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!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Ginger Snaps: Great (Voluptuous) Minds Think Alike

Prepare yourself for this blog’s first official collaborative film review experience.

I have teamed up with the fabulous Christa of A Voluptuous Mind for a virtual movie date/critique of Ginger Snaps. Be afraid, blogging community—I have a co-conspirator. Double the posts, double the snark (or, more accurately, snark squared).

Check out her post here. Here goes mine:

The Film:

Ginger Snaps

Where to Watch:

Hulu; Youtube; UK Netflix, apparently

The Premise:

Two sisters who have vowed to die by age 16 must change their plans when one is attacked by a werewolf.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Someone or something has been terrorizing the small Canadian suburb where sisters Brigitte and Ginger (B+G) live. As our film opens, the neighbor is screaming that the creature has killed her dog…and basically no one cares.

B+G continue to go about their normal activities: staging their own deaths in dramatic photos, reminding each other of their pact to kill themselves before they reach 16, and rocking the ‘90s Goth look.

The sisters share their project with the class, and everyone is pretty into it except, of course, for the teacher (played by Ranger Gord from The Red Green Show [after all, this is a Canadian production]).

a teenage girl holds a bone-shaped ben in class, staring ahead with a frustrated and bored expression
I love that Brigitte has a bone pen. And excellent bored teen facial expressions.

As we get a glimpse of B+G’s high school existence, it becomes obvious Ginger is the hot sister who won’t put up with your bullshit (especially not from the douchey jock who keeps hitting on her), while Brigitte is the quiet nerd who tries to be as inconspicuous as possible. Trina, the cheerleader who takes pleasure in torturing Brigitte, pushes her into the corpse of another dead dog that’s lying in the field. Brigitte pukes, and Ginger starts attacking Trina, threatening to kill her. As part of a really creepy revenge plot, B+G decide to kill Trina’s dog.

That evening, Ginger makes the mistake of complaining about her aching back during dinner. Her mom enthusiastically tells her she’s getting her period, which dismays both B+G. When they sneak away that night to carry out their revenge plot, they encounter…A WEREWOLF (please at least pretend to be surprised). The wolf attacks Ginger and drags her away. (Women, fucked over by their periods yet again.) Brigitte runs after Ginger and helps her escape, but Ginger has already been mauled pretty severely. The werewolf runs after them, but is hit by a van. Coincidentally, the driver, Sam, is the guy who hooks all the high school kids up with drugs and has a thing for Brigitte (I have no idea how old he’s supposed to be b/c he looks MAYBE a year or two older, but Ginger later calls him out for being a creep).

When B+G make it home, Ginger’s wounds are already healing, so she manages to convince Brigitte not to call 911. Ginger now has to suffer through the agony of her first period while simultaneously transforming into a werewolf. When B+G try to explain her symptoms to the school nurse, she just says it’s a normal period and gives them condoms (remember—this is Canada).

The creepy jock guy tells Ginger getting high will take the edge off, so she lights up with him and some other dudes in Sam’s van. This leads to a major falling out between the formerly inseparable sisters (sounding a little familiar, eh, Disney? Ginger suddenly sprouts white streaks in her hair as well. WHAT).

The rift between B+G means Ginger gives into her sudden uncontrollable sexual appetite and hooks up with that jock asshole, while Brigitte reads up on lycanthropy (seriously, I think performing dramatic secret research is a requirement for all werewolf movies). Sam continues to be really into Brigitte, but when your sister is turning into a werewolf, you don’t have time for that shit.

two teenage girls face each other with tense stares
“No, I don’t want to build a fucking snowman.”

Ginger finally turns to Brigitte for help when she starts growing a tail and tries to eat the creepy jock. Brigitte tells her to say the same thing about him if he starts spreading rumors about her, but Ginger tells her it doesn’t work like that (TRUTH). It’s really hard not to take Ginger’s side in all of this; she’s such a fucking badass. In an effort to control her transformation, Brigitte pierces Ginger’s bellybutton with a silver ring in a scene that is the most disgusting in the entire movie (if you’re me, anyway).

Sam shows up at the high school because he’s trying to help Brigitte (who told him she was the one who was attacked), but she blows him off when Ginger gets jealous (God help the mister who comes between me and my sister).

