four members of a band in stage costumes lean together in private conversation
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Dirt(bag Men of ’80s Rock)

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

The Film:

The Dirt

The Premise:

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

The Ramble:

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

a man in a government office holds his ID card as it burns

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

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

a young man wearing colorful clothes reads in front of a wall of late 1970s posters

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

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

three young men in punk clothing look into the distance among people at an outdoor party

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

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

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

a man in all-black looks out confrontationally while the members of a metal band look on

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

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

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

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

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

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

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

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

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

Would my blog wife tie the knot without a prenup or fire this one before it can quit? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

GLOW, or: Gorgeous Ladies of the Blog Collab

Sometimes (and always) we’re so in tune on the Blog Collab that we do the same things whether we intend to or not.  Our latest brainwave came in the form of the Netflix original GLOW.  We were there for the glam ‘80s hair and glitter, but stayed for the zany wrestling personas and the show’s surprising emotional depth.  This month is inspired by GLOW, and the documentary that spawned the TV show is kicking us off to celebrate the Gorgeous Ladies of the Blog Collab, or:  GLOBC…?  Doesn’t have quite the same ring as GLOW.

The Film:

GLOW:  The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Uncondensed Version:

In case you haven’t watched the original ‘80s show or the updated Netflix series, GLOW was the first women’s wrestling show on TV.  It was surprisingly successful, especially considering that it began as more or less one extended infomercial…with comedy sketch bits, song/dance numbers, and some rather cringey rapping.

Despite the blatant sexism and stereotyping, the women cast on GLOW consider it revolutionary as it allowed them to feel strong and empowered while looking and feeling fab.

women in colorful costumes proceed down a flight of stairs in a mall, glittery banners behind them
SO MUCH GLITTER.

The show did not begin with great promise–Mando, a real wrestler, trained the women (hired mostly based on looks rather than wrestling prowess) in a run-down gym without proper equipment or safety practices.  After training, things sped along quickly as the GLOW ladies were moved to a hotel in Vegas (because, honestly, where else would this have happened if not Vegas).  As depicted in the show, the ladies are supposed to always stay in character and obey strict rules on curfews and partying.

One of the few wrestlers on the show was Matilda the Hun, who had been trying in vain to find wrestling partners.  She was so hardcore she once literally wrestled a bear and may be my new personal hero.

a woman smiles, holding up a crown with the word "GLOW" written in red rhinestones
In case you’d like some glitter to go with that glitter.

Initially, the creator of the show clashed with the director, who envisioned an over-the-top, campy variety show.  These issues were quickly resolved as the director was also the one with the money behind him.  Some of the ladies look back fondly on their working relationship with the director, while others think he was borderline abusive.

Several of the more memorable personas were Big Bad Mama, a Louisiana voodoo priestess, and the Heavy Metal sisters, who cut things up with a chainsaw and lit shit on fire in the ring.  Ninotchka was the Russian stereotype whose confidence boosted the wrestler herself and made her feel powerful.  The wrestler shares a rather touching moment when she realized her boyfriend was in love with her persona’s confidence–not her.

several women wrestlers stand in an outdoor wrestling ring; the one at the center is a woman with teased '80s hair, wearing a skirt with floral print

Just as Machu Picchu is the heart and soul of the Netflix show, Mt. Fiji is the star of the original GLOW (and the documentary).  Fiji was an Olympian and by all accounts the sweetest lady on the show.  It’s heartbreaking to see her current health problems that have largely confined her to a hospital bed.  Many of the women suffered injuries and dead-end careers after GLOW‘s abrupt cancellation.  Several speculate the businessman funding the show stopped because of marital problems that arose as he spent so much time with all of the ladies of GLOW.

a large group of women poses for the camera in a hotel lobby
WHOEVER IS CHOPPING ONIONS RIGHT NOW NEEDS TO STOP.

Because the show ended so suddenly, no one felt a sense of closure…which is about to change when one of the wrestlers decides to host a reunion.  If you don’t get emotional seeing the ladies of GLOW reunited, you may have a heart of stone.

