Harriet

The other night as we were doing our post-dinner cleanup, I had The Great British Baking Show playing in the background. It was cake week, and if you’ve ever watched GBBS, you know that cake week gets INTENSE. This time, the judges asked the bakers to create busts of their heroes out of cake. Knowing this would be a complete disaster for everyone involved, I stopped cleaning to watch. One of the bakers chose David Attenborough, another Bob Marley, and another chose renowned Jamacian poet, Louise Bennett-Coverly

As each hero was selected, I found myself reflecting. Who would I choose as my hero? My mind raced through a laundry list of figures in history, science, medicine, social justice, etc. but I couldn’t place just one that inspired me above all others. When I asked my husband his pick, he said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Great choice. 

Harriet Tubman was only 25 when she escaped from slavery.

While I also admire MLK, I still felt lost for “my own” hero. So, it must have been fate that we watched Harriet that night, because in my moment of hero confusion, her epic story inspired me. 

In school, the only thing we learned about Harriet Tubman was that she was a major figure in the Underground Railroad. What they failed to mention was that she was also a complete badass. Her accomplishments extended so far beyond the Underground Railroad, although those accomplishments can never be understated. In her lifetime, she saved an estimated 3,000 slaves, and her entire family. She traveled nearly 100 miles, by herself, the first time she left the South.

Oh, and by the way, she couldn’t read, so she navigated all that using the stars and mosses in the woods. Of all the people she saved, and all the risks she took doing it, she never lost one person. Not one. 

The film portrayed Harriet as having premonitions that she believed came from God. At random times, Harriet would pass out and then reawaken having seen her vision of the future. I’ve never heard that Harriet Tubman had psychic abilities, so I was curious if the filmmakers took creative liberties with that. To my surprise, it turned out to be true — in some sense at least.  

When Harriet (whose real name was “Minty”) was young, she was already on the path to becoming an unstoppable badass. At age 12, a slave owner threw a heavy weight at a fellow slave intending to harm him, but Harriet stepped in between and took the blow. The result was a massive brain injury that was never treated. Due to these injuries, it’s thought that Harriet Tubman’s visions probably stemmed from random bouts of epilepsy or some other neurological condition. When she was older, they wanted to give her brain surgery so she would stop passing out, and she agreed, but refused anesthesia. Instead she opted to literally bite a bullet like Civil War soldiers had to do when a limb was amputated on the battlefield. Ummmm, badass level: 1 Billion. 

And that’s not even the most badass thing about her! There’s MORE. 

Not only was she a Union scout during the Civil War, but did you know Harriet Tubman was also the first woman EVER to lead a combat assault? A WOMAN. A BLACK woman. In 1800’s America. Leading men into combat.

Hello, yes, American education system? I’d like to file a formal complaint about your approach to teaching us the history of our own country. What other mind-blowing, empowering, and inspiring facts are you just casually glossing over? I’m guessing you’re keeping some of the bad facts from us as well, so we’ll think America has no evils or wrongdoings in its past, right? You need to rethink your life. 

“Harriet Tubman led 150 black Union troops across the Combahee River in South Carolina in June 1863. Using information from escaped slaves, she led Union riverboats through Confederate torpedo traps, freeing 750 slaves and dropping off Union troops. The troops burned the estates of influential Southern secessionists who supplied Confederate forces. She didn’t lose a single troop.”

This film was an education, and on top of that, it was engrossing as hell. Cynthia Erivo dominated the screen with her portrayal of Harriet Tubman. I did not know she was also a singer, but that would explain why I was so impressed by her singing throughout the movie. She also sang the original song from the film, Stand Up, which I highly recommend listening to. It will give you chills. 

Some people on the internet criticized the film because Erivo is English and they thought Harriet Tubman should be played by an American. Sorry, but that’s stupid. Harriet Tubman may have been American, but I think she would agree that she was first and foremost African; a black woman stripped of her heritage and identity by ignorance. So, you know what, Cynthia Erivo, as a powerful, accomplished, and talented black woman, has every right to play her. 

