes, impromptu gangs that make no sense, cell service outages for plot advancement, and really bad dialogue snippets. I definitely like I watched this so you wouldn’t have to.


Lupin, Part 1 (2020)
Medium: TV (Netflix)
Rating: 3.9/5 pas une série de braquages
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix
This 10 episode series is described as “inspired by the adventures of Arsène Lupin, gentleman thief Assane Diop sets out to avenge his father for an injustice inflicted by a wealthy family”. The first episode of five in part one sets the stage of a master thief and the heist of a 20-million dollar piece of jewelry. Unfortunately, we quickly learn that the main character is not really a master thief. While he has skill in makeup, blending in, and pickpocketing, there are no other grand heists involved. Instead, it becomes more of a drama around avenging his father’s death with the thief / con man / grifter components as a side piece to facilitate the main story. Overall it is fairly entertaining but entirely too predictable and not very thought-provoking. Great for falling asleep to.


News of the World (2020)
Medium: Movie (Multiple)
Rating: 3.5/5 bit of a slow read
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon
We follow Captain Kidd (Tom Hanks) as he travels from town to town reading the “news of the world”. Along the way he encounters a young girl, Johanna, played by Helena Zengel, who has grown up in an Indian tribe that was decimated by whites and speaks no English. Kidd decides to take her to the family she was going to before becoming stranded, and the story progresses. Given the movie stars Hanks and is a period piece, I expected an amazing movie. Unfortunately it just didn’t come together and became disjointed the farther it went. At almost two hours it still felt like parts ended up on the cutting room floor that might have tied some of the beginning to the end better. Worth a watch, wait for it to hit Netflix.


Freaks (2018)
Medium: Movie (Netflix)
Rating: 4/5 every single character is a freak
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix
This Canadian-made super-(anti)-hero movie is a different style than many movies of the genre. It starts out a bit slow and leaves you wondering what is happening and some of those questions go unanswered until very late in the movie. But it has a good slow buildup, good casting, a simple premise, and a solid conclusion. Slightly dystopian where anyone with any power is labeled a ‘freak’ and hunted by the government. This movie doesn’t spoon feed you a simple person with powers like most mainstream films of the sort. Worth a watch.


Joker (2019)
Medium: Movie (HBO Max)
Rating: 5/5 he’ll laugh, you’ll laugh
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon
I saw this in theaters, you know, just before the society-crippling pandemic robbed us of basic joys. I left the theater confused, not sure if I really liked the movie or really didn’t. By that night, after a discussion with Lyger, I realized that I really liked it. I re-watched it recently and still really enjoy it. The biggest factor is that it is a complete break from the DC universe as far as style goes. While we have seen Batman’s origin story, in one form or another, many times over, the villain’s origin stories are often relegated to fairly quick scenes (Suicide Squad) or not explored (The Dark Knight). Having an entire movie to see how Todd Phillips’ envisioned this iconic villain’s origin was worth the adventure. This movie leans a bit toward Nolan’s Batman trilogy as far as feel and is the polar opposite of other DC offerings like Superman, Wonder Woman, or Aquaman. Forget the DC universe when you go into this, just focus on this movie and Phoenix’s incredible portrayal of Joker.


Aquaman (2018)
Medium: Movie (Multiple)
Rating: 0.5/5 this movie s(t)inks
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon
For some reason, DC Comics has a problem making good movies with few exceptions, and this isn’t Nolan’s Batman or Wonder Woman. Instead, Aquaman had the feel of a franchise desperate to create the feel of a Marvel Universe movie. Every single thing was predictable, cliché, and boring. “There’s too many casualties!” But let’s stop for a sloppy wet kiss of course. Seriously, we need a new word for “overdone movie cliché”. They tried to make this by loading it with big names but as we often see, put that many big names together and they still can’t save a movie. Skip this, take a bath instead.


Prospect (2018)
Medium: Movie (Netflix)
Rating: 4.5/5 I dig it
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Netflix
A sci-fi movie I hadn’t heard of that turned out pretty damn good, what gives? Oh, Pedro Pascal is in it and he has enjoyed a little attention recently. This movie has a small cast set on some distant world where brave adventurers go to prospect a part of an alien life form that requires some skill and finesse rather than brute strength. When a father / daughter duo touch down chasing the ultimate score, things go sideways. The movie is more of a thriller and sci-fi a vehicle to deliver the underlying story, which is compelling and well-done. If you can look past a few simple plot holes, you may find this movie really enjoyable like I did.


