Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

True Story, or: Like Mike

Biopic/based on a true story month continues, along with the unofficial theme of dirtbag men doing dirtbag things.  Bonus(?):  one of the stars of this film is a dirtbag both onscreen and IRL.

The Film:

True Story

The Premise:

Disgraced journalist Mike Finkel explores an unusual murder case involving a man who claims to be Mike Finkel.

The Ramble:

Mike Finkel, renowned New York Times journalist, is eager to see his latest piece published.  The story highlights the abuse of modern-day slaves in regions of Africa.  When Mike merges the stories of 5 different young men into a fictional amalgamation, it turns out his eagerness is misplaced.  Caught out for his fabrications, Finkel is fired and unlikely to find work as a journalist ever again.

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Returning in defeat to Montana and his archivist(!) wife Jill, Mike seemingly resigns himself to a quiet life in the remote but beautiful mountains.  There, he learns of a rather bizarre story he’s unknowingly connected to.

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A man named Christian Longo has been arrested in Mexico for the murder of his wife and young children by drowning.  The twist?  He has been claiming to be Mike Finkel of the New York Times.

Intrigued, Mike begins corresponding with Christian, ultimately traveling to Oregon to meet the identity thief.  Christian has long admired Mike’s work and feels he knows the journalist through his writing.  Though he protests his innocence, Christian is seriously contemplating a guilty plea as he believes no one cares enough to uncover the real truth.  Challenge accepted.  Mike decides to investigate Christian’s case for himself and cover the story as his big comeback.

As he works on the story, Mike becomes increasingly convinced that Christian is innocent and the two develop an understanding.  Christian refuses to tell the full truth as he claims to be protecting someone.  However, Christian is also weird AF and makes super creepy phone calls to Jill.

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When the trial begins, Christian reveals financial troubles that caused problems in his marriage, and ultimately pleads guilty to 2 of the 4 murder charges.  What does the guilty plea mean?

The Rating:

2.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

To recap:  slightly scummy dude wants to believe much scummier dude is telling the truth despite statistics and evidence suggesting the contrary.

This story doesn’t come across as particularly remarkable even with the unique relationship between its subjects.  I will give credit to this for avoiding a sensational retelling, but everything comes across like a TV movie with the pretty ordinary plot and lack of interesting roles here.  For fuck’s sake, give Felicity Jones something to do!

I don’t get how the Mike Finkel in this story is a journalist; all he does here is make up stories and naively believe a murderer who enjoys his writing.  Like I get that the criminal justice system is fucked and frequently wrong, but a horrifyingly high number of women are murdered by their partners.  All you have to do is look up the stats, dude.

However, the main problem for me is the lack of depth to Mike and Christian’s relationship.  The film attempts to convey a connection between the two, but it doesn’t seem to be especially interesting.  Though the two aren’t really friends, the film does intentionally tell us they are still in touch yet doesn’t do enough to convey why.  And after the creepy phone calls to Jill, Mike just looks more like a scumbag for maintaining their weird relationship.

Maybe the book is better?

Would my blog wife write the book on this one or sentence it to life without parole?  Find out here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Polka King, or: Dirtbag Men of the ’90s

Biopic month continues, now featuring the subtheme of dirtbag men!  This week’s dirtbag is also a legend of the music scene–specifically, the polka scene.

The Film:

The Polka King

The Premise:

The true story of Jan Lewan, the self-proclaimed polka king of Pennsylvania who, among other things, ran a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.

The Ramble:

As we begin, Jan Lewan, seems to be a fairly successful manager and lead singer of a small polka band.  In addition to the polka band, Jan sells Polish merchandise, owns a pizza place, and sells his own brand of vodka.  Nonetheless, Jan is barely making ends meet, a fact his mother-in-law, Barb, never lets him forget.

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Ambitious and determined to live out his own American dream, Jan wants to build a life where he can live comfortably with his wife Marla and son David.  Yet the polka band Jan has worked so hard to put together is in danger of falling apart as bff Micky Pizzazz, earning almost nothing from the venture, threatens to quit.

