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

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

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

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

The Film:

Emo the Musical

The Premise:

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

The Ramble:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rating:

2.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

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

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

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

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

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

a teenage girl raises pom poms in the air while surrounded by her cheer squad in a parking lot
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Don’t Talk to Irene, or: Failure in Drag

As much as I miss Horror Month on the blog, I love months when anything goes.  This explains how we shift gears completely from last week’s dark exploration of human nature to this week’s film about befriending maggots, cheerleading, and Geena Davis.

The Film:

Don’t Talk to Irene

The Premise:

In spite of her mother’s disapproval and bullying from her peers, teenager Irene dreams of being a cheerleader and gains an unexpected squad in the form of a group of retirement home residents.

The Ramble:

The ‘burbs of Toronto:  so close to the city yet so far.  Irene is a relentlessly positive teen living in the ‘burbs, determined to join the cheerleading squad.  So what if she wears plus size clothing, adopts maggots as pets, and holds conversations with the poster of Geena Davis above her bed?

a young woman standing in her room smiles, wearing a handsewn cheerleading costume

According to Irene’s mother, there’s a lot wrong with this picture.  Mom (who I don’t think is ever named?), a cheerleader until becoming a teen mom in high school, worries that Irene will be bullied or scorned by her peers.  Too late to worry on that front as Irene is well aware she’s considered a loser but seems to give zero fucks.

On the first day of school, Irene creates a DIY cheerleader outfit to try out for the team.  This doesn’t go unnoticed by new student Tesh, a fabulous dresser and the self-described Switzerland of gender.  They are completely on board with Irene challenging the status quo.

a young woman and a genderfluid person with a floppy hat stand in a record store

One person decidedly not on board with this is Sarah, a classmate who decides to humiliate Irene for the hell of it.  Convincing Irene and a few other naive girls that they must lick the shower of the boys’ locker room to make the squad, Sarah films the gross prank and posts it on social media.  Obviously when this goes public, the school principal is not amused and suspends Irene, Sarah, and her boyfriend.  During their time away from school, they will complete mandatory community service at the local retirement home.

Determined to make the best of things, Irene befriends several of the residents:  the sweet but forgetful Millie, curmudgeonly Charles, and suggestive Ruth.  When Irene hears about a reality show contest, she schemes to put together a cheer routine with a squad of her own making:  the residents and staff of the retirement home.  Initially Irene’s pet project, the residents quickly buy into the plan and look forward to learning their new moves.  And of course Sarah is there at every turn to sabotage Irene.

a teenage girl instructs a group of four dancers

As Irene faces setbacks, Geena Davis and her new friends teach her to be resilient.  Charles shows Irene how to respond to bullies and to throw a perfect punch.  Tesh, in on the plan too, utters perhaps my favorite line in cinema: “Success is just failure in drag.”

Closer to being part of the contest than ever, Sarah pulls out all the stops to prevent Irene from accomplishing her goals.  With the retirement home manager, Irene’s mother, and a flat tire to contend with, the squad has a lot to overcome.  Does this mark the end of Irene’s dream to defy the odds and become a cheerleader?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Let’s just say there are no shocking twists to this story–it’s a genuine, feel-good film that is precisely what I needed.  Irene is such a sweet character who doesn’t even seem to notice when others try to put her down.  I would really like to borrow some of Irene’s optimism and absolute indifference to horrible douchebags.

Some criticism:  Irene’s mom is a bit disappointing, and her inevitable change of heart feels a bit too little too late.  Though she claims everything she does is to protect Irene, she constantly fat shames her daughter and discourages her for most of the film.  Sarah’s antics get irritating as well; she’s often frustratingly one-dimensional.  I do admit I wish Irene had taken things a step further with some of her choices, but the entire point of her character is about staying positive and not holding onto insecurities.

However, so many of the other characters are so sweet I’d put them in my coffee (if coffee weren’t vile). For once all of the ’80s and ’90s nostalgia here seems authentic instead of hipster ironic.  I love that Geena Davis was part of this film.  And Milli Vanilli helps teach us a valuable lesson about being true to yourself.  What’s not to like?

Did my blog wife cheer this one on or consider it success in drag?  Find out by reading her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Girl Asleep, or: Donuts > Growing Up

This week’s film gives our feelings a break for once as we are transported to an oddly surreal dream world that may or may not be real, aka high school in 1970s Australia.

