a woman holding a book sits on a couch, looking at the man sitting next to her
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

45 Years, or: Wuv, Twu Wuv

Another week, another film picked because we do what we feel.  And coincidentally, I do feel like I’ve aged significantly in the last 6 months.

The Film:

45 Years

The Premise:

A couple’s 45th anniversary preparations are interrupted by memories of an old romance.

Where to Watch:

Netflix UK, apparently

The Uncondensed Version:

Kate is a retired teacher who has been married for 45 years(?!?!!?!).  She’s all geared up for a big celebration as the 40th anniversary party was cancelled due to her husband’s poor health.

an elderly couple cuddles in bed with arms around each other

While she’s deciding on venue and a million little details that would make me lose my mind, husband Geoff has received news of significance from the Swiss Alps.  The body of his ex, Katya, has finally been recovered after decades.

This prompts Geoff’s sudden and urgent desire to go to the Alps even though he’s not well enough to travel such a distance, let alone climb a mountain.  Kate and Geoff more or less return to things as usual, except that he’s not picking up her calls and has taken up smoking again.

That is, until Geoff reveals he was the next of kin for Katya, hence the notification from the Swiss authorities.  Geoff explains he and Katya simply told the Swiss they were married to avoid the scandal of being an unmarried couple staying together.  But if Geoff was hiding one thing about Katya, how much else has he kept hidden?

a woman in a gray sweater looks in concern at a white-haired man in glasses

By and large, Kate keeps her doubts to herself and continues to go about the couple’s regular routine. They do share some genuine moments of love and connection reminiscing about the past, and they still have a sexually active relationship.

On the other hand, Geoff seems as determined to dwell on his past with Katya as he is to keep its true nature a secret.  After finally confronting Geoff about how he felt about Katya and its impact on their own relationship, she gets fed up and no longer wants to even hear the name.

a woman in a white house looks out the window

Kate decides to go up to the attic (never a good decision on film) and look for more clues about who Katya was and her relationship to Geoff.  After discovering a bombshell, Kate doesn’t know what to think of their relationship and whether their 45 years of marriage meant anything.

Are Kate and Geoff going to make it to their 45th anniversary celebration?  And if they do, will there be anything left worth celebrating?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I only started to warm to this one about halfway through, at which point it becomes great in a heartbreakingly tragic sort of way.  The focus here is rightly on Kate/Charlotte Rampling, whose heartbreak we can see in her face if not in words. It is very reflective on marriage and the ways people can still very much hide things about themselves after years and years. I can tell I’ve watched too much horror because I expected Geoff to somehow be involved with Katya’s death even though this is not that kind of movie at all. The latter half is really great, but for me it took a long time to get there.

Would Christa stick with this one or leave it for dead in the Swiss Alps?  Find out by reading her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Southside With You, or: No One Compares 2 U

What do I do when I’m despairing of the world we live in and desperately missing the dignity, reason, and humanity of the Obamas?  Watch clips of that time President Obama was on Between Two Ferns?  Or the Carpool Karaoke segment featuring Michelle?  How about masochistically torturing myself with images of them in happier times (portrayed by actors who really look nothing like them)?  Why; what do you do?

The Film:

Southside With You

Where to Watch:


The Uncondensed Version:

Michelle Robinson lives at home with her parents despite her position at a top corporate law firm in Chicago.  Even though Michelle has some serious pampering going on, she’s definitely not going on a date with Barack—it would be inappropriate since Michelle is his advisor, he’s only working at the firm for the summer, and she would get so much shit from the higher ups if she dated the first young black guy who walks into the firm.

a man wearing a tank top holds a corded phone to his ear, a fedora resting on a table behind him
And, you know, of course he has a Panama hat.

Barack, meanwhile, is just smoking, reading, and talking on the phone because of course he is.  The two will be attending a community even in the Gardens, a housing project in Chicago.  Sounds like there’s no way to interpret that as a date…right?