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When elderly fans of the band want to invest in Jan’s business ventures, he eagerly jumps on the opportunity, despite not being an investor or having a registered investment company.  Though Jan promises an outrageous return on investment, he’s not worried–the cash infusion has solved his short-term problems and kept the band together.

It doesn’t take long for the FBI to discover Jan’s amateurish scheme and warn him to return the money.  Jan agrees to this, but his fans still insist on investing large sums with his business.  What’s a guy to do…surely it would be rude to turn them down?

As Jan rakes in more and more cash, he also spends wildly.  Organizing a European trip, Jan promises an audience with the pope to all on the tour.  Somehow he manages to pull this off, though Micky is extremely agitated with Jan’s freewheeling style.

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Five years pass, and Jan’s polka band has earned him a Grammy nomination.  Meanwhile, Marla, tired of living in Jan’s shadow, decides to recapture her beauty pageant days by competing for the title of Mrs. Pennsylvania.  Against the odds, Marla wins…though begins to receive some strange calls about the nature of her victory.  Could Jan perhaps have something to do with this?

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As investors hear about the scandal surrounding the pageant, they begin pulling their money from Jan’s company.  However, he insists they’ll get an even better return if they wait just a little while longer.

Suddenly, while on tour with the polka band, the van crashes and David ends up on life support.

Jan worries this is a sign God is punishing him, and prays for the punishment to fall on his shoulders instead of his son’s.  What will happen when Jan’s schemes finally catch up with him?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Eh, this is a reasonably interesting story, but I’m not sure it merits its own movie.  The story with the pope is apparently true, which is quite remarkable.  But the pacing of this movie is odd, and a traumatic event like David’s near-death experience is just sort of an aside.  Interestingly, the same thing happened with Vince’s daughter in The Dirt.  Coincidence?

Jan comes across as charming and charismatic, and it’s easy to see why people would foolishly trust him with their money.  However, his portrayal in this film implies he just naively believes this sort of opportunism is part of being an American and lacks the empathy and foresight to see the impact on his victims.  I have trouble believing there was no malice or that a lack of awareness makes his schemes any less awful.  Many people do manage to forgive him, but that strikes me as the mark of a successful con man.

There’s some fun here, and the performances are great, but it isn’t enough to make this film or story stand out.  Breaking news:  the men of polka can also be dirtbag con artists.  What a shocker.

Would my blog wife join in the polka action or send it to jail for its shady business practices?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Dirt(bag Men of ’80s Rock)

We often escape from reality on the Blog Collab with terrible horror, bad sci-fi, and cheesy rom-coms. Not so this month, which brings us biopics and true stories grounded wholly in reality. Well…as real as the life of a rock star can be.

The Film:

The Dirt

The Premise:

The rise and fall (and rise?) of Mötley Crüe is recounted as the rock band contends with drug use, banging each other’s girlfriends, and the most rock ‘n roll problem of all: artistic differences.

The Ramble:

Our narrator sets the tone accurately here by claiming the ’80s are the worst decade of all time: stirring up shallow outrage, using glib humor rather irritatingly, and managing to come off with a smug superiority. Oh, you wanted a glowing review reaffirming that rock lives forever? Sorry to break it to you, but nostalgia’s dead.

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Lucky for us, we’re going to get insightful narration from all 4 major members of the band. Nikki Sixx (aka Lord Byron from the biopic Mary Shelley–this actor definitely has a type), founder of the band, grows up constantly fighting with a mother who blames him for driving his father away. At a fairly young age, Nikki decides he’s had enough of this situation and slices his arm open in rage, making accusations against his mother to guarantee he’ll be taken into foster care.

Tommy Lee, in contrast, has supportive parents who just sort of shrug when he raids his sister’s wardrobe. A mega fan of rock music, Tommy meets Nikki after a show that erupts in a massive fight. With his trusty drumsticks at the ready, Tommy convinces Nikki to make him the drummer in a new band just getting started.

