Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Finally! A rendition of Pinocchio that’s actually good. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is dark, sophisticated, gorgeous, and witty. It’s an instant classic and certainly a worthwhile view for adults and children alike. 


Some children’s films can get annoying fast. One of the reasons I like directors/writers like Guillermo del Toro is because he brings an eerie darkness to his work. If you’ve ever seen Pan’s Labyrinth you know what I’m referring to. Del Toro offers that same ghostly foreboding in Pinocchio. The movie is charming and amusing, sure, but it incorporates somber themes in both its visuals and its storytelling. 

Much like the animation style of Tim Burton, del Toro plays with muted, shadowy lighting and color choices. There are a lot of purple, black, gray, and neutral undertones. Fantasy characters like the fairy are angelic and spooky all at once. 

The film also doesn’t shy away from the sad and unsettling events that underlie the story of Pinocchio. Instead of glossing over the loss of Geppetto’s son, the beginning of the film spends time explaining his life and death. Death isn’t some unspoken, abstract notion. Del Toro respects his young viewers enough to explain this sad reality as honestly as he can. That loss is a result of war, which we see subtly referenced throughout the remainder of the film as well. Even Pinocchio himself dies at one point, and it is through that experience that he learns what it means to be truly alive.


Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio doesn’t dumb anything down. It evolves into much more than a fairytale because of these choices. He approaches the mature elements of the tale with sophistication and honesty. This variation of Pinocchio not only focuses on themes of loss and war, but it also references history and religion, as well as hate and abuse. 

The story takes place across two time periods: World War I and World War II in Italy. We see how the politics and struggles of that time affect Geppetto and the villagers and change the way they live. Nazi salutes, Hitler youth camps, and a Mussolini cameo are juxtaposed by Geppetto’s carving of Jesus on the cross and Pinocchio’s profound question of why the people in their town love the wooden man on the cross but don’t love him, a wooden boy.


In a throwback to the enchantment of the original stop motion animation, del Toro teams up with Jim Henson studios to build the stunning design of this film. The animation is absolutely lovely. The characters carry so much personality in the details of their faces, their costumes, and their movements. The few musical numbers scattered throughout the film are short and whimsical. They compliment the rest of the movie naturally. 


It’s so fun to revisit films from your childhood as an adult and pick up on nuanced humor that you previously missed. This film offers those moments with brilliant wit. There are many jokes in Pinocchio that children may appreciate, but adults can really enjoy many of them on another level. And if you know some Italian, you can even pick up on some additional cute jokes as well. 

For example, when Pinocchio first comes to life, it freaks out Geppetto. He tells Pinocchio to stay home while he attends church. Of course Pinocchio doesn’t listen, and when he shows up in front of the full congregation, he is met with disbelief and fear by the church goers. One member of the congregation shouts “malocchio” which means jinx in Italian and is pronounced Mall-oak-ee-oh. Pinocchio responds with, “Pinocchio!” assuming the woman was trying to say his name, not curse it. There are plenty more humorous moments I could reference, but I’ll let you enjoy them organically when you watch the movie yourself! 

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio carves its own path. It doesn’t reflect Disney’s well-known version, with several changes made to characters and plot points. The voice talents of greats like Ewan McGregor, Christoph Waltz, and Tilda Swinton add even more allure to the magical story. This is a stunning and wholly well-done interpretation of a classic tale that is well worth your attention and time. 


What a unique approach to a sci-fi film! Prey (2022) is a prequel to the Predator movie. You know, the 1987 film where Schwarrzenegger goes full-force-testosterone fighting an alien warrior he meets in the Central American jungle? It led to a whole batch of additional movies like Predator 2, Alien vs. Predator, Predators, etc. 

I love my Arnie.

Prey is the Predator origin story, set 300 years prior to Arnold’s adventure, when the first extraterrestrial warrior scout came down to earth. It follows a girl named Naru from the Comanche Nation. Naru is desperate to prove herself as a warrior, but, the task isn’t easy. The women of her tribe take on the roles of healers and gatherers more than warriors, so no one is really taking her seriously. 