Watch this film. It’s important. It’s interesting. It’s beautifully crafted. 

Harriet Tubman is a hero in every sense of the word, and her story is long overdue for its time in the sun. I hope this film does some justice to her legacy, and educates generations to come on what an incredible figure she truly was. Rest in Power, Queen.

The future is bright

Queen & Slim

Wow. A lot to unpack here. Queen & Slim (2019) is a film with themes that are unfortunately too familiar: the story of two, young, Black Americans brutalized by police.

When the film ended, I looked up the recent timeline of Black deaths caused by police. I read their names and remembered when I first heard their stories —— Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. Breonna Taylor… A list so extensive and a pattern so monstrous that it is truly abhorrent.

I thought about how our national spotlight on Black Lives Matter and police brutality may have shaped Queen & Slim. As a white woman, I have never been brutalized, harassed, berated, or discriminated against because of the color of my skin. To support those who have, I can educate myself and get involved with initiatives trying to repair this disgrace, but, I can never truly understand the rage and despair this community has had to carry for centuries. 

The creators of Queen & Slim saw these barriers, but they also recognized that great storytelling can magnify empathy and alter minds. They were able to create a visceral, heartfelt, and honest piece of art here. It made me feel. It made me think. It revealed the complicated layers that weave beneath this centuries-long narrative.

(Also, the soundtrack was pretty legit and there were some abstract scene + dialogue combinations peppered throughout.) 

giphy (1)Queen & Slim begins as ordinarily as any other film. Two people who met on Tinder are having an uncomfortable and incompatible first date. Jodie Turner-Smith (aka Queen) is clearly an unhappy person. She’s snarky, rude, blunt, and sometimes just straight up mean. I admire her character’s fire, but I definitely wasn’t her biggest fan. 

They say that great characters are never purely good or purely evil. That’s not human. We are all a complicated mixture of love and hate, hope and joylessness, courage and fear. For Queen, a big part of her darkness lived in her own assumptions and stereotypes. Within the first half hour of the film, Queen had already implied her date was broke, a criminal, and/or a gang banger. Watching her talk down to Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) was upsetting, but more importantly, it was deeply thought-provoking. 

Slim, of course, is nothing like any of the stereotypes Queen labels him with. He doesn’t drink or smoke, he is religious, and he is close to his family. He is more cerebral and pensive, and also much happier. 

What’s interesting about the names Queen and Slim is that the characters are never referred to with those names in the film. Queen’s name is Angela and Slim’s name is Earnest. Internet moviephiles speculate that the names Queen and Slim in the title reference the character’s Tinder profile names, although we never really find out if that is the case. 

anigif_sub-buzz-4000-1564687234-1As the pair leaves the diner and begins on their way home, they are pulled over by a police officer. The officer escalates the situation, and the events quickly spin out of control. Fast forward and Queen is now on the ground, shot in the leg. Next to her is the officer, shot dead by Slim in self defense. 

Stunned and afraid, Queen and Slim argue over what to do next. Slim wants to call 911 and turn themselves in. Queen presents a forceful rebuttal, convincing Slim that doing so would either get them killed or locked up for life. And so, their Bonnie & Clyde story begins. 

As Queen & Slim went about their escape, I found myself periodically yelling at the TV. “Hide the car in the back of the house!” “Don’t call your Dad!” “This is NOT the time to try riding a horse!” 

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I’ve watched my share of crime movies and TV shows, so I of course assume that I’ve absorbed heightened police evasion skills. In my expert forensic/crime experience, they were doing it all wrong. But, to be fair, the real purpose of those events was to evolve the relationship of these two characters. So, towards that end, I’ll let my irrational anxiety fade.

This film had a lot of heartbreaking moments, but far more inspiring and powerful ones. One of the best for me was watching people from all walks of life coming together in solidarity to support these two strangers. Once the police dashcam footage goes viral, the country understands the significance of what took place with these outlaws, and it sparks a movement. Sound familiar?