The Rating:

4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Like the new Netflix show, there is plenty of glitter and over-the-top wrestling mayhem along with lots of heart.  It’s really hard to see the physical and emotional toll the years of wrestling took on these women even though all seem to remember the show fondly whether they found happiness and success in later years or not.  Though all of the ladies were thrilled to be part of a ground-breaking series, they also suffered greatly at the hands of the entertainment industry.  Like most things to emerge from the ’80s:  come for the glitter, stay for the genuine heart.

Would my Gorgeous Lady of the Blog Collab hit it with a bodyslam and leave it down for the count…or crown it champion of the ring (and the collab)?  Read her review here to find out!

a man in a hard hat holds the phone in a phone booth to his ear
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Blow Out, or: Another Reason to Celebrate the Death of the Pay Phone

April brings us another round of Blog Free or Die Hard, one of my favorite themes next to Ewan McGregor/Hellraiser month…and every other theme of the blog collab.  This week we opt for a throwback featuring John Travolta, dramatic ’80s scores, and sketchy, sketchy payphones.

The Film:

Blow Out

Where to Watch:

Netflix UK apparently

The Uncondensed Version:

John Travolta has been the sound editor for low-budget horror for the past couple of years.  It’s a living.  The latest picture is presenting a challenge, as he can’t seem to get some of the sounds right, in particular the screams of the slasher victims in the film.  To gather sounds for the film, he decides to somewhat sketchily hang around parks at night and record general nature sounds.  What could possibly go wrong?  You might ask.  Naturally, JT (conveniently, for both John Travolta and his character, Jack Terri) sees something he’s not supposed to see…or rather hears something he shouldn’t.

A close-up of an owl's face at night. Behind the owl stands a man with sound recording equipment.
Owl be seeing you?  (Not sorry.)

Just before a car dives headlong into the river, passengers inside, JT hears a gunshot and realizes this crash isn’t an accident.  His deep sense of moral conviction doesn’t permit him to remain a bystander, so he jumps in shortly thereafter to help the surviving passenger, a young woman (of course).

While at the hospital, JT learns the victim of the car crash was none other than the fictional Governor McRyan, top contender for the presidential nomination in the upcoming election.  JT is encouraged to keep quiet about the presence of the young woman as this news would only upset McRyan’s family further.  He reluctantly agrees to do what seems like the honorable thing…but is it?

The young woman, Sally, is very confused and agitated in the hospital and eager to leave.  JT brings her to a motel so she can rest, but also so he can obsessively play his recording of the crash to figure out what happened with the accident and why.  Meanwhile, we learn someone really is destroying and covering up evidence surrounding the crash.  Spoiler alert:  It’s John Lithgow.  As we learn soon after, John Lithgow escalates things super fucking quickly.

a man in a trench coat stares down the length of a hallway
Damn it, John.

JT tries to get more information out of Sally about her relationship with McRyan, but she doesn’t take well to this line of questioning.  At this point JT does get really fucking irritating and insists they get a drink since he did save her life and all.  FFS, save a woman from drowning because it’s the right thing to do—not because you expect her to get a goddamn drink with you.

Annoyingly, they do get a drink, but mostly so we can learn about JT’s tragic backstory investigating police corruption.  I sometimes worry about the lack of empathy I have for characters in realistic scenarios, but his story came off as a bit melodramatic and led to some pretty cringey Travolta overacting.

a man smiles at a woman seated next to him in a restaurant booth
Nice rabbit foot…

As it turns out, Sally has a dark past of her own, and was part of a conspiracy to ruin McRyan’s political career.  This is apparently all too much for the honorable JT, who you know…probably never saw anything worse in his days of investigating police corruption.

But to return to John Lithgow.  Remember how he was going to take shit too far suddenly?  As part of the conspiracy to eliminate McRyan from the competition, John Lithgow decided to just straight-up eliminate him by shooting out his car tire.  But the plan included Sally’s death and, since she’s one of the few people who can tie all of this back to the conspirators, she needs to die.  John Lithgow actually becomes a serial killer with a fucking garrote watch and all, targeting sex workers who look like Sally so her death won’t seem too out of the ordinary.  TWIS.  TED.