One afternoon, Naru sees a strange “lightning” in the sky and tells her brother about it. He thinks nothing of it. A few days later while they’re out hunting, she comes across foreign tracks and a snake that’s been skinned alive. She tries to tell her hunting party that something strange is going on, but they dismiss her yet again. 

Naru won’t be deterred. She’s determined and powerful, and good for her, because I feel like I would have given up waaay sooner than she does. 

When she finally sees the creature for the first time (he mostly remains invisible) she has already had QUITE a day. First, she falls into a mud pit that she nearly drowns in. Then, she finds herself running from a pissed off grizzly who is hell bent on murdering her, until finally the grizzly attack is stopped only by the counter-murder of the alien who appears out of nowhere to destroy him. I think at that point, I would have just gone home. Maybe took a nap, smoked some herbs…tried to decompress.

Not Naru. She continues on the hunt for this unseen beast, and as the story goes on, she and her tribe find out the kind of demon they’re really dealing with. 

There were a few things that I think made this sci-fi particularly awesome:

#1 Excellent acting and gorgeous scenery

I was trying to guess where they filmed this, because the wilderness is absolutely stunning. The end credits showed some logos for Alberta and Ontario, so I’m guessing it was Canada. It gave me serious The Revenant vibes and I loved how that backdrop helped set the tone of the film. The music also contributed well to its eerie and epic feel.

#2 The power of human ingenuity over technology

Unlike Arnold and his commando brethren, Naru and her tribe don’t have machine guns and rocket launchers to fight this alien with. This dude is decked out in all sorts of alien weaponry, giving him a huge advantage. He’s literally ripping animals and humans to shreds with minimal effort. Naru only has a bow and arrow, the ax her father left her, and her human ingenuity to fight back with. The more times she encounters the alien, the more she starts to learn about its behaviors and the way it hunts. Her observations and quick thinking are what help her survive, and ultimately devise an ingenious plan to take the monster down.

#3 A fresh take with blended genres

Sure, the film is sci-fi, but the time period and character portrayals give it a unique historical-fiction edge. We get a glimpse of Comanche life and culture during this time, we encounter some French fur trappers, and we see the day-to-day dangers of the untamed wilderness as it would have existed for these people. All-in-all it’s just a refreshing take on a science-fiction movie. It has its share of gore, bloodshed (do we really need to decapitate this many people?), and suspense, but it’s not corny or overdone. It sets a nice balance. 

 I would definitely recommend checking out Prey, even if you’ve never seen Predator. I don’t think you need to watch the first movie to appreciate this one. It’s got its own thing going on.

Chaos Walking

I wasn’t going to write a blog about this movie, but it keeps haunting me, so now I’m compelled. 

Chaos Walking (2021) was not a very logical movie. The evolution of the story didn’t make a lot of sense, but here’s why it piqued my interest: it offered a unique storyline at a time when I’ve felt particularly disenchanted with all the sci-fi remakes and reboots. 

I’m going to define it as a “science-fiction-comedy” even though I’m not entirely sure they meant it to be comedic… 

Todd Hewitt (Tom Holland) is a teenage boy living in a dystopian future-Earth inhabited only by men. Where are all the women? Todd’s certainly never seen one. He lives with his two Dads on a farm and is bored out of his mind. 

According to Mayor Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen), a humanoid species –”The Spackle”–killed all the women years ago in a human vs. humanoid war. He and his son Davy (Nick Jonas) are the Lucius and Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter villain reference FTW!) of this story. 

The remaining men are afflicted by a phenomenon referred to as “The Noise”, which apparently broadcasts their every thought for all to hear. Interesting, right? You can already start to imagine how something like that could cause issues. 

Prentiss is one of the few men on the planet who has learned to control his “Noise”, which gives him a decided advantage over the others. They cannot see or hear his thoughts as easily as he can see and hear theirs. Yes, I said SEE, because sometimes the imagery of the thoughts is depicted as well as the thoughts themselves. 