That night, Trina comes to B+G’s house and demands they give her dog back. Ginger attacks her, and Trina dies when she hits her head on a kitchen counter. They hide the body in the freezer.

Ginger realizes that her sexual urges are actually urges to kill (a problem we can all relate to), and she only feels better when she’s ripping someone’s face apart. Brigitte tells her there’s an herbal remedy they can try and locks Ginger in the bathroom while she enlists Sam’s help.

I don’t know if the drug-making scene is supposed to be sexy or what, but it kind of is. Just so we’re clear, kiddies, I don’t condone drug use except when it can cure lycanthropy.

a teen girl looks on as a teen boy melts a substance over a candle
I think it’s the ’90s hair and mood lighting that does it for me.

Meanwhile, Ginger escapes and flashes some dudes at school; Ranger Gord sees this and instructs her to come to his office. She kills him and then kills the janitor.

It becomes apparent that Ginger passed on the werewolf disease to the jock, whose, ahem, red pen exploded in his pants (yeah, he’s totally peeing blood).  Brigitte goes to school to find Ginger and encounters the infected jock guy, who attacks her. She injects him with the antidote, and he is cured. Problem solved, yay! Except now she’s out of the antidote, boo.

When Brigitte finds Ginger, they have (another) major falling out. Ginger decides to seduce/kill Sam (most likely both). She breaks his arm, but Brigitte shows up to stop her. To prove that Ginger is still her top priority, Brigitte cuts their hands and they make a blood pact. As they leave, Sam hits Ginger with a shovel because he didn’t realize Brigitte was luring Ginger back to the house for more of the antidote (men, ruining everything since always).

Brigitte and Sam manage to get Ginger into the back of the van, but when they arrive at the house, she is awake and even more werewolf-y than ever. She escapes into the house, while Brigitte and Sam make more of the antidote. It basically looks like they’re cooking up meth, I think. I still haven’t watched any of Breaking Bad, so I don’t really know. Best guess.

Sam tells Brigitte he’ll give the antidote to Ginger, but she attacks him immediately and drags him to the basement. As she follows Ginger, Brigitte drops the syringe down the basement stairs. Fuck.

a werewolf with shiny, plastic-y skin snarls
For whatever reason, Ginger in full werewolf form kind of reminds me of ET?

Ginger, having completed her transformation is there, standing over dying Sam. She starts eating his flesh, and Brigitte tries to join in as a show of solidarity. However, Brigitte can’t handle how disgusting all of this is and throws up. In response, Ginger kills Sam. Brigitte tells Ginger she won’t die with her, and Ginger attacks. Brigitte stabs her, then hugs werewolf Ginger’s body as she dies.

THE END.

The Critique:

God, I love werewolf movies. I will NEVER stop watching/reviewing them. I also have a soft spot for teen movies, esp. those dripping with sarcasm and laden with dramatic eye-rolls. I just can’t get over how perfect the werewolf/menstruation metaphor is.

I believe I watched this movie in high school and liked it but was traumatized that both Ginger and Sam died (still am). At least Ginger is back in the sequels, which I really need to watch. Honestly, this film doesn’t need to be almost two hours long, but it’s so darkly funny that I forgive it.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I love this movie, but I’m really reluctant to give anything a 5.

This blog collab has been so much fun already.

I look forward to our next virtual date!

Film Reviews

Pontypool: Or, Quebec Rises Again

The Film:

Pontypool

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Premise:

A talk radio show host begins receiving calls as strange events (aka the zombie apocalypse) unfold in a small Canadian town.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Our film opens with a Twilight Zone-esque radio broadcast. The narrator tells us ominously, “Something’s about to happen. But then, something’s always about to happen.”

This narrator turns out to be Grant Mazzy, controversial talk radio host just about to begin broadcasting on a small-town radio station after being fired from his hit show.

Grant is driving to work in a blizzard when he stops to answer his phone. (Canadians are so responsible.) As he’s pulled over, a woman suddenly appears, bangs on the passenger window, and disappears. Grant is kind of freaked out, but continues on to work anyway.

When Grant arrives at the radio station, his assistant, Laurel-Ann is already there. It’s apparently Valentine’s Day, a detail I really appreciate. He begins a rant on-air about people growing pot in their basements until his boss, Sydney, abruptly cuts him off. Grant then makes an announcement that Honey the cat is missing.

