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!

a woman with crossed arms leans against a bookcase in a shop
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Bookshop, or: Shelf-Employed

Hallelujah, it’s Feminist February! Not only is this month a celebration of ladies in film, but it’s also the birth month of the Blog Collab! This week, we vicariously fulfill our dreams of opening the quaintest fucking bookshop ever to exist.

The Film:

The Bookshop

The Premise:

A woman in 1950s England faces local opposition to her plans to open and operate her own smalltown bookshop.

The Ramble:

Recently widowed Florence Green is devastated by her husband’s death. However, as stiff upper lip is the English way, she tries to make the best of things by achieving her lifelong dream of opening a bookshop.

a woman reads alone in a field near the beach on a cloudy day

In order to do so, Florence must overcome a surprising amount of opposition from the members of her sleepy coastal town. Only one person in town seems to be much of a reader, so the bank finds little reason to believe her venture will be a solid investment. This leaves Florence to rub elbows at fancy rich people parties which, in true book nerd fashion, she is painfully terrible at carrying off.

Unwittingly, Florence’s bookshop plans have set up queen bee of the town Violet as her archnemesis. Violet has grand plans of her own for the historic building that happens to be Florence’s home: she envisions a grand arts center, despite the small town not having much art and culture to go around.

Even with the scheming of Violet and her toady Milo, Florence manages to convert her home into a cozy little bookshop. The shop is a true labor of love as Florence is the only employee until she hires an assistant, 11-year-old Christine. Though Christine gives zero fucks about reading, she’s nevertheless a dedicated and hardworking employee. The two bond over their determination to keep the bookshop alive and thriving.

a girl looks at postcards with interest while a woman observes with crossed arms

Meanwhile, Brundish, the only reader in town becomes more and more invested in Florence’s success. In addition to being the only game in town, Florence has the knack for tracking down the perfect book for Brundish. After introducing him to Ray Bradbury, she asks for his opinion on selling Lolita in her shop despite its questionable morality.

an older man talks to the camera from behind several piles of books

Deciding to go all-in for Lolita, Florence stocks 250 copies and scandalizes the entire town. Has she finally gone too far? It seems likely when Florence is forced to close the doors on the shop. Though Brundish stands up for her against Violet, in a tragic twist, Florence ends up losing her last remaining ally.

Is there any hope left for Florence and her little bookshop?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

As a feminist being into it when ladies are small business owners, I wanted to like this. As a book person, I reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally wanted to like this. Florence is basically living my dream life here with her small bookshop in a beautiful little coastal town. But honestly, most of this movie is boring AF and I couldn’t even get invested in the whole cute little bookshop fantasy. And this time it’s not the chemical inbalances in my brain because I have pills for that.

The characters are not super compelling either. Even Bill Nighy’s character is just kind of blah, and that makes it difficult to invest in any of the character relationships. The relationship between Florence and Christine is supposed to be the heart of the film, but it falls flat and fails to create the wistful ending it aims for.

Not to be too spoiler-y, but this film could also be called Christine: That Escalated Quickly.

The landscape and adorable little shops and cottages are lovely, though.

Would my blog wife invest in this one or scheme to shut it down? Read her review here to find out!

an extremely tall woman looks into the window of a house
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, or: Feminist(?) Rage

Catching up on classics is my favorite thing to do during Blog Free or Die Hard month, and this one has been leaving an approximately 50 foot hole in my heart.

The Film:

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

Where to Watch:

Hoopla

The Uncondensed Version:

It’s not a good time to be in 1950s California—for more reasons than one.  The primary reason being a comet rapidly speeding towards the area, which turns out be a…glowing alien orb?  With a giant alien ghost who has a fondness for diamonds.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  To understand the complex drama unfolding in this film, let’s back up just a little bit.

a large glowing white orb sits on the ground in front of a parked car at night
A practical and aesthetically pleasing UFO.

Nancy Archer is the first person in town to stumble across the crashed UFO, having just stormed angrily out of the bar where her husband, Harry, was sleazily flirting with his mistress.  Harry would leave his wife except that would mean sacrificing her inheritance and the cushy life he’s grown accustomed to.  As Nancy has a vague history of mental illness, including a sanatorium stay following violent headaches and…falling down(?), it wouldn’t take much for Harry to get her committed for good.

