The Pink Panther Snipes Again

Bad Movie Reviews with a Touch of Snark


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Hush, or: A Day No Cats Would Die

Just in case every other horror movie in existence hadn’t given you second thoughts about finishing your novel in a secluded cabin in the forest, this week’s pick will give you another reason to just stay home and watch Netflix instead.

The Film:

Hush

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Premise:

In the most realistic/least fun kind of horror, a creepy dude in a mask terrorizes a novelist living alone in the woods.

The Uncondensed Version:

Maddie is a writer who lives alone in the woods.  Having lost her hearing at the age of 13, she’s used to the silence if not the solitude.  Though having second thoughts about her recent break up, she does have a friendly neighbor, Sarah, to keep her company.  She also has a cat because what else do single ladies in the woods do.  Heroically, Maddie has named her cat Bitch, which is probably the most fitting name for a cat I’ve ever heard.

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Not the last or worst set of crazy eyes in this film…

Things get really real after Sarah leaves Maddie’s house, interrupted by the arrival of Creepy McCreep-face in one of those hideous featureless masks.  Though Sarah screams for help and tries to get Maddie’s attention, Maddie hears nothing.

The Creep manages to slip into the house unnoticed and creepily lurk while Maddie is Face Timing with one of her friends.  He seems really determined to drag this whole thing out while being as creepy as possible—Maddie only realizes she’s being watched when he sends fucking creeper pics of her from Sarah’s phone.  Twisted, dude.

Oh, and his weapon of choice?  A goddamn crossbow.  I swear to god, if this is what Game of Thrones hath wrought, is it really worth it?  Is it???

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Please can we just agree to not be creepy fucking assholes?

Anyway, to further terrify Maddie, the Creep cuts off the power and punctures the tires in her car.  She tries to write him a message that she hasn’t seen his face and won’t call the cops…so he promptly takes his mask off to make it clear he intends to kill her.

Maddie decides her best bet is retrieving Sarah’s phone from her body, which the Creep uses to mess with her.  Now armed only with a hammer and kitchen knife, Maddie needs to distract the Creep for long enough to search Sarah’s body for the phone.  Maddie uses the car pretty ingeniously, but of course this doesn’t work out as planned (we’ve still got an hour to go).

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I’ve got one hand in my pocket and the other one’s wielding a claw hammer…

For the next chunk of the film, we have a sort of bait and switch with Maddie coming up with plans to escape and the Creep managing to keep her trapped.  Both sustain some pretty gruesome injuries with equally disgusting sound effects.

This continues until John, Sarah’s SO (boyfriend?  Husband?  Too minor of a character for me to care?) shows up to figure out where she could be.  John is annoyingly slow to catch on to what’s happening, which I attribute in part to the actor also playing Anders in BSG, the single most idiotic character on that show.  However, John does catch on eventually and gives Maddie a chance to escape.  But does she???

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Largely because I don’t have any way to produce an objective rating for this one.  It did what it said on the tin, i.e. scared the living daylights out of me and raised my blood pressure for a solid 80 minutes.  It was horrifically disgusting in places and ruined any chances I had of ever deciding to go live alone in the woods.  Damn it, humanity–this is why we can’t have nice things.  The ending is somewhat clever in the way it turns around Maddie’s disability and uses it to her advantage (oops–spoiler?).  However, a lot of it was just torturous to watch and made me want to outlaw those fucking featureless masks every goddamn horror creep favors.

Is it worth staying in a creepy cabin for this one or would Christa shoot it with a crossbow?  Find out here!


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Sisterhood of Night, or: Twitches

We do what we want in this Blog Collab…and what we want is to avoid over-thinking our theme-related decisions.  Welcome to yet another Blog Free or Die Hard Month—this time with witchcraft!

The Film:

Sisterhood of Night

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Secret rituals!  Vows of silence!  Tattoos!  There’s only one explanation for this kind of behavior in teens:  witchcraft.

The Uncondensed Version:

Lucy from The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe and Suzy from Moonrise Kingdom are all grown-up and embracing their inner mean girl.