The Film:

Girl Asleep

The Premise:

A girl’s 15th birthday party goes from awkwardly cringey to bizarrely surreal when a magical music box opens to another realm.

The Ramble:

Greta has recently started at a new school and, rather than trying to make friends, seems to be trying her best to keep a low profile.  Her plan fails when she is approached by two separate groups:  first, Elliot (who is adorable and relatably enthusiastic about donuts), and then the stereotypical “cool” girls.  Both groups want to fold her into their embrace, but Greta seems afraid to speak up about who she’d rather be friends with (though I’d usually encourage girls to stick together…always pick the friendship that begins with donuts).

Life at home seems fairly harmonious at first, but almost immediately the cracks begin to show.  Greta’s father is constantly making terrible dad jokes and trying to stop his youngest child from growing up.  Her mother throws her attention on her daughters as she doesn’t seem to like her husband’s sense of humor–or anything about him as a matter of fact.  Greta’s older sister Genevieve throws the delicate balance off completely by coming home late with a really smooth boyfriend who smokes and tries to give off a bit of a James Dean vibe.

a man in a 1970s collared shirt with a moustache and large glasses stands in the doorway of a house
Have I mentioned that I love the ’70s aesthetic in this film?

After school, Greta invites Elliott over and shows him her favorite thing, a music box passed on to her from her mother.  She likes to imagine it’s from a secret realm.  Hmmmmmmm…I wonder if perhaps this plot detail will be important in about 20 minutes.

Greta lives in fear of being the center of attention, so imagine her horror when her mother suggests throwing a big party for her birthday and inviting everyone at school.  The party causes a major fight between her parents, so Greta eventually agrees to have the party to keep the peace.

When the dreaded day of the party arrives, her mother gives her a dress that is very cute but so not her style, and she’s deeply uncomfortable when others tell her she looks so beautiful and grown up.

a teenage girl in a pink dress looks worriedly off camera
I deeply understand this pre-party face.

As the party guests arrive, things begin to get slightly surreal with a pretty nice disco sequence.  The party doesn’t seem to be the nightmare Greta imagined it would be.  However, the cool girls arrive—two of whom are creepy twins who never say anything.  Their gift for Greta is a cassette tape that plays a really mean song about her…which feels like a somewhat sociopathic move, honestly.

Humiliated, Greta retreats to her room.  Her only real friend, Elliott, comforts her and also says he’d like to be more than friends.  This is remarkably bad timing, which causes Greta to freak out and push him away, calling him a homo (not cool, Greta).  Elliot is deeply offended that she considers this an insult in a way that I really appreciate.

To comfort herself, Greta opens up the music box, which seems to gain a life of its own and shocks her.  When she wakes up, there’s a thing from the other realm there that has claimed the music box.  It runs away into the woods (of course), and Greta gives chase.

creatures peer out from behind trees in a dark forest
Come play with us…

Possibly not shockingly, things get really surreal from here on out.  A woman who lives in the forest helps Greta navigate the woods and steer clear of the scary dog thing that’s pursuing her.  It gets suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper Freudian when she encounters alternate versions of her mother and father, who are an ice queen and a sort of swamp guy, respectively.  There’s also a really unsettling bit with Genevieve’s boyfriend, who has some sort of French alter-ego and comes on strong to Greta.

What does this all mean, and will Greta ever make it back to the party? Does she even want to make it back?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a very gentle coming of age story.  Though it does tackle some heavier themes surrounding Greta’s home life and fear of attention, these receive only brief attention.  I might complain about this if I were in a different mood, but avoiding anything too deep was a breath of fresh air with some very sweet moments and surreal scenes (admittedly with somewhat mixed results).

Elliott is one of my favorite teen characters ever now, though he is perhaps way too nice to be believed.  I don’t care—I want to believe.  I want Elliott to be my best friend.

behind a parked car, a boy models a party dress for a girl in a gray suit
Case in point.

The lack of depth is a bit frustrating at times—Greta quickly changes the subject when anyone tries to talk too much about the past, and the surreal scenes don’t really give us any insight into her psyche.  At a certain point they do cross over into artsy film school BS.

It doesn’t help that the real and dream worlds are kept separate—it would have been nice to see them woven together better.  Genevieve briefly alludes to what happened on her own 15th birthday, and as the music box is a gift from her mother, the whole experience could have been a shared experience.  I would’ve LOVED it if there were more time for female relationships in this movie.

However, I enjoyed the aesthetic and this was just whimsical and sweet enough for me to enjoy.