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Without giving away too much about the plot, I will also add that the visceral reflections of Black Lives Matter and the parallels to our current social turmoil were not only well done, but brought to life on deeper levels through the characters eyes. Throughout their escape, Queen & Slim go on individual journeys of self-realization, dealing with the scars of their past, and inadvertently embodying the voice of a generation. 

This film is both a confrontation and a reflection. I won’t reveal much more about the plot so you can experience the passion and power for yourself. I will simply end with my favorite quote, from Queen, which sums up something we all deal with: scars, demons, and finding our own inner strength:

“I want a guy to show me myself. I want him to love me so deeply that I’m not afraid to show how ugly I can be. I want him to show me scars I never knew I had. But I don’t want him to make them go away, I want him to hold my hand while I nurse them myself. And I want him to cherish the bruises they leave behind.”

 

The Disaster Artist

The Disaster Artist is a movie about people making a movie. 

Let me be clear: you CANNOT watch this film without first watching the movie it’s based on. You simply won’t appreciate The Disaster Artist if you can’t compare it to the bizarre and perplexing cult film, The Room

Will The Room be easy to watch? No. You’ll cringe the entire time. But, human curiosity will suck you in. 

You’ll start to ask yourself questions like, “Why did that scene even happen?”, “Where is this story going?”,  and “What the hell is that guy laughing about?”. 

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Mark just told a very serious story…

When The Room is over, you’ll have so many questions. The good news is, at least SOME of those questions will be answered by The Disaster Artist. But don’t get your hopes up too high.

In The Disaster Artist, James Franco plays Tommy Wiseau, the man who once made a movie called The Room that was so outlandishly strange it has since become a cult classic. However, the reason for the cult following goes beyond its poor acting, weird storyline, and low production quality. The story of Tommy Wiseau himself adds a secondary layer: mystery.

In The Disaster Artist, we are introduced to Tommy as he participates in an acting class. It is in this class that he meets another aspiring actor, Greg Sestero. After watching Tommy act (if that’s what you want to call it), Greg believes he can learn something from Tommy, so the two men decide to work together. 

Right off the bat, Tommy is weird. 

He looks like he just jumped out of the sewer and yet he pulls up to Greg’s house in a Mercedes Benz… 

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He asks Greg (played by James Francos’ brother, Dave Franco) not to tell anyone anything he learns about Tommy while spending time with him. 

When Greg asks where he’s from, Tommy says “New Orleans”, even though he has an Eastern European accent. When asked how old he is, he says he’s the “same age as Greg”…Greg is 28. Tommy is CLEARLY not 28 years old. To this day, no one knows where Tommy Wiseau is from or how old he is. 

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Does this man look 28 to you?

Even more intriguing, no one knows where he got the bottomless pit of money he used to fund his $6 million production of The Room. All of this plays into the uniqueness of who Tommy Waseau is, and that is the heart of what keeps you hooked on both The Room and The Disaster Artist.

Once you’ve seen the real Tommy Wiseau act, you will be sufficiently blown away by how well James Franco nails his persona. Scene-by-scene, point-by-point, James Franco IS Tommy Wiseau. He is truly magnificent. His brother, Dave, is also great as Greg. In fact, the entire cast and crew does a spectacular job of recreating the actors and the scenes of The Room. Literally, just look at this short clip and you’ll see what I mean. 

maxresdefaultFun fact, I also learned there is a THIRD Franco brother in this film. Apparently his name is Tom and he had a smaller role. Seth Rogan and Zac Efron also have small roles, which they make the most of. Seth’s Rogan’s under-his-breath comments are my favorite.

So, anyway, the whole film is about how and why Tommy Wiseau put together this team to make The Room, and the mind-boggling weirdness that ensued as they filmed and premiered it

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I have to say, even though The Disaster Artist made fun of Tommy Wiseau and The Room, it wasn’t two-dimensional. They built compassion for Tommy Wiseau, and by the end of the film, began to reveal an uplifting and poignant truth:  Art isn’t always a masterpiece. But, if you have the passion to pursue it without inhibitions, fear, or boundaries, it will always have significance.

