Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Coffy, or: Cream & Sugar

I can’t believe this free blogging month is nearly over–though, of course, October is truly the most wonderful time of the year on the Blog Collab. The challenge this year will be out-doing a film featuring Pam Grier with a shotgun; honestly, should we just call it a day and try again in 2020?

The Film:

Coffy

The Premise:

A woman seeks revenge against the drug ring responsible for her sister’s heroin addiction.

The Ramble:

If you can’t handle a ‘70s vibe, get out of this kitchen, as this is possibly the most ’70s film you will watch.

Outside of an extremely retro nightclub, a junkie waits for the big time drug dealer inside.  She will do anything to get a hit—a rather more appealing prospect to the dealer when it turns out the junkie is Coffy, played by Pam Grier.

Upon retiring to a private apartment, Coffy reveals she’s had an ulterior motive all along:  rather than a junkie, she is a woman seeking vengeance against those she holds responsible for her sister’s addiction to heroin.  Both the dealer and his driver fail to live past this night.

A nurse by day, Coffy visits her sister in rehab every week–not the typical stone-hearted killer. Though in a relationship with Howard, a hopeful for an upcoming congressional race, her boyfriend is keen to keep their relationship out of the public eye. Perhaps his reasons for the secrecy move beyond commitment issues? (Hint: they totally do.)

After her ex-boyfriend cop, Carter, is put in a coma, Coffy has added incentive to take down the drug dealers, police officers, and political insiders victimizing the black community. When she confronts a sex worker, Coffy gains intel about the local drug ring and the role of dealer and pimp King George–aka the most stereotypically ’70s pimp to ever grace the silver screen.

Posing as a sex worker, Coffy uses her connection with King George to root out the creeps at the top of the pyramid. Though she has things all sorted out to take care of dealer Vitroni (including gun smuggled in a child’s stuffed lion), Coffy’s plan is foiled when Carter’s partner, a corrupt cop, recognizes her and tips off his boss.

Out of her depth and with no friends to be found, how will Coffy manage to save the day and take down a massive drug ring all by herself?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’ll start with the jarring elements of the film: there is a LOT of nudity here that feels EXTREMELY male gaze-y. The standouts here are the cringey cat fight between Coffy and one of the sex workers, as well as the gross scene after Carter is beaten where one of the assailants rather casually attempts to rape Coffy.

As a blaxploitation film, there are some ways in which race is addressed well…and others that feel incredibly problematic. A leading contributor to this is the weirdness of a mostly black cast in a film written and directed by a white man. The way King George meets his end, being dragged behind a car with a noose, is the absolute worst. And while the film’s message isn’t to endorse racism, it does have a voyeuristic feel that makes me wonder if there are people today who genuinely enjoy this scene.

However, the film is very much ahead of its time in its anti-drug themes, and the way it connects these to structural racism in politics and law enforcement. It’s truly tragic the way these ideas will be completely ignored during and in the aftermath of the war on drugs.

The real highlight is, of course, Pam Grier. She succeeds in being a tough but tender lead who is as comfortable wielding a shotgun as caring for her sister. Additionally, she’s a genius at hiding sharp objects in her ‘fro.

I give maximum points for this film’s tagline:   “They call her Coffy, and she’ll cream you.”

Would my tough as nails blog wife give this one a cuddle or bring on the shotgun? Read her review here to find out!

Film Reviews

Checking out the Film: Two Dramas, One Comedy

When it comes to movie going, it’s impossible to ignore the degree to which I am a cheapskate (bottled water and M&Ms tucked into a jacket pocket for LIFE) and am easily annoyed by people. It doesn’t help that, inevitably, there’s at least one fuckhead in the theater who thinks they can subtly check their messages on a bright screen in an almost COMPLETELY dark room. And I love a children’s movie, but apparently it’s “rude” and “harsh” to shush children who won’t stay quiet or keep their feet to themselves.

As a result, much of my movie viewing tends to be at home on DVD rented from the public library (though I do love a matinee on a day off). I may be behind on the latest releases, but I do get to see them without too much of a wait, and with no cost (and don’t give me that shit about paying for your public library with taxes as about .000000000000005% of your taxes actually fund the library).

Here are a few library loans I’ve watched recently.

Movie poster for the film The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Title

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Summary

A man struggles to preserve the Victorian-style home his grandfather built in a now gentrified part of San Francisco.

Review

Lifelong San Fran resident Jimmie has never given up on caring for the exterior of the Victorian-style home built by his grandfather–despite the fact that his family no longer owns the house. The owners of the property are a retired white couple, more or less the only people who can afford to live in the neighborhood now.