One lazy afternoon, a girl named Viola (Daisy Ridley) crash lands on the planet. Todd discovers her ship and it isn’t long until other men in the community find out. I mean…they CAN hear his thoughts after all…Prentiss and his men decide to scavenge the site for parts and look for survivors; but they don’t find any. 

It’s not long before Todd comes across Viola, which inevitably leads to her capture and interrogation. While Mayor Prentiss tries to gain her trust, his dumb son accidentally blows a hole in the wall. This is when Viola sees her moment to escape. 

I don’t blame her. She just crashed on a planet, alone, and she doesn’t know these men or what their intentions might be. Turns out, her instincts are spot-on, because during her escape she hears Prentiss talk about his plan to prevent her from contacting her mothership, intercept its landing, kill everyone on board who’s still in cryosleep, and then scavenge the ship. 

Todd, who is both intrigued and apparently sexually awakened, feels he should protect Viola, so as she escapes on a stolen motorcycle, he rides desperately behind on his horse. Prentiss and his hillbilly posse aren’t far behind either.

After Todd catches up to Viola, the two begin their travels through the dense forest. Their mission? Find a crashed ship so Viola can broadcast a warning to her mothership. As they hike along, all of Todd’s awkward hormonal thoughts are on full display–and it’s quite hilarious.

Meanwhile, Prentiss and his men are still looking for them, which is kind of easy to do since Todd’s thoughts are LOUD and can be seen for miles.

In the midst of the adventure, we learn about Viola and Todd’s pasts and the truth behind the disappearance of the women. 

The way they wrap this whole thing up is utterly unsatisfying and leaves plot holes left and right, but even so, the film is at least fun, funny, and unique. I would probably toss it in the “teen” category because that’s the demographic it seems meant for. If you like cringey, funny science-fiction films driven by teenage hormones, give it a shot.

The Courier

Yaaaaaaaaaas. As I had hoped, The Courier (2020) delivered an assortment of my favorite film characteristics:

  • Espionage thriller
  • Period piece
  • Historical context
  • Based on true events
  • Accents
  • Creepy cobblestone alleys
  • Mustaches & fedoras
  • Friendship
  • Bravery

This dramatic portrayal is the true story of two spectacular men: A “regular-guy” British businessman and a Soviet officer—both risking it all to LITERALLY save the world. 

Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a British businessman recruited by the CIA and MI6 to help thwart nuclear confrontation with Russia and diffuse the Cuban Missile Crisis. His Russian counterpart is Soviet officer Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze), who has secretly defected from the Soviet Union to impede Kruschev’s destructive will. 

The stakes are high; the risks are even higher. Both men have families to worry about and plenty of reasons to avoid involvement, yet they forge bravely into an increasingly dangerous operation because they know the fate for all of humanity if they fail. 

What time is it? SPY TIME.

But how does a random British businessman get recruited by two of the world’s top spy agencies? I’m paraphrasing here, but it goes something like this:

“Hey Greville, you’re literally nobody and therefore perfect for a covert mission because the Kremlin won’t suspect you.”

“Uh, I’m flattered(?), but I have no idea what I’m doing so I shall decline with a respectful HELL NO.”

“Fair enough, but, if you don’t help, your family gon’ die from nuclear fallout. Oh and also, the whole world will be annihilated, and that’s just awkward for everyone.”

“Mmm, solid point. Ok, fine. But is it dangerous?”

“Nah (fingers crossed behind their backs), you’re too soft for anything that’s actually perilous. Plus, even if something did happen, we promise to protect you and your family. It’s a square deal! Now let’s talk about spy stuff…”

Meanwhile in Russia, Oleg is straight thug. As a high-ranking, well-respected official with a ton of Soviet medals for bad-assery, he plays this game better than anyone. He’s been a double agent for a few years already, but now he’s ready to push his espionage skills to the max and sacrifice everything for what he knows is right. 

Frenzzz. So cute!

Greville and Oleg begin their covert operation under the guise that Greville wants to sell industrial engineering products to the Soviet Union. Because of this ruse, the two men are able to meet for dinners and events with little suspicion.