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Enter Mick Mars, advertising himself in the papers as a rude, aggressive guitarist. A few years older than his band mates and suffering from a degenerative bone disorder, Mick takes no shit from the kiddos in the band.

As the band is still missing a lead singer, Tommy suggests his old high school buddy Vince Neil. Nikki and Mick aren’t particularly thrilled with his vibe, but since our dude is charismatic AF, they decide to give him a chance.

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After throwing around a few truly terrible band names, the group quickly decides on the name Mötley Crüe. In the spirit of rock ‘n roll, a massive fight between the band and audience erupts at their first gig. However, their unrestrained music and attitude gains them a loyal following, and it’s not long before they are signed with a record label and have their own manager.

Their career gets an additional boost when the band goes on tour with Ozzy, who I learned was once blonde and did things like lick his own piss off the ground (the blonde thing surprised me more, TBH).

Am I forgetting something? Oh, right–the massive amount of partying, drugs, and sleeping around that happens throughout. Everyone seems to be sleeping with everyone else’s girlfriend, but the band is typically too fucked up to give a shit.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, the band’s carefree days are numbered. When Vince causes an accident while driving under the influence, passenger and fellow rocker Razzle dies, while the passengers of the other car are seriously injured. After serving just 19 days in prison(!????!?!?!?), Vince is released on the condition he stay sober. When everyone around you is shooting up heroin and chugging hard liquor, this is a rather challenging task.

Meanwhile, Tommy is marrying actress Heather Locklear. Nikki, serving as best man, arrives at the wedding high out of his mind. He later overdoses and is reported dead. After immediately shooting up a bunch of heroin (again), Nikki realizes he needs to get sober. However, sober Nikki = perfectionist asshole Nikki, and a falling out means Vince is leaving the band.

Soon after, Vince is hit with the devastating news that his young daughter has cancer. The band is dropped by the label, seeming to end the Crüe’s run. Can anything get the band back together?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Points earned for over-the-top ’80s rock fashions; points detracted for toxic masculinity.

As a viewer, I was frequently confused about the purpose of this film. It seems to approach the culture of ’80s rock excess somewhat wryly, yet there are so many goddamn scenes of sex, drug abuse, and fights that it also buys into the lifestyle. There are only so many times you can flash tits onscreen and claim it’s part of the ambiance. And there’s a scene where Vince basically uses The Secret to get a blowjob, which just makes him look like an absolute douche.

I have admittedly never coveted the rock star lifestyle, but I would hope with a music biopic I would learn something about the band that’s interesting or informs my understanding of the music. Wow–Mötley Crüe really leaned into their rock star image Color me surprised. While I did find the story of Vince’s daughter upsetting, overall this film feels like a very surface-level examination of the band rather than offering much to reflect on.

There’s also so much unnecessary narration and breaking of the 4th wall that the film frequently feels like an unholy union of Scrubs and The Office. We get it: talking directly to the camera means you’re aware of the absurdity of your own experiences. So impressive.

All of this being said, our 4 leads are great. Their distinct personalities come across even when the characters all have the same haircut. And the charisma, the sense of fun, and the dedication to rock are very much there in the approach to the roles. I just have very little patience for watching so many men run around as giant man babies for most (if not all) of their lives.

Would my blog wife tie the knot without a prenup or fire this one before it can quit? Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Party Girl, or: Librarianing Too Hard

Ah, librarianship.  My glamorous profession, full of neatly ordered shelves of books, incredibly vague reference questions, and…parties with stripper cops?  Obviously it’s free for all month on the blog, and obviously we’re rounding out the month with a modern library classic.

The Film:

Party Girl

The Premise:

’90s New York party girl Mary’s eyes are opened up to the exciting world of librarianship after a run-in with the law.

