Category: Reviews

5 Recent Disappointments

You know the old curse, “May you live in interesting times”?

I don’t live in interesting times. My life is a rutted out, comfortable road I can drive on autopilot most of the time. My life is, I daresay, savagely #blessed. I don’t have much to bitch about.

That said, I default to kvetching (complaining). I will find something to complain about. These 5, most recently.

Wendy’s has, once again, failed to bring back the Strawberry Fields salad. This year’s Summer Berry Salad doesn’t have bacon bits or onions in it. It is a lesser salad.

I had to dial back my caffeine intake.

My bladder was having these terrible spasms. I got tested for a UTI, and it came back negative. My doctor asked me how much caffeine I drank and was not pleased with my response. (I’m a tea reviewer, dammit.)

I cut most of the caffeine out, and I feel better. But I miss chugging tea all day. It really broke up the afternoon, especially.

The Lost City of Z was a great book. It was all about historical and contemporary quests for “Z,” a mysterious/mythical ancient civilization in the Amazon.

One of the main parts of the book focused on an explorer from the early 1900s who became obsessed with the concept. He kept going back to the murderous and gross jungle, and failing.

The movie Lost City of Z doesn’t incorporate any of the book except the story about the monomaniacal explorer. It’s two and a half hours of watching them pick their way through the jungle as their comrades die in different ways. They don’t find the damn city. How did it get 87% on Rotten Tomatoes?!

I was so hype to spot Disappearance at Devil’s Rock in the library. Tremblay’s previous novel, Head Full of Ghosts, was creepy as hell. Its ending was slightly open-ended, but intriguingly so. I was ready for something else from this author’s noggin.

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock was riveting, too. I churned through all several hundred pages of it in 24 hours flat.

The story is about a boy who disappears. The point of view moves from person to person involved with the case. You also get little nuggets of information from the disappeared boy’s diary, as pieces of it are found.

Each new bit of the puzzle was intriguing. There are hobo coins, rituals with Satan, spooky sightings, psychics, murders, mysteriously-appearing diary pages, and hints about doppelgangers and zombies.

Unfortunately, the bits of the puzzle never turned into a picture. They remained bits. There was nothing at the end of the story to tie it together. Some reviews online thought this was compelling. We, the readers, will never know what truly happened. But I’m the kind of person who wants to know what happened. I’m kind of pissed off.

I actually had trouble getting this list to 5. So this final item is a loser.

Nothing riveting came out of San Diego Comic Con this year. No huge revelations, jaw-dropping trailers, or promises of fascinating new projects.

It’s one of the first years I looked at the pictures/media coming out of it and thought “meh.”

Which, in a way, nice. The less FOMO the better.

5 Types of Horror Villains That Don’t Disappoint

The undead are notoriously difficult to manage. It’s why they’re such tempting subjects to explore creatively.

There are tons of horror movies — many depicting creatures from other worlds, but most focusing on our own dead, back to harm us.

The sad thing about all these movies is that most of them are fucking terrible.

Read More 5 Types of Horror Villains That Don’t Disappoint

5 (Non-Spoiler) Thoughts I Had While Watching Split

I don’t want to post any spoilers, but I am happy to announce that M Night Shyamalan has finally released a film that isn’t crap.

Which is awesome, because I feel like Shyamalan has so many great ideas… that never quite pan out in real-movie plot situations. I want Shymalan to succeed. He just… usually doesn’t for me.

Split stars James McAvoy (Professor X in the X-Men prequels) as a man with multiple personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls. Can they escape?

As I was watching this movie, I had the following 5 (non-spoiler) thoughts:

1. Apparently there’s nothing that can keep me from crushing on James McAvoy.

His character’s personalities include a pederast with OCD, a 9-year-old-boy, a gay fashion designer, and a very prim woman (above).

As each horror the character committed unfolded — and he’s definitely the antagonist — I thought “is this the final straw?”

It was never the final straw. The final straw may not exist.

2. Is Split Personality Disorder (Dissociative Identity Disorder) really a thing?

I couldn’t remember. Turns out no one’s 100% sure, and it’s, for the most part, not taken very seriously. This article does a nice job of talking about it. [Above graphic by Diana Dihaze.]

3. Teenage girls are the worst.

The protagonist (foreground) spends time locked in a room with two girls from her class (background). Their stupidity is profoundly well-written. They have this chipper “we can fix it!” gung-ho attitude toward their abduction that feels like an Oprah episode. Don’t worry: the main character tells them to stuff a sock in it.

