The Warner Brothers and the Warner Sister are back.
SUMMARY (Spoilers are essentially impossible)
Back in the ‘90s, they were in a very famous TV show. No, it’s not BoJack Horseman, it’s Yakko, Wakko, and Dot Warner (Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille). Then, in 1998, the show stopped and, aside from a film in 1999, the trio have mostly been gone from the public eye. However, since Hollywood is completely out of ideas, the trio have been brought back to run rampant all over the Warner Studios and society once more. They’re sharing a large amount of the billing with everyone’s favorite mice, Pinky and the Brain (Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche). Welcome to the new world, same as the old world, but a little wackier.
It’s tough to review a reboot like this, because this show was a huge part of my childhood that it definitely has a huge nostalgia factor when evaluating, for better or for worse. On balance, I think it actually made me a little more critical of this show than I might have been. While the Warners and Pinky and the Brain have returned, almost no other characters return from the previous series, something that I think might be attributed to the fact that almost none of the writers or creators from the previous show returned. Yes, Steven Spielberg is still producing, but the creative teams for the shows are almost completely different. I guess after 22 years, everyone else had other stuff to do or wanted more money (or, sadly, had passed away). Because of that, while the show does have some of the feel of the previous series, it lacks some of the memorable characters and, rather than replacing them, mostly just focused on the Warners more. It’s tough to not miss the Goodfeathers or Slappy Squirrel.
That said, the new show is still really, really funny. It’s definitely aiming for a more mature crowd than the original, with wordplay and references that would fly way over the heads of the average kid. Kids will still like it for the slapstick and the sight gags, though. The show definitely gets away with some dirty jokes, but if you are surprised by that, you clearly didn’t see the original Animaniacs. The fourth-wall breaks that were fairly frequent in the last show are moved up to an entirely new level of meta-humor at times and it is often great. They also fully embrace their tradition of bad jokes that are so bad they loop all the way around to hilarious. Many of the puns fit this mold exactly.
I know a number of people have said that the show is pushing an agenda and I can only say that yes, they’re absolutely right. This show clearly disliked the Trump administration and they are not subtle about letting you know it. Compared to the relatively more “everyone’s a target” feeling of the original show, this probably will put some people off, but honestly it came up only a few times so you might not even notice.
Overall, I really missed this series and I’m glad it came back.
I thought this was one of the best movies of last year and I never wrote about it.
Amy and Molly (Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein) are high school seniors who have been friends for years, but are considered elitist due to their dedication to academics. The week of Graduation, Molly overhears some of her classmate mocking her and tries to condemn them by saying that she got into Yale, only for the rest of her class to reveal that they also got into great schools while still enjoying their high school experience. Molly goes to Amy and reveals that they have wasted so many opportunities to have fun and gets Amy to go along to a party hosted by Molly’s crush, Nick (Mason Gooding), at which Amy’s crush, Ryan (Victoria Ruesga), might also appear. Unfortunately, they don’t know where the party is and a night of strange hijinks and misadventures ensues.
When this movie came out it was advertised as being the female equivalent of Superbad. I liked Superbad a decent amount, but I can say that, while both films are about social outcasts trying to have a last fling, they don’t really hit any of the same beats in terms of actual story. Because of that, you can judge each one on its own merits and enjoy them both. However, no scene in Superbad ever had me angry laughing, something that I was nearly convinced was impossible until this film. The scene in which Molly’s “the reason you suck” speech is so brutally rebutted by the, ultimately pretty realistic, revelation that most of the people at this upper-class high school are going to good colleges is one of the funniest and most memorable things ever. It simultaneously is infuriating and hilarious, and I loved every second of it.
The dialogue in this film is brilliant, which surprised me because it’s something that often suffers when, as with this film, you have four writers. Instead, they nailed it. Several of the exchanges in this film, particularly between the leads, are absolutely hilarious. The “wacky hijinks” are all fun and are all worked organically into the plot so that they don’t feel like throwaway gags. The supporting characters manage to hit the sweet spot where you definitely believe they’re real personalities, but also stereotyped enough that you can understand them pretty easily. The performances are pretty great all around, but Feldstein and Dever have to do a lot of the heavy lifting and they make it look effortless.