A bigger story breaks, however, when Ken in the Sunshine Chopper reveals that a large group of people have gathered downtown outside of a doctor’s office. Military vehicles are also present. A group of people suddenly explodes from the building, and chaos ensues. Then Grant loses contact with Ken.

A man recording a radio show wears a cowboy hat and speaks into a microphone
Not the most exciting screen cap in the history of blogging, but I didn’t have a whole lot of options.

Meanwhile, Grant is scheduled to interview a group who will put on a musical version of Lawrence of Arabia (which, coincidentally, would make an excellent bad movie). The interview goes pretty well until one kid starts babbling, “I can’t remember how it ends. It just keeps repeating.” Not good.

After the interview, Grant begins taking calls from those who are first-hand witnesses to the events. They describe masses of people repeating bizarre chants and cannibalizing other people. These calls all end with screaming and a suddenly lost connection. Some suspect it’s the Quebec separatists because, I mean, it’s always the French.

Ken in the Sunshine Chopper calls back and reports it’s not safe outside. He sees someone he knows who is just making weird alien baby sounds. Grant advises him not to approach and, of course, Ken doesn’t listen. RIP Ken.

Suddenly, a French announcement interrupts the broadcast: stay inside, avoid contact with close family members, terms of endearment, and the English language as a whole.

At this point, Grant starts losing it. He storms out of the recording studio, yelling at Laurel-Ann and Sydney as he prepares to exit the building. His yelling draws the zombies, who start repeating the words he’s said. Ultimately, he is forced to stay as the zombies trap everyone inside. Laurel-Ann becomes infected, repeating “m” words to herself. The doctor mentioned earlier breaks into the building, and they all barricade themselves in the recording studio. Well, except for Laurel-Ann, who is locked out and keeps throwing herself against the glass.

A woman in a recording studio stands behind a glass window, blood trickling from her mouth.
It’s not good to be Laurel-Ann. Or really any kind of assistant in a movie.

The doctor explains that the virus is transmitted by infected words in the English language (this film seriously is Quebec separatist propaganda). When the word is understood, the virus takes over and copies itself in our understanding. It’s in the language and thus has the ability to reach into reality (THIS is why we had that Twilight Zone intro earlier).

We finally get some of the blood and guts required in basically every zombie movie when Laurel-Ann EXPLODES. The other zombies also manage to break in, but are drawn back outside when Grant and Sydney broadcast a recorded message over the loudspeaker: “Sydney Briar is alive.” This message is repeated so many times that it doesn’t even sound like words after a while. Then “O Canada” suddenly blares in the room Grant and Sydney are hiding in (I’m onto you, Quebec separatists).

The doctor starts to lose it, going out into the blizzard, and later returning. He says that if the disease is in the words, the cure must be in words too. When it becomes obvious the doctor is infected, Grant and Sydney leave him and barricade themselves in another room. Then Sydney becomes infected, and both she and Grant attempt to disassociate words from their meanings in an effort to cure her. For example, “kiss” becomes “kill.” So when Grant says to Sydney, “Kill me,” they begin an end-of-the-world, linguistic experimentation make-out session. Because nothing brings people together like a zombie plague.

A man and woman stand close to each other, looking intensely into each other's eyes
“I’m so turned on right now. Kill me.” Uh…what?

Grant goes back on the air and spreads the word, telling people to stop understanding what they’re saying: “Yellow is crowded, friends are verbs.”  And he’s not even a New Age poet.

The cure may all be in vain, however, as the government begins bombing the infected.

EL FIN.

The Critique:

I think this is a really cool concept—a linguistic zombie plague. The symptoms of the disease are loss of language and repetition of certain bizarre phrases (along with the standard slow, mindless walk and craving of human flesh).  As a blogger and librarian, I believe words are perhaps the most powerful tool we possess. The failure to communicate is an under-emphasized consequence of zombification.  Probably because being a rotting corpse that kills and eats people usually takes first place on the “Reasons It Sucks to be a Zombie” list.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 3/5 Pink Panther heads

Nice concept, but the film suffered from some execution problems.  It’s interesting that the action occurs almost entirely in the radio station; however, I got really sick of staring at those cold, gray walls.  And there were also limited opportunities for screen capping.