Conveniently, Nancy runs to the police to report her alien sighting, where she is pretty much dismissed as a raving drunk.  And cautioned against wearing diamonds because they might tempt thieves.  Fucking hell.  Is it any wonder she’s going to get super angry (spoiler)?

a woman holding a glass looks angry while standing in a living room
RAGE.

Nancy and Harry obviously have a really unhealthy relationship—if unclear before her return home, it is written out when Harry confronts her.  Harry threatens to leave her, which is what supposedly drove her crazy before.  In a really condescending scene, he tucks her in for bed and goes out drinking again.

However, Nancy’s rest is short-lived as the local news is giving a lot of attention to her alien sighting and making pretty fucking rude jokes about finally finding a man to love her.  Fuck off, men.  Determined to prove her sanity, she goes out to the desert and encounters the alien once again.  Her encounter with the alien leaves her in a coma due to radiation…(?) for some reason.  It also turns her into (spoiler spoiler spoiler) a 50 foot woman.

a woman wearing a white bikini knocks down a large structure
Everything else was in the wash…

Mandatory scientist with a pipe and incomprehensible German try to figure out what’s going on, reaching the conclusion that women who mature become irrational like middle-aged men.  JFC, dudes.  To cure her, they will need Harry’s permission to operate.  Urrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.

In spite of Harry’s best efforts, Nancy does finally wake up and all hell breaks loose.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is one of the early examples in horror where you are just waiting for a specific character to die…but honestly the payoff doesn’t feel worth it.  No one is supposed to come off squeaky clean in this one (at least none of our 3 leads), though my biggest problem with Nancy is that she didn’t crush more skulls.  I really wanted her rampage to be more satisfying and I would have been okay with more or potentially all men dying.  In painful ways, which makes me feel conflicted about the person I’ve become.

Frankly, for a movie entitled Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, the aforementioned 50 foot woman really has very little screen time, and her attack is quite mild.  Does not live up to the poster.  Next time I’d like her to destroy the foundations of our society or at least raze an entire town.

Did Christa embrace the rage here or…let’s be real, there is no other option.  Read her thoughts on this one here!

Film Reviews

Fido, a Romantic Zomedy

Hello blogging compadres!  I’ll be heading to merry old England for a couple of weeks and probably won’t post much while I’m away.  I realized my last couple of posts have been about movies I’ve hated, so I thought I’d leave you on a positive note (for once) with a movie I adore.  Part satire, part romantic comedy.  With zombies (of course).

The Film:

Fido

Where to Watch:

Netflix, Prime

The Premise:

A boy forms an unlikely friendship with the family’s new pet zombie, Fido, in an alternate 1950s.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Our film opens with a 1950s-style educational video about the Zombie Wars. The discovery that zombies could be controlled through remote-controlled collars made by Zomcon turned the Zombie Wars around. When zombies wear the collar, they become docile servants, and thus can be trained to perform basic household chores. Zomcon also provides burials complete with a head coffin, guaranteeing a burial you won’t wake up from.

A black and white film shows a scientist smiling next to a zombie with electrodes on his head
The educational video alone makes this movie worth watching.

Like all 1950s-set movies made after Grease (and, in my opinion, including Grease [shudder]), there is something dark and sinister lurking beneath the seemingly perfect suburban life. Timmy, our protagonist, and the other elementary school children receive training on loading and firing guns. He can’t help noticing Cindy, the daughter of Zomcon’s new security chief, is a total badass. Timmy, on the other hand, is pretty terrible at target practice, which earns him some teasing from the class bullies, two Zomcon cadets.

Though a zombie is a status symbol, Timmy’s father, Bill is strongly opposed to having a zombie after traumatic experiences in the Zombie Wars (it’s later revealed that he had to kill his father at the age of 11 when he turned into a zombie). However, in an effort to impress the new neighbors, Timmy’s mother, Helen acquires a zombie, the titular Fido (played by Billy Connolly!).

At first, Timmy treats Fido like a servant or pet with no feelings. Soon, however, Fido is Timmy’s only companion, as he has no friends at school and his parents have little time for him.

