Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews, Uncategorized

Planet of the Sharks, or: Damn Dirty Waves

The shame consumes me as, at least for the purposes for the blog collab, we forgot about the most important summer holiday:  Shark Week.  Better late than never?

The Film:

Planet of the Sharks

Where to Watch:

Amazon Prime

The Uncondensed Version:

This one is a SyFy original giving the all-important shark genre a dystopian setting and topical global warming commentary, so you know it’s going to be good.

In the future, humanity has fucked up…to the utter astonishment of no one.  Predictably, people waited until the entire surface of the Earth was underwater before coming up with constructive ways to combat global warming.  As a result, people live in giant floating cities primarily constructed from recycled debris.  Not an ideal situation to begin with…but it’s about to get better when we throw swarms of sharks controlled by electromagnetic pulses into the mix.  Seriously.

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Never volunteer for look-out duty in a shark-infested dystopian planet.

For whatever reason, we follow the sole survivor of a shark attack that wipes out her, er, city(?) when the double whammy of sharks + random explosions strikes.  I think we’re supposed to feel at least some sympathy for this girl, but it’s difficult to even remember her name (which I don’t) when she has something like 2 lines of dialogue in the entire movie.

After this girl is saved when the closest floating city sees a distress flare, scientists try to determine what is happening and how it could impact their current project.  So you’re aware–their current project involves launching a rocket into the atmosphere to destroy the C02 that has led to global warming.  One rocket is supposed to reverse decades of C02 emissions and pollution that has flooded the entire goddamn planet…?  Rather irritatingly, there’s quiet a lot of science-splaining that pretends to be smart but is really just spewing a bunch of nonsense.

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Obviously the main thing lady scientists do is stand around looking sweaty.

So anyway…the lead shark glows for some reason and is able to control the rest of the sharks for human destroying purposes.  This has the power to doom humanity completely as any chance of launching a miracle C02 blasting rocket could be in jeopardy due to shark attacks.

The scientists try to recruit the help of the largest floating city around, Salvation, to defeat the sharks and launch the rockets.  Unfortunately, their leader is too much of a badass to believe her city could be taken down by sharks.  Her indeterminate but vaguely Creole accent is distracting, but her one-liners more than make up for it.  Even though I don’t condone the killing of sharks, she’s a bit of a hero, uttering with complete confidence lines like, “I find it hard to believe an entire flotilla could be taken down by sharks,” and “We got some…sha-waks to keel…”

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Shark-kabobbed.

Since it’s been only about 20-30 minutes at this point, I think you can guess whether sharks or humans win this round.  However, the scientists, the girl, guy who looks a bit like a pirate, and cringey comic relief dude have a chance to regroup and restrategize.  Their brilliant plan?  Lure the sharks to an underwater volcano and then make it erupt.  For real.  Goodbye, humanity.

Color me surprised when this rock-solid plan suffers some unexpected complications.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

It’s no Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark, but there are definitely some moments I really enjoyed here.  The characters are largely forgettable, but some of the women demonstrate moments of badassery and pretty entertaining one-liners.  I probably should have given them more attention, but I seriously cannot remember any of their names.

The last half of the film is way slower and decidedly less shark-centric.  There is SO MUCH discussion of the damn rocket, and all of the pseudo-science drove me insane.  While I acknowledge the point of this movie was to fill time and sell ads on SyFy, it still irritated me that global warming was a plot device explained with nonsense that probably does more harm than good.  What hath SyFy wrought?  Will we grow up with a generation that sincerely believes launching a single rocket can solve global warming???

Overall, I was hoping for a more deliberate Planet of the Apes parody (I would KILL to see talking land sharks enslave humanity) rather than just a catchy title that has little to do with the way the film unfolds.  However, this film checked off some major boxes:  sharks, women with spears, volcanoes, and inexplicable explosions.  I can live with that.

Would Christa rule the planet of the sharks or let it all go under?  Find out here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Christine, or: Chickens vs. Serial Killers

Gorgeous Ladies of the Blog Collab takes an unexpectedly dark turn this week.  Chickens, mental health, and sensationalizing local news are all wrapped up neatly (or not so neatly) by Rebecca Hall.

The Film:

Christine (2016)

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Uncondensed Version:

Right from the start, it’s clear that Christine is a brilliant yet deeply self-critical and complex young woman.  In both her personal life and professional career as a local TV news reporter, she frequently second-guesses herself and looks for opportunities to confirm her flaws in the eyes of others.

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“I can’t help feeling you’re a bit detached for this interview…”

After a year working for a Sarasota Springs station, Christine is ready for the next move in her career.  Having a non-existent sex life, her mother as a roommate, and an impending 30th birthday only make it clearer that she’s much in need of change.