Mary is something of a slacker in school, yet seems destined for fame with her serious charisma and IDGAF attitude, universally admired by teens everywhere.  Emily, on the other hand, is a bit of a goody two-shoes, who tries (and fails) so hard to be interesting and well-liked in worlds both real and virtual.  After Mary takes things too far by ruining Emily’s audition, Emily steals Mary’s phone and posts all of her texts online.  The feud between these two is just getting started when Mary decides to be done with the net forever, taking a modern vow of silence from social media.

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Harsh…I think…?

Thus the Sisterhood of Night is born.  Mary begins the secret society with her closest friends and rumors swirl.  Though the girls involved with the Sisterhood meet up only to unburden themselves of secrets, outsiders imagine they are basically a coven of lesbians.  Oh, the horror.

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Telepathic lesbians:  a parent’s worst nightmare (apparently)…

Based on a series of mysterious clues, Mary reveals the time and location of Sisterhood meetings to members only.  Desperate to be part of the cool kids club, Emily figures out where the next meeting will be in hopes of joining or, if all else fails, writing a really juicy post for her blog.

Rejected once again, Emily uses the opportunity to accuse the Sisterhood of physical and sexual assault, collapsing in church and revealing a scar on her hand inflicted by Mary.  Emily isn’t winning any friends in her high school, but she is becoming somewhat internet famous, with thousands of blog followers.

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Our chief weapons are fear, surprise, and staring contests.

With mysterious tattoos, odd meeting hours, and secrets piling up, the community demands to know what the Sisterhood is and what the girls do.  They refuse to reveal the truth since, you know, it’s a secret society and all.  The town sets a curfew for everyone under the age of 18, which Mary obviously ignores.  Frightened one evening, she asks her guidance counselor (Kal Penn??!?!?) for help at his apartment.  This of course gets horribly misconstrued and ends badly for Kal, the sole voice of reason in the entire scenario.  After Kal’s departure, a media circus latches onto the story, sensationalizing the story to depict sex, witchcraft, and occult rituals.

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I can’t disagree.

As the Sisterhood grows, so too does Emily’s following as her reputation for being a survivor of abuse grows.  She comes up with a rather nasty plan to force a confession of witchcraft from one of the Sisterhood, luring her out using her crush.  Emily immediately feels remorse and tries to stop the plan, but it’s already been set into motion.  Someone isn’t getting out of this alive—who will it be???

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

The ending is actually pretty moving and surprisingly feminist, but it takes a long time to get there.  Everyone is so needlessly bitchy for such a long time, and someone has to fucking die for it to stop.  The end calls the persecution of witches to our attention, and the supposed threat of feminine power and sisterhood inherent in these kinds of witch hunts.  The girls do lift each other up at the end, which is empowering, but I was still hoping for at least a little bit of actual witchcraft.

The tone is odd as well, as sometimes it feels like a satire or dark comedy, and other times like a serious drama.  It gets to have a bit too much of an after-school special vibe after a while.  Kal Penn as the guidance counselor works but is also confusing, as I was expecting him to bring comedy to this film.

In spite of myself, I saw high school + witches and immediately expected The Craft.  This isn’t as much fun to watch as The Craft, but it does have an interesting perspective and a message worth considering.

Would Christa get matching tattoos with this one or shun it entirely?  Find out here!


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Hello I Must Be Going, or: Lynskey on the Rocks

Though I’ll be sad to say goodbye to Melanie Lynskey May, I’m not sad that our desperate search for readily available ML films (with a heavy dose of artistic license) is over temporarily.  Here’s hoping we see her in I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore 2 or at least a few more original films acquired by Netflix.

The Film:

Hello I Must Be Going

Where to Watch:

Amazon Prime + Sundance

The Uncondensed Version:

This time around, ML is a majorly depressed young woman who hasn’t quite hit rock bottom but is just about there (seems a bit familiar for her, eh, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore?).  Her marriage over, her career non-existent, and having given up on everything else, Amy moves back in with parents in her mid-thirties.  It’s not a bad setup, except she can’t bring herself to change out of an old, dirty t-shirt or even leave the house, much to the dismay of her parents.  She spends a lot of her time looking at pictures sadly and crying to Marx Brothers movies, though her mother is constantly making well-meaning suggestions to improve herself and life.