The Ramble:

After being arrested on multiple counts related to the club she’s running out of her New York apartment, Mary relies on her godmother, Judy, to bail her out.  Judy, who witnessed the shenanigans of both mother and daughter, is taking no nonsense.  To earn some cash (and pay Judy back for bail), Mary begins working with her godmother, a librarian.

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Though Mary hates the job and is scorned by her coworkers, she is stubbornly determined to prove to Judy that she can follow through.  In the evenings, Mary is still keeping up her party girl reputation and is working to get her DJ roommate Leo connected with a promoter.  Meanwhile, her ex Nigel (Liev Schreiber???) is trying to win her back, and gay bff Derrick is determined to track down his one night stand dreamboat, Karl.

As Judy tries to bond with Mary by inviting her to dinner, Mary is more concerned about meeting up with falafel cart owner and aspiring teacher Mustafa.  However, after a fight with her godmother, Mary forgets all about her date, opting instead to get shit-faced and conquer the Dewey Decimal System once and for all.

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After a few days and some extensive research help, Mustafa forgives Mary for standing him up.  When things heat up in the stacks, Mary forgets to lock up the library properly, and some out-of-print books are destroyed by rain.  Judy, also ticked off about the sex in the library thing and tangentially going on a rant about literacy, decides this is the last straw and fires Mary.  Add to this an eviction notice, and Mary has hit a decidedly low point.

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Deciding to do what she knows best, Mary throws a massive party (which has a rather cringey Middle Eastern theme).  This seems to be a sign that Mary should embrace her reputation as a party girl and become a promoter, but she’s still haunted by visions of Melvil Dewey.

Is it possible for this party girl to become a librarian and keep dancing ’til the dawn?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’m torn between a 3.5 and a 4 rating–because this film appreciates librarianship and all of the different paths people take to the profession, I’m rounding up.  Mary is anything but the stereotypical librarian, and this is a strength; she applies the Dewey Decimal System to Leo’s records and takes a creative approach to answering reference questions.  Also Judy’s rant about the undervaluing of the library field and Dewey’s misogyny is so on-brand for librarians.

Beyond librarianship, we must absolutely acknowledge the incredible style of Parker Posey’s character here.  While her fashion sense takes a lot of cues from the ’90s, her bold style is in its own category.  I’m really obsessed with a green skirt suit that makes a couple of appearances.

There are some ways this film hasn’t aged well:  Mary has some weird fetish-y Middle Eastern fantasies, and she throws the f word around a couple of times–the one that is a horrible slur.  But honestly, while this is very much a slice of life of ’90s New York, it has a freshness that makes it feel quite recent.  Mary is a more complex character than we’re initially led to believe, inhabiting identities in disparate places in a way that few female characters in film can even 20+ years later.  And this film was so ahead of the game when it comes to falafel and chickpea-based foods in general.  I approve.

Would my gorgeous blog wife party with this one or find a falafel truck elsewhere?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Isn’t It Romantic, or: Gratuitous Karaoke Moment

Last week’s film, which also has a title in the form of a question, was a romantic movie that failed to stir any love in our hearts. This week, our film promises to follow romantic conventions too, even as it picks them apart. Will that be enough to win over our cynical leading ladies (bloggers)? Two guesses.

The Film:

Isn’t It Romantic

The Premise:

Ambitious career lady Natalie avoids romantic entanglements until she’s trapped in a romantic comedy and must find love to escape.

The Ramble:

While growing up with an extremely jaded mother who was quick to shoot down her dreams of finding love, it didn’t take long for Natalie to become wholly disillusioned with the entire concept.

A successful, career-driven architect, Natalie has talent but lacks confidence. Everyone at the office takes advantage of her, easily persuading her to do their jobs and minor errands. Luckily, Natalie has two supporters at work: her assistant and bff Whitney (a hopeless romantic who spends most of her days watching rom-coms) and work buddy Josh (who believes in Natalie and very obviously likes her as more than a friend).