 

Jojo Rabbit

Taika Waititi has done it again! As if What we do in the Shadows wasn’t glorious enough, he then decided to write, direct, and star in this cinematic accomplishment. 

War movies give me anxiety – especially ones highlighting the horrors of WWII. With that in mind, my official mood going into this comedy-war-drama was “TENSE”. 

Jojo Rabbit is the story of an adorable 10-year old boy named Jojo who is working his way up the ranks of the Hitler youth during WWII. What’s up with the “Rabbit” part of his name? You’ll see. 

Jojo is all about that Hitler life, hailing everyone he sees as he makes his way down the street to his Nazi summer camp. As with many 10-year-olds, Jojo has an imaginary friend, but, unlike most children, his imaginary friend is…Hitler. So there’s that slight differentiator.

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Jojo looks to Hitler (Taika Waititi) to help him be his best self, and although Hitler can be a little self-centered and childish, he does provide companionship for Jojo most of the time. You see, Jojo’s mother (Scarlett Johannson) isn’t home very much, and his father is overseas, so he must find ways to keep himself occupied. 

Taiki Waititi is actually part Jewish. When asked why he chose to play Hitler in this film, he had a brilliant response: “The answer’s simple, what better ‘fuck you’ to the guy?”.   

At “camp” Jojo catches up with his best friend, Yorki, another precious child actor who is way too good to be a human. Sam Rockwell plays Captain Klezendorf, the eccentric and darkly humorous camp director, accompanied by his secret lover, Finkel, played by Alfie Allen (a.k.a. Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones).

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Captain Klezendorf showing the camp kiddies how it’s done.

Rebel Wilson is laugh-out-loud funny as fellow camp director Fraulein Rahm. I know Rebel can be too outrageous for some people (my mother dislikes her entire vibe), but if you haven’t enjoyed her before, please give her a chance in Jojo Rabbit. She is truly hilarious.  

I am happy to report that, although a few points in this movie are expectedly dark and depressing, they are balanced very well with the humor and parody of the rest of the film. These actors are perfectly cast for their roles and they play them to near perfection. That’s probably why it was nominated for (and won) so many awards. 

aryan.gifOne afternoon, Jojo makes a very concerning discovery in his house: his mother has been hiding a young Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in their walls. As an avid Hitler youth, this is extremely distressing to our little Jojo. But, he decides to make the best of the situation by using the opportunity to his advantage. Jojo wants to truly know his enemy, so he asks his uninvited guest to tell him all about the Jews so he can write a book. Elsa agrees, and the two begin getting to know one another. 

The remainder of this film takes the viewer through waves of humor, sacrifice, anguish, goofiness, and love. Jojo’s world evolves significantly as he gets to know Elsa, and his relationship with Hitler starts to splinter. It’s hard to imagine how comedy could possibly weave so seamlessly with such a disturbing premise, but Taika Waititi does it beautifully. I find this film to be touching, funny, and deeply human. Jojo Rabbit is historical fantasy at its finest.

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I love you, Yorki.

 

 

The Lego Batman Movie

I hardly remember the original Lego Movie (2014), but I do recall that they released an onslaught of Lego movie sequels after it. Among them, The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

Even though Batman is undoubtedly the greatest superhero of all time and everything he says and does is breathtaking, I still went into this film with skepticism. 

When done incorrectly (98% of the time) sequels, film series’, and their endless Roman Numeral counterparts, are unholy creations. You cannot compare a masterpiece like Rocky to whatever the HELL Rocky V is supposed to be. 

joker.gifThe Lego Batman Movie surpassed my expectations as a series film. Let me oversimplify the plot for you: We find Batman (Will Arnett) fighting the usual Gotham scum, including one of his greatest foes, The Joker. Unfortunately, Batman doesn’t view The Joker as his ultimate foe, and this hurts The Joker’s (Zac Galifinakis) feelings. So, The Joker decides he will devise a plan to show Batman just how formidable a foe he can be.  

