Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Emo the Musical, or: Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

It’s not quite July, but I’m ready to lean into our next theme so hard: freaks, fuck-ups, misfits, and general weirdos. Conveniently, this theme also encapsulates most of the films featured in the Blog Collab, and what better place to find rejects and outsiders than a good old Australian high school?

The Film:

Emo the Musical

The Premise:

New kid in school and proud emo, teenager Ethan struggles to impress his fellow emos while fighting an attraction to church girl Trinity.

The Ramble:

Ethan is the new kid in school, having been expelled from his previous school. As an emo, he is looking for someone to be unhappy with, and is pleasantly surprised to discover a small but thriving emo scene at the new school.

However, Ethan is majorly conflicted when he meets peppy church girl Trinity and shares a connection with her. In addition to being an atheist, Ethan wants to impress the school’s emo band, so falling in with the church crowd seems ill-advised.

A teenage boy dressed in dark clothing and plaid walks next to a smiling girl in a school hallway.

Luckily, it seems pretty easy to gain favor with the emos; all Ethan has to do is show that he doesn’t care about anything. When auditioning for the band, he writes and sings a song entirely about how little he cares about being part of the band–which, of course, works like a charm. It doesn’t hurt that Ethan has a tragic backstory behind his expulsion: he tried to hang himself at the school where he was expelled. The band’s current purpose is to make it to a competition they would usually describe as lame, if not for the involvement of Doug Skeleton, hardcore emo and indie rock icon.

Three teenagers sit and look in disbelief at a character who is off-screen.

Upon his acceptance into the band, fellow emo Roz informs Ethan that they are now dating. However, sparks continue to fly between Ethan and Trinity when they are assigned to write a love song together for homework. When band leader Bradley steals the church group’s booking of the music room, karma bites back as a religious band forms to challenge the emos in competition.

The feud between the emos and the church group escalates as Bradley learns the truth about Ethan and Trinity’s relationship. Ethan must prove his loyalty by burning Trinity’s bible and breaking up with her. This is easier for him when it seems she has revealed the truth about his suicide attempt: Ethan never came close to suicide, and tried to work himself up to an attempt on 6 occasions (which still seems rather troubling?).

A band of four teeangers dressed in black with noose patterns around their necks performs a song.

After the emos burn down the chapel, the school, now funded by a drug company that makes serotonin supplements, mandates all references to drugs, suicide, and general unhappiness must be replaced with more positive messages. Clearly, the emos struggle with this and try to even out the odds. Discovering that the Christian band’s guitarist is in the closet, Bradley arranges for the rest of the group to find out so the band will be missing a guitarist.

Caught between loyalty to the band and basic human decency, how will Ethan stay true to himself and to the gospel of emo?

The Rating:

2.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I wanted to like this, but so much emphasis is on Ethan and Trinity’s relationship, which I care about not at all. I get that this is a Romeo & Juliet scenario, but I still find the instant attraction difficult to believe, and the idea that the Christian and emo factions are somehow mortal enemies. Not only that, but Ethan and Trinity spend the majority of their relationship sneaking around and being horrible to each other (and Ethan is also terrible to Roz). Not buying it.

Nothing about the film’s admittedly flimsy plot is helped by Ethan being a complete tool. It takes OUTING another student for him to realize maybe the emo band is full of douchebags??? I HATED Bradley and wanted there to be consequences for him, but he more or less gets away with being awful. Maybe I’m just overly vengeful, though, IDK.

The satirical elements have potential here, but they ultimately give way to silly teen drama. I love the concept of the drug company taking over the school and insisting everyone be happy all the time and wish the film had done more with this. The commentary on both the mainstream church group and the “cool” outsider emos is funny at times too, but not especially insightful. And I really feel everything surrounding Ethan’s suicide attempt was handled really badly.

Moral of the story is you should always just respect other people’s room reservations.