What will happen when John Lithgow poses as a journalist trying to get all of the evidence connecting him to the crime?  If you’re squaring off with someone who has a garrote watch, it’s probably not going to end well.

The Review:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

The plot is solid, and John Lithgow is obv a delight.  To the extent sociopathic serial killers with goddamn murder watches can be considered a delight.  In true film noir style, the entire movie is incredibly dark, and the ending doesn’t shy away from that.  This is an indictment on politics, Hollywood, the media…virtually every angle of American life.  Since some of the elements of this film are right out of the ’80s thriller playbook, I expected a cop-out ending, but ended up really impressed.

On the other hand, there’s just something that vaguely irritates me about John Travolta no matter what…?  I think I watched Grease too much growing up, and he was one of the first men to disappoint me with his stupid expectations for women.

I also had such a problem with the roles for women in this film, who are all props without exception.  I really wanted to like Sally, but she just felt like a pawn with no real dimension, and she was soooooooooooooooooooooooo naïve for a woman who agreed to a sleazy plot to set up a politician, And as a minor point of irritation–her voice was really grating.  She brought up shades of Lina Lamont from Singin’ in the Rain to me.  Is it me or is Lina Lamont still more of a feminist icon than Sally in this movie?

Would Christa dive off a bridge for this one or let it sleep with the fishes?  Read her review here to find out!

in a crowded room, a man lifts a smiling woman over his head
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Dirty Dancing, or: The Other St. Patrick

This month we both celebrate and mourn the end of summer by giving our brains a break.  Apparently that means ripping our own hearts out and dragging them along the ground because that is approximately the ease with which I objectively approached the beautiful dream that is this classic.  Objectivity is overrated anyway.

The Film:

Dirty Dancing

Where to Watch:

Please borrow my copy if you’ve never watched this because it hurts my heart to think about knowing anyone who hasn’t seen this movie

The Premise:

For the love of all that is holy, please stop and watch this damn movie.  I’ll make you popcorn.  Actually, I think I’m out of popcorn.

The Uncondensed Version:

It’s 1963 and Baby is off to the swanky summer resort where her family stays every year.  (Or, you know, the ‘80s version of the ‘60s because so many of the hairstyles/songs are completely anachronistic but IDGAF.)  Baby is such a goody two-shoes that she can’t imagine any man as great as her dad (vomit).  That is, until…okay, not yet.  NOT.  YET.

We need a teensy bit more set up.  Baby has her future mapped out:  she’ll study the economics of developing countries at Mt. Holyoke, then join the Peace Corp and save the world.  Her heart is in the right place, but she’s so idealistic it hurts.  Also really bad at dancing, which is unfortunate because it seems like the only activity available besides wandering around at night wearing a knitted sweater.

a young woman looks into the distance with a neutral facial expression
I also make this face when I have to talk to boys.

Baby’s father keeps setting her up with dick-bag Ivy League types whose self-confidence is matched only by their sleaze.  Is it any wonder, then, that Baby is immediately drawn to Patrick Swayze, who walks up late wearing sunglasses (inside) and knocks things off of set tables, thus establishing his role as bad boy who gives zero fucks?  He also does a very nice mambo and has extremely controlled hip movements, which doesn’t hurt.

So Swayze’s character is named Johnny Castle, which I just hate.  It sounds like the name of a White Castle knock-off, doesn’t it?

But I digress.  After several evenings of wandering around, Baby finally gets into the cool kids club by famously carrying a melon.  As it turns out, what the cool kids do all night is practice some rather risqué dance moves in the ‘60s version of a rave/hotbed of sin.  The most valuable piece of intel Baby gathers is that Swayze is NOT dating his super gorgeous dance partner, Penny.  And that his hips are magical.

a man dancing with a woman falls back in a move that defies gravity
Literally made of magic.