As The Joker’s plan gets quietly underway, Batman’s attention is distracted by his accidental adoption of a rambunctious boy named Dick Robin Grayson (Michael Cera) and his sparring matches with Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, Barbara (Rosario Dawson). 3004668_170x100.gif

When The Joker’s maniacal plot starts getting out of control, Batman must learn to trust his new friends (and Alfred, who is voiced by Ralph Fiennes) if he wants to save Gotham.  

I really appreciate how they tweaked Batman’s persona for comedy. To make it ironic, they kept his cool and mysterious demeanor, but made fun of his underlying faults. Batman is therefore depicted as a vain, sarcastic, lonely, man-child, and it works nicely.

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There are three major elements that contribute to The Lego Batman Movie’s legitimacy: a fantastic script (screenplay and story by Seth Grahame-Smith), solid animation, and talented voice over acting to bring it all to life.

Some high points of the writing include:

  1. Witty, satirical, adult jokes that are all on-point
  2. References to the Batman movies, TV shows, and cartoons well-placed throughout
  3. A sophisticated and surprising plot
  4. Nice Lego tie-ins that don’t feel forced
  5. Great use of supporting characters, especially the villains!

Unlike many children’s films that are unnecessarily loud and brimming with annoying sound effects, this film stays energetic and action-packed in all the right ways. 

Take, for instance, the sound they give gunfire. The “sound” of gunfire is simply the voice over actors shouting “Pew! Pew! Pew!” as animated Lego bullets fly on screen. These types of fun sound effect choices can be found throughout several points of the film, and even the old 1960’s Batman “sound-effect-displayed-as-text-bubble” makes a guest appearance.

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If you must watch a children’s film, at least watch one that you’ll enjoy, too. This movie is the right recipe of creativity and humor, and its star ingredient is the 100% LEGENDARY AND UNDISPUTED CHAMPION OF SUPERHEROES, Batman.  

 

 

Parasite

You’ve probably heard the buzz about this South Korean film due to the plethora of awards it was nominated for (and won). I went to see Parasite in theaters with my husband to see what the hype was all about, and it did not disappoint. (Also, I got a big soft pretzel at the theater and it trumps popcorn hard.)

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Ki-taek and Ki-jung have to find pockets of Wifi to get a signal in their house

Parasite is marketed as a black comedy thriller, so when the first ¾ of the film included zero traditional “thrillings”, I started to question what was going on. We follow Kim Ki-taek and his family as they scrape to get by on a very meager income. Neither Ki-taek’s father or mother have a job, so the financial responsibilities fall to him and his younger sister, Kim-Ki-jung.

 

One afternoon, Ki-taek’s friend swings by to bring his family a gift, and to ask Ki-taek a favor. The gift is a large stone said to bring wealth and prosperity to whoever owns it, and it plays a recurring role throughout the story.

For the favor, he asks if Ki-taek will fill in for his tutoring gig while he’s studying abroad. The gig is teaching the daughter of a wealthy family – the Parks –  who Ki-taek’s friend says are very trusting and “simple” rich people. If Ki-taek were to take the gig he would surely make good money, and more importantly, be able to keep an eye on the young Park girl. His friend is interested in her and asks Ki-taek not to make advances towards her while he’s away.

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The Park family

As you might guess, of COURSE Ki-taek ends up getting involved with this girl. But, that’s not the weird part. The weird part to me is that this girl is clearly WAY younger than both these dudes. Ki-taek’s friend even references it during their conversation, saying he’ll finally ask her out when she graduates.

 

The whole thing is mildly disturbing to me. I felt like they were sexualizing a child. However, I also know that women in Korea are put under a lot of pressure to appear young, so maybe that cultural aspect should be considered.

Anyway, Ki-taek goes to the interview at the Park’s, and it’s unlike anything he’s ever seen.

The luxury. The decadence.

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Even the Park’s living room is epic. Look at the size of that window!