Would my blog wife confess all of her deep emo feelings to this one or insist it take several doses of serotonin supplements? Find out in her review here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Always Be My Maybe, or: Quail Egg Parfait

I love a food movie. I love a story of a career woman stepping all over dirtbag men on her way to the top. And I love an unexpected celebrity cameo. All of these interests combine in this week’s pick–though do they complement each other perfectly or fight for dominance in the dish that is this film? Read on to find out!

The Film:

Always Be My Maybe

The Premise:

Childhood besties Sasha and Mike seemed destined to end up together but missed their chance years ago. Will history repeat itself 16 years later?

The Ramble:

Growing up in San Francisco in the 1990s, Sasha and Mike are inseparable friends who also sport a lot of plaid and shaggy boy band hair. With frequently absent parents, Sasha naturally becomes part of Mike’s family, even learning to cook from his mom Judy.

Two Asian-American kids are dressed as characters from the movie Wayne's World.

Everything changes when an accident ends Judy’s life, leaving both Sasha and Mike devastated. Mike decides he won’t go to college in favor of staying home and focusing on his band, while Sasha seeks comfort by taking their relationship to the next level.

Their romance isn’t meant to last, as a fight immediately after their hookup leads to a falling out. Sasha leaves San Francisco without looking back, and the two don’t speak for 16 years.

In the present, Sasha is a rising celebrity chef with a successful fiancé who also promotes her brand. Just before leaving New York to open a new restaurant in San Francisco, Sasha’s fiancé decides to accept a role that will take him to India with other celebrity chefs. Upset but trying to make the best of things, Sasha agrees to their temporary separation.

A man and woman sit in the back of a limousine, looking at their phones instead of each other.

When she arrives in San Francisco, Sasha rents a gorgeous house that is conspicuously missing an A/C unit. Childhood friend Veronica, who now works for Sasha, hires Mike’s father Harry to work on the A/C installation. Little does she know that Mike is now working with his father, setting up an awkward reunion between Sasha and Mike. Sasha is completely uninterested when she’s invited to Mike’s gig, but attending gets her out of the house and gives her a chance to avoid her parents.

After the gig, Mike’s girlfriend Jenny cooks dinner for Sasha and constantly calls Mike “babe.” Sasha loudly and rudely breaks up with her fiancé over the phone at a child’s birthday party, leaving Jenny as the only obstacle between her and Mike. However, Sasha ends up with a celebrity boyfriend after catering a ritzy event, with hilariously devastating results.

At a fancy party, a woman dressed in a gold dress holds the elbow of a man in a t-shirt and oversized jacket.

Even though you can easily Google the celebrity cameo here that truly makes the film, I won’t spoil it here. A double date between the two couples predictably ends badly…though it brings Sasha and Mike together again.

However, their relationship seems doomed to fail when Sasha is determined to leave for New York as planned, while Mike considers San Francisco home–and resents his new role as purse holder for Sasha at fancy black tie events.

Can Sasha and Mike find a way past these obstacles and back to each other?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I appreciate the surprising thoughtfulness of this film about success, ambition, and the difference between being satisfied and simply settling. These themes are analyzed through a feminist lens, as we take a look at Mike’s reluctance to support Sasha’s career and be a “regular guy.” We are immersed in the Asian-American culture of San Francisco too, without feeling like spectators doing cultural tourism. And the take on high-end restaurants and the culture of celebrity chefs is quite sharp (and the quail egg parfait Mike is repeatedly offered sounds vile).

I also absolutely love Mike’s father and his sideplot romance with a Diana Ross impersonator. Most of the other minor characters don’t feel as fully realized, however. Overall, I wanted this to be funnier. The celebrity cameo is the absolute highlight of the film and is genuinely hysterical, but I feel it should have a lot more going for it considering the talent involved. Not a bad way to spend an hour and a half(ish), though.