Rememory (2017)
Medium: Movie (Netflix)
Rating: 3.5/5 A bit forgettable
Reference(s): IMDB Listing || Amazon
Sam, the main character played by Peter Dinklage, injects himself into the life of a brilliant scientist who is brilliant, and the movie makes sure you know he is brilliant. The science is being able to record and playback memories, ala Strange Days. But for some reason Sam plays back mostly on a tiny screen in a briefcase that is the device. Anyway, he ends up in the middle of the life and murder of this scientist and decides to find out who did it, with this new technology being the central piece of the story. Ultimately, the movie has some neat ideas, good acting, but just falls short as it all doesn’t fully come together. It’s the kind where you can’t quite put your finger on it but just know something was lacking.

The Misery (Index) Data

The Misery Index is a game on TBS hosted by Jameela Jamil, starring The Tenderloins, better known as the Impractical Jokers (Joe Gatto, Brian Quinn, James Murray, Sal Vulcano). You can read more about the format and style of the game on its Wikipedia page. They bring humor to the game to augment the humor of the subject matter; “miserable” events depicted in news, text, or video.

Each miserable incident is scored by a team of psychologists based on the “three pillars of misery” which are “physical pain, emotional trauma, and long-term psychological impact“. That boils it down to a numeric score between 0 and 100. After watching a few episodes I was curious how they compared… so I made a spreadsheet. Big surprise there, I know. The more I watched, the more metadata I started tracking ultimately having to re-watch some past episodes to pick out data I hadn’t originally collected. In doing so it brought fun rewards quickly.

For example, in S02E09, contesting Katherine says that Sal helped win the most money during first season (10 episodes) and Brian ‘Q’ Quinn came in second. In reality, Sal helped win $64,000 while Q helped bring in $71,000. Either way, sound choice as they bring in the most by a good margin over the other two Jokers up to that point. Even better that she watched the first 10 episodes with that data point in mind. But… how about getting to that final stage where the big money is? Knowing how miserable events are scored is what it takes. That’s where this data comes in.

If you want to get on this game show you now have everything you need to better understand scoring and be ready for events. Even knowing, for example, that no event has been scored lower than 11 can help immensely in the final stage. The data:

Tab 1, “Ep Metadata” includes the season/episode number, air date, contestants, the two Jokers paired with each, winner, winner’s gender, final stage Joker assistant, total won, and notes. By the end of the second season there were four “perfect games” where the contestant won the maximum amount ($33,000 during a normal game, $50,000 during the Christmas special). Finally, it includes a running total of the prize money to date, $607,500 by the end of season two.

Tab 2, “Misery Data” is the meat of it while containing relatively few columns, but representing the most work. It includes the episode number, the miserable incident as listed on the game board, the score, a VNTO designation, the reward, if the contestant won the money, and comments. The VNTO designation indicates the format of the event which is a video, news article, text, or ‘other’. The column with the reward is color coded green or red to indicate if they won or lost that money. The time-consuming part is in column B, that lists the miserable incident but also links to it. I actually spent the time finding the exact news article or video in most cases. More on that in a bit.

Tab 3, “Statistics” is where we get the fun digestible information and the bigger take-aways like there being a single miserable incident scored at 100 or the average score of all incidents across two seasons is 56.0. It also has joker pairings, types of media totals, contestant breakdowns, and more.

Tab 4, “Charts” is a set of visual representations of the statistics, because people like colors and shapes!

Jumping back to finding the exact news article or video, that effort made it very clear early on that the news article headlines they show are often not real. The show will take the headline and make minor edits to it presumably for readability and to convey the relevant points. That’s fine, I get it. But… the problem is that on rare occasion they actually leave out something specific that might drastically alter the misery score. What isn’t clear is if the panel that scored knew that detail. Let’s look at the biggest example:

In a video clip from ABC News, the show includes some of the audio recording and transcription as seen above. The contestants are asked to then score “Your Doctor Disses You During Surgery“. OK, based on that info you consider the three pillars and make your guess and maybe you got it right (51) or maybe you guessed lower because some people said mean things behind your back. The real question is, did the panelists score based on that or did they have knowledge that it resulted in a malpractice suit that yielded $500,000 for the victim? Pretty sure that would drop the misery quite a bit. These little omissions are interesting since they can impact the game, but a contestant has no way of knowing the missing details or if it was factored in on a score.

So, there we have it! Going into season three, hopefully contestants choose Sal (213k) or Q (190k) in the final round instead of Joe (144k) or Murr (60.5k). I know it seems like Murr doesn’t do well but he has only been selected four times as compared to Sal who was selected 11 times. With that factored in, that means Sal only averages $19,363 and Murr $15,125. But when you are playing for that kind of money, every dollar matters.

Hopefully this data will help future contestants! If you notice any errors in my data please leave a comment so I can fix it up. As time permits, I will continue to update the sheet if the show for future episodes. Enjoy!

The Misery Index Data