Being the resourceful teen he is, it isn’t long before Ki-taek sees an opportunity to increase his profits. He enlists his sister Ki-jung to join the Park’s staff as an art therapy teacher. Just as her brother did, Ki-jung uses fake credentials and clever manipulation to land the job. It is unbeknownst to the Parks that Ki-jung and Ki-taek are even related. 

The cycle of creative and sneaky plotting continues as the Park family unknowingly find themselves completely intertwined with the Kims. Soon, the entire Kim clan is working for the Parks using aliases and fake backstories. 

Just as you think you have a handle on everything that’s going on, the THRILL portion kicks in. It comes out of nowhere, is very emotionally confusing, and is a hard left turn from the campy, darkly humorous tone of the rest of the film. There’s one turning point in particular that you will NOT see coming. 

I definitely need to see this film again to understand all of the nuanced commentary on social and class structure. If going by my initial impression, I think director Bong-Joo Ho captured this struggle elegantly and created an undertone that remained visible through the film’s many small details. I saw several of those details in the first watch, but I’m sure many also were missed as my mind scrambled to unwind the chaos it was witnessing.  It’s worth a watch, and also a second, to really absorb and appreciate Parasite. 2fabbc238b8d6232be087a92e15744c3bbf047f9.jpg

The Witch

Things I’d really prefer NOT to see in a horror film:

  • An abundance of bugs and creepy crawlies
  • Removal of private parts in some tortuous way
  • Skin lamps
  • Skin clothing
  • Skin face masks
  • Really anything made out of skin
  • People being sewn together ass-to-mouth 
  • Children and/or animals in pain
  • Cruel and unusual torture scenes
  • Anyone or anything getting burned alive
  • Anyone or anything having its insides pulled out while still alive
  • Removing of eyeballs or stabbing of fingernails
  • Sharp objects anywhere NEAR an artery
  • People suffocating or drowning

I guess that rules out about 90% of horror films… 

But for me, movies like Saw and The Human Centipede turn the horror experience from something bone chilling and exciting into something entirely beyond the realm of entertainment. If what I’m watching is so horrible, so disgusting and disturbing, and so realistic that it gives me actual anxiety, then it’s not “fun” anymore. I’m already tense enough IRL; I don’t need to spend my free time wallowing in the depths of human depravity. 

Do I want to be afraid? Yes. Do I want to feel suspense and tension? Of course. Do I want to watch some creep cut off a lady’s boob and eat it in front of her? No, thank you. 

The Witch is a great example of a suspenseful, terrifying thriller that doesn’t rely too heavily on gore or over-the-top disgustingness. Plus, it incorporates one of my personal Achilles heels of TV, books, or film: historical fiction. I WILL TAKE IT.

The Witch takes place in 1630’s New England. A family has been banished from their Puritan community for some reason we never really understand, and they must leave immediately. 

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Kate Dickie in GOT

Determined to make it on their own, William (the father, who has random Brad Pitt abs) and Katherine (the mother, who is apparently fantastic at playing creepy mothers since they also cast her as Lysa Arryn in Game of Thrones – aka the Mom who breastfed her 13 year old son and plummeted her enemies to their deaths) move their family to a nice empty field outside the woods.

In a perfect world, this move would be a nature lover’s dream. Beautiful forests to play in by day, gorgeous night sky to dazzle by night. But of course, that’s not how it goes down. Turns out, there is a for-real WITCH living in those woods, and she has no intentions of letting this family live in peace. 

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She begins her reign of terror by kidnapping the family’s youngest child, a small baby. Thomasin, the oldest daughter of the five children, feels responsible for the baby’s disappearance since he was in her care at the time. No one in the family immediately assumes that it was a witch, though. They assume what normal people would in thinking it was most likely a wolf.

As the story progresses, Thomasin emerges as a crucial character. Every sinister act that follows seems to somehow connect to her, making it easy to see how an innocent person back-in-the-day could get burned at the stake based on a few coincidences and unexplained happenings. Throughout the remainder of the film, we watch the events unfold mostly through Thomasin’s eyes. 