Baby continues to dodge sleaze balls and participate in the resort’s tacky entertainment until one night she finds Penny crying alone in the kitchen.  Baby has a good excuse to track down Swayze and learns that Penny is pregnant.  Who’s the baby daddy?  Not Swayze, contrary to literally every single person’s assumptions.  It’s actually the creepy waiter who is attending Yale and sort of dating Baby’s sister.  When Baby confronts him about the pregnancy, he acts like a total dick bag and recommends The Fountainhead.  Honestly the complete embodiment of being a dick bag.

With no alternative, Baby asks her father for the money needed for Penny’s abortion, supplying an “It’s really important” line as her only explanation.  Surprisingly, this works(??!).  I think I’ve just never had a good enough reputation for people to take me at my word.

Of course the major complication is that Penny can’t miss this big performance at another resort and no one else could possibly fill in.  Right, Baby?  Esp. when Patrick Swayze emphatically insists there’s no way she could.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand cue “Hungry Eyes.”  In every sense.

a woman laughs with head thrown back as a man with an exasperated expression stands behind her
This scene.  ❤ ❤ ❤

Everything leads up to the big performance, which goes okay, and Penny’s abortion, which does not.  Guess how safe it is to get an abortion when men try to restrict women’s reproductive rights?  Baby needs help from her father yet again, though he’s not so understanding this time and forbids her from seeing Swayze or any of his crowd again.

…Which, you know, means she goes directly to a shirtless Swayze’s room.  And I got chills during this entire scene because not only is it such an emotionally raw scene, but it’s so sexy even though there’s not a ton of nudity.

I feel any further plot summary gets lost in translation, so let’s wrap it up.  You either know the rest and worship at the altar of St. Patrick Swayze or you have a heart of stone.  Amongst the many obstacles facing Baby and Swayze are sleazeballs, prejudice, assumptions, cougars, arbitrary rules, and theft.  And this is all before we’re even close to cueing “She’s Like the Wind.”

Needless to say, I was dead emotionally well before the heart-stopping classic line “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”  Flat lining.

The Rating:

5/5 Pink Panther Heads

For a movie remembered as an ‘80s teen fantasy, this one explores some dark themes.  Abortion I think is the obvious one, esp. the real dangers women faced in finding a safe, affordable operation during a time when it was illegal.

On a related note, privilege also receives a lot of attention.  With enough money, even a total sleaze like Robbie the waiter can coast by relatively unscathed; he loses a recommendation letter, but is there any doubt he’ll land on his feet after the summer ends?  Penny, on the other hand—what will become of her?

Baby naively believes everyone deserves the same opportunities in life and realizes for the first time how untrue this is and what an unfair place the world is.  There is a stark contrast between the future she has ahead of her vs. Swayze, whose character will be lucky if he ends up with a steady job painting houses.  Swayze also feels completely used by the wealthy older women who want, ahem, private dance lessons from him.

There’s a bittersweet yearning for the past since this film is a coming of age story, the end of an era, but also the transition to a better future.  Baby isn’t so sure what she’ll do by the end of the movie, but she has definitely decided to reject the life her parents chose and the cocoon they built around her.

Okay, yes, Baby’s growth as a person is triggered in large part by her relationship with a man, but it’s her love of dance that gives her freedom, power, confidence, and self-expression over (even) Patrick Swayze.  Ultimately, both Baby and Swayze learn from each other, and not in the way of weird old Hollywood movies where he’s her teacher/guardian/lover (looking at you, My Fair Lady).  Baby’s empowerment actually improves all of her relationships, even with her dad as he learns to respect her autonomy.

Moral of the story:  EVERY.  SINGLE.  LINE.  In this film.  Is classic and beautiful.

I said Patrick Swayze should be sainted as an offhand FB comment, but I stand by it.  Patrick Swayze is my religion.  Those hips have performed miracles.  (But seriously, please don’t smoke.)

Let’s not even pretend:  Christa is a living human being.  She loves this film.  Find out by reading her review here!