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Things take a dramatic turn when, attempting to recover her purse from a mugger, Natalie is knocked unconscious. When she wakes up in a beautiful hospital with gorgeous doctors who find her confusion charming, it doesn’t take long for her to realize she’s somehow been transported to a romantic comedy. Even worse, this is a PG-13 rom-com: no sex, no swearing, and definitely no nudity.

When trying to escape her personal nightmare, Natalie is hit by billionaire Blake’s stretch limo. Whereas Blake is an obnoxious client who sends Natalie on errands to bring him coffee in reality, in this version of the world, Blake is well-mannered and clearly interested in Natalie. Realizing she may have to play by rom-com rules to escape, Natalie believes she’ll need Blake to fall in love with her and agrees to a date filled with all of the rom-com tropes.

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With the help of her gay best friend Donny, who manages to appear when most convenient, Natalie will definitely have the support and over-investment in her love life we’d expect from a rom-com.

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Meanwhile, at work, Natalie finds Whitney has become her archnemesis, who is determined to sabotage her before the big presentation, whatever that may be. Fortunately, Josh is still around to help Natalie navigate her strange new world. This won’t last long as, when Josh saves model Isabella from choking, he is wrapped up in a whirlwind romance. After only a few days as a couple, Isabella and Josh host a fancy party at a beach house in the Hamptons–a party that is, in fact, a surprise wedding!

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What happens when it turns out Blake isn’t such a nice guy after all and Natalie becomes determined to stop the wedding? Might karaoke play a rather important role in all of this?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Not going to lie, this film earned a lot of points with me for its soundtrack, and even with its clichés, I love the Whitney Houston karaoke number. At the same time, the (gratuitous) karaoke scene also brought to mind Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s recent rom-com parody episode. CEG overall has an awareness that this film does not, undermining stereotypes successfully in a way that IIR doesn’t, exploring the emotional depth of its characters, and creating moments that offer genuine surprise and nuance.

IIR tries half-heartedly to do this with its opening scene in which Natalie’s resistance to romance is explained by her relationship with her horrible mother, who tells her love is a fairy tale that she doesn’t deserve (implicitly because she’s fat). There are a lot of problems here, but the one that leaps out to me is the implication from this scene that you have to be psychologically damaged to reject the possibility of (extremely heteronormative) romance in your life.

Let’s go back to the lack of self-awareness of this film. It makes me cringe that Natalie comments on the whiteness of rom-coms, yet our only character of color is Priyanka Chopra’s Isabella (who identifies as a yoga ambassador, which would require its own post to unpack). Adding one person of color to your film, workplace, etc. is NOT diversity.

Natalie is wryly funny at times, but it’s aggravating how many times she falls in ways that rely on the hilarious(?) optics of a fat body thudding to the ground. Don’t get me started on her “friendzoning” (barf barf barf) her bff Adam DeVine, whose face has always seemed very punchable to me. He’s just so mediocre that his success makes me angry.

There are also a lot of issues with the film’s attempts to take apart the gay best friend stereotype. While Donny is played by a gay actor (I Googled it), it feels more as if the audience is laughing at him than with him. There are some funny observations about this rom-com staple, like the fact that Donny is unemployed yet somehow financially secure, and dedicates all of his time to improving our heroine’s love life. This film is good at exaggerating, but it doesn’t do particularly well at anything else.

That being said, I did get some genuine laughs from this. Rebel Wilson is quite charming here, though I wish she were a bit more sharply funny and subversive too.

Would my blog wife join in a karaoke duet with this one or leave it to wither away in fantasy rom-com land? Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Yes or No, or: Honestly, Just Make a Decision

Pick a film about young love, they said.  It will be a refreshing romp with no cringey stereotypes about Mexican-Americans, they said (looking at you, Peppermint).  This is how we ended up with a film with significantly fewer racist vibes, but with way more indecision, teen angst, and heavy-handed gender norms.  Don’t get me wrong–there are some sweet moments in this week’s film, but I also would’ve welcomed just a touch of Jennifer Garner’s take-no-prisoners decisiveness for our leads here.