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Slowly but surely, the Witch continues to tear the family apart and enact her devious will. Her go-to spells seem to involve possession of people and animals, but she also likes to sprinkle in some wild card black magic and emotional torment.

The film builds a haunting and engrossing narrative that leaves us wondering what horrible terror might happen next. It pulls from actual accounts of that era, drawing on some of the earliest documentation of witchcraft and setting the stage for the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials that defined the late 1600’s and early 1700’s in America. 

If you enjoy ominous, historically significant horror films but hate aggressive and unnecessary violence, you’ll enjoy The Witch.

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Robot & Frank

We see a lot of killer robot movies, a lot of wrestling transformer robot movies, but not very many home healthcare robot movies. To be fair, a story about an old guy and his health robot doesn’t sound that exciting, but this quirky little dramedy offers its own flair.

Set in the near future, Robot and Frank (2012) is the story of an aging jewel thief whose mental deterioration is starting to affect his daily life. Frank is divorced and his kids live too far from him to check in enough, so his son purchases a helper robot as a live-in. Frank is not fond of the idea, but his son insists on him keeping it.  

In between Frank’s confused episodes, he retains his thievery acumen. A chance happening at a soap store reveals something strange about Robot, and Frank recognizes a unique opportunity. 

He discovers that Robot, with all his deep robot knowledge, somehow was not programmed to fully comprehend immorality? So basically, this film is confirming my biggest fear about AI – that we humans are not smart enough to create something more intelligent than us and TRULY understand what the consequences could be. Hashtag Terminator. Hashtag District 9. Hashtag Minority Report. Hashtag I, Robot. Pick up on the clues, people!!

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Aggressively shout this at anyone who looks the wrong way at you in da club. 

Frank uses this opening to start training Robot in the art of thievery. From picking locks to memorizing floor plans, Robot is ready to test his skills in no time. The pair of misfits start their first job at a library. Frank knows there’s an extremely valuable book there because he’s friends with the head librarian, Jennifer, who is played by Susan Sarandon. 

Several subplots are weaved together in this film: Frank’s courtship of Jennifer, his shaky relationship with his children (played by Liv Tyler and James Marsden), his newfound friendship with Robot, and his attempt to come to terms with his changing mental state. 

Peter Sarsgaard voices the AI robot, and Frank Langella plays Frank. Am I the only one who is extremely creeped out by Peter Sarsgaard? Even when he’s playing the good guy 

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GET. AWAY.

in a movie, I just can’t trust him. He has the sneer of a serial killer and the hunched stance of a deviant. His robot voice is disturbing to my soul, but he does it well.

After a multi-million dollar heist occurs nearby, Frank becomes a prime suspect, and the race is on to get rid of the evidence. Frank burns all he can and hides the jewels, but Robot’s memory is also a liability. Even though Robot has logically explained that he has no feelings and would not be upset if his memory was erased, Frank can’t bring himself to do it. But the longer he waits, the closer the police get to finding him out. Frank is forced to reevaluate what’s important to him and make some thoughtful decisions about his future, and his relationship with Robot. 

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This film is charming, funny, and at times, heartbreaking. It’s not an explosive futuristic suspense thriller (which is my usual go-to), but it is endearing. It’s a quick (90 minutes), sweet, and easily digestible dramedy that will tug at your heart strings and possibly encourage you to start stockpiling your guns for the robot apocalypse…which WILL happen; trust me…

Masterminds

There are classic comedies and then there are the ridiculous comedies that are so outrageous you sometimes feel uncomfortable. Masterminds is the latter. Here’s the thing — it’s not the BEST movie you’re ever going to see, but it’s not supposed to be. It works because they crammed a solid array of actors and SNL rockstars into it, namely:

  • Zach Galifianakis
  • Kristen Wiig
  • Owen Wilson
  • Jason Sudekis
  • Kate McKinnon
  • Leslie Jones

Zach Galifianakis plays David Ghantt, a guard at Loomis Fargo armored car company in North Carolina. David lives a horrifyingly boring life with his soon-to-be wife, Jandice (Kate McKinnon). Jandice is legitimately scary, which makes sense because she’s played by Kate McKinnon and everything she does on SNL terrifies me. Jandice isn’t all bad, though. Her best quality is that she takes fantastic engagement photos. 

