Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Horse Girl, or: Surrounded by Neigh-Sayers

It’s never a bad thing to see more films written and directed by women, especially during Feminist February. This week’s pick stars and was co-written by Netflix legend Alison Brie (of GLOW, BoJack, and the show we don’t talk about on Netflix, Community). Qualification for Feminist February met. Qualification for fun evening of light entertainment? Er…very much dependent on your definition of fun.

The Film:

Horse Girl

The Premise:

A familial history of mental illness and increasingly paranoid conspiracy theories take over the life of a quiet craft store employee and horse enthusiast.

The Ramble:

A quiet woman who keeps to herself, Sarah is a craft store employee by day, obsessive fan of the TV show Purgatory by night, and lover of horses at all hours. Though she is friendly with boss Molly Shannon and roommate Nikki, Sarah prefers to keep some distance between herself and others. At any given moment, it seems Sarah would much rather be spending time with the horse she used to ride or with her favorite TV characters.

Two women stand inside next to a store window, wearing light blue apron uniforms over their everyday clothes.

When her birthday shakes her out of the usual routine, Sarah meets Darren, a friend of Nikki’s boyfriend. Both Sarah and Darren are rather awkward, with Darren droning on incessantly about concept albums and his horrible ex. Sarah, meanwhile, has been experiencing more and more strange symptoms–one of which is a nosebleed during their date. But Darren thinks Sarah is cute, and Sarah considers his name–shared with one of the lead characters of Purgatory–a sign that they’re meant to be.

After drinking too much and throwing up, Sarah has a strange dream in which she’s lying in a white room, two people sleeping on either side of her. When she wakes up the next morning, there are strange scratches on the walls, though Sarah has no recollection of how they got there.

A man and woman sit close together in a small, dimly lit dining area, facing each other from separate dining chairs.

Odd incidents begin happening more frequently during Sarah’s waking and dreaming life. Her car is stolen and, when it is found, the facts don’t quite add up. The key is in the car’s ignition, and the steering wheel lock sits unlocked on the passenger seat. Worried about the increasing number of times Sarah is forgetting things, she fears the mental illnesses that overtook her mother and grandmother’s lives may affect her too.

The alternative explanation that Sarah begins to embrace is that she is losing time due to alien abduction, and her vivid dreams are not dreams at all. Because she looks so much like her grandmother, Sarah begins to believe she is a clone created by aliens. When she sees the man from her dream in real life, Sarah becomes convinced her theory is the truth and is obsessed with tracking him down. She even goes as far as hiring his company to do unnecessary pipe replacement and follows him to his home one evening.

A woman in a dark room looks down. She is covered from head to toe in a light pink outfit that covers everything except for her face.

When she meets Darren for another date, Sarah begins explaining her theories to him, and their discussion turns more broadly to conspiracies. It’s only when Sarah shows Darren her mother’s grave and tells him they need to dig her up to compare their DNA that he realizes how deeply she believes in her own conspiracy theories.

After performing a series of rituals at home to trick the aliens, Sarah wanders into the craft store completely naked. She is taken into a psychiatric care facility, but only becomes more convinced that she’s been right all along during her stay there, and less able to distinguish between reality and dreams. Will psychiatric care help Sarah be well at this point…and does she even want to?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Alison Brie deserves so much credit for this role–as with many of the characters she plays, here a seemingly innocuous person is more complex and disturbed than she initially appears. Brie makes Sarah a sympathetic character whose odd behavior at the beginning of the film merely scratches the surface on the delusions and feelings she experiences later. And the extreme thoughts and feelings Sarah has are out of touch with reality, but they never feel laughable–they are unquestionably real to her.

This concept is what makes the film so compelling, and at times scary to watch. It’s very interested in asking to what extent biology is destiny: does the mental illness or trauma we inherit from our families predict our own dysfunction? And, perhaps more importantly, what does it mean to manage mental illness? Sarah’s delusions seem to give her a sense of real conviction for the first time in her life. It seems likely that her dedication to the show Purgatory and need for her life to have some sort of narrative structure plays a role in her willingness to believe in her own version of reality. But would her DNA have led her down the same path regardless?