While Barack is easy-going and laid-back, Michelle is hyper-aware of the hard work, self-discipline, and commitment to following the rules she must continually embody to succeed in the swarm of middle-aged white men that is the law firm.  Barack shows up late to pick her up and drives a car with a hole rusted through in the bottom (which is true).

Michelle has worked hard for her education and position at the law firm, though she seems unsatisfied with the tedious work and condescension from the higher ups (as indicated previously, middle-aged white men).  Barack is extremely perceptive and asks if the firm is really what she’s frustrated with, and she insists yes—yes, it is.

a woman looks at a man with raised eyebrows
“Maybe what I really hate is men telling me what I’m frustrated about.”

At this point, Barack springs art exhibit and lunch on Michelle, admitting they have time to kill before the community event.  The exhibit highlights black artists, including Ernie Barnes, the artist whose work was made famous by Good Times (no joke).  He also recites Gwendolyn Brooks poetry to her, which may or may not have happened IRL, but either way is fucking unfair and has the immediate effect of melting everyone within a 50 foot radius.

After the exhibit, the two bond over sandwiches and learn shocking revelations–specifically that Michelle doesn’t like pie, though she does like chocolate ice cream.  Barack damn near breaks my heart when he reveals he hates ice cream after spending a summer working at Baskin Robbins (which I understand on a rational level but still devastates me personally).  We get a bit of a peek into their very different childhoods and learn that Michelle’s dad has MS (which I didn’t know before watching this).

a man holds out a plastic container to a woman seated on an outdoor picnic table
I just realized the Obamas can never appreciate the thing of beauty that is pie with ice cream.

At long last, it’s time for the community event, which conveniently gives Barack the opportunity to showcase his inspirational speechmaking skills and for the church ladies to bust out their stories about the lives he’s turned around and what a cool dude he is in general.  Rather unrealistically, he gives a speech without once saying “let me be clear,” “here’s the deal,” or “it will not be easy.”

Michelle sees right through this ploy, but is still rather impressed.  We all are, girl.  They have a meaningful discussion about their fatigue with doing what’s convenient over what’s right with genuine conviction–something I really fucking miss seeing in the US President.

a man addresses an audience seated in church pews
Admit it–the only thing you’re imagining him saying in this scene is “Let me be clear.”

The evening wraps up with a showing of Do the Right Thing, unfortunately interrupted when they run into a top partner at the law firm, who is a condescending smarmy bastard.  Michelle reflects once again on the way their relationship will be perceived and how it could destroy the career she has worked hard to build.  Does this mean there will never be a second date???

…I mean, there are really no spoilers here, so suffice it to say that chocolate ice cream can solve pretty much everything and I believe it may be our last decent shot at world peace.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’m not sure it’s possible to be objective with this review.  I teared up several times at places that were never intended to be sad because I fucking miss the Obamas and their strength and intelligence and compassion.  I love and miss them, but I just want them to be happy.  They’ve always deserved better.

Though it takes place nearly 20 years ago, the commentary feels very contemporary.  Michelle describes the challenges she’s faced as a black woman that are still very much in place today.  At one point, Barack and Michelle walk through a tunnel memorializing the many black Chicagoans who died violently–a tunnel that would surely have exponentially greater names today.

There are some self-satisfied moments that get a bit unbearable at times (like when Michelle comments on what a great speechmaker Barack is, wink wink nudge nudge).  And admittedly, the actors really don’t look anything like Barack and Michelle except for the hair styles, but the acting is convincing enough that you can pretend after a while.  I really appreciated the glimpse into Michelle’s character that we’ve never gotten, especially as her role as First Lady was the one the world saw her inhabit.  Let’s not forget that prior to the Presidency, Michelle was bringing in a much bigger salary than Barack and being an all-around badass.