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Current mood.

When Amy’s father has clients to impress, she’s forced to get her act together (at least a little bit).  Her parents’ whirlwind tour across the globe depends on these clients, as well as her father’s retirement.  No pressure, though.

For the fancy dinner party to impress fancy lawyer types, Amy manages to scrounge up a nice dress and sit through several courses without sobbing openly.  After revealing she was a literature and photography student who never finished her Master’s thesis, she gets shit from some of the dinner guests.  The only person more uncomfortable through these proceedings is Jeremy, stepson of the man everyone is out to impress.  Jeremy lets his mother believe he’s gay and loves acting because it makes her feel better and in control.

After Amy has had enough of this bullshit dinner party, she shares a romantic moment with Jeremy even though he’s a tender 19 years old.  He’s very perceptive and emotionally mature for a 19-year-old to an almost unbelievable degree, but IDGAF.  I WANT TO BELIEVE.

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Their relationship moves quickly both physically and emotionally, with Amy sharing painful details about her husband’s affair and the divorce (which blindsided her), and Jeremy revealing his fears about being honest about what he wants with his parents.

Even though they are both adults, Amy is embarrassed about their age difference and fears an open relationship could cost her father his clients and retirement.  They keep the relationship secret…until Jeremy’s mother walks in on them planning a fantasy trip to Canada and skinny dipping.  Fortunately, delusions are a powerful thing and, convinced her son is gay, Jeremy’s mother completely denies the possibility of any romantic involvement between the two.

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It was all fun and games until…GHOST SHARK.

The encounter is enough to leave Amy rattled, though, and she decides to end her non-relationship with Jeremy.  She agrees to go on a date her sister-in-law has set up, but quickly realizes she isn’t remotely interested in pursuing things further.  Though Amy misses Jeremy, she tries to find him and once again remembers their age difference.  After a ladies’ night out drinking, she literally does hit rock bottom and gets into a screaming fight with her mother.

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Did I mention Blythe Danner plays ML’s mother in this?  Because she does and she’s fantastic.

Realizing her mother is in many ways just as lost and disappointed as Amy, there seems to be a breakthrough.  But will it make a difference in her relationship with her family, her non-boyfriend, and most importantly, herself?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

It starts out as a bit of a slow burner, but becomes a thoughtful reflection on family relationships, perception of others, and self-love.  Though Amy feels like a fuck-up who has quit everything she’s ever tried, she begins to put things in perspective by listening to the fears and disappointments of others.  She learns to accept responsibility for her life while moving on from blaming herself for all of her mistakes.  It’s great to see her grow as a character, know herself better, and love who she is.  Amy and Jeremy begin to grow up together and have a very sweet, believable connection.

ML is great in this, as is Blythe Danner, and pretty much everyone else.  I think ML has the most to work with, as she’s a multi-dimensional, relateable, and flawed character.  Her struggle to rise above all the bullshit, feel normal, and rediscover purpose in her life is so real.

Would Christa dive in the pool with this one or hit rock bottom (literally and figuratively)?  Find out here!


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Rainbow Time, or: Pervs of All Abilities

Melanie Lynskey Month continues—long may she reign!

The Film:

Rainbow Time

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Uncondensed Version:

Shonzi is a young man who loves making films, staging doll and puppet shows, adopting a Fonzie persona, and annoying his brother.  He also happens to be developmentally disabled, living with his father, and spending too much time thinking about his brother Todd’s girlfriend (played by Queen Melanie).

 

With ML all set to meet the family, Todd is a nervous wreck who feels she is not adequately prepared to deal with some of Shonzi’s lewd tendencies.  Having little interaction with women, Shonzi frequently objectifies them and fails to recognize when he says something inappropriate.

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Yeah, this is 1 of about 3 seconds of this scene that could be considered G-rated.

 

ML and Todd initially have fun working on Shonzi’s movie, but he takes things too far when he films the two in a private moment.  While ML is upset, Todd is actually kind of into it–at least the idea of making a sex tape.  ML is pretty quick to shut this down.

