Two teenage girls go on a long drive. Hilarity ensues.
Veronica Clarke (Haley Lu Richardson) is a high-school junior who finds out that she’s pregnant and is caught with the positive test by her former friend, Bailey Butler (Barbie Ferreira). Bailey casually offers Veronica a ride to the clinic if she needs an abortion, but assumes that she will keep the pregnancy. Veronica decides to get an abortion, but discovers that she can only get one in Missouri with parental consent. Her parents are conservative, so she searches for the closest place that doesn’t require parental notification, which happens to be in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is nearly one-thousand miles away. She asks Bailey to help her drive there and along the way, they have to deal with local law enforcement, attractive bystanders (Betty Who and Denny Love), a conspiracy theorist (Giancarlo Esposito), a crazy religious couple (Breckin Meyer and Sugar Lyn Beard), and Veronica’s boyfriend Kevin (Alex MacNicoll), who didn’t tell her the condom broke and wants her to keep the pregnancy.
I’m sure that this film is naturally going to piss some people off since the motivation for the movie is aborting a pregnancy, but, honestly, most of the time it just serves as a macguffin to keep the film going. While the movie does have several scenes in which Veronica flat-out complains that the fact that the Missouri legislature (and most of the Midwest) being assholes has forced her into this situation, most of the film is focused on the journey and the relationship between Veronica and Bailey. As you might expect, when handling the actual abortion, the film is straight-forward and accurate about how to get an abortion and what it’s like to undergo the procedure. The film also tries to incidentally dispel many myths associated with abortion, mostly in the scenes with the religious couple who abduct Veronica to try and stop her.
Like I said before, though, most of the movie is just the kind of wacky road-trip hijinks that you would expect in a film featuring two people who have a strained history. Veronica’s family had forced her to stop associating with Bailey because of her weird interests, so they really hadn’t talked in a while before this incident. Bailey is openly gay, nerdy, and outspoken while Veronica is a stereotypical cheerleader from a conservative family. Many of the scenes are just them talking about their varied experiences and they’re pretty great. Both Richardson and Ferreira bring a lot of distinct characteristics to their characters and their chemistry is great. As the film goes on, they start to fall more into a natural rhythm as if they’re finding their friendship again and it really helps propel the film through some of the more farcical scenes.
The dialogue in the movie is solid, balancing awkward humor with serious subjects and it never feels like either diminishes the other. There are a number of great scenes in which the characters are having deep and sincere moments, only to follow them up with something ridiculous as a way to bring the film back into comedy.
Overall, this really is just a great road film. Recommend it highly.
After a pretty good first season, the show seems to be stepping up its game.
SUMMARY (Spoilers for Season 1)
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there were some battles among celestial bodies. Five years after the Rebellion managed to destroy the second Death Star and kill the Emperor, Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) is a Mandalorian Bounty Hunter. He is hired by a client (Werner F*CKING Herzog) to secure a bounty, which is revealed to be a small child of an unnamed species. The Mandalorian betrays the client and decides to protect the child, earning him a host of enemies all over the galaxy, most notably his allies Cara Dune (Gina Carano), Peli Motto (Amy Sedaris), Greef Karga (Carl Weathers), and the late Kuiil (Nick Nolte) as well as the ire of Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito). Eventually, he is charged by his clan’s armorer (Emily Swallow) with finding a home for the Child with its kind. All kinds of fun surprises lie in store.
When I reviewed the first season of The Mandalorian, I definitely liked it, but I admit to still feeling like they hadn’t quite started fully tapping its potential. This second season started to step up its game a bit and I really appreciate it.
First, giving the Mandalorian an actual explicit goal beyond “keep the child alive” has given him motivation that he definitely needed. For all of the badass and bravado that we get from Din Djarin, he is a fairly void character. While it’s often fine to have a character onto whom the viewer can project, and having a character who is literally faceless facilitates that well, they still need personality. I think that they’ve done a great job expanding on that without having to use clunky exposition by showing how the Mandalorian handles his current task, particularly since it forces him to interact with people that he normally wouldn’t.