The film itself can be difficult to follow at times, as its structure is somewhat loose, and uses this to blur the lines between dream and reality (and, honestly, the tone is quite wonky as well). This quality does keep things interesting as we continue to hope Sarah can heal; however, it’s increasingly impossible to imagine an ending in which she finds both peace and clarity. I feel fairly certain this film will haunt anyone who has experienced mental illness.

Would my blog wife don matching alien-proof body suits with this one or run away while it’s distracted with a marathon of Ancient Aliens? Read her review here to find out!

blogiversary, Collaborative Blogging

The Soundtrack of the Blog Collab

If there’s anything I love more than bad movies, it’s sad folk-inspired music.  The beauty of the Blog Collab is its potential to combine both of these interests; when I’m writing a blog post, I’m very often listening to sad folk (but I do occasionally branch out of this melancholy genre!).

Here’s a peek at my typical playlist (with all of the Avril Lavigne filtered out and some unnecessary commentary thrown in):

  1. “I Wish I Was the Moon” — Neko Case
    The ultimate sad folk song; Neko Case is the queen of despair as evidenced by the lyrics “How will you know if you’ve found me at last? / ‘Cause I’ll be the one be the one be the one / with my heart in my lap.”
  2.  “Rabbit Hole” – Jenny Lewis
    If you don’t love Jenny Lewis, you’re wrong.  Period.  Her latest album has the most fun, irresistible ‘70s vibe.
  3. “He’s Fine” – The Secret Sisters
    I love the sad harmonies in this song that break my heart rather than fill it with rage towards the two-timing Davy White.  Okay—I might have a little bit of anger set aside for him.
  4. “Hi Ho” – The War and Treaty
    This soul- and gospel-inspired husband and wife duo creates masterfully sad and deeply felt songs that have no right being so catchy.
  5. “Touching the Ground” — Brandi Carlile
    It’s also accurate to say I listen to this woman’s entire music catalogue whenever I write.
  6. “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” – Ezra Furman
    I only approve of love songs when they challenge gender norms.
  7. “Hey Eugene” – Pink Martini
    Possibly the only song about a drunken make-out session to pull off a sweet sense of romantic longing and regret.
  8. “Penny to My Name” – Eva Cassidy
    Eva Cassidy’s voice is so beautiful that you only realize halfway through this song that it’s about a woman who had a shotgun wedding and now lives in rural poverty from which she will never escape.
  9. “All We Ever Knew” – The Head & the Heart
    I’m a basic hipster bitch, so obviously I like this song.
  10. “Fruits of My Labor” – Lucinda Williams
    I feel weird about how sexy this song is considering it’s also despairingly sad.  Who says it can’t be both, though?
A woman lies reclined on the ground, one foot resting on an old school boom box.
Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash
  1. “And It Spread” – The Avett Brothers
    You’d think spreading love would always be a good thing until you get to the line about shooting your arm full of love like it’s heroin.
  2. “James” – Camera Obscura
    Based exclusively on this song, I will never trust a James.  Or at least I will never think I know a James well.
  3. “Stay Gold” – First Aid Kit
    Like the absolute killjoys they are, First Aid Kit uses the example of a beautiful sunset to remind us that nothing good can last.
  4. “Firecracker” – The Wailin’ Jennys
    I absolutely adore this band’s folk- and bluegrass-inspired sound, and their devastating lyrics. In this song: “Knowledge pulls the reins against the bliss that I once knew / When you set your sights on me and the firecrackers flew.”
  5. “Another Sunny Day” – Belle & Sebastian
    With Belle & Sebastian, even the saddest songs are inappropriately upbeat, and this is no exception.
  6. “Best Kept Secret” – Case/Lang/Veirs
    It’s impossible not to love the Case/Lang/Veirs collaboration, and this catchy song is further evidence.
  7. “Son of Your Father” – Elton John
    I firmly believe I was born listening to Elton John, and chances are I will die listening to Elton John as well.  This one follows a familiar narrative Bernie Taupin seems to appreciate:  two parties at odds seem to reach a peaceful solution, then promptly take things on an extreme reverse course until everyone ends up dead.
  8. “Dusty Boxcar Wall” – Eilen Jewell
    I love the soulful bluegrass feel of this song and the directness of the lyrics about a woman leaving her lover with an unsentimental message written on a boxcar wall.
  9. “Coping Mechanism” – Shovels & Rope
    I’m obsessed with the emotion Cary Ann Hearst’s voice expresses; specifically devastation.  But all of the different types of devastation!
  10.  “Fuel the Fire” – Sarah Jarosz
    Something in my soul cannot resist the twang of Sarah’s voice and her banjo playing.