Would my darling blog wife stalk this one’s Facebook profile in secret or pretend not to know it in public? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Hairspray, or: Climb the Whole Tree

I don’t know about you, but I could certainly use something cotton candy light and sweet at the moment. In messages with my darling blog wife, we lamented that, as winter is long past, it’s no longer socially acceptable to blame all of our woes on symptoms of SAD. I choose to now blame a lack of empowering films in my life…to be remedied shortly by this week’s pick.

The Film:

Hairspray (2007)

The Premise:

A fat teen in 1960s Baltimore dreams only of dancing on a local TV show…until she becomes involved in the fight for integration.

The Ramble:

Tracy Turnblad is an energetic, upbeat teen in 1960s Baltimore who loves nothing more than dancing. Her classmates and even her mother put Tracy down for her weight, but she is unfazed; she embraces her fatness and describes herself as “big, blonde, and beautiful.”

With her bff Penny, Tracy watches the Corny Collins Show, the local cable dance show, religiously. Tracy dreams of the day she will be noticed by the show and by heartthrob lead dancer Link Larkin.

A fat girl dances and sings down the hallway of a high school as others look on.

Tracy’s mother Edna means well but struggles with her body image and hopes above all to shield her daughter from heartbreak. When Tracy gets the opportunity to audition for her favorite show, Edna is less than supportive–good thing papa Wilbur and Penny have got her back.

Under several laundry lines, a middle-aged couple dance together on a rooftop.

No surprises here: Tracy makes it onto the show and is an immediate success. Fans of the show love Tracy’s energy and sweet dance moves. Not so much a fan? Undisputed queen of the show Amber, whose mother works for the network and makes sure her daughter gets more than her share of airtime. Amber and her mother’s panic cranks up to full-on emergency when Tracy seems to be a real contender for the title of Miss Teen Hairspray.

In school, Amber does everything she can to send Tracy to detention. Boyfriend Link does not approve of Amber’s mean-spiritedness but worries about putting his place on the show in jeopardy. Good thing Tracy’s banishment to detention means an introduction to Seaweed and his little sister. The children of legendary Motormouth Maybelle, the two show Tracy how to leave white girl dancing behind and embrace black dance moves. Unfortunately, black dancers can only strut their stuff one day a week as the network’s execs far from progressive.

A black woman with blonde hair and a leopard-print dress dances and sings while others dance in the background.

Meanwhile, sparks fly at Seaweed and Penny’s first meeting, much to the dismay of Penny’s conservative (i.e. racist, religious, repressed) mother. As Tracy and Penny spend more time with Maybelle, they become more aware of the racial injustice all around them in Baltimore. When the show’s producers eliminate “Negro Day,” the one day when black dancers are allowed to perform on the show, Tracy joins the local civil rights movement and marches for integration. Link’s hesitation divides the couple and further complications develop when Tracy goes on the run after being accused of assaulting a police officer.

A black teen smiles, standing with an arm around his younger sister

Will Tracy, Seaweed, and their friends ever dance on the show again?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

The 1988 film was basically a dance revue with a loose plot tying things together, so it translates to a Broadway musical (and film) quite naturally. You could not dream of a better cast (though this is largely true of the 1988 version too). Queen Latifah and Christopher Walken are my personal faves here, but Nikki Blonsky really steps up to the lead role despite not being a household name. It makes me sad I haven’t seen her in a whole lot of roles since. My only complaint is that I really wish Edna had been played by an actual drag queen or anyone even remotely connected to the LGBT community, though John Travolta does make for a surprisingly good Edna.

Because our film clocks in at close to 2 hours, it does have the opportunity to explore some of the original film’s themes more fully. Edna has a lot more depth here, and seeing her on a journey with body positivity is quite lovely. The relationship between Edna and Wilbur is wonderful, and I adore their duet.