It helps that the main characters, unlike most high-school comedy leads, weren’t focused solely on getting laid. They are legitimately just kids who bought into the belief that the only way to get ahead was to study at the expense of everything else, only to realize that it doesn’t help them be well-rounded people. It also helps that their friendship is a lot more complex than most of the friendships we usually see in a raunchy comedy. Then there’s the fact that Amy is a lesbian, something that adds an additional layer of complications to her desire for sexual experience, and results in several of the funniest sequences in the film. It highlights how so much of society’s heteronormative culture can harm LGBT people.
Overall, just a fantastic film, definitely something everyone should see, and it was a heck of directorial debut by Olivia Wilde. Can’t believe I never reviewed it.
Anna Bludso (Elle Lorraine) is an assistant at Culture, a TV station featuring predominantly black artists in 1989. Anna’s mentor, Edna (Judith Scott), is replaced by former model Zora (Vanessa Williams) on the orders of the station’s owner, Grant (James Van der Beek). Anna pitches a new idea for the network to Zora, impressing her. Zora tells Anna to get a weave, rather than her natural hair, in order to better meet with the new image for the network that Zora wants. Anna gets the weave from major stylist Virgie (Laverne Cox). However, it turns out that this new hair may be more unnatural than a normal weave. It may, in fact, be evil.
The idea of having hair that is evil is not new. The Simpsons did it in 1998 and that was a parody of an episode of Amazing Stories from 1986. However, I’ve never thought that the hair itself was scary. This movie, on the other hand, makes me genuinely terrified of the experience of getting a weave something I, as a white dude with a scruffy look, will never actually have to contemplate. The sounds and the visuals that accompany Laverne Cox giving Elle Lorraine a weave are visceral. It’s bloody, it’s painful, and we know that every second of it is not just damaging her physically but erasing her essence. While apparently weaves aren’t as bloody as they appear in this film, a woman I know who has one described getting a bad one as “like someone attempting to scalp you without a knife.” This movie makes that abundantly clear. The fact that it’s mandated for no reason other than to try and reconstruct black women into a look that white people find appealing really calls attention to one of the more subtle ways in which society tries to mandate conformity to a Eurocentric ideal.
This film is a big swing by Justin Simien, the director and writer of Dear White People. He appears to be trying to do his own version of Get Out, something that a number of black filmmakers have been given more rein to try since Jordan Peele reminded Hollywood that black people can, in fact, make solid horror movies with good social commentary. Unfortunately, I think Hollywood also doesn’t fully trust them to do so, which sometimes leads to a disjointed feeling between the vision and the product (like Antebellum). Simien described the film as a love letter about the relationship between black women and their hair, something I’ll admit that I don’t know if I can comment on too much. I will say that I thought the performances did a lot of the talking, in terms of showing that relationship, and the script did have some of the sharp dialogue that Simien has proven he can produce.
The movie, unfortunately, doesn’t really balance the horror and satirical social commentary particularly well. While the idea of trying to tie cultural erasure into a monster could probably be very powerful, maybe even on the level of Get Out, this movie never actually manages to do it. Honestly, I don’t think a man, even a black man, could ever have done this movie right. It tries to make numerous statements about the relationship of black women to their hair, but most of them seemed like rehashed jokes from In Living Color rather than an actual depiction of how hair impacts the way that black women are perceived by white society. While the hair being a key to promotion and social acceptance could be a great way to expand on the theme, I think the movie drops the ball a bit and instead just has it be demanded by other black women who just want to perpetuate a cycle of cultural erasure. Possibly the only really good commentary is the reveal that ***SPOILERS*** everything that happens is really in service of a wealthy white guy. ***END SPOILERS*** It doesn’t help that the movie has difficulty being a horror film while it’s doing social commentary and vice-versa. The scenes of Anna’s hair being evil don’t really seem to further the themes at all, with a few small exceptions.
Overall, though, any movie that can make me feel this uncomfortable at times must be doing something right and I think any critic would be hard pressed to say the film’s not entertaining. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
The most accurate part of the show is that Zeus being horny destroys everything.
In the beginning there were the Titans. The Gods came next, smiting the Titans, but in response the Earth spawned the Giants. Eventually, the Giants were banished to the underworld and the Gods began to rule over humanity.
Heron (Derek Phillips) and his mother Electra (Mamie Gummer) live outside of a modest Polis in Greece. He and his mother are shunned because the city has been covered by clouds since the day they arrived. The only one who seems to care about them is a local old man (Jason O’Mara). However, it turns out that Heron is actually a son of Zeus, and that he is one of the only things that can stop the army of demons, people who have eaten the flesh of the dead Giants, and their leader, Seraphim (Elias Toufexis). Also, Zeus’s affair to produce Heron ends up causing him to have to deal with an angry Hera and a ton of other terrible stuff.