What do you listen to when you write?

Header photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Bitch, or: Who Let the Dogs Out?

#feminism. Like all things trendy, sometimes the tag truly reflects a message of female empowerment, and other times it misses the mark entirely. This week’s film–written, directed by, and starring Marianna Palka–addresses feminist themes, but is it feminist? The answer is a resounding “sort of.”

TW: suicide attempt

The Film:

Bitch

The Premise:

After being pushed too far, a depressed wife and mother finally snaps, adopting the behavior and mannerisms of a female dog.

The Ramble:

With her artistic ambitions crushed by the burden of caring for her children as her useless husband spends nights with his secretary, Jill’s future looks pretty bleak. So bleak, in fact, that she attempts to hang herself from a chandelier in the family’s suburban home.

Haunted by an ever-present neighborhood dog, overwhelmed with running around for the children, and failing to get any support beyond throwing pills at the problem, Jill mentally calls it quits. After initially ceasing to respond to her children at all, it later becomes clear that Jill isn’t exactly herself. She is, in fact, now behaving like a dog, barking and walking around on all fours included.

A woman with an extremely dirty face looks over her shoulder, baring her teeth threateningly.

Husband Bill is not so much concerned as highly annoyed with Jill’s selfishness. Not only is he now responsible for figuring out the kids’ needs and routines, but he also needs to keep things afloat at work amid massive layoffs. In need of back up, Bill reaches out to Jill’s sister Beth. However, even with the support of Beth and a number of mental health specialists, Jill remains a snarling mass growling around in the basement.

A group of four children sit in the hallway of their home. An older boy sits by himself, while an older girl covers the ears of her younger brother, who in turn covers his younger sister's ears.

After a rather dysfunctional Christmas with unhappy children and a welfare check from the police, Bill breaks down and momentarily splits. When he comes back home, Bill seems to understand the blame that was constantly hurled at Jill when she didn’t keep everything at home running smoothly…only to reveal how clueless he is when he blames all of his problems on his much too enormous penis.

Things go from bad to worse when Bill loses his job, Jill escapes, and he is caught (admittedly breaking up) with his mistress. It takes losing Jill to the care of her family to make Bill regret the way he treated her before. But that doesn’t make life suddenly a walk in the dog park. Is it too late to save their marriage or even bring Jill back to her usual self?

The Rating:

2.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I credit this film for its ambition. The incredibly dark comedy premise here is brilliant as it approaches the concept of a woman perceived as a bitch on a literal level. I appreciate the satire here as a woman who has repeatedly heard that she can and should have it all is pushed to the breaking point–and considered selfish when experiencing mental illness.

However, there are a lot of moments that fall short of this film’s promise. Jill’s mental illness is initially treated as something inconvenient or in need of a quick fix, though the members of her family eventually accept the new version of Jill. This doesn’t quite work for me as Jill clearly is very ill and not in control of her actions. There’s a sort of odd fairy tale quality to the logic of the story in which Bill’s revelation that he’s been fucking up this entire time is needed to restore Jill’s sanity, and that’s…problematic, to say the least.

I think this gets to the film’s biggest issue: despite playing the titular bitch and serving as the catalyst setting up the rest of the film, Jill isn’t really the focus here. Rather, it is Bill who must unlearn his toxic habits. And while he does need to suffer here to appreciate the worth of Jill’s labor and love, it feels unintentionally bleak that this is the only way for him to learn. Additionally, the idea that the power rests with Bill to change their relationship for the better undermines the entire point of this film.

It’s also difficult that one of Bill’s big moments to show his growth as a character happens when he acts like a dog in a dog park. This scene is stuck somewhere between funny and uplifting, and just ends up feeling uncanny. There’s something profoundly sad about a man barking around on all fours in public, even if he is putting on this performance as encouragement for his wife.