After the death of a relative, the couple abruptly leaves the house, and Jimmie moves into the home with bestie Mont. The two plan to officially reclaim the home through legal means, even as Jimmie learns family secrets that make him question so much he’s taken for granted.

This is an incredibly heartwrenching film, but it doesn’t feel like a downer (not all of the time, anyway). Gentrification, racism, and identity are major themes here, and Jimmie can never seem to catch a break in either the black or white communities. Meanwhile, the warm friendship between Jimmie and Mont really grounds the film in family and community support.

Who Should Watch

Everyone. Especially rich people.

Movie poster for the film Booksmart

Title

Booksmart

Summary

High school overachiever Molly and her bestie Amy realize while they’ve been out feeling superior about themselves and their future success, their classmates have all been living in the moment…while still earning spots at Ivy Leagues. To prove how much fun they can be, Molly and Amy decide to attend the last big party of the year–and of course things do not go as expected.

Review

I’m absolutely in love with Beanie Feldstein, and her character here is kind of insufferable but so real. As overachieving nerds, what do we have in high school if not the opportunity to feel smug about how great our lives will be in the future? Especially given that the present was pretty fucking depressing.

This is such a fun comedy, but it certainly sent me on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. It’s a sweet reflection that absolutely does not make you want to re-live high school, but makes you remember those close friendships that have lasted (or haven’t), and the joy and horror of being around your bestie constantly. The film avoids the mean girl trope, instead portraying its characters, all of whom are so young and have sooooooooooooo much to learn, with tenderness and compassion.

Who Should Watch

Everyone. Especially people who don’t “get” feminism.

Movie poster for the film The Public

Title

The Public

Summary

A librarian stands with a group of homeless patrons who refuse to leave the public library (in Cincinnati, Ohio!) on a bitterly cold night.

Review

I wanted to like this one so much more; not only does it celebrate librarianship as it exists today–dealing with drug overdoses, homelessness, and naked people in the building–but it was also filmed in the downtown branch of the Cincy public library. As a librarian who hails from southwestern Ohio, this should be the stuff of which my dreams are made.

However, I found myself getting annoyed with the dogmatic message, lengthy run time, and lack of women in a film ABOUT a profession predominately made up of women. I feel this would have been more compelling as a documentary (as in the Dayton-set American Factory), but admittedly even I haven’t watched the 3 1/2 hour documentary about the NYPL (yet–but ok, probably ever).

Who Should Watch

People who don’t understand why libraries exist. (It’s cool, librarians–you don’t have to take one for the team and sacrifice two hours of your life here.)

What are you watching? And if it’s your phone screen in a darkened theater during a non-emergency situation, please get OUT.

Header photo by Ajeet Mestry on Unsplash

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Ladies in Black, or: Not an MIB Spinoff Franchise

As it turns out, this month’s theme could have easily been “Accents I Enjoy Listening To.” We’ve leapt from New Zealand to Ireland to France, and back to New Zealand’s neighbor to the west, Australia. As a bonus, my period drama loving heart gets to enjoy plenty of flouncy dresses along with all of those exclamations of “Struth!”

The Film:

Ladies in Black

The Premise:

16-year-old Lisa begins work at Goode’s department store as she dreams of attending university, befriending the colorful characters who work alongside her.

The Ramble:

In 1959 Sydney, the ladies who work at Goode’s department store all wear black, thus explaining our film’s title.

Lisa is the newest member of the team, working temporarily as she waits for her exam results and hopes to attend university, becoming a poet or actress. Her dad Ed is less than thrilled at this prospect, believing a university education is a waste of time.

A teenage girl dressed in black holds a pile of dresses as shop patrons stand before her.

As Lisa is helping out during he Christmas rush, the store is busy from open to close, and she starts out more or less as everyone’s errand bitch. Refugee Magda, who runs the exclusive dress shop within the store, recognizes Lisa as a clever and dedicated employee. Lisa begins helping Magda, and Magda in turn has all of the style advice to offer. Magda brings Lisa into the fold, inviting her over to enjoy exotic foods like rye bread(!) and Hungarian husband Stefan’s intellectual conversation about classic novels. As it happens, Lisa also experiences her first love in the form of a divine one-of-a-kind dress she can never possibly afford.

A woman dressed in black stands in a dress boutique with a teen girl holding a large book.

Meanwhile, coworker Patty is struggling to keep her marriage alive as she and her husband try for a baby. After a memorable evening with a sexy nightie, he leaves without a word for the stupidest fucking reason you will ever hear in your life.