 

As it turns out, the relationship between ML and Todd has its share of problems.  ML is still in the process of going through a divorce, and started dating Todd before her marriage was over.  She is still keeping their relationship a secret to a large degree, causing tension between them.

 

Things get even more complicated when Todd’s dad has a heart attack, prompting Shonzi to move in with the couple.  As ML gets a better picture of Shonzi’s attitudes towards women, she decides to spend time with him making a film so he can get to know at least one woman better.

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Join us–we have t-shirts.

 

Inspired by a viral clip, ML and Shonzi approach the subject of cat calling, interviewing several women about their experiences and reactions in a segment they call Rainbow Time.  Just when ML seems to be making a breakthrough, the two interview Justine, a developmentally disabled woman whom Shonzi dismisses and calls ugly.

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You know it’s serious when a woman stops in the middle of eating Chinese food.

 

Shonzi continues to spy on ML and Todd until finally ML has had enough.  She decides to take a break from Todd as she’s never really had time to herself.  Frustrated with his brother, Todd pawns Shonzi off on another family member.  When a confrontation goes horribly awry, the police are involved, and no one believes Shonzi’s side of the story.  Will the family be able to bounce back after this episode?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Is it horrible that I felt the message of this film was that disabled people are just like everyone else—they can be huge pervs too.  I appreciate that the intention was to humanize Shonzi rather than make him a simple, naïve child-like figure who occasionally spouts out sage advice, as Hollywood is wont to do.  But the film took things a bit too far in the other direction IMHO, and he just ended up seeming creepy, gross, and not particularly likeable.

More than this, though, the film isn’t particularly memorable, and it gets boring in places because there’s no real opportunity to emotionally connect to the characters.

The highlights are the films Todd and Shonzi make together, and it seems like the actors are genuinely having fun at those times.  The segment ML and Shonzi do together as Rainbow Time is nice too, and I expected it to recur in the film (and was somewhat disappointed when it didn’t).  Maybe that’s just the influence of Welcome to Me?

Our girl ML shines as usual, and Timm Sharp has a nice grungy Jason Schwartzmann vibe going on.

Would Christa spend quality time with this one or run in the opposite direction?  Find out here!


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Little Boxes, or: I Lived Ironically in the Suburbs Before It Was Cool

May has been rechristened Melanie Lynskey Month.  After unintentionally watching I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (IDFAHITWA) during the same weekend, my blog partner-in-crime and I are obsessed.  I dare you not to feel deep love and admiration after witnessing the beauty of Ms. Lynskey having an existential meltdown in front of children, aggressively destroying lawn art, and dreaming of a world where people stop acting like assholes.

Our first feature this month is Christa’s pick in which no wicker lawn animals were harmed.

The Film:

Little Boxes

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Uncondensed Version:

Our girl Melanie plays the role of Gina, hipster Brooklyn photographer who moves to the suburbs of Washington state with her hipster Brooklyn husband and son.  Though she has just accepted a tenure-track position in a college art department and the family is looking forward to more stability, they are nevertheless sad to leave behind their friends and the cool artsy vibe.

To their amazement, the same amount of money that carved out a small Brooklyn apartment gives the family a much bigger 2-story house in the suburbs.  However, they are in for some culture shocks as suburban living means navigating some oddly specific rules like children always calling adults Mr. or Mrs. (which really isn’t that odd to me, and if I ran into any of my primary school teachers, I would cringe if they insisted I call them by their first name).

All 3 members of the family have their own obstacles to tackle.  Gina’s husband Mack is a writer who is procrastinating on his latest book by writing food magazine articles.  He finds himself becoming a something of a local celebrity for being a published author with an agent and, more sinisterly, being commodified as quite possibly the only black person in town.

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Fellow stress baker in action.

Gina is adjusting to typical academic BS, finding the tenured faculty monopolizing her time both on- and off-campus.  Janeane Garofalo is weirdly one of the tenured ladies, and encourages Gina to go out drinking with her tenure committee, then shames her when she gets drunk.  Sounds about right for tenured faculty.