When the opportunity arises for a promotion that will take her to Baltimore, Christine is eager to prove she’s up for the challenge.  However, this won’t be easy as the new marching orders from the station execs are to cover sensational, violent stories over the thoughtful human interest pieces Christine favors.  Her work crush, Dexter George, agrees with her objections, but it’s not long before the reporters are tripping over themselves to get in line with the changes.

Meanwhile, Christine has been experiencing major stomach pains that she shrugs off as stress-related.  I’m apparently way more of a wimp than Christine because I’d be at the doctor’s so quickly or at least popping more than the recommended dose of Extra Strength Advil 24/7.

These factors seem to be creating the perfect storm for Christine to suffer a repeat of Boston, which her mother mysteriously alludes to.  The mother/daughter relationship is volatile to say the least; Christine reacts very badly to change and seems to be threatened by her mother’s series of unsuccessful relationships.  There’s so much to unpack here that their relationship doesn’t get as much attention as some of the other facets of Christine’s life, but I would have loved to see more.

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For once, I have nothing cynical to say.

The stress begins to wear at Christine as it turns out the stomach pains are more serious than initially thought and may impact her ability to have children.  After receiving the news, she has a bit of a melt-down at work.  It’s frustrating to see self-care as a continuously low priority for Christine, though of course there are mental health and other issues at play too.  However, even when her sole work friend Jean suggests they take the rest of the day of and eat ice cream, Christine insists on pressing on.

Later, she does an ill-advised piece on a gun enthusiast who warns her that threats are everywhere.  He encourages her to carry around a gun for a few weeks to see if it makes her feel different and more in control.  Seems like…maybe not the best idea?

Though Christine tries to tow the new party line, her ideas are constantly shut down and she is usually at odds with her boss.  Finally, she is forced to take time off when she’s sent home early after an especially tense disagreement.

Just as her professional life is falling apart, Christine’s personal life seems to be lining up for once.  George asks her out to dinner, which is a major breakthrough as she seems to be convinced they have a future together…or at least the possibility of Christine’s first sexual relationship.  At the same time, George has some important news to share—news that will prove deeply upsetting to Christine.

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I’ll give you 3 tries to guess the number of murders I’ve committed.

If you are familiar with the story of Christine Chubbuck, there will be no surprises for you here.  I was not and didn’t expect the ending at all…though it does have a sad logic that made me think I should have seen it coming.  Much like the real story I imagine.

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’m not sure I’d want to revisit this one, but it definitely earned at least a solid 4.  Infinite PPHs for Rebecca Hall’s performance, as she manages to portray mental health issues with such a depth and range of emotion without becoming melodramatic.  Christine comes across as extremely bold and intelligent while pulling back a few layers to reveal the pain of living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder and a devastating lack of confidence.  It’s time for Rebecca Hall to be a household name–she’s so talented.

Special shout-out to Christine’s closest work friend, Jean, and chicken lady, who I didn’t give a lot of attention here but who also deserve recognition.

Did this one hold Christa’s interest or was it too sensational?  Find out here!

Book Reviews, books

Summer Is for Comics

Earlier this month, NPR released the results of their summer comics and graphic novel poll.

I could honestly die a happy woman because My Favorite Thing Is Monsters made the list, along with Through the Woods and Bitch Planet.  But it’s me, so obviously I have thoughts about the list and some favorites that didn’t make the cut.

In somewhat particular order, here is my addendum of 12 favorite graphic novels I love just as much, whether they receive NPR recognition or not:

  1. Asterios Polyp (David Mazzucchelli)
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    The tragic story of a pretentious professor of architecture whose designs have never been built.  Somehow he still manages to be sympathetic and human if not especially likeable. With the added bonus of beautiful illustrations, ghosts of dead twins, and more parallels to Greek mythology than you can shake a stick at.
  2. Berlin (Jason Lutes)
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    Not least because I’ve been waiting for vol 3 for 9 years.  NINE.  (In his latest interview, Lutes claimed the last volume should be out next year, but I’ll believe it when I see it.)  Striking black-and-white illustrations with keen attention to period detail combine with memorable characters to create a compelling story.  Silvia the communist street brawler is my favorite (of course).
  3. Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes (Mary and Bryan Talbot)
    Dotter of Her Father's Eyes
    Scholar Mary Talbot and her cartoonist husband tell a story that works as both a biographical portrait of Joyce and personal memoir.  Talbot draws parallels to Joyce’s troubled relationship with his daughter and her own difficult relationship with her father, a renowned Joycean scholar.
  4. Ethel & Ernest (Raymond Briggs)
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    Though The Snowman is his most famous work, this biography of Briggs’s parents is my favorite of his works.  Ethel and Ernest seem to be the only unchanging fixtures as time passes in 20th century London.  This quiet portrait of everyday life for a middle class London family is fascinating and exactly the kind of history I love to read about.
  5. Giant Days (John Allison)
    Giant Days #19
    Funny and touching story about a group of friends navigating their way through university.  Be warned this gets way too real at times as the characters face disappointment, failure, and some steep learning curves on the way to adulthood…but at the end of the day, the characters’ relationships are there to help them bounce back.
  6. The Fade Out (Ed Brubaker)
    23093372This 1940s noir-style story of murder and the seedy underbelly of Hollywood glam makes this so far up my street it’s not even funny.  The story begins with the murder of an actress, but of course we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on the shady goings-on underneath the glitz of show business.
  7. Super Spy, Mind MGMT, and pretty much anything else by Matt Kindt
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    His illustrations and inking are gorgeous, and things are never as they seem in his work. Frequently his stories revolve around tough ladies in espionage dealing with a gritty, unglamorous reality—my favorite kind.
  8. Widdershins (Kate Ashwin)
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    Magic in a Regency England setting with a series of sarcastic badass ladies and appropriately incompetent men!  This webcomic is such a delight to read and is all free online.
  9. The Green River Killer (Jonathan Case)
    Green River Killer
    I was reluctant to pick this up because I find a lot of true crime stories sleazy and just badly written. Case avoids sensationalizing the story here (as much as possible), taking time to examine the investigation and its toll on the police force.  I would add The New Deal and anything else by Case as well—I have yet to read a book of his I haven’t enjoyed.
  10. Shutter (Joe Keatinge)
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    This is mostly here because I adore the talking cat alarm clock that keeps our protagonist company and I really need one of my own.  Also noteworthy are the LGBTQ characters and their story lines in this fast-paced comic whose many twists and turns will keep you guessing.
  11. Princeless:  Raven the Pirate Princess (Jeremy Whitley)
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    Though I haven’t kept up with this series, volume 1 is hilarious and makes a deliberate effort to represent women of color, multiple sexual orientations, and various body types.  The commentary here is smart and so relevant…plus who would turn down a story about an all-female pirate crew?
  12. Alabaster: Wolves (Caitlin Kiernan)
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    An albino teen is guided by angels to destroy vampires, demons, and all sorts of sinister creatures in the swamps of an eerily empty South Carolina.  Things get interesting right away as our protagonist begins to doubt her guardian angel and is drawn to a girl who may be something other than she appears.  Vol 1 is a compelling mixture of action and eerie silences in a decidedly Southern Gothic tradition.

Needless to say, my TBR list has now grown to an unmanageable length thanks to all of the titles include on NPR’s list (including Blacksad, a noir about a black cat PI?!?!?).  What are you reading this summer?

Cover photo by Laetitia Buscaylet on Unsplash
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews, Uncategorized

We Are Still Here, or: Home Sweet Funeral Home

Gorgeous Ladies of the Blog Collab continues!  Not for the first (or presumably last) time, we spend some time in a remote house that may or may not be haunted.  Spoiler alert:  it’s haunted.

The Film:

We Are Still Here

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Uncondensed Version:

It’s the ’70s, which becomes clear through costuming and the really sketchy dudes with thick ‘staches and aviator frames.  Anne and Paul, having recently lost their son, make the informed decision to move to a creepy house in a remote area along the East Coast.  Things get a little strange right away when Anne claims to feel Bobby’s presence in the house, but Paul pretty quickly dismisses this as nonsense.

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Thus the game of how quickly I would’ve been driving away from that house at high speeds begins.

  1.  After a framed picture Bobby hated falls and breaks?  Obviously, yes.
  2. When the smell of smoke emanating from the cellar refuses to go away?  Ugh, so out of there.
  3. After the insanely sinister neighbors pay a visit?  OUT.  SO FAR OUT IT’S NOT EVEN FUNNY.
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First sign these are horrible neighbors:  didn’t even bake cookies.

So the neighbors are special people who reveal the charming story of how the shady old house belonged to the Dagmars, who owned and operated a funeral home (naturally).  They were driven out of town by the locals after it turned out they sold the bodies of the deceased and cremated empty caskets.  All of this is punctuated by dead giveaway lines like “It’s been 30 years since we’ve had fresh souls in the house” and “It’s still Dagmar’s house,” along with a note that straight up tells the new owners to get out.

In an ill-advised decision to bring more people into the line of fire, Anne invites her son’s college roommate and his family to the house.  The parents, May and Jacob, believe they have a major connection to the spirit world.  Perhaps they’ll be able to reach Bobby?

However, it becomes clear pretty quickly that whatever is in the house is most definitely not Bobby.  Sadly, for the poor contractor who comes to take care of that freshly cremated smell, this realization comes too late.  He becomes our first victim of creepy burnt to a crisp ghost/demon that lurks in the basement.

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Séances are all good fun until someone loses an eye…

So things aren’t off to a great start when the local bar is called Buffalo Bill’s Lounge.  Presumably after the outlaw rather than the women’s skin DIY-er, but still.  The family arrives, and it turns out that being a skeptic isn’t enough to save you in this scenario.