Another of Lisa’s coworkers, Fay, is a hopeless romantic who is incredibly disillusioned with the fellas of Sydney. A sensitive soul, she cries during French films and yearns for the old world charm of a man who will kiss her on the hand and prove chivalry isn’t dead. As Lisa conspires to set up Fay with Magda’s continental friend Rudi, a Hungarian refugee, a New Year’s party seems the perfect place for things to fall into place. Nothing is as romantic as lively Hungarian folk dancing, after all.

A man and woman stroll next to a sparkling body of water.

As Fay and Rudi get to know each other, Patty’s husband returns from the ether, and Lisa does outstandingly well on her exams. Everything seems to be coming together so perfectly…but how can Lisa overcome the obstacle of her stubborn father?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a cozy fleece blanket of a film; it’s impossible not to root for the characters, who have quirks that make them seem real. I especially love the vibrancy of the small but mighty continental immigrant community here, even as their presence is a stark reminder of the persistence of xenophobia. It blows my mind that Australia, which was incredibly sparsely populated, resented the influx of WWII refugees to such a degree that it was a taboo to befriend–let alone date or marry–anyone of the community. And it wasn’t too long ago that SALAMI was considered ethnic food?!??!!

Thematically, this film couldn’t be more perfectly timed as the United States and many other countries have an opportunity to help refugees and consistently fail to do so. It’s disturbing to see the logic of 60 years ago applied to a situation that has only gotten worse as more conflicts and climate crises have left people without a home. It does make me appreciate greatly when Stefan reminds Magda not to expect too much from the Australians, who are, after all, descended from convicts.

On a minor note, I’m absolutely obsessed with Magda and her dynamic with Stefan, the ’50s aesthetic, and Fay’s dresses.

However, things do wrap up too neatly for basically every character in the film, and there’s not much conflict to speak of. Things are resolved too perfectly to make this a truly memorable film.

Would my well-dressed blog wife fight shoppers off for this fashionable film or leave it to the bargain bin? Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Girls with Balls, or: Bump, Set, (Steel) Spike

One day you’re spiking balls and serving up aces, and the next day you’re dodging bullets and weird dudes who hide speakers in the woods. This week’s film reminds us of that simple time in our lives when we were innocent young teenagers; JK, high school is awful.

The Film:

Girls with Balls

The Premise:

The girls of a high school volleyball team lost in the woods must defend themselves against a group of dirtbag men out to kill them.

The Ramble:

According to our narrator and folksy French singing cowboy, the girls of the Falcons volleyball team are a tough bunch; unfortunately, they are also slated to die by the end of the film. Spoiler alert?

Two teen girls in matching uniforms stand face-to-face on a volleyball court.

Although the team is great at volleyball, the girls aren’t always as wonderful about caring for and supporting each other, as their coach laments. Good thing the trip back home will give the girls plenty of opportunity to bond as they drive along the countryside in a janky RV.

An RV with the Falcons' name and team colors painted on it parks outside of an ominous building surrounded by fog.

The girls run the full gamut of high school stereotypes: Hazuki, team captain; Morgane, the bitchy yet insecure queen bee; M.A., the timid and, er, fat(?) one; lesbian supercouple Dany and Tatiana; Jeanne, the modest overachiever, and her bff, Lise.

When it becomes clear that the team is no longer on the right track for home, the group stops at the world’s creepiest house, complete with many taxidermy animals ornamenting the walls and sinisterly silent bartender.

After he actually licks one of the girl’s faces, a fight erupts and the team leaves rather quickly. Opting to drive on and then stop to camp out for the night proves to be a fatal mistake (though it looks downright cozy): our head creep returns with a tiny dog and a mob of murderous henchmen. Forced to run, the girls split up as coach leaves them high and dry.

A man holding a small dog stands outside, a group of men holding rifles around him.

As the girls dodge murder, they have another danger to face: that of their past misdeeds and personal drama bubbling up. While the bodies pile up, so do the resentments. After many of the girls are captured or killed, it comes down to three remaining heroines to rescue them all. But will they even care about helping their teammates after all of the teenage drama they’ve suffered at their hands?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

I give this film most credit for the final scene, honestly. Spoiler alert: I would so watch a sequel about the remaining volleyball team girls going around and beating up dirtbag dudes.

Most of the (admittedly short) runtime here just served to remind me how gross it is that so many films fetishize teenage girls. There’s a scene in which Morgane does a completely unnecessary table dance that made me so uncomfortable.