This may say more about me as a person than the nature of this film, but I could’ve happily seen Bill end up with a much darker fate. It would be such a shame if he could no longer blame that big dick for all of his problems.

Would my blog wife take this film for its daily walk or snarl at it from a dimly lit basement? Find out in her review here!

blogiversary, Collaborative Blogging

A Toast to the Blog Collab

This post is all about you, Blog Collab. February 2020 marks 5 years of watching and reviewing painfully bad (and occasionally brilliant) films with my partner in crime, Christa. I can’t think of anything I’ve done consistently for 5 years besides overindulge when it comes to raw cookie dough, so this is a big fucking deal.

When I signed up for the WordPress-created Blogging 101 course, I had no idea it would transform my blogging practice.  My main goal was to develop a regular writing practice, and I really hoped to build a blogging community.  Considering the number of people who blog and the range of topics they focus on, it seemed unlikely I would find others who shared my interests and frequently bizarre sense of humor.  It didn’t help that I wasn’t exactly trying—I was usually doing the bare minimum assigned for the course, and I absolutely dreaded the weeks when I had to go comment on random blogs. I felt everyone had kind, clever comments to make, and my contributions were the equivalent of sending a “hey” DM.

How overwhelmingly unlikely then—perhaps bordering on miraculous—that I found such a warm, wonderful, witty, and witchy blog partner in the form of Christa. We have only met IRL once, but we’ve shared a goal and many traumatically horrible movies that have made the distance feel small. I am positive she would be embarrassed, but I’m constantly inspired by her style, artistic eye and expression, and truthfulness about times when life isn’t exactly a bowl of cherries.

Proof we’ve met IRL!

I say without judgment that so many of the bloggers I met 5 years ago are no longer on WordPress. Possibly because many people have moved on from blogging to other forms of social media or their lives are simply busy with other priorities.

Five years on, I’m certainly not in this for the likes or the (non-existent) ad revenue.  I can’t speak for others, but the main reason I’m still blogging is because of my incredible blog partner who keeps me accountable and encourages me to continue writing.

I don’t have a lot of followers, but I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done.  I feel immensely happy we have become and stayed friends and supported each other, especially given the rollercoaster the last few years have been–personally and basically on a global scale.  As sensitive, anxious people who worry about the state of the world, we have both struggled to hold onto some sense of compassion and hope. I’m incredibly proud of our growth, and the ways we have made our own meaning and purpose even when things feel beyond our control. I certainly wouldn’t claim that blogging replaces therapy (I’ve been in and out of counseling throughout the Blog Collab), but it’s very much a therapeutic activity.  We have most definitely pushed ourselves to challenge our boundaries.

And we have absolutely put the work in; conservatively, we each write around 750 words per week because of the Blog Collab.  Over the past 5 years, that totals 195,000 words, i.e. the length of a novel.  And not just any novel:  we’re approaching Deathly Hallows levels with that word count, or any number of books that could cause serious physical injury with very little effort.

So here’s to you, Blog Collab, and of course my gem of a blog wife, Christa. I won’t lie; I am still going to worry obsessively about right wing extremists, climate change, white supremacy, misogyny, global pandemics, genocide, nuclear war, and the fact that I worry too much. I’m positive my blog is doing nothing to make any of these problems better. All I know is my life would be infinitely worse without you, Blog Collab. And in that spirit I toast to you and all of the coincidences that occurred to make the collab fall so fortuitously into place. Here’s to another 5 years!

Header photo by Anastasiia Rozumna on Unsplash
TV Reviews

The End of an Era: Thoughts on the BoJack Horseman Finale

*Spoilers for BoJack Horseman season 6 below*

After a season 5 that didn’t thrill me, I confess the announcement that season 6 would be BoJack‘s last didn’t shock me. Beyond a vague annoyance about the splitting of the season into two parts, I didn’t feel particularly upset.

However, once the last few episodes were released on Netflix, I felt eager to dig in even as a sense of dread nestled in the pit of my stomach. Somehow, the animated show about an alcoholic, self-destructive former sitcom star (who happens to have the head of a horse and body of a human) has become one of my absolute favorites, and its finale really does seem to mark the end of an era. How did that happen?