The Film:

Yes or No

The Premise:

A college student who is initially horrible to her tomboyish roommate is conflicted when she begins to develop romantic feelings for her.

The Ramble:

Pie is a college student who wears a lot of cute skirts, is close with her mom, and cares for a pet fish (named “Really” for some inexplicable reason).  Though she has a fun group of friends she rolls with, Pie can’t keep a roommate–she’s constantly annoyed by lights, sounds, and the lifestyles of her roomies.

When Pie meets her new roommate Kim, their relationship seems doomed to go from bad to worse.  Kim is a tomboy, and is very masculine in dress and appearance.  A true Millennial, Kim doesn’t like to label herself and has varied interests:  she cooks, plays ukulele, and grows plants in the dorm.

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Though Kim is a laid-back and considerate roommate, Pie is uncomfortable with her appearance and non-traditional gender norms in general.  Pie is super rude, making obnoxious comments about Kim looking like a boy and even drawing a dividing line in their shared room to keep their spaces separate.  But is Pie’s strong reaction to Kim’s style really about an extremely repressed attraction to her roomie?  Spoiler:  YES.

In return, Kim is basically the sweetest human being to live and too pure for this world.  Kim constantly brings Pie desserts from her aunt’s restaurant, shares the food she makes in the dorm, and even tidies up Pie’s side of the room.  When Kim sees Pie’s friend Jane crying in class after being dumped, she offers her a handkerchief.  This causes an aggravating love triangle that continues throughout the film, but is still a nice gesture.

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Kim and Pie’s relationship finally reaches a turning point when Pie’s side of the dorm floods in a storm.  To make matters worse, the power goes out–and Kim is incredibly afraid of the dark.  While Kim bunks down on the floor and lets Pie sleep in her bed, Pie lights so many candles that it’s a fire hazard and distracts Kim from the dark.

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Just as Pie and Kim are getting close, Pie’s boyfriend Van shows up out of the blue.  Or, rather, a boy Pie insists isn’t her boyfriend but effectively is.  Pie repeatedly dodges plans to go out with Van in favor of Kim, but before you feel too bad for him…he later manages to lose all sympathy when he says some nasty things to Kim about the natural order.

Meanwhile, Jane is increasingly attracted to Kim–a feeling which is very much unreciprocated.  It’s so awkward to watch, and there are times when I wanted to scream at Kim to just tell the poor girl she’s just not into her.  At all.

After an incredibly uncomfortable double date with Pie/Van and Kim/Jane, our two leading ladies get into a major fight.  You’d better believe there’s a really sweet make-up scene and FINALLY some action.

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Though Pie is ready to call Kim her girlfriend in secret, she’s not ready to make their relationship public.  When Pie’s mother comes to visit, she’s keen to hide her romantic feelings for Kim and doesn’t respond at all when her mother goes off about women who dress like men.  Hurt, Kim abruptly leaves, returning to her family’s farm.  Will Pie embrace her love for Kim or is it too late for this romance to blossom?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

OH MY GAWD, the angst.  The ANGST in this film.  It gets so tiresome watching Pie act like an asshole, be conflicted about her feelings, hurt Kim, and then make up with her.  I tried so hard to be sympathetic to Pie as she was experiencing feelings for the first time that her horrible mother told her were unnatural.  And I acknowledge that I am a shallow, food-motivated human, but Kim did nothing but give her cake–doesn’t that deserve at least a basic level of courtesy?

Also, poor Jane!  It hurts to see her throw herself at Kim all the damn time and, while obviously Kim doesn’t owe her affection, it would have saved a lot of pain if she’d just been upfront that she isn’t attracted to Jane.  There’s even a joke(?) about Jane’s suicide in this film, which is in extremely poor taste IMHO.