I did like some of the dynamics between the girls, but they spend so much of the film being incredibly awful to each other that it’s a bit difficult to stomach. A lot of the humor here just does not work; Lise does a striptease that isn’t intended to be sexy, though it is meant to be funny and is not at all. I wish the humor here had let us in on the joke instead of making me feel like this is the work of a misogynist making fun of (while also being turned on by) a bunch of high school girls.

Would my rugged blog wife save this one from a band of creeps or leave it to its horrible fate? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Handsome Devil, or: Rugby, Bloody Rugby

I’m not going to lie: I watched season 2 of Derry Girls way too quickly and have so many regrets. Where will I get my fix of lovely Irish accents and teenage hijinks now??? Luckily, it’s free for all month on the Blog Collab, and this week’s film checks all of those boxes and then some. Including rugby…?

The Film:

Handsome Devil

The Premise:

As seemingly the only boy at his school not obsessed with rugby, Ned is a loner who definitely doesn’t care to befriend his new roommate, transfer student and team captain Connor.

The Ramble:

The new school year is beginning at an elite Irish boarding school, and loner Ned is less than thrilled. Openly gay and openly not a fan of rugby, Ned has very few fans and quite a few bullies. Though clever, Ned chooses a quiet life of underachieving rather than expending much effort in class. Instead of writing personal poems for class, he opts for using lyrics from ’70s and ’80s alternative rock songs his stuffy English teacher will never recognize.

A teenage boy sitting in a classroom holds a rugby ball disdainfully.

Things are looking up when Ned surprisingly gets his own room for the year; however, it’s not long before transfer student Connor becomes his roomie. Expelled from his previous school for fighting and immediately crowned rugby captain of the new school, it seems Connor and Ned will never get along, let alone become friends. Ned decides to preempt any rejection from Connor by putting up a wall dividing their two sides of the room.

When a new English teacher Mr. Sherry (played by Andrew Scott, Moriarty from Sherlock, Sexy Priest from Fleabag, and Irish dreamboat) arrives at the school, he brings some big changes. Taking no shit, Mr. Sherry makes it clear bullying and homophobia will not be tolerated–nor will Ned’s habit of using others’ voices instead of his own.

A teacher stands in front of a classroom, hands held open.

After Ned and Connor bond over their shared interest in music, Ned takes the wall down. The two finally become friends when Mr Sherry encourages them to enter a talent show. However, guitar practice begins to interfere with rugby practice, which does not please the team.

The distraction isn’t enough to set the team back, and the lads all go out for celebratory drinks after a win. Hoping to surprise Connor with his interest in the rugby team’s victory, Ned glimpses his roomie entering a gay bar. There, Connor runs into none other than Mr. Sherry cozying up with his partner. Mr. Sherry becomes something of a sounding board for Connor, and the relationship between the two is quite sweet.

A man and teenage boy in school uniform sit, facing straight ahead, on an empty train.

The school’s homophobic rugby coach is none too happy about all of this distracting Connor from his commitment to the team. As Connor is very much in the closet, coach (I can’t be bothered to look up his name) depends on his anxiety about being associated with his gay roomie in order to drive them apart. Connor leaves Ned hanging before their talent show performance, and thus shots are fired.

All of this changes during a pep rally in which Ned is targeted by the rugby team to cheer. Angry with Connor and the entire team, Ned outs his roommate to the whole school at this point.

After this incident, Ned is expelled and Connor goes missing. Is there any way for the friendship between these two roomies to bounce back after this?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is quite a sweet addition to the LGBTQ high school genre. I really appreciate that the message is about friendship and acceptance rather than the only two gay kids in school magically being perfect soulmates. Ned and Connor are great friends, but there is never a sense that being gay and roommates means they’re meant to be romantically involved.

I also appreciate the way the film handles multiple identities and the ways we belong to different groups because of and in spite of them. Sometimes opting out because your group, team, community is imperfect robs you of the opportunity to enjoy and improve them. And the teachers in this film have things to learn from their students, without (all of them) coming across as completely incompetent.

The oddness of the film is that it’s told from Ned’s perspective even though the story is mostly about Connor. This has potential as Ned is a cute ginger and certainly grows as a character throughout the course of the film; however, Connor comes through all of this looking much better and acting like less of a jerk. I don’t feel that Ned’s outing of Connor is set up well enough in the film, so Ned ultimately looks very petty and vindictive. Not okay to out someone, and especially not out of malice.

I think it goes without saying that Andrew Scott is great in this, though our two young leads deserve a lot of credit. BTW, Roose Bolton is in this, being appropriately scummy as the rugby-obsessed headmaster determined to recapture his youth. Just in case that convinces you to watch (or not watch).