This is a soap opera, but, let’s face it, so is most of Greek Mythology. There are secret siblings, long-lost relatives, and affairs everywhere. Also, the Gods are even more dysfunctional than they are in most of the media adaptations. Zeus cheats on his wife so much that Benjamin Franklin probably had his picture on the wall as an inspiration, but I don’t think his wife ever went Hera’s route and constantly tried to kill his lovers and children. Hera killing someone because of Zeus’ d*ck was a leading cause of death in ancient Greece, slightly behind “plague” and before “Sparta” (come at me, Spartans). If there is one thing this show gets right, it’s the fact that mythology was the equivalent of trashy reality television as often as it was about epic tales of heroic deeds.
The rest of the story, though, is a blend of the generic mythology storyline. Demons are trying to awaken the giants and kill humanity and the Gods are forbidden to directly interfere… except that they absolutely will break that rule by lawyering it to the point of absurdity. I know that you didn’t see the movie Immortals, and you’re the better for it, but that’s almost exactly the plot of it. Both even have Zeus pretending to be an old man to mentor a kid. They also both end with pointless casualties as a result of the gods not being able to interfere until too late in the story. The rest of the film, though, contains the kind of scenes of the Gods looking down over humanity and the weird and fun imagery that’s reminiscent of Clash of the Titans.
The show is pretty ambitious in its scope, going through a really large amount of story in under four hours of total screen time. The animation is highly stylized, but I think it’s pretty great. It’s reminiscent of the animation in Castlevania, which makes sense as they’re from the same studio, but it’s distinct enough to be its own animal. The voice actors do a great job of adding extra layers of emotion when the dialogue might have fallen short.
This is my third watch-through of a movie I tell everyone should be watched exactly once.
SUMMARY (CW: Children dying horribly)
On September 21, 1945, less than three weeks after WWII ends, a young boy named Seita (Tsutomu Tatsumi/Adam Gibbs) starves to death in a train station. As a janitor goes through Seita’s possessions, he finds a tin of Sakuma drops (a hard candy from Japan) and discards it into a field. Several small bones fall out, and, along with some fireflies, the spirit of a small girl, Seita’s younger sister Setsuko (Ayano Shiraishi/ Emily Neves), emerges. Together, Seita and Setsuko’s spirits board an ethereal train.
The film then moves a few months back to the end of WWII. Seita and Setsuko live in Kobe with their mother (Yoshiko Shinohara / Shellee Calene-Black), who dies when the US firebombs the city, getting burned to the point that she is unrecognizable. Seita and Setsuko move in with a distant aunt (Akemi Yamaguchi/Marcy Bannor). The aunt is kind to the children at first, but eventually she convinces Seita to let her sell his mother’s valuable silk kimonos in exchange for rice. Seita also gives his aunt all of their possession, except for a tin of Sakuma drops that he keeps for Setsuko. As the war gets to the final stages, rations start to decrease and the number of people in the house starts to increase. The aunt starts to accuse Seita, whose school has been burned down and who can’t get work due to the factories being destroyed, of being lazy and ungrateful. Seita, who wants independence, buys a stove using his mother’s savings and cooks for just himself and Setsuko. Eventually, he decides that the pair should live in an abandoned bomb shelter.
The pair survive off of the land for a brief period while living in the shelter. When Setsuko gets scared of the dark, Seita catches fireflies and keeps them in the shelter with them. The next morning, all of the insects are dead. Setsuko buries all of them in a grave and starts to ask why everything has to die, like their mother. After their supplies start to run low, Seita tries to trade with the farmers, but is refused. Eventually, he starts stealing from farms and running into houses to steal during bombing raids. Eventually, he’s caught and beaten, but is saved from prosecution by a friend of his father, who is currently in the Japanese Navy.
Setsuko starts to fall ill and a doctor tells Seita that it’s just malnutrition. Seita withdraws the last of the money from their mother’s bank account just as he learns that Japan has surrendered and that his father is probably dead. Seita returns with food for Setsuko, but she dies before he finishes cooking it. Seita cremates her body and stores her remains in the candy tin. In the present, their spirits arrive in modern Kobe, sitting on a hilltop and watching the world happily.