By the time the group gets around to holding a séance, their ranks have thinned considerably.  With about 20 minutes or so left, our rather slow burning film takes a turn for the violently gory, which feels somehow satisfying and jarring at the same time.  Word of advice:  don’t watch this while eating dinner.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Eh, I don’t know, I just wasn’t feeling this one.  It took me a long time to get invested in this, and I didn’t really ever care what happened to the characters.  However, major props to the neighbor with his Scooby Doo routine, who was the highlight of the film to me.  I did also enjoy the incredibly gory finale even if there were some truly nauseating moments.  The ’70s setting was a nice tribute to classic slasher films and provided a surprising amount of period detail.

On the other hand, some really cliché lines of dialogue about all of the death and darkness tended to take me right out of the creepiness.  Not a bad film overall, but I was hoping to feel more engaged with it.

Was Christa still here at the end of this one or did she book it as fast as any sane person would have at the start?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews, Uncategorized

GLOW, or: Gorgeous Ladies of the Blog Collab

Sometimes (and always) we’re so in tune on the Blog Collab that we do the same things whether we intend to or not.  Our latest brainwave came in the form of the Netflix original GLOW.  We were there for the glam ‘80s hair and glitter, but stayed for the zany wrestling personas and the show’s surprising emotional depth.  This month is inspired by GLOW, and the documentary that spawned the TV show is kicking us off to celebrate the Gorgeous Ladies of the Blog Collab, or:  GLOBC…?  Doesn’t have quite the same ring as GLOW.

The Film:

GLOW:  The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Uncondensed Version:

In case you haven’t watched the original ‘80s show or the updated Netflix series, GLOW was the first women’s wrestling show on TV.  It was surprisingly successful, especially considering that it began as more or less one extended infomercial…with comedy sketch bits, song/dance numbers, and some rather cringey rapping.

Despite the blatant sexism and stereotyping, the women cast on GLOW consider it revolutionary as it allowed them to feel strong and empowered while looking and feeling fab.

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SO MUCH GLITTER.

The show did not begin with great promise–Mando, a real wrestler, trained the women (hired mostly based on looks rather than wrestling prowess) in a run-down gym without proper equipment or safety practices.  After training, things sped along quickly as the GLOW ladies were moved to a hotel in Vegas (because, honestly, where else would this have happened if not Vegas).  As depicted in the show, the ladies are supposed to always stay in character and obey strict rules on curfews and partying.

One of the few wrestlers on the show was Matilda the Hun, who had been trying in vain to find wrestling partners.  She was so hardcore she once literally wrestled a bear and may be my new personal hero.

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In case you’d like some glitter to go with that glitter.

Initially, the creator of the show clashed with the director, who envisioned an over-the-top, campy variety show.  These issues were quickly resolved as the director was also the one with the money behind him.  Some of the ladies look back fondly on their working relationship with the director, while others think he was borderline abusive.

Several of the more memorable personas were Big Bad Mama, a Louisiana voodoo priestess, and the Heavy Metal sisters, who cut things up with a chainsaw and lit shit on fire in the ring.  Ninotchka was the Russian stereotype whose confidence boosted the wrestler herself and made her feel powerful.  The wrestler shares a rather touching moment when she realized her boyfriend was in love with her persona’s confidence–not her.

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Love love love love love.

Just as Machu Picchu is the heart and soul of the Netflix show, Mt. Fiji is the star of the original GLOW (and the documentary).  Fiji was an Olympian and by all accounts the sweetest lady on the show.  It’s heartbreaking to see her current health problems that have largely confined her to a hospital bed.  Many of the women suffered injuries and dead-end careers after GLOW‘s abrupt cancellation.  Several speculate the businessman funding the show stopped because of marital problems that arose as he spent so much time with all of the ladies of GLOW.

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WHOEVER IS CHOPPING ONIONS RIGHT NOW NEEDS TO STOP.

Because the show ended so suddenly, no one felt a sense of closure…which is about to change when one of the wrestlers decides to host a reunion.  If you don’t get emotional seeing the ladies of GLOW reunited, you may have a heart of stone.

The Rating:

4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Like the new Netflix show, there is plenty of glitter and over-the-top wrestling mayhem along with lots of heart.  It’s really hard to see the physical and emotional toll the years of wrestling took on these women even though all seem to remember the show fondly whether they found happiness and success in later years or not.  Though all of the ladies were thrilled to be part of a ground-breaking series, they also suffered greatly at the hands of the entertainment industry.  Like most things to emerge from the ’80s:  come for the glitter, stay for the genuine heart.

Would my Gorgeous Lady of the Blog Collab hit it with a bodyslam and leave it down for the count…or crown it champion of the ring (and the collab)?  Find out here!