Did this one inspire Christa or would she shun it like the Obamas shun pie and ice cream?  Find out by reading her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Hush, or: A Day No Cats Would Die

Just in case every other horror movie in existence hadn’t given you second thoughts about finishing your novel in a secluded cabin in the forest, this week’s pick will give you another reason to just stay home and watch Netflix instead.

The Film:


Where to Watch:


The Premise:

In the most realistic/least fun kind of horror, a creepy dude in a mask terrorizes a novelist living alone in the woods.

The Uncondensed Version:

Maddie is a writer who lives alone in the woods.  Having lost her hearing at the age of 13, she’s used to the silence if not the solitude.  Though having second thoughts about her recent break up, she does have a friendly neighbor, Sarah, to keep her company.  She also has a cat because what else do single ladies in the woods do.  Heroically, Maddie has named her cat Bitch, which is probably the most fitting name for a cat I’ve ever heard.

A woman smiles and gives a thumbs up sign, her eyes extremely wide.
Not the last or worst set of crazy eyes in this film…

Things get really real after Sarah leaves Maddie’s house, interrupted by the arrival of Creepy McCreep-face in one of those hideous featureless masks.  Though Sarah screams for help and tries to get Maddie’s attention, Maddie hears nothing.

The Creep manages to slip into the house unnoticed and creepily lurk while Maddie is Face Timing with one of her friends.  He seems really determined to drag this whole thing out while being as creepy as possible—Maddie only realizes she’s being watched when he sends fucking creeper pics of her from Sarah’s phone.  Twisted, dude.

Oh, and his weapon of choice?  A goddamn crossbow.  I swear to god, if this is what Game of Thrones hath wrought, is it really worth it?  Is it???

A man with a crossbow stands outside of a house, wearing a white mask.
Please can we just agree to not be creepy fucking assholes?

Anyway, to further terrify Maddie, the Creep cuts off the power and punctures the tires in her car.  She tries to write him a message that she hasn’t seen his face and won’t call the cops…so he promptly takes his mask off to make it clear he intends to kill her.

Maddie decides her best bet is retrieving Sarah’s phone from her body, which the Creep uses to mess with her.  Now armed only with a hammer and kitchen knife, Maddie needs to distract the Creep for long enough to search Sarah’s body for the phone.  Maddie uses the car pretty ingeniously, but of course this doesn’t work out as planned (we’ve still got an hour to go).

A woman in a dark house stands in a kitchen, holding a knife and claw hammer.
I’ve got one hand in my pocket and the other one’s wielding a claw hammer…

For the next chunk of the film, we have a sort of bait and switch with Maddie coming up with plans to escape and the Creep managing to keep her trapped.  Both sustain some pretty gruesome injuries with equally disgusting sound effects.

This continues until John, Sarah’s SO (boyfriend?  Husband?  Too minor of a character for me to care?) shows up to figure out where she could be.  John is annoyingly slow to catch on to what’s happening, which I attribute in part to the actor also playing Anders in BSG, the single most idiotic character on that show.  However, John does catch on eventually and gives Maddie a chance to escape.  But does she???

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Largely because I don’t have any way to produce an objective rating for this one.  It did what it said on the tin, i.e. scared the living daylights out of me and raised my blood pressure for a solid 80 minutes.  It was horrifically disgusting in places and ruined any chances I had of ever deciding to go live alone in the woods.  Damn it, humanity–this is why we can’t have nice things.  The ending is somewhat clever in the way it turns around Maddie’s disability and uses it to her advantage (oops–spoiler?).  However, a lot of it was just torturous to watch and made me want to outlaw those fucking featureless masks every goddamn horror creep favors.

Is it worth staying in a creepy cabin for this one or would Christa shoot it with a crossbow?  Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Sisterhood of Night, or: Twitches

We do what we want in this Blog Collab…and what we want is to avoid over-thinking our theme-related decisions.  Welcome to yet another Blog Free or Die Hard Month—this time with witchcraft!