One thing that sets the show apart is its surreal quality that reflects a deeply cynical reality; one that its creators clearly care about despite its profound flaws. The characters embody this spirit; it’s frequently very difficult to like the show’s protagonists. In fact, they consistently do things that disappoint me and remind me of my own shortcomings.

Though many of the characters are part animal, they feel authentically human. All of them are broken characters stumbling along blindly in a destructive industry. Sometimes they get better, sometimes worse. While there is hope at the beginning of season 6 that BoJack’s stint in rehab will set him on the right track, recovery–from alcoholism, mental illness, trauma–is not a linear path. As has been the case throughout the series, a singular action, or even a pattern, does not in itself indicate progress. There’s a constant back-and-forth as the characters and their circumstances change, but the show meanders with purpose.

A cartoon hybrid of a horse and man sits at the end of an elaborate dining room table, seated between a young woman and an elegantly dressed horse/woman.

What is both refreshing and troubling about this season is its focus on accountability. For the entirety of its run, BoJack has been interested in the tension in exploring a frequently toxic character’s inner workings. Having spent 6 years with BoJack and the characters who fall in and out of his orbit, understanding his motivations and his own victimization makes us feel closer to him and perhaps more inclined to overlook his bad actions. Yet, increasingly, we feel BoJack should still face the consequences of his actions; not only from the desire to believe in a sort of divine justice, but also because it’s the only chance he has to truly grow as a character.

Based on the damage BoJack has caused in the past (most frequently to women), will it make a difference at this point?

While tapping into the story of BoJack specifically, the final season continues to speak more broadly to our obsession with celebrity, connecting it to the existential dread that permeates everything we do in a world where we must necessarily create our own meaning. Even (and perhaps especially) fame doesn’t save the show’s characters from emptiness, vulnerability, fear, and death.

The season also continues to explore the inherent contradictions involved with human connection. Relationships of all kinds represent a way to build meaning in a world that feels lacking in purpose. However, leaning on others often leaves the characters disappointed and vulnerable. And many of the characters who shaped each other in early seasons barely (or never) interact now. This season seeks to make peace with the idea that a relationship can resonate for years after it ends, and the ending isn’t necessarily a failure.

A cartoon woman sits at a kitchen table in front of a laptop, a man with a bison head next to her.

On a side note, I absolutely loved Diane’s story this season. I don’t always like Diane; I relate to her depression, feelings of inadequacy, and worry that she’s not doing enough to make the world a better place–perhaps to an insufferable degree. But I appreciate so much that Diane started taking anti-depressants, compromised her artistic vision, and gained weight in season 6 (which never happens onscreen except as a signifier that a woman has let herself go). And this marked progress for Diane, as well as some degree of happiness. Having her life together in some ways didn’t mean everything else magically fell into place.

Now it’s over–the show featuring a darkly comic (and catchy) song about killing babies, a show biz sell-out version of J.D. Salinger, intergenerational trauma that lives on long after the characters who experienced it have died, a petty auto-erotic asphyxiation scheme, and a fake future story line that existed just to break our hearts. It’s hard to say goodbye to such a clever, carefully written, and nuanced show that was simultaneously cynical and hopeful. BoJack responded perfectly to the world we live in, questioning the fictional and real toxic men who occupy so much of our time and attention. How can we move forward when we continue to rationalize awful behavior–especially when we use these same excuses to justify our own misdeeds?

As the final moments of the show approached, I felt both dread and comfort in the cyclical nature of its last scene. Diane sits alone on a roof, smoking. When BoJack seeks her out and they sit down for a heart-to-heart filled with banter, their future looks inevitable yet uncertain. That seems to be the show’s answer, to the extent it’s willing to provide one: the way to find meaning is by living through the cycle, and, paradoxically, the cycle doesn’t end, nor can we even pin down where it begins.

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Wild Rose, or: I Och the Line

It’s February on the Blog Collab, meaning all month long will be dedicated to feminism on film! Kicking things off is a tale of that smooth Nashville sound in…Glasgow?

The Film:

Wild Rose

The Premise:

An aspiring country singer dreams of starting over in Nashville as she struggles to balance her hopes for the future with her responsibilities in the present.