Would Christa share a donut with this one or leave it to get lost in the woods?  Find out by reading her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Drive Me Crazy, or: Teen Spirits

This week’s film is brought to you by bad decisions to revisit, ahem, “classics,” and by the sudden realization that you had terrible taste as a child/teen/human being.

I just wanted to remember Melissa Joan Hart before the “attack on Christianity” propaganda films.  Is that wrong?

The Film:

Drive Me Crazy

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Melissa Joan Hart is a high school overachiever who grooms her vaguely grungy neighbor into her prom date rather than face the horror of attending prom solo.

The Uncondensed Version:

This is a teen rom-com, so obv it’s a given that 2 high school kids from different cliques couldn’t seriously go to prom together…could they???  I think you already know the answer to this question.

MJH is an overachiever, and I can’t remember her character’s name at all because she will never not be Melissa Joan Hart/Sabrina to me.  She’s very into the school’s upcoming centennial, ‘90s fashion, and star basketball player Brad.

A teenage girl in a crop top stands talking to a girl in a collared shirt, with video cameras behind them in a news studio
What?  It was the official uniform for the school’s news channel.

Though MJH and her neighbor, aka that dude from Entourage, used to be childhood friends, they haven’t spoken since middle school.  Entourage dude, who I remember is named Chase (mostly because that is the most ‘90s name) is something of a rebel/slacker/prankster without entirely committing to the grunge scene.  I’m not really sure what clique this would be considered, but the film wants us to take away from this that he doesn’t care about school spirit or “normal” high school teen stuff.

One of his schemes involves putting orange dye in the water sprinklers while everyone is at lunch on the lawn, apparently b/c of his contempt for mochaccinos and the music of Celine Dion.  Which I mean, yeah, I’m not into either of those things, but IDK if I would ruin anyone’s white clothing over that.

A teenage girl holding a binder stands under a shower of orange liquid
Only MJH would look this graceful while being dyed orange.

MJH and Chase both seem happy with their respective high school lots…that is, until Brad asks another girl to the centennial dance, and Chase’s rebel girlfriend breaks up with him for not being that into “real” activism.

After getting extremely drunk at a party, MJH decides she and Chase should pretend to be a couple so she’ll have a date for the dance, and Chase can make his ex super jealous.  First step = go to the mall and clean up Chase.  It’s actually one of the worst ways I can think of to begin a relationship, but I admittedly have a fear of malls bordering on paranoia.

Anyway…unsurprisingly, cliques of all types are resistant to this mixing of high school cultures.  MJH and Chase brush off insults pretty easily, and it doesn’t take long before taking the time to understand their differences means the two develop genuine feelings for each other.

A teenage girl stands next to a teenage boy wearing a beanie, both looking ahead expressionlessly
True love…obviously.

You know there will be complications, however, as there are still 45 minutes left.

What will happen when Brad breaks up with his cheerleader girlfriend, Chase’s ex wants him back, and MJH’s bff decides to be a bitch for no reason?

DRAMA.  DRA.  MA.

The Rating:

It’s really hard to be objective about this one because I LOVE Melissa Joan Hart and she’s so adorable as a 22-year-old teenager (which is probably one of the more reasonable age gaps for a teen movie, TBH).

But I have to confess I lost interest in the plot long before this movie was even halfway over and only powered through because of my commitment to this blog (you’re welcome, readers).  This is an example of a film better fondly remembered than disgracefully re-watched because this one was so much worse than I remember.

Additional thoughts, in no particular order:

  • That girl who is always the best friend in teen movies is in this and is a total bitch for seemingly no reason except maybe “that’s how girls compete.”
  • Every time there’s a misunderstanding…so. Much. Moping. Say what you will about Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare was spot-on re:  the teenage impulse to jump to stupid conclusions and do really insane shit as a result.
  • So many butterfly clips had to die in the making of this film.
  • I thought the “loser” friend characters, Ray and Dave, were quite sweet, though perhaps thinly veiled versions of the filmmakers (esp. re: revenge sequence in video project form).
  • Usually I would object to a film not featuring the titular song, but “Drive Me Crazy” is featured for no reason at a random party that has very little relevance to the plot. Everyone knows the time for “Drive Me Crazy” in the ‘90s would be, uh, PROM.

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

This would very possibly be 1/5 without MJH.  Do yourself a favor and re-watch Sabrina, Down Under instead if you’re longing for a simpler time in MJH’s career.  Or cross your fingers really hard and hope a Sabrina, the Teenage Witch reboot happens.