We get a better picture of 1960s segregation and the emotional toll it takes on the characters of color too. Queen Latifah’s number “I Know Where I’ve Been” is moving and seemingly made for her voice (and is there a greater moment in cinema history than her singing about different kinds of pie in “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful”?). I also really appreciate the film’s wisdom about the importance of integration on TV; though dismissed as light entertainment, TV reached so many audiences and had the potential to send a powerful message about civil rights by integrating.

Would my blog wife dance all night with this one or step on its toes? Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Peelers, or: Unaccompanied Miners

Good news, everyone–we’re getting back to our roots again this week! Though you may want to reserve your judgment on whether to celebrate that occasion: especially when this week’s film features zombies, rather thoughtless yet incredibly problematic racism, and so much vomit.

The Film:

Peelers

The Premise:

A zombie plague breaks out in a strip club mid-lap dance.

The Ramble:

In a hospital room, a nurse prepares a dose of medicine for a gruesomely bloody patient. The patient suddenly sits up, vomiting profusely–and then violently attacking a nurse. Psychotic break or…first sign of a zombie apocalypse? Zombie apocalypse. It’s a zombie apocalypse, everyone.

Cut to a strip club, where most of the action of our film takes place…in all possible ways. There are several ladies with different personas: the cutesy baby act, the martial arts stuntwoman, and the new girl with a schoolgirl thing going on. Unfortunately, it’s the club’s last night, as its owner Blue Jean (seriously) is selling the place to (and I quote) a “fucking beanbag” who will probably tear the place down.

A woman lit in pink onstage wears a schoolgirl outfit with short plaid skirt and high knee socks, clutching a book to her chest.

In one of many incredibly cringey moments, a group of Mexican-American men arrive at the club, one of whom has a nasty-looking leg wound. So yeah…this is a good reason to have more diverse writers in Hollywood because otherwise you end up with a group of Mexican-Americans starting the zombie apocalypse by carrying their disease into a largely white establishment and spreading the plague to them. (And at one point, a character killing off one of the group who has gone full zombie says, “Adiós, motherfucker.”) And NO ONE thought this was problematic AF.

A man with an extremely pale face bleeds profusely from empty eye sockets.

Since the group of Mexican-Americans seem to be miners straight out of the 1950s, they were excavating with pick-axes when they struck oil. …Or so they believed. The foul-smelling liquid erupts, causing an accident that injures at least one of the party and dooms them all.

A group of four men with headlamps talk under a tent set up in a mine.

The zombies in this film are characterized by gross open wounds, copious amounts of vomiting, and psychotic knife attacks. As the body count rises, the few remaining in the club search for a way out. Will anyone make it out alive? Will any viewers of this film care?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

This actually isn’t a bad premise for a horror film–I imagined something like Coyote Ugly with zombies (and a LeAnn Rimes number in the mix certainly wouldn’t have hurt). Instead we got this empty slasher with even emptier character and plot development.

There is so little that actually makes sense here, even for a B zombie horror (B is with a generous curve). I admittedly get way too hung up on details, but it made zero sense to me that there’s a new girl starting at the strip club…on its closing night? And she’s one of the first characters to die–what is even the point of her???

The vision of mining also fails to have any grounding in reality. The group of Mexican-Americans working the mine seem to be the only ones there with no one overseeing operations. There might be an implication they own the mine; I can’t think of any other reason they would be so thrilled at the prospect of encountering oil. Also their most advanced technology for mining seems to be the pick-axe. I’ve got news for you, fellas. There are a lot of options that will make your mining operation less of a terrifying death trap, as well as way more efficient.

Speaking of things that are stupidly old-fashioned: the gender roles in this movie. JFC, the gender roles. The men here take on the leadership roles, while most of the women freak out and cry. Blue Jean is somewhat of a badass, but one of the men tells her with his DYING WORDS that she’s always such a guy and should sometimes be a girl. 😑 What a fucking shame that dude died.