The Ramble:

After serving out a prison sentence, Glaswegian Rose-Lynn is intent on one thing only: making it to Nashville to prove her talent as the rising country music star she knows she is.

Too bad Rose has a couple of considerations that need her attention first: specifically, her young children, Wynonna and Lyle. Those pesky kids! While incarcerated, Rose’s children have been living with their grandmother, Marion. And you know she’s a fierce, no-nonsense woman because she’s played by Julie Walters.

A red-haired woman blows out the candles on her birthday cake, sitting between two young children and an older woman with white hair.

Having burned her bridges, Rose’s efforts to reclaim her spot on the stage of Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry fail miserably. In need of a day job where she can earn money and meet the curfew set by her ankle monitor, Rose finagles her way into a position cleaning the home of a wealthy family (conveniently leaving out her past trouble with the law).

It’s not long before mom of the family Susannah learns of Rose’s gifts as a musician. Rose has an almost non-existent sense of shame, asking Susannah outright for the money to send her to Nashville. Though Susannah declines this request, she does help her get in contact with BBC radio DJ Bob Harris, who is impressed with her style.

A woman stands onstage with the members of a band playing string instruments, percussion, and the accordion.

Though Rose’s children seem to fall somewhere in the middle of her list of priorities, she does begin to make a serious effort to make amends. Cleaning the house and fixing breakfast earn her some credit, and reading through their accomplishments at school has her almost caught up on the time she’s missed.

After an invite to London to meet with Bob, Rose works with her lawyer to have the ankle monitor removed. Tellingly, she insists that her crime of attempting to smuggle heroin wasn’t her fault, and the person to blame in all of this is the judge. In keeping with her past behavior, Rose gets drunk on the way to London and ends up losing her bag. Though she receives encouragement from Bob to write and perform her own songs, the meeting brings Rose no closer to Nashville.

A middle-aged African-American woman stands outside in a garden, facing a white woman with red hair.

Susannah, on the other hand, offers a solution. Rose will perform at her 50th birthday party. The upper-crust guests, instead of bringing gifts for Susannah, will sponsor Rose’s trip to Nashville. The catch? Rose will need to rehearse during the week prior, which incidentally is the week she promised her children a trip to the beach.

After disappointing her children, Rose reveals the truth about her past to Susannah, thus dashing her dreams of a future in Nashville. When she finds a proper job, it seems Rose is ready to settle down and let go of her dreams. Is this really the life that will make fiery Rose happy?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Julie Walters could have just scowled disapprovingly throughout this entire film and I still would have loved her. Luckily, she does much more with the tough character she plays here, showing the frustration for her daughter comes from a place of love.

Jessie Buckley is also phenomenal in her role; Rose is very often a difficult character to root for. She absolutely will not take responsibility for her life during most of the film and seems pretty comfortable with disappointing the people around her–especially her children. But her gritty determination, as well as her growth as a character, come through beautifully. And I am obsessed with her voice; there’s so much soulful country sadness there. I dare you to look me in the eye and tell me you weren’t a weepy mess during Rose’s final song, a lovely ode to home and family.

Did the three chords and the truth here speak to my fierce blog wife or would she skip to the next song ASAP? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Iron Sky: The Coming Race, or: Conspiracy Quest

Much to my dismay, whenever someone is bringing Nazis into the mix on the Blog Collab, it’s usually me. Though I have no desire to give neo-Nazis any time or attention whatsoever, I still find WWII and its prevalence in pop culture fascinating. No other event in modern history has shaped so many of our ideas about what evil looks like or shaken so thoroughly our belief in progress…or produced such bizarre and lasting conspiracy theories. If this film accomplishes one thing, it’s embracing every possible conspiracy theory it can in under 90 minutes. Let’s take the red pill then, shall we?

The Film:

Iron Sky: The Coming Race

The Premise:

After a nuclear war between humanity and moon Nazis, the survivors have found temporary refuge on the dark side of the moon. To find a new home, a small group of humans must return to Earth to reclaim the Holy Grail from the Nazis/lizard people (I kid you not).