Did this one drive Christa crazy in the good way or the bad way?  Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Jennifer’s Body, or: Would You Hold It Against Me? (Sorry/Not Sorry)

High school month continues, which I promise will feature at least one cheesy throwback teen rom-com.  Prepare yourself, Christa.  For now, teen horror comedies abound!

The Film:

Jennifer’s Body

Where to Watch:

Figure it out

The Premise:

A high school teen’s best friend experiences a transformation into a bloodthirsty demon, causing a rift to develop between the two.

The Uncondensed Version:

Memorably, Amanda Seyfried tells us “Hell is a teenage girl.”  No argument here—except perhaps hell is being a teenage girl.

In the present, Amanda aka Needy has been institutionalized for reasons as yet unknown.  All we know is she has amassed a fan following that sends her letters, and she frequently has to be placed in solitary confinement for her violent outbursts.

A teen wearing glasses with long blonde hair faces the camera, unsmiling.
Oddly, images this week from the Jennifer’s Body Wiki.  For real.

Before all of this, though, Needy was just an ordinary nerd whose BFF was gorgeous cheerleader Jennifer.  They have a somewhat uneven friendship, as Needy has to constantly overanalyze what she’ll wear so she looks cool but not better than Jennifer.  Needy’s boyfriend Chip notices the weird connection between the 2 girls and the way Needy follows everything she says.

A teen holds fingers up to her lips, facing another teen girl.
It’s science that you’re more likely to do things pretty people ask of you.  Or something.

Jennifer and Needy go to pretty much a dive to see a band led by Goth Adam Brody (say what).  Though Jennifer jokes about becoming a groupie, at some point she seems to become literally hypnotized by the band.  Also a fire breaks out, which the girls manage to escape, but others are not so lucky.  The band appears to do nothing to help and, in fact, seems pretty set on getting Jen into their van.  Obv Needy has a very bad feeling about this, but she can’t dissuade Jen from getting into the van.

Is this the last of Jen?  Of course not.  Just when Needy thinks she must be gone for good, Jen shows up at her house, looking all scary and blood-soaked.  She eats a chicken, vomits blood and needles, and leaves.

Two teens crouch in the dark in front of an open refrigerator; the girl nearest the fridge has food wrappers around her and is covered in blood.
Just another girls’ night…

The next day at school, Jen returns and is completely normal by all appearances.  However, it becomes clear pretty early on that she hungers for flesh.  Specifically, she’s pretty intent on murdering and disemboweling high school boys.

Needy becomes increasingly disturbed until Jen finally crosses the line by murdering Needy’s Goth friend Colin.  Jen does explain that on the night of the fire the band members sacrificed her to Satan in an effort to make it big as an indie band, instilling in her a thirst for blood.

After doing some trusty library research, Needy discovers how to destroy demons and warns him the dance will be a feast for the band and Jen.  Chip, of course, doesn’t believe her and only cares that he’s already bought the corsage and everything.

A teen in a school's library furrows her brow as she reads a book.
School libraries:  an unexpected hotbed of occult research.

You know for certain some Carrie­-level shit is going down at prom.

The Critique:

Better than expected in the beginning with slightly more depth than the average teen horror comedy.  I thought this could either be the greatest or a complete disaster, with no room in between.  I wouldn’t call this a great film, but it was entertaining and surprisingly feminist(ish).

There is quite a bit of exploration concerning friendship between high school girls and the darkness that can creep into those relationships.  It doesn’t work as well as Ginger Snaps, though, and frequently feels like a watered-down version of that film albeit with demons instead of werewolves.

Being a teen movie, stereotypes abound regarding each of the cliques.  Stereotypes aside, this is one of the more realistic approaches to high school dynamics I can think of—Needy has friends in many different cliques rather than being friends only with nerds.

Though the relationship between Needy and Jen is well-defined, the other characters fall flat.  Chris Pratt makes a brief appearance, and JK Simmons with hair is in this (which is weird).  Chip gets quite a lot of screen time, which is unfortunate as he’s a pretty forgettable character and I gave zero fucks about him.  Plus I feel Chip is an acceptable name only for a chipmunk.  Or, like, a Chippendales dancer.

Not destined to be a classic, but not a terrible way to spend an hour and a half either.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Is Christa BFFs with this one or would she slowly rip out its intestines, Satan possession or no?  Find out in her review here!

A teenage girl with dark hair and red lipstick holds a black and white cat in a blanket
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

All Cheerleaders Die, or: Do They?