Would my blog wife stay for a private dance with this one or aim her projectile vomit in its general direction? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot, or: A Yeti Falls in the Woods

We’ve had some classy period dramas on the blog lately–a phenomenon I greatly enjoy, though it seems high time we got back to our bad B-movie roots. Sam Elliott, Hitler, Bigfoot: it’s like this week’s film was made for us. …Or was it?

The Film:

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot

The Premise:

The man who killed Hitler is recruited for a mission to the wilds of Canada in the 1980s. Spoiler: it involves Bigfoot.

The Ramble:

Calvin Barr (Sam Elliott!) is a gentle man who keeps to himself with the exception of the adorable golden retriever always by his side. His only hobbies seem to be drinking alone at the local bar and sitting at home, listening to the hum of voices on the TV. Who would ever guess he’s…the man who killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot?

An older man with a moustache drives a car, while a dog in the backseat leans forward towards him.

As a young man, Calvin enlisted in the US army to serve in WWII. Gifted with languages, incredibly skilled in carrying out missions, and quite good at remaining calm in oddly intense shaving scenes, it doesn’t take long before Calvin is recruited for the ultimate top secret mission: killing Hitler. Though he recognizes the necessity of his actions, Calvin abhors violence and murder, making him a rather conflicted man.

A young man in a German uniform sits on a freight train, a dog next to him.

When he enlisted, Calvin left behind his schoolteacher girlfriend, Maxine–the love of his life and woman he keeps trying to propose to(!). After the war, Calvin isn’t allowed to communicate with Maxine or his family for…reasons. I wasn’t paying the most attention ever, but it was incredibly unclear to me why Calvin couldn’t return home or write to his loved ones. Either way, it sucks, and Maxine can’t wait around forever when her mother falls ill back home.

A young man and woman dressed formally sit in a dimly lit restaurant, toasting each other with their drinks.

In the present day (some time in the ’80s?), Calvin prefers to be alone and stay out of trouble. His only remaining family is his brother Ed, though the two aren’t particularly close, largely because of Calvin’s standoffish nature. Rather disillusioned with the whole idea of heroism, Calvin rejects FBI agents who want to recruit him for a mission to essentially save the world.

The scenario in which the world needs saving happens when Bigfoot is unleashed on Canada, carrying a disease that stands to wipe out humanity. Unless Bigfoot can be tracked down and killed, the U.S. Army will nuke Canada, taking out a chunk of both countries and probably devastating the world. As the only surviving person immune to the disease, Calvin is Earth’s last hope.

An older man leans against a tree in the woods, holding a walkie-talkie and propping up a rifle with his leg.

Of course, Calvin comes around eventually, but by no means enjoys his role. Though he tracks down Bigfoot fairly easily, his prey is resilient and tricky. Bigfoot manages to do quite a lot of damage to Calvin in a dramatic fight–will the man who killed Bigfoot also be the man killed by Bigfoot?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

As promised in the title, this is indeed the story of the man who killed Hitler and the Bigfoot. However, I feel the title implies a certain level of campy fun, senseless violence, and/or terrible special effects, but it fails to deliver on any of this.

This is more of a character study, which is fine considering the character is played by Sam Elliott (accompanied by the cutest dog). It feels quite a lot like a Western too, given Calvin’s ambivalence towards heroism, status as a legend and rugged loner, and old-fashioned sense of honor. There’s an element of romantic drama here as well–but like all of the other genres this film falls into, it almost gets there but never quite works as any of these stories. It’s rather disjointed and feels like several unrelated stories.

It doesn’t help that the supporting characters are so pointless. Admittedly, it’s virtually impossible to measure up to Sam Elliott, but these characters are so 2-dimensional it hurts. Maxine is ridiculously boring, the FBI agents are aggravating, and even Calvin’s brother Ed isn’t particularly memorable. Standing ovation for that dog, though.

Would my blog wife wander ruggedly around with this one or kill it like it’s Hitler (and Bigfoot)? Find out by reading her review here!