However, Kim as a character is everything (minus the whole Jane situation).  She’s so sweet and has not a malicious bone in her body even though people are pretty shitty to her throughout.  While she admits she’s attracted to Pie eventually, she doesn’t expect her to reciprocate.  She continues to do nice things for Pie because they’re friends and she’s, IDK, a nice human being.  Taking notes, bros of the world?

And I will admit the chemistry between our two leads is so good, and the sexual tension is intense.  This film seems to take a lot of cues from a K drama, drawing out the romance in those subtle touches and significant stares.  Effective this may be, but at a certain point I just wanted our leads to hook up already.

Would my blog wife bring this one slices of cake or move on with a firm no?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Peppermint, or: So Vanilla

I love any month when we do what we want on the blog–which to be honest, is every month.  This time around, doubly so.  It’s free for all month, so be prepared for a series of film selections connected only by our unpredictable impulses.  First up is a film that makes me glad my impulses typically involve watching bad movies and eating cheese rather than going on murderous rampages.

The Film:

Peppermint

The Premise:

After witnessing the murder of her family, a woman seeks vengeance against the drug cartel responsible.

The Ramble:

Present day:  a badass Riley North fights with and ultimately kills a gang member in his own car, leaving him for police to find.  She asks before he dies if he remembers her…

Flashback to Riley’s happy home life 5 years before.  Riley is a busy mom working full-time and trying to dodge her passive-aggressive neighbor.  After no one comes to her daughter Carly’s birthday party, the family goes out for pizza and fun at the local carnival.  Seem like a fun night out, eh?

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What Riley doesn’t know is her husband Chris has been exploring alternative sources of income, including serving as a getaway driver for the robbery of Mexican drug lord García.  Having discovered that Chris is considering messing with García, a hit is put out on him…a hit that is carried out at the carnival.  In a matter of moments, Riley has lost her family and suffered a serious gunshot wound to the head.

Upon waking from a coma, Riley is able to identify the perpetrators of this crime, but Diego “Guillotina” García’s influence prevents any consequences for his crew.  Having bought the judge, district attorney, and some of the police force, García ensures the killers go free.  Riley, understandably distraught, loses it in the courthouse and is remanded to psychiatric care.  After managing to escape custody, Riley disappears…for 5 years anyway.

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5 YEARS LATER…

Mysteriously, those involved with the murder of Riley’s family and the sham trial have all shown up dead.  It would appear Riley has used the past few years productively, accumulating identities and becoming skilled in hand-to-hand combat, weaponry, and explosives.

As García’s cartel puts a price on Riley’s head, the police attempt to find her and bring her into custody.  Riley seems to be taking out the gang one by one, first taking out a PIÑATA STORE that serves as a front for the operation.  SERIOUSLY.

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Next stop:  giant secret warehouse full of drugs.  Will Riley have the chance to complete her vengeance or will the cops get there first?

The Rating:

1/5 Pink Panther Heads

I don’t know what to say except I hated this.  Jennifer Garner is pretty badass taken at face value, but it’s problematic AF that 95% of the people she’s killing are Mexican-American.  She even hangs the corpses of the 3 gang members responsible for her family’s deaths from a Ferris wheel, as if no one who made this film had any clue about the racist tradition of displaying the bodies of victimized black and brown people?!?!?!  This film just feels like one giant hate crime.

In addition to all of the racist stereotypes this film employs, it’s also just a badly set up revenge film.  I watched Riley see her entire family murdered and felt no pity for her.  There’s also a weird impersonality to the murders, so it’s difficult to get any sense of satisfaction as Riley seeks vengeance–it’s definitely horrific that Chris and Carly died so senselessly.  Yet drug cartels senselessly kill many other, ahem, non-white people all the time.  It’s not a great look that Riley’s entire family is murdered and she still doesn’t care a whole lot about other victims of gang violence.

Add to this that the entire dialogue of this film is a bunch of police drama clichés put together, and it’s downright painful.  This is a film that’s much more vanilla than peppermint.

Would my blog wife take this one around the Ferris wheel or rain down bloody vengeance upon it?  Find out here!