4. Was The Happening really a thing?

It’s a movie about plants emitting a deadly toxin — then abruptly stopping for no reason.

How could the same writer/director make such varying films?

5. What’s the consensus on Shyamalan now? Am I going to get judged for liking this movie?

Split was interesting, surprising, and oddly funny. Definitely my favorite of his movies since 6th Sense — which was almost 2 decades ago.

Is he setting me up for more disappointment, or has he gotten his groove back?

Did any of you see the movie, Internet?

5 Movies I’m Looking Forward To This Year, Chronologically

I almost never miss $5 Movie Night.

Because this special runs at my theater every Tuesday, I watch a lot of filler movies. Action flicks like Tarzan and Underworld: Blood Wars. Horror flicks like Don’t Breathe and Lights Out. And basically every cartoon about animals.

In between total rubbish, I enjoy plenty of good films. Here’s what’s on my docket for Tuesdays in 2017.

^ Lego Batman movie (February 10th). When you think about it, what Bruce Wayne really needs is some therapy. If he can’t have that, we’ll just have to settle for giggling at him in Lego form.

^ A Cure for Wellness (February 17th). Is there an evil secret lurking in this fancy spa? Probably, otherwise they wouldn’t make a movie about it. Oooh, I hope the secret is something really heinous.

^ The Circle (April 28th). Imagine if Google and Facebook merged into one super-company with a fondness for complete surveillance of everyone, all the time. Emma Watson is playing the protagonist, if that helps stoke your enthusiasm. Read the book or hit up the trailer.

Read More 5 Movies I’m Looking Forward To This Year, Chronologically

Jewish Wizards & Inclusiveness in Jo Rowling & Tim Burton’s worlds

The new Harry Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, has a character named Porpentina Goldstein with brown eyes, thick brows, and curly hair hair.

We never see Goldstein go to synagogue, or eat challah, or drop Yiddish. But we have a pretty good idea of what demographic this girl probably represents.

And you know what it felt like to see her on screen? For lack of a better word: magical. She has my hair and my eyebrows. She acts like me. For once, I get to be part of the wizarding world.

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This, I hope/imagine, is what it felt like to people of color when they cast a black woman as Hermione in The Cursed Child. A feeling of finally getting to join the wizards.

Of course, anyone can identify with anyone on screen. I identify with male characters, people of color, cartoons, etc, on-screen all the time.

But it’s not the same as seeing someone who looks like you. Especially if you never see people who look like you up there. It can be lonely.

The recent casting choices are a huge leap forward.

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I just wish Rowling didn’t try to take credit for them as something she’d meant all along. “Well, I never said she was white,” is a bit silly, seeing as she had a huge hand in the creation & casting of the movies.

If she wanted a black Hermione from the beginning, she should have led her illustrator and casting director in that direction back in 2000 when they were making the first movie (released in 2001). The movies are, at this point, just as much “canon” as the books.

Which is why I’m a little miffed about the “Dumbledore is gay!” revelation. He’s not gay in the books or the movies. If she meant for him to be gay, maybe it should have been in the work itself.

She has an opportunity, in the prequels, to actually depict him as a well-rounded gay man, and I hope she does so. Because then it’s canon, and not just empty words about gayness.

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Tim Burton, in contrast to Jo Rowling’s half-hearted ret-con, doesn’t even try at inclusivity in the slightest. His most recent film, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, has one black character — who’s the villain.

Burton could have said something like “well, I prefer to cast Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter exclusively in literally everything, and they happen to be white,” and left it.

It could have even maybe been his excuse for casting Johnny Depp as a Native American character. (Ugh.)

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Nope. Burton didn’t take that approach. He said he prefers not to get “all politically correct“:

“I remember back when I was a child watching ‘The Brady Bunch’ and they started to get all politically correct,” he said. “Like, OK, let’s have an Asian child and a black. I used to get more offended by that than just… I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies.”

He doesn’t seem to see the difference between a family looking alike and an orphanage of people from various backgrounds looking alike.

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That magic of seeing someone on-screen who looks like you will never happen in a Tim Burton movie. Unless you’re white. Very, very white. And Johnny Depp and/or Helena Bonham Carter.

I’m casting my lot with the wizards. At least they’re trying.