As Oleg continues to transfer his intelligence to Greville, the two allies become friends. These heroic and intelligent individuals have an unspoken brotherhood and mutual respect. Cumberbatch and Ninidze portray an authentic chemistry that can be felt with all your being. 

But of course, even as careful as they are, suspicions eventually arise. In the second act of the film, Greville and Oleg find themselves in dangerous territory. When the jig is up and circumstances become truly dire, MI6 and the CIA have a choice to make: uphold their promise to get these men and their families out of harm’s way NOW, or leave them to endure betrayal and abandonment. 

MI6 seems good with the abandonment idea, but the CIA contact, Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan), makes a compelling case for helping Greville and Oleg: Who will want to work for us (and who will even trust us) if we break our promise and do not use all our resources to try and save these men?

The mission is arduous. It may not be wholly successful, but they have to try. The remainder of the film is a wild ride through the course of several years where Oleg and Greville (both captured) put their friendship and loyalty to the ultimate test, battling through bouts of sacrifice, humility, despair, and fear while trying to survive another day.

Will they be saved?

The Courier is an intriguing and gripping espionage thriller that reveals the important contributions of these men, and many others, who worked behind-the-scenes to stop the Cuban Missile Crisis and prevent a nuclear world war. 


My biggest critique of this movie is that the ending felt too abrupt, but I don’t have a better solution so, maybe I’m the problem, haha. In every other respect, Minari (2020) was remarkable. 

The plot of Minari is unassuming: A Korean-American family moves from California to Arkansas in the 1980’s to start a farm and live their American Dream. From there, the humble plot transcends into some really charming storytelling. It’s unexpected, and also wholly authentic; and I think there are a couple reasons for that:

#1 Insanely Good Acting & Screenplay

Half way through Minari my husband and I turned to each other and agreed that every actor in the movie thus far was blowing our minds. The father, Jacob Yi, is played by Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead, Okja), He’s optimistic and determined to make this farm a success.

His wife, Monica (Yeri Han), isn’t so sure it’s going to be worth it. Their trailer home in the backcountry is less than ideal, and she’s worried about having enough income for the medical expenses of their son, David, who has a heart murmur. David is 7 years old and his older sister, Anne, is about 9. David can be mischievous, but overall he and his sister are good children. 

Together with his eccentric, religion-obsessed neighbor, Paul (Will Patton), Jacob gets to work starting his farm. Of course, creating a farm in the middle of nowhere is a major feat, so trials and tribulations ensue. Meanwhile, the tension between Jacob and his wife escalates, and the two fight more often, which upsets the children. Both Jacob and Monica work as chicken sexers (a.k.a. they sort baby chicks by whether they’re male or female) to make money for living expenses while the crops get going. But Monica is concerned that the children need a babysitter. To appease her and also help her feel more at peace in her new home, Jacob suggests Monica’s mother, Soonja, comes to live with them. Soonja’s presence among the Yi family fills an essential gap in this story. She’s brash, silly, forthcoming, and a bit wild. Soonja brings a special personality to the community of characters and it is her influence that evolves everything. 

I remember hearing about this film via an article highlighting Oscar contenders, so I looked it up. Minari was nominated for 219 awards, including Best Picture at the Oscars. It won 108 of these nominations, but only one of those was an Oscar. That Oscar, and many of the other film awards it scooped up, went to Yuh-Jung Youn for her supporting role of Soonja. I mean, I can see why; her acting was totally enthralling. Actually, all of these actors really impressed the pants off of me, and while I credit their skills, I think the screenplay also played a big part in that.

It was written by Lee Isaac Chung who, interestingly, is a Korean-American who grew up in rural Arkansas. He was also involved in the directing and cinematography of Minari, which explains why the movie felt so genuine and truthful – its vibe was probably derived in-part from lived experiences. 

#2: Dreamy Music & Cinematography

The music and cinematography in Minari really tied it all together. The score was dreamy and delicate, and the nature-based visuals were soft and thoughtful. The music fit so well that I consciously noticed its effects as I was watching the film. It brought everything to life and created an earthy, magical ambiance. 