The Ramble:

Following the events of Iron Sky (which I admittedly forget), the planet has been left a nuclear wasteland in the wake of war between Earth and moon Nazis. However, there is some hope for the lizard people/neo-Nazis who have brought about the end of humanity. Among these are Sarah Palin (president of the USA in this version of reality, and not too far off the mark), Margaret Thatcher, Christian and Muslim religious extremists, and their leader, Hitler (obviously). All of these horrible people have slithered to the center of the Earth, where their secret underground society thrives.

in an image reminiscent of The Last Supper, figures sit side-by-side at a long table, with Hitler at the center

Any human survivors of the war have fled to the dark side of the moon, home to the former colony of moon Nazis. These include Obi, a tough but kind engineer, and her mother, effectively the leader of the struggling colony. Even after nuclear disaster, a hierarchy exists, and the members of a religious cult that worships Steve Jobs are the self-proclaimed righteous among the rest of humanity.

With dwindling supplies, crumbling infrastructure, and no way to leave the moon, it’s unclear how long the survivors of nuclear war can last. Hope comes in the unlikely form of a UFO piloted by Russians, including Sasha, who proves to be resourceful yet constantly worried about his fragile masculinity.

a man and woman in bulky bone armor face each other in a sand-colored prehistoric city

Because Obi’s mother is unwell, she is desperate for a cure. Desperate enough that, when she uncovers the secretly alive Moon Führer, Obi is willing to hear him out re: an evil plan he’s concocted. For reasons that are in no way sinister (eye roll), the Moon Führer, aka Hitler’s lizard man brother, seeks the Holy Grail. Coincidentally, its contents have the power to heal Obi’s mother. The only complication? The grail is located at the center of the secret civilization at the center of the Earth.

Along for the ride are Sasha, Obi’s unbelievably jacked bestie Malcolm, and a few members of the Steve Jobs cult, who believe their fearless leader is still miraculously alive on Earth. Things are off to a rocky start when the group crashes, encountering the dangerous world at the center of the planet, inhabited by lizard people and dinosaurs alike.

a man in a black turtleneck and beard looks human except for the lizard eyes and scales on his forehead

When most of the group is captured by Nazis, it’s up to Obi and Sasha to track down the grail. Meanwhile, the Steve Jobs cult discovers their leader is himself a lizard person in on the Nazis’ evil plan. Attempting to switch sides, the members of the cult get a firsthand reminder that you should never trust a promise from Hitler, whether he’s a lizard person or not.

a man in Nazi uniform faces Hitler, who is riding a T-Rex

Perhaps unsurprisingly, our heroes manage to escape with the grail, though not before a dramatic triceratops chariot chase. However, shortly after returning to the moon, Obi and the gang realize they have been followed…by none other than Hitler riding a T-Rex. In the showdown between lizard people, moon Nazis, and humanity, who will prevail?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Credit where credit’s due: this film is visually much more impressive than your average Nazi conspiracy theory action comedy. The lizard people look disgusting, honestly, and as realistic as it’s possible for them to look. Even though the plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I do appreciate that the writers did at least try to weave conspiracy theories together into a somewhat coherent narrative. And my sci-fi loving heart can’t help but enjoy the commitment to telling a story about space travel.

However, like most B-movie sequels, all of the novelty and quirkiness of the first film is lost here. I did find some of the political humor rather gratifying, including when the Steve Jobs cult leader (played by Tom Green?!!!??!) mistakenly called Hitler by the name Donald Trump, as well as when he offered Hitler a quid pro quo. And there’s something quite satisfying about seeing Margaret Thatcher pushed from a triceratops chariot at high speed. But a lot of the political humor doesn’t feel especially clever, and where it was surprisingly apt in the first film, it feels tired here.

My other complaint with this film is the surprise “twist” at the end that reveals Malcolm to be gay. And, for the record, not because I oppose LGBTQ representation in film, but because I object to the use of a character’s sexuality as a joke or plot twist. I quite liked the character of Malcolm and the revelation that he had never been interested in Obi romantically (there’s a bit of an implied love triangle that gets so old so fast), but I felt this was played for laughs in a way I wouldn’t expect in a film from 2019. For fuck’s sake, do better.

Would my blog wife share a swig from the Holy Grail with this one or chase after it on a roaring T-Rex? Find out in her review here!