Second, while the first season gave us a taste of life in the Star Wars universe for the more normal people, the second season has expanded on that both geographically and politically. It’s shown us monsters on a scale that really had only been alluded to before now. There are extra cultural touches to every planet and hazards that you wouldn’t normally consider for this kind of fantasy universe. It has the effect of giving us more of a frontier element to the series to complement its Western elements. Also, we start to get an idea of why, exactly, the new Republic is going to be put in danger again in The Force Awakens, due to their own incompetence. It turns out that the Empire, while it suppressed everyone through force and violence, did actually at least keep some of the lawlessness on the outer planets, which the Republic completely ignored, in check.
Third, they’ve been tying the show into the existing Star Wars mythos in JUST the right way. It was a big deal at the end of the first season to introduce the Darksaber, but this season has reintroduced multiple characters from other Star Wars properties. The key, though, is that none of the references or introductions have required the viewer to know the backstory. If you are familiar with it, then you get more out of the experience, but people I know who have never seen anything other than the films who have been enjoying the series thoroughly.
Overall, just a great step-up by Disney+ and I am hoping they keep it going.
The Boys are back and America is in trouble. Those things aren’t related.
SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free for Season 2)
After the events of Season 1, the Boys are now fugitives. Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) survived his encounter with Homelander (Antony Starr), who impregnated Billy’s wife Becca (Shantel VanSanten), resulting in their son Ryan (Cameron Crovetti). Hughie (Jack Quaid), Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso), Frenchie (Tomer Capon), and the Female (Karen Fukuhara) are all underground. Hughie’s paramour Starlight (Erin Moriarity) is still a member of the Seven, along with Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), Homelander, Black Noir (Nathan Mitchell), and newcomer Stormfront (Aya Cash). They’re now being directly overseen by Mr. Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito), the head of Vought International. The Boys have to deal with both the superheroes and the newly-minted supervillains, while also finding a way to get themselves out of trouble with the law.
I really don’t want to spoil things in this article, but it’s almost impossible to talk about one of the best parts of the season without spoiling it, so I’m going to briefly say the following:
This show took a big swing this season and it paid off. If you didn’t like the first season of the series, you might still like this one. It ratcheted the social commentary up to eleven and it was merciless. Rather than just satirizing superheroes and the superhero film industry, this season satirized America and American politics. The performances remain excellent, the show’s violence remains over-the-top enough to be almost comically entertaining while also being devastating when the narration calls for it. The dialogue isn’t the best, but it’s a bit better than the first season.
Without spoilers, I really recommend this season even if you weren’t thrilled with the last one.
This season’s about America’s relationship with white supremacy. It’s not subtle. Stormfront, a character named after the former largest white supremacy publication in the US, is revealed to be a racist who murders minorities for fun and claims they died of other causes. However, when she first appears, she just seems confident, outspoken, and in favor of “law and order.” Naturally, she uses the internet to make herself more popular and to fully muddy the truth of any of her actions. Later, when Homelander murders someone on film, she’s able to shift public opinion back towards him by use of these troll farms and masterful public relations. She and Homelander become romantically involved, with her being one of the only people capable of standing up to him and capable of making him submit to her wishes. But the real revelation is that she’s not a new hero. In fact, in the 1970s, she was operating in the South as a hero named Liberty who was removed from circulation because she kept murdering minorities. She’s just been rebranded as “Stormfront” and given a heavy internet cult following. Moreover, the Liberty persona was not her original self either. She’s actually a Nazi and the first person given superpowers by Compound V.
By intertwining her history and existence with Homelander’s, the show gives us a strange commentary on the relationship between the USA and racism. Homelander’s formation was based on DNA from Stormfront. In other words, his existence always contained traces of racism. Then, she rebranded herself based on the American image and used it to secretly try and destroy African-Americans, but eventually she risked getting exposed and had to go underground. Now, thanks to the internet, she can rebrand herself again. By marketing herself just right, she can be out in public and tie herself directly into the supposed movement to support America. In other words, she’s made it so that people supporting patriotism are supporting racism and those that condemn racism are accused of being unpatriotic. This is, of course, only a fictional world and none of this is happening right now in reality. No one kneeling to protest racism, for example, would ever be accused of being unpatriotic, particularly since the right to protest was one of the most fundamental ensconced in the Constitution.