#3: Not Depressing

So, we know David has a heart murmur. As soon as we learned that I thought, “nope”. 

Anxiety: ENGAGE. 

We also know it’s the 1980’s in Arkansas so, hello potential racism. While this film could have depressed the hell out of everyone, they chose a less predictable route. Some race issues were addressed, but subtly. David’s health concerns were also sprinkled into the story, keeping us alert and concerned about his current state. But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the path they took and was surprised by the turn of events. It was not at all what I expected. While moments of Minari were distressing, there was nothing blatantly depressing about it. I appreciated that. 

Minari was just an all around lovely and heartfelt film. Its title refers to a plant that is popularly consumed in Korea, often in kimchi and soups. Soonja brings the minari seeds with her when she comes to stay with the Yi’s and plants them in a nearby creek bed. As you watch the movie, you’ll understand the significance of minari and the symbolism it offers us as viewers. 

Will Jacob and Monica be OK, or will their marriage fall apart? Will David’s heart murmur alter his future? Will Soonja ever stop her silliness and figure out how to be a “real grandma” to David and Anne? Does any of that even matter??? Just as the minari grows, these characters must grow too, and their evolution is worth the watch.  

Sound of Metal

Sound of Metal (2019) sounded like a film I wouldn’t want to see. My sister Danielle watched it first and relayed the plot: a heavy metal drummer and recovering addict suddenly goes deaf and has to learn to deal with his changing reality.

Mmyeah, that plot screams “depression” and “anxiety” to me so, I’ll just wait over here…

However, I am writing this post — so obviously I watched it. And I’m actually glad I did.

Riz Ahmed plays Ruben, the main character. His girlfriend and bandmate, Lou, is played by Olivia Cooke (she was Artemis in Ready Player One).

I didn’t realize at first, but I’ve seen Riz Ahmed before. Most recently as a supporting character in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Now that I’ve witnessed THIS brilliant performance, I’ll definitely be looking out for him in the future. He made Sound of Metal feel more like a documentary than a fictional drama. Sooooo visceral. So real!

Anyway, one night while Ruben and Lou are on stage, Ruben completely loses his hearing. They both freak out, but Ruben believes there’s a surgery that can fix it. The problem is, it’s expensive, and they’re living out of a motorhome and not making much money.

Lou encourages Ruben to stay at a support home for the deaf while they figure out what’s next. The hope is that Ruben can stay strong enough to resist his addiction and also learn some basic skills like sign language.

Shout out to Paul Raci who played Ruben’s mentor, Joe. He gave a truly heartfelt performance. Also, I think it helped everyone that the screenplay of this film was SOLID.

Ruben, understandably, is a mixed bag of emotions. He’s angry. He’s frazzled. He’s anxious. He doesn’t really want to be there or take part in the activities that are meant to help him. Yet, over time and with the help of a committed mentor, he starts to find a feeling of community.

However, that’s not the end of his struggle. Despite his moments of joy, Ruben is still without Lou and without his drumming passion. He’s tired of sitting around waiting for a resolution.

So, what now? Ruben decides to create his own destiny. The question is whether the person he believes he is, is the same person he is meant to be…

What’s particularly captivating about this film (aside from the impressive acting) is the sound editing. They used sound to give life to Ruben’s struggle. Hearing the world “through his ears” created an immersive glimpse of what his character was experiencing. It also provided insight into a lesser-understood perspective: what it’s like to be deaf. Is being deaf a disability, or is it part of an identity? It depends on who you ask. 

Bad Times at the El Royale

I’ve been searching for a “blog worthy” movie these past few months, but nothing sparked joy. Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) busted that dry spell. 

This crime mystery was exploding with all the classic Film Noir vibes but was completely original. It’s the story of a random group of travelers who all check-in to the dilapidated El Royale hotel. This hotel is no ordinary respite. Once a hopping hotspot for celebrities and high rollers, now, in the early 1970’s, it’s been reduced to an eerie shell of its former self. 