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So majestic. 

David’s only source of excitement is his attractive coworker Kelly (Kristen Wiig). When Kelly gets fired from Loomis Fargo, David is devastated. That is, until one day she calls him and asks him to meet her for lunch. David is surprised to learn that Kelly’s friend Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson) wants to make him a proposition. Kelly and Steve want David to help them rob Loomis Fargo. Blinded by his love for Kelly and desperate for money, David agrees, and the plan is set in motion. 

tumblr_nqgl8answS1qcjzvuo2_500.gifThe most insane thing about this movie is that it’s based on a true story. In 1997, the real David Ghantt actually did rob Loomis Fargo.  At the time, it was the second largest cash heist in U.S. history. Too bad everyone was an idiot.

If you read the story of how it all went down, Masterminds stuck pretty close to the real happenings. The writers certainly took some creative (and comedic) liberties, but these people were such characters in real life that they practically wrote the script themselves. For example, Steve Chambers warned all the participants not to draw attention to themselves by spending the money, but once he got his cut, he and his family moved into a huge mansion and furnished it with Elvis paintings, cigar store Indians, and many other disturbing items. 

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Don’t eat the chicken, just ball up the fried skin in your hand and eat that.

David Ghantt was betrayed by Chambers, and when Chambers realized David had become a liability, he sent a hitman (Jason Sudekis) to Mexico to kill him. The problem was, once he got there, the hitman couldn’t bring himself to kill Ghantt. Instead, he ended up befriending him and the two enjoyed some time together on the beaches of Mexico.

You can’t make this shit up. 

Watch the movie to see just how outrageous these “masterminds” really were. 

The Girl With All the Gifts

Ah yes, the very familiar zombie horror genre. I assumed I’d seen all the variations of zombie apocalypse movies, but this one offers a fresh take.

The Girl with all the Gifts is set in a dystopian future where a flesh eating fungus has consumed the minds and bodies of most of the human world.

The movie starts with the day-to-day of children living in what seems to be some sort of military prison. They’re locked in cells every evening and taken out (at gunpoint) in restraints every morning. Hard core.

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The film asks a new question about zombies: What would happen to pregnant women infected with the virus? Their children would be born with the second generation of it in their system.

In this generation, the fungus has evolved.

The children of these zombie Moms remain completely “normal” in nearly all ways. They think for themselves. They have personalities. They learn. The fungus hasn’t turned them into mindless killing machines. Their desire for human flesh can still overtake them, though. 

When the children smell human scent, they instinctively start growling and trying to attack. It’s nearly impossible for them to control, which is why they are restrained. The staff of this military prison/research facility also wear a special skin lotion to help make their scent “invisible” and keep the children’s’ fungus from acting up.

It’s because of these magnificent fungus evolutions that Dr. Caroline Caldwell feels justified in experimenting on these children. She believes she is close to finding the cure that will save humanity, but she needs to get inside the children’s minds to do it.glenn.jpeg

Dr. Caldwell is played by Glenn Close, who —  if you’ve ever seen her play Cruella DeVille you’ll agree – makes a superb villain. 

One of these children – Melanie – stands out. She is highly intelligent–— both mentally and emotionally. She is the girl with all the gifts. Melanie has a particularly close relationship with her teacher, and when zombies overrun the prison, she teams up with her to get out safely. 

The rest of the movie involves Melanie using her zombie skills to help a ragtag crew of leftover humans safely navigate the zombie-filled streets. tumblr_ov5f8yiJyK1rcrn00o4_500.gif
There are a few plot weaknesses in this movie, for example, the military base being so poorly guarded. I mean, come on people! There are like, 36,000 zombies outside your gates and you’re using chicken wire as the barrier?! Seriously??? 

But aside from tiny issues like that, this movie remains a unique zombie suspense film with a surprising end. It’s worth the watch!