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It’s not a dick pic, promise.

Meanwhile, their son Clark is dealing with sudden attention from 2 girls in town who want to talk about rap and show off their dance moves for him.  One of the girls, Ambrosia, takes an interest in Clark in a really uncomfortable way that fetishizes him.  Shit hits the fan when Ambrosia’s mother catches them in a compromising position, causing Clark to lash out and make a decision he regrets.

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Spoiler:  it does not involve mixing a horizontally striped shirt with vertical stripes.

Dripping with symbolism, all of the family’s personal belongings have been delayed, and Mack has discovered mold in the house that desperately needs to be removed.

With the family in chaos, perhaps the decision to move to the suburbs was a big mistake after all.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’m super tired, which is one of several reasons I failed to empathize with most of the characters in this film except for Clark’s cousin, who comes to visit near the end.  He’s the main source of comic relief, offering sage advice beyond his years to the entire family.  However, it’s too little too late, and it doesn’t help that I didn’t particularly care about the family.  We were never off to a good start as it really rubbed me the wrong way when all the members of the family were marveling about how beautiful and spacious their new house was…possibly because I’m eternally bitter about my lack of financial freedom.  IDK, Mack and Gina felt way too bland to be these cool trendy artists.

It would have been cool to see more of the “before” picture of the family’s life in Brooklyn rather than hear Gina wax poetic about what a beautiful haven for amazingly talented artists and intellectuals it is.  FFS, we get it—hipsters fucking love Brooklyn.

Most of the secondary characters didn’t come off much better.  I really hated Ambrosia, and it took Clark a damn long time to realize she may not be an overly nice person.  Christine Taylor and Janeane Garofalo were so underutilized and had maybe 5 minutes tops on screen.

I think my problem here was that I wanted this to be either funnier or more dramatic.  It failed to make me laugh or produce any genuine feeling in me…except, you know, ironically.  Like a Brooklyn hipster.

Did Christa like this one before it was cool?  Find out here!


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Deidra and Laney Rob a Train, or: Trainspotting 3

Rounding out the latest month of Blog Free or Die Hard is another Netflix original, selected entirely on its own merit.  And not at all because it was so easy to find and stream on both sides of the pond.

The Film:

Deidra and Laney Rob a Train

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Uncondensed Version:

Deidra and Laney are teen sisters who act like parents to their younger brother Jet, pick their mom up from work, and try to find ways to keep the family afloat financially.  The 2 sisters are managing to keep scraping by until they find their mom having a very public meltdown at work with screaming, the police dept, and destruction of expensive Good Buy property involved.  Through bad luck and shady insurance practices, her impulsive mistake is considered an act of domestic terrorism (WTF) and bail is set much higher than the family can afford to pay.

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All seem like appropriate “Mom is in prison” faces.

After years of hard work and stress, their mother Marigold is quite relieved to relax in prison.  Adulting is hard, man, and Deidra seems to be a more natural head of the household.  This feeling, of course, is not shared by the rest of the family, who can’t find the money to pay the bills, let alone bail or Deidra’s imminent college expenses.   It looks like college may no longer be an option as Deidra misses class and college deadlines to manage things at home and come up with ways to earn quick cash.

Meanwhile, Laney is having a miserable time at school as she has been selected to compete in a beauty pageant (that appears to replace actual class…?) against her best friend.  Her friend Claire, feeling threatened by Laney’s participation, sets out to make her life miserable.

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I would watch the hell out of pageants if there were a competitive tea-drinking round.

After much time spent stressing, Deidra gets an idea from the rather shady men in (and absent from) her life.  Her father, Chet, who prides himself on knowing when the family doesn’t need him, is a train mechanic.  He obliviously explains how modern-day train robberies happen, not realizing he is providing a catalyst for Deidra’s plan.  When Deidra’s ex mentions his side hustle selling just about anything he can get his hands on, the pieces fall into place and a crime spree is about to begin.

Both Deidra and Laney are in on the plan, and the two sisters become closer than ever.  However, tensions are high as Deidra’s dream of college seems to be slipping away, Laney pins her hopes on the pageant yet feels very alone, Child Protective Services suspects Deidra isn’t cut out to be the head of the household, and the fuzz is catching on to the robberies.