Would my dream roomie sing a duet with this one or tackle it immediately? Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Falling Inn Love, or: A Home Where the Kiwis Roam

I love a good theme month, but after some challenging themes lately, nothing feels better than picking whatever films catch our fancy. That’s right–September is another month where we just do what we want on the Blog Collab. Face it: some of our picks are going to be cheesy as a French grocery store, like this week’s petit slice of fromage.

The Film:

Falling Inn Love

The Premise:

After winning a New Zealand inn through an online contest, career woman Gabriela has her work cut out for her as she renovates the building.

The Ramble:

Gabriela is a driven, career-oriented San Franciscan determined to save the planet. Despite being a member of the soulless corporate world, she is committed to projects that move forward green, sustainable housing. Though in a long-term relationship with her boyfriend, Dean, he is unwilling to settle down or even leave some of his clothes at Gabriela’s place.

Her life changes dramatically when her company fails and she finally pulls the plug on her stale relationship. After impulsively entering a contest to win a small-town New Zealand inn, Gabriela is set to make her dream of a fully sustainable residence a reality.

A woman wakes up from a night on the couch, reaching for her phone. Empty wine bottles and pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream sit on the table in front of her.

Like other recent events in Gabriela’s life, this is going to be more difficult than it first appears. After arriving in rural New Zealand by bus, Gabriela searches for cell phone reception to call for a ride. Unfortunately, she loses control of her suitcase, which is set for a collision with a stranger’s 4-wheel drive. Though the kiwi is friendly and offers Gabriela a ride into town, she is having none of it.

A woman looks at the facade of a large two-story building that needs some repair work.

The inn is, of course, nothing like Gabriela anticipated. Once a beautiful building, it has fallen into a state of disrepair (complete with unwelcome resident goat) and requires some major renovation work. Passive-aggressive Charlotte, owner of the town’s only operating B&B, is more than willing to swoop in and buy the property, but Gabriela is determined to see the project through.

Good thing she already knows a guy who is a contractor, Jake; bad thing he’s the guy whose car she hit with her suitcase. Embarrassed by their first meeting and ready to prove she doesn’t need help from anyone, Gabriela decides to fix up the inn all by herself.

A man and woman stand facing each other at an outdoor street fair.

In the mean time, Gabriela manages to befriend the married coffee shop owners, Peter and Anaaki, as well as Shelley, who runs the gardening center. After falling ill with a cold, Gabriela learns how quickly gossip spreads in the town, and that her business is everyone’s business. Her new friends, along with Jake, arrive to take care of her and complete some of the much-needed DIY work for the inn.

Recognizing the extent to which team work makes the dream work (ugh), Gabriela partners with Jake to rehab the inn and sell it, sharing the profits. As she gets to know Jake, Gabriela realizes he’s a gentle soul with a tragic past, and the two share a bond.

A man and woman walk through a stream, dramatic hills rising in the distance behind them.

However, as the renovation is close to complete, Charlotte seizes an opportunity to get Gabriela out of the picture and claim the inn for herself. When she secretly invites Dean to New Zealand, he brings along a surprise: an Australian real estate agent interested in the property. Is this still the way Gabriela wants the story to end?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

This film is predictable to a fault and painfully sweet at times; truly, the Netflix version of a Hallmark Channel original movie. But the likeability of our leads, particularly Christina Milian as Gabriela, elevates this from a dull slog to a charming (if forgettable) feature. Gabriela as a character manages to be the stereotypically uptight rom-com lead without being so completely rigid as to be a caricature. She also has the power to experience growth, though her journey doesn’t focus on how finding a man has changed her life utterly (thank GOD).

The quirks of small-town New Zealand also help, as well as its friendly, untroubled residents (and their accents!). In other contexts, the environment could feel like Pleasantville, with darkness hiding under all of the sunny smiles, but the celebration of small-town life seems genuine here. The film is so in love with New Zealand and its cute little towns that it felt at times like one long commercial to draw tourists to the area. And, you know, I’m not mad about it.

There are certainly subplots that are unnecessary, like the WWI-era letters Gabriela and Jake find hidden in the inn’s walls. And it’s ridiculous that Jake is not only a contractor, but also the chief of the volunteer firefighter crew (and former coach for the children’s rugby team). The only way he could have been more fully the poster boy for rugged masculinity is if he also carved chainsaw sculptures in his spare time or smoked his own penguin jerky over an open fire.

Does my darling blog wife believe all this one needs is a fresh coat of paint or is a complete demolition in order? Read her review here to find out!