Overall, though, this show does a great job of giving some commentary about the nature of racism in America. I look forward to seeing Season 3.
Spike Lee’s masterpiece manages to stay relevant for over 30 years.
It’s the middle of a heat wave in Bedford-Stuyvesant and everyone around the neighborhood seems to be going a little overboard. At multiple points of the movie, we see characters expressing their “inner voice” to the camera. Local highlights include: Radio DJ Mister Senor Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson); friendly one-liner quoting drunk Da Mayor (Ossie Davis); wandering boombox enthusiast Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn); local horndog Buggin’ Out (Giancarlo Esposito); neighborhood watchdog Mother Sister (Ruby Dee); mentally disabled man Smiley (Roger Guenveur Smith); and then there’s Mookie.
Mookie (Spike Lee) is a pizza delivery man for neighborhood pizza man Sal (Danny Aiello). Mookie lives with his sister, Jade (Joie Lee), and has a baby with his girlfriend, Tina (Rosie Perez). Mookie frequently fights with Sal’s racist son Pino (John Turturro), but is friends with Sal’s other son Vito (Richard Edson). Sal, an Italian-American, gets into a fight with Buggin’ Out over the fact that Sal puts famous Italian-Americans on the pizza wall, but not African-Americans. Mookie tells Buggin’ Out to just stay away for a while, but Buggin’ Out points out that since this is a black neighborhood, Sal should honor some black people. Meanwhile, in order to deal with the heat and the blackouts, local residents Ahmad (Steve White) and Cee (Martin Lawrence) open a fire hydrant. Some of the teens use the water to soak a local man until the police shut down the party and the hydrant.
Mookie and Pino get into a fight over the fact that Pino keeps using the “N word” despite idolizing black people. After Mookie leaves, Pino asks Sal to sell the pizzeria and move to an Italian-American neighborhood, but Sal insists that this is the only place where they can make money and that he likes the neighborhood. When Buggin’ Out tries to start a boycott of Sal’s to get a black figure on Sal’s wall, the neighborhood uniformly defends Sal’s, so Buggin’ Out is the only person boycotting. Jade and Sal have a conversation, leading Mookie to believe Sal wants to hit on her and he tells both parties not to associate.
Later that evening, Radio Raheem, Smiley, and Buggin’ Out come into Sal’s as it’s closing and try to demand black people be on the wall, calling Sal and sons “Guinea Bastards.” Sal, angry, calls Radio Raheem and Buggin’ Out the “N word” and smashes Radio Raheem’s boombox. Raheem attacks Sal and soon a brawl erupts into the street. The police arrive and arrest Radio Raheem and Buggin’ Out, but not Sal. In the process, one of the officers, despite the crowd telling him to stop, chokes Radio Raheem to death. The officers then put Raheem’s corpse in the car and leave. A mob starts to direct their anger at the police, but with them gone, they direct their anger at Sal and his sons. Mookie walks away from Sal as Da Mayor tries to convince the crowd that it wasn’t Sal’s fault. Realizing that violence is imminent, Mookie throws a trash can through Sal’s window, leading the crowd to attack the restaurant as Da Mayor gets Sal, Vito, and Pino out of the way. Smiley sets the building on fire and firefighters arrive to put it out. They quickly turn the hoses on the crowd, leading to more fights and arrests.
The next day, Mookie goes to see Sal and asks for his money. The two have a tense interaction, but end up reconciling somewhat. Mookie walks back as another hot day begins and Love Daddy tells everyone to register to vote. The film ends with a pair of quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X on the nature of violence and a photo of the two leaders together, the same photo Smiley was selling throughout the film.
The prompt for this film was “Best Film Soundtrack (No Musicals).” My first thought was Purple Rain, because that soundtrack is amazing, but then I decided I wanted to eliminate movies where the musician starred in the film, because that seemed too close to a musical. Then I was caught between this film, Guardians of the Galaxy, Top Gun, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and a half-dozen others. I picked this movie because out of all of the movies, I think this one has stayed the most relevant.