School is still in session in this blog as we’ve chose a high school movie theme for this month.  It’s my pick this week, which I’d like to preface by saying (a) I thought it would be way better and (b) it wasn’t as bad as Monkey’s Paw.  Nothing can possibly be worse than Monkey’s Paw.

The Film:

All Cheerleaders Die

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Cheerleaders killed in a terrible accident return from the dead seeking vengeance.  With a witch thrown in there for good measure.

The Uncondensed Version:

Lexi is a cheerleader very much looking forward to senior year, as she explains to amateur filmmaker Maddy.  She tells us cheerleading is a dangerous sport and cheerleaders are much more likely to suffer injuries than football players…just before she performs a flip that goes horribly wrong.  Right, it’s that kind of movie.

Fast forward a bit, and the squad is holding tryouts for Lexi’s spot.  In an unexpected move (almost as unexpected as the Spanish Inquisition), Maddy tries out and earns a place amongst high school royalty.  However, for reasons unknown to us, Maddy reveals to her video blog (not using the word “vlog”) that this is all part of some elaborate plot to ruin senior year for all of the cheerleaders.  Because that’s what you do in high school instead of read, write super emotional entries in your journal, and fear the day you’ll be called on to participate in class.  Or so I’ve been told.

Complication to Maddy’s plan is Lena, a really needy Wiccan who has named a cat after Maddy and doesn’t understand why they broke up.  Lena walks away angry and upset, which is probably not the best.

Outside of a house at night, 2 teenage girls talk, facing each other. One of them holds a large shiny handbag, while the other holds a black and white cat.
Cat!

The new head cheerleader Tracy is now dating Terry, Lexi’s ex-boyfriend.  Terry is a huge douche and cheating on Tracy, which Maddy uses to drive a wedge between them and date Tracy herself.  When Terry figures this out, he’s extremely pissed off and ends up ruining a cemetery party.  Honestly, dude.

Coincidentally, Lena is sitting in a dark corner near the party casting spells, tossing runes around, and doing general witchy stuff.  But really this is just an excuse to stalk Maddy, who is busy making out with Tracy.

But back to Terry, who picks a fight, punches Tracy, and begins a high speed chase between the football players and cheerleaders.  We get a classic afterschool special scenario in which irresponsible drinking and driving leads off a cliff into the river below.  The football players come out of this unscathed, of course, and just sort of quietly slink away.

four teenage girls in the woods at night stand facing the camera
Seriously, bro?

Lena has seen everything and drags all of the girls out of the river in the hopes of saving Maddy.  She’s too late, but does this really bizarre ritual that makes a sort of blood snake and draws some sort of life essence into stones that each of the girls absorb.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense, you guys.

The next morning, the cheerleaders wake up in Lena’s room, which is exciting because (a) Maddy is alive and (b) Lena’s weird witchcraft thing actually works.  However, for some reason this also means that the girls have to drain the spirit from living humans and they also have a sort of psychic connection through the stones.  I just…don’t follow.  At all.

a group of four cheerleaders walks down the hallway of a high school
You know you’re undead when you have red lips and a pleather cheerleading outfit.

This goes on for a bit until there’s some typical high school drama, of which I will spare you the details.  Then, of course, things take a turn for the worse when Terry realizes he can absorb the stones, which make him sort of all-powerful?  I think?  And all of this means a showdown in the cemetery where some will live, some will die, and some will…remain undead I guess?  If that’s what they are?

The Rating:

First of all, this was a bit of a trainwreck in terms of plot and explanation of supernatural elements.  Witchcraft brought the cheerleaders back from the dead, gave them a psychic connection, made them thirst for human energy, and switch 2 of their bodies???  Are they witches or zombies or all of the above?  There was a further plot twist at the end that made even less sense.

Also towards the end, the writers tack on a rape revenge story, which I hate hate hate so much because it’s focused on having a really creepy voyeuristic murder scene that’s portrayed like a rape scene.  And it spends way more time on that scene than anything resembling female empowerment.

Besides that, the character motivations made no sense—it was unclear to me why Maddy wanted revenge against the entire cheerleading squad when she really had a bone to pick with one particular sleazeball.

This one wanted to be The Craft but also a zombie movie while providing biting social commentary, so it made little to no sense.

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Because there were witches, guys.  Witches and I didn’t even care.

Would Christa bring this one back to life or run it off a cliff?  Read her review here to find out!