To everyone’s surprise, their father steps in to cover with CPS and do what he does best—plan petty crimes and destroy evidence.  This may be too little too late, as a persistent railroad security employee, Truman, is determined to crack the case.  Shit hits the fan when Truman puts 2 and 2 together on the night of the pageant, and Chet decides to take off.

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Also a convenient way to destroy evidence of all of those animals I tortured…

How can this possibly end well for our titular train-robbing teens?  You know the drill.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Largely because Deidra and Laney are so cute and incredibly real.  I could especially relate to Laney re: awkward/insecure teen years…and, you know, the whole beauty pageant scene (lol).

The acting is convincing even if the characters aren’t always–Deidra’s guidance counselor being presented as sympathetic while pushing her own agenda over Deidra’s best interests really grated on me, as well as Chet playing the role of dirtbag with a heart of gold father.

This film has a lot of heart, but some of its sweet moments are emotionally manipulative AF.  It suffers from an uneven tone, simultaneously attempting to tackle serious issues while offering soothing reassurances to the viewer that it will all be okay.  The film frequently undermines its own ideas, and wraps things up much too neatly for my tastes (even though I was rooting for our leading ladies the whole time).

 

 

There is quite a lot of consideration of fate vs. free will throughout, which remains persistently upbeat.  This is one of my major beefs with the film, as it ultimately seems to reinforce the narrative that hard work and individualism pay off.  Though Deidra and Laney resort to robbing trains, it’s emphasized that their resourcefulness, determination, and clever planning earns them opportunity.  Am I bumming you out?  I sense that I’m bumming you out.

Would Christa ride the rails or take a bus instead?  Find out here!


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Win It All…Or Not

Another week, another pick to give us a chance to Blog Free or Die Hard.  But mostly the former.

The Film:

Win It All

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Uncondensed Version:

Eddie is a laid-back guy who means well yet invariably chooses the worst possible option when it comes down to decision time.  This is in large part due to his gambling addiction, which drives his willingness to settle in other areas of his life as long as he can scrape together enough money to make his rounds at poker.  Although he could work for the family landscaping company, Eddie chooses instead to make some easy money as a parking attendant.

You know from the setup a change is going to come, and it takes the form of a duffel bag full of cash.  All Eddie has to do is babysit the bag while its owner serves a short prison sentence…but I think you know where this is going.  Despite stern advice from Keegan-Michael Key–in a serious-ish role as a friend from Gamblers Anonymous–Eddie decides to borrow just $500 in order to scratch his gambling itch.  It’s not long before $500 turns into $20,000 in debt.

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At this lowest of low points, Eddie finally decides to get his shit together and turn it around for real.  He agrees to work with his brother at the family business, and enjoys having a steady job and getting invested in the company’s success.

Meanwhile, his personal life is taking a turn for the better when he meets Eva, a nurse/single mother.  She meets with approval from Eddie’s family, but he has to earn some serious trust before he can meet Eva’s family.

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Everything seems to be going well until Eddie gets a call from the owner of the duffel bag, who will be released from prison early.  Shit hits the fan for Eddie as the only options springing to mind for making money including borrowing from his brother, becoming a coke dealer, or–you guessed it–gambling.

 

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Eh.  This is sort of bland, and while there’s nothing especially objectionable about Eddie, it was difficult for me to root for him.  Spoiler–this gets a fairly happy ending that doesn’t seem earned.  This was never going to be a gritty drama, but the tone is a bit too upbeat to talk about gambling addiction seriously, and I’m not sure Eddie really lost enough to change his ways for good.  I also felt Keegan-Michael Key was underutilized, but I would say that about a film in which he plays every goddamn character (which I would watch the fuck out of).

Oddly, this is the 2nd film I can tag “gambling problems are hilarious”–the other one being the horrendously awful Alex & Emma.  To be clear, this one is much better and shouldn’t be affiliated with that other film in any way.  Apologies to all involved in the making of this movie.

Would Christa (sorry/not sorry)…bet on this one?  Find out here!