The El Royale has a special appeal, though. It’s split right down the center by the Nevada and California borders. A red line running through the lobby defines which side is which. 

On one half of the lobby, Nevada is represented by cool blues, purples, and silvers, with gambling tables and nightlife glamour. On the other half, California bursts with warm golds, oranges, and creams, making it feel bright and exciting. Visitors to the hotel can choose which state they’d like to stay in. 

Other than this novelty, the only thing we know about the El Royale is that some man buried a bag of money under the floor of one of the rooms in the 1940’s. The first scene of the film reveals this clue. 

Now we have a mystery to uncover, and every character checking into the El Royale is part of it. The El Royale doesn’t see very many guests these days, so the guests we meet are the only current occupants. They include:

  • Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges)
  • Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo)
  • Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson)
  • Laramie Seymour Sullivan (John Hamm)

So, obviously Jeff Bridges is in this, and yes, he is as mesmerizing as you are hoping. The rest of the cast is also truly fantastic, by the way. Aside from the hotel guests, the bellboy, Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman) is the only other occupant of the El Royale. Chris Hemsworth creeps into this film too, but you don’t need to worry about him right now. 

As with many Noirs, none of these characters are who they seem, but the film slowly presents us with each of their true identities. Who are they? Why are they here at the El Royale? All along, our recollection of the first scene lingers in the back of our minds – at least one of these characters is here for that buried cash. As for the others? The happenings about to go on at the El Royale will intertwine their fates in a way none of them imagined.  

The way writer/director Drew Goddard envisioned and executed this film is dazzling. Every choice was made with thoughtful intention. The color schemes, the cuts, the lighting, the music. As a viewer, I found myself completely engulfed in this world he created. I played detective, trying to guess where the story was going and why, but Bad Times at the El Royale surprised and fascinated me all the way through. I think it will surprise you, too.

The Snowman

There aren’t many children’s films that I would describe as “hauntingly beautiful”…but then there’s The Snowman. This short film is under 30 minutes long and has zero dialogue; but it is an absolute masterpiece that transcends generations without needing either. 

My sisters and I were lucky enough to have this film introduced to us in childhood by our Aunt, who was an elementary school teacher on Chicago’s Southside for many years. I am so grateful she found and shared this touching piece. I still cherish watching it every winter.

The Snowman is an adaptation of the children’s book written by British author Raymond Briggs, who did the original voice over introduction to the film. Later, the BBC also released an alternate version where David Bowie did the introductory voice over — I actually haven’t seen that one, so now I need to find it!  

The story is of a boy named James who builds a snowman and, on Christmas Eve, the snowman comes to life. That’s literally ALL you need to know about this film. If you haven’t seen it, you should discover the rest of the plot organically to maximize the wonderment.  

What’s most impressive about The Snowman is how they created a perfect mosaic between animation and music. The animation is gorgeous — it kind of looks like colored pencil or crayon drawings brought to life. I haven’t seen this style replicated anywhere else that I can recall. The resulting visuals feel soft, comforting, and classic. 

The story alone is innocent and lovely, but then, when you layer in the elegant music…WOW. Congratulations to their music department on successfully shaping emotion and storytelling through sound. 

The one song in the film that has lyrics, Walking in the Air, is the centerpiece of it all. I think that song, and the scene it’s featured in, are a huge factor in the haunting beauty I mentioned before. I had to dig a little bit to uncover whose voice sang it, but I finally found the answer. The boy’s name is (Was? Because he’s a man now?) Peter Auty, a St. Paul’s Cathedral choirboy. His voice is the sole accompaniment to the instruments, and it’s exquisite. If you hear this song and don’t get chills, are you even alive??! 

I watched The Snowman again while writing this, and a wave of emotions came flooding back. I laughed at the silliness, I felt enchanted by the beauty, and I cried at the heartbreak. This film is a must-see for children and adults alike. It’s something truly special and I know that once you see it, you’ll fall in love with its magic, just as I have.  


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!” 


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?


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.”