The soundtrack to this film, much like Reservoir Dogs, is typically music that the characters are actually hearing, rather than just the audience. The music is almost entirely played by either Radio Raheem’s boombox or by DJ Love Daddy. The only times in which the music is entirely internal seem to be when the characters are directly addressing the audience. The central song in the film which is played both during Rosie Perez’s extremely powerful and energetic dance during the opening theme, and at almost every time that Radio Raheem is in the film, is “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy. The song is, as you would think, an anthem dedicated to empowering black Americans and trying to rebel against the dominance of white culture and subservient images of black heroes. Public Enemy wrote the song at the request of Spike Lee and it ended up being one of the band’s biggest hits. The rest of the soundtrack intentionally includes songs that are particular to the scene, but were not major hits. Part of the reason is that DJ Love Daddy ran a small local station and probably only could afford independent music, and part of it is that it better showcased underground music. After being featured in the movie, several songs, including “My Fantasy” by Teddy Riley and Guy, shot up the Hot R&B Singles charts, with “My Fantasy” hitting number 1. There’s a great variety in the soundtrack, ranging from gospel to Latin to R&B, which is in part because it is ostensibly a variety radio lineup. The score for the film was composed by Spike Lee’s father and is a blend of Jazz, Classical, and R&B.
One of the film’s strengths comes from the variety of characters featured. The story isn’t really as much about Mookie or any single character as it is about this neighborhood. Most of the recurring characters don’t have real names, only sobriquets, because that’s how they know each other. The audience is treated as if it’s just another person in Bed-Stuy. Because of that, we’re given a heavy dose of honesty from the various people around, including the famous scene of many of the characters directly stating which race they hate the most.
Throughout the film, tempers flare as the temperature rises. The temperature is one of the most brilliant parts of the film because it simultaneously functions literally and as a metaphor for racial tension. When the characters are feeling the heat or deal with racial issues, they start sweating more profusely, the lens becomes a little more fish-eye, and the dutch angles start to take over, indicating unease or tension. It’s heavily used in the scene in which Radio Raheem and Buggin’ Out confront Sal, pushing him over the edge until he finally responds with slurs and breaking Radio Raheem’s boombox. Was it the heat or the pressure that finally causes Sal to snap and Raheem to snap in turn?
The death of Radio Raheem is a large part of why I selected this film. Radio Raheem is needlessly choked to death by a police officer over attacking a man who had just destroyed his property. Raheem had confronted and harassed Sal in his place of business, but Sal destroyed the most important piece of property which Raheem owned, something which was tied directly to his identity. Raheem doesn’t even say “my boombox,” he says “my music” when confronting Sal, because being accompanied by music was part of who he is. However, when the police arrive, they don’t touch Sal or Pino or Vito, but they kill Radio Raheem. We’re required to watch the entire thing as multiple characters are yelling at the officers and saying that they’re killing him, including the officer’s partner. We’re even shown that the officer pulls Raheem literally off the ground as he chokes the life out of him. When he falls to the ground dead, what is the first response? The police yell at his corpse and kick it, telling him to quit faking. The police then get the hell out of there and leave Sal, Vito, and Pino to be their scapegoats.
There have been plenty of discussions about why Mookie throws the trash can through the window of Sal’s, but I’ve always stuck with the interpretation that Mookie realized that something had to happen. Losing Radio Raheem was too great of an inequity for the crowd to bear, a brutal reminder of the inequalities of the world they live in. The mob was going to try to balance the scales and Mookie decided that it was going to be either Sal’s or Sal and that property is not as important as life. Sal is insured, he’ll rebuild. Radio Raheem cannot be brought back. This is why the scales can never be balanced under the current system. At the end of the film, DJ Love Daddy reads a message from the Mayor that says that destruction of property will not be tolerated. That’s what the politicians care about: A burned-up building. Not the dead body of Radio Raheem. This movie is over 30 years old and yet this message seems so contemporary that it’s frightening.
I don’t think I can add anything else to this. If you haven’t seen this movie: See it. If you have seen it: See it again. And, as DJ Love Daddy reminds us at the end of the film: Vote. It’s a constitutional form of violence against the powers that be.