A boy in the park smiles up at a zombie wearing a collar
This has to be the most adorable zombie movie ever made.

One day, Timmy takes Fido to the park. Fido defends him when the bullies arrive and threaten to shoot him with a BB gun. Timmy and Fido play catch, which ends in tragedy when Fido’s collar malfunctions, leading him to kill and eat Mrs. Henderson, the elderly woman who lives across the street. Luckily, when Timmy finds him, his collar has switched back on.

That night, Mrs. Henderson rises and kills a man out walking his dog, beginning a minor zombie outbreak. Timmy returns to the park and manages to find and decapitate Mrs. Henderson with a shovel, burying her under a flowerbed.

Fido’s collar stops functioning again later that night, and Timmy is trying to calm him down when Mr. Theopolis appears and helps Timmy fix the collar. One of the more eccentric neighbors, Mr. Theopolis, used to work for Zomcon. His zombie, Tammy, is pretty much his girlfriend, though Zomcon discourages people from getting overly attached to their zombies. I think he gets turned on whenever she tries to eat him?

Later, Timmy goes on a long walk with Fido through a meadow when they encounter the bullies, who are armed. They tie Timmy and Fido to trees and break Fido’s collar. Their plan is to set Fido free and kill him before he reaches Timmy in an effort to paint themselves as heroes; however, one is shot accidentally, and Fido kills the other. Fido returns to Timmy and tries to set him free, but is too clumsy to unknot the ropes. Fido brings Helen to help.

When she notices his collar isn’t working and wonders why, he makes significant eye contact. I think this may be the first romantic zombie movie. Helen and Fido arrive, locking the zombie boys in a shed and setting it on fire (I promise this movie is much funnier than it sounds. If you have a very twisted sense of humor like me).

A boy tied to a tree and a woman smile at a zombie man
Nothing brings a family together like killing zombies and lighting their corpses on fire.

Meanwhile, Zomcon discovers the body of Mrs. Henderson in the park, and Cindy’s dad, Mr. Bottoms realizes Fido is responsible for the outbreak. Fido is taken away to be put down.

Bill tries to give Timmy some words of wisdom, but this backfires horribly because he is the typical 1950s male who doesn’t know how to talk about emotions. “I know when you’re a kid you feel things. A lot of…feelings. But you have to get over that.” TRUTH. At this point, Bill gives up and gives Timmy his first handgun.

Cindy, who has befriended Timmy, tells him that Fido is still alive in Zomcon headquarters. They enlist the help of Mr. Theopolis to break Fido out. Mr. Bottoms discovers what Timmy has done and locks him outside of the fence, in the wild zone. Meanwhile, Bill discovers Timmy’s plan and rushes to Zomcon to help him. After Mr. Bottoms shoots Bill, Fido attacks and kills Mr. Bottoms.

Bill, who had a mortal fear of becoming a zombie, gets a funeral complete with head coffin as he requested. Mr. Bottoms becomes a zombie and a much nicer human being.

A girl holds a leash that is connected to a middle-aged zombie man
And they all lived happily ever after. Or whatever it is zombies do.

The Critique:

The concept sounds terrible, but the satire and dark humor of this movie work really well.

It’s also interspersed with these 1950s-style commercials for horrific things like funerals with head coffins and the Zomcon version of Life Alert. “The elderly—they seem friendly enough, but can you really trust them? No.” That’s why you need Life Alert, which contacts Zomcon as soon as the heart stops.

The only thing that still puzzles me about this film is the logic behind Zomcon’s cover-ups. I suppose in a satirical film, government cover-ups can occur for no apparent reason, but it was still an unsatisfactory element of the movie. After the outbreak at Zomcon, the news reports that a random security guard was responsible. Why blame the security guard? To maintain the status quo and uphold the idea that Zomcon always has its shit together?

Maybe I’m overanalyzing. But that’s unlikely because I NEVER do that. EVER. It just felt like there was some kind of conspiracy theory in the script that was either cut or never fully developed.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther4/5 Pink Panther heads

I flipping love this movie. It’s like Lassie or maybe Pleasantville with zombies. What’s not to love?