The Film:

Sisterhood of Night

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Secret rituals!  Vows of silence!  Tattoos!  There’s only one explanation for this kind of behavior in teens:  witchcraft.

The Uncondensed Version:

Lucy from The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe and Suzy from Moonrise Kingdom are all grown-up and embracing their inner mean girl.

Mary is something of a slacker in school, yet seems destined for fame with her serious charisma and IDGAF attitude, universally admired by teens everywhere.  Emily, on the other hand, is a bit of a goody two-shoes, who tries (and fails) so hard to be interesting and well-liked in worlds both real and virtual.  After Mary takes things too far by ruining Emily’s audition, Emily steals Mary’s phone and posts all of her texts online.  The feud between these two is just getting started when Mary decides to be done with the net forever, taking a modern vow of silence from social media.

a teenage girl looks around in front of graffiti that reads "Emily Parris is a blog whore"
Harsh…I think…?

Thus the Sisterhood of Night is born.  Mary begins the secret society with her closest friends and rumors swirl.  Though the girls involved with the Sisterhood meet up only to unburden themselves of secrets, outsiders imagine they are basically a coven of lesbians.  Oh, the horror.

two girls press their foreheads together in front of a suburban house
Telepathic lesbians:  a parent’s worst nightmare (apparently)…

Based on a series of mysterious clues, Mary reveals the time and location of Sisterhood meetings to members only.  Desperate to be part of the cool kids club, Emily figures out where the next meeting will be in hopes of joining or, if all else fails, writing a really juicy post for her blog.

Rejected once again, Emily uses the opportunity to accuse the Sisterhood of physical and sexual assault, collapsing in church and revealing a scar on her hand inflicted by Mary.  Emily isn’t winning any friends in her high school, but she is becoming somewhat internet famous, with thousands of blog followers.

two teenage girls stare intensely at each other
Our chief weapons are fear, surprise, and staring contests.

With mysterious tattoos, odd meeting hours, and secrets piling up, the community demands to know what the Sisterhood is and what the girls do.  They refuse to reveal the truth since, you know, it’s a secret society and all.  The town sets a curfew for everyone under the age of 18, which Mary obviously ignores.  Frightened one evening, she asks her guidance counselor (Kal Penn??!?!?) for help at his apartment.  This of course gets horribly misconstrued and ends badly for Kal, the sole voice of reason in the entire scenario.  After Kal’s departure, a media circus latches onto the story, sensationalizing the story to depict sex, witchcraft, and occult rituals.

a man sits in front of a shelf of books with a sticky note stuck to his forehead that reads "Srsly?!"
I can’t disagree.

As the Sisterhood grows, so too does Emily’s following as her reputation for being a survivor of abuse grows.  She comes up with a rather nasty plan to force a confession of witchcraft from one of the Sisterhood, luring her out using her crush.  Emily immediately feels remorse and tries to stop the plan, but it’s already been set into motion.  Someone isn’t getting out of this alive—who will it be???

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

The ending is actually pretty moving and surprisingly feminist, but it takes a long time to get there.  Everyone is so needlessly bitchy for such a long time, and someone has to fucking die for it to stop.  The end calls the persecution of witches to our attention, and the supposed threat of feminine power and sisterhood inherent in these kinds of witch hunts.  The girls do lift each other up at the end, which is empowering, but I was still hoping for at least a little bit of actual witchcraft.

The tone is odd as well, as sometimes it feels like a satire or dark comedy, and other times like a serious drama.  It gets to have a bit too much of an after-school special vibe after a while.  Kal Penn as the guidance counselor works but is also confusing, as I was expecting him to bring comedy to this film.

In spite of myself, I saw high school + witches and immediately expected The Craft.  This isn’t as much fun to watch as The Craft, but it does have an interesting perspective and a message worth considering.

Would Christa get matching tattoos with this one or shun it entirely?  Find out by reading her review here!