I absolutely hate whoever came up with “Film that Depresses You Horribly” as a prompt, but I hate the fact that I didn’t get rid of it even more. Trying to decide which horribly depressing film you want to watch is like asking what brand of liquid laxative to drink before your colonoscopy. No matter what you pick, it’s a shitty time. Anyway, after nominating Sophie’s Choice, Blue Velvet, Lars Von Trier’s Depression Trilogy, and this film, I picked this one because it seems the most relevant. No, not because we’re fighting a war with Japan right now (we’re not, right?), but because of the actual intended message of the film.
People who watch this movie will almost uniformly declare it to be an anti-war film, something which the late director, Studio Ghibli founder Isao Takahata, would say was incorrect. In fact, he directly opposed the idea that this is an anti-war anime, because he believed that anyone that used the suffering of the citizens as a justification to avoid war could also use it as a justification for just attacking first. After all, if you kill all of their innocent citizens first, then yours get to live. Not hard to imagine why a guy born in Japan in the 1930s and who lived through a 1945 bombing might have some negative opinions about trying to justify starting a war.
However, I think that the film does successfully convey the horror of being a citizen when your country is being attacked. There is one scene in the film in which almost everything on screen is on fire, with the entire block just being erased from existence by the bombers. When we next see the area, it’s now a completely scorched landscape, with factories, homes, and even people rendered into a charred mass. It’s incredibly disturbing, but it’s only compounded when we are shown the image of Seita’s mother burned over her entire body. She’s unrecognizable to almost anyone, and later, her wounds are filled with insects and rot. The movie makes sure that we understand that this was not a pleasant end. The same is true of Seita and Setsuko starving to death. It’s not a fast ending, it’s slow and painful. Moreover, it was easily preventable by any number of people.
That’s apparently closer to the film’s actual aim, at least from what I can find. Obviously, if you’re a fan of ignoring authorial intent, then that’s a completely valid point of view, but I do like to consider it, particularly in films like this. It seems that the intent in this film wasn’t to say that war is terrible, but instead to say that these children died because no one helped them. They were socially isolated because their aunt kept telling them that they were ungrateful, leading them to leave, and she never checked on them again. Children become aware that the two are living there, but no one comes to check on them. Seita takes Setsuko to a doctor who tells him the child is malnourished, but when Seita asks how to feed her, the doctor just ignores him. The farmers don’t offer to help the children. Even the janitor seems unphased by the dead pre-teen in front of him. The society has become cold and insular because of the stresses from the war, rather than working together or trying to help each other. These children die because everyone abandons them.
Overall, this is a great film, but it’s hard to watch. Not just because it revolves around kids dying, but because the message isn’t just about war, but about humanity. People need to care for each other, even more when everything is going badly.
I legitimately forgot how awesome this movie was, and I remembered it being great.
Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles) is an antisocial student at Padua High School outside of Seattle. Her father, Walter (Larry Miller), is overprotective of Kat and her sister Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) due to the loss of his wife and the fact that he is an obstetrician who works with teenage pregnancy. While he originally forbade the pair from dating, he modifies it so that Bianca can only date when Kat does. Cameron James (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a new student at Padua, wants to ask out Bianca. Realizing that the way to Bianca requires Kat to get a date despite her hostile attitude, he decides to recruit local delinquent Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) to date Kat. Cameron, using his friend Michael (David Krumholtz), convinces Joey (Andrew “Apparently I run a Cult now” Keegan), the wealthy jerk who has made a bet that he can bed Bianca, to hire Patrick to seduce Kat.
Kat immediately rebuffs Patrick, but Michael and Cameron provide him with insider information gleaned from Bianca. Patrick starts to gain Kat’s trust and interest, leading to the two going to a party together. Bianca also gets to go and upsets Kat by talking to Joey over Kat’s objection. Kat gets drunk and cuts loose, then knocks herself out on a chandelier. Patrick takes care of her and she finally opens up, but he can’t reciprocate when she attempts to kiss him. Meanwhile, Joey’s behavior angers Bianca and she ends up kissing Cameron.
Joey, still wanting to sleep with Bianca, hires Patrick to ask Kat to prom. Though she’s still mad about him not kissing her, he wins her back by arranging for the marching band to play Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” and serenading her. However, Kat refuses to go to prom with him due to her hatred of popular and sexist events. She finally confesses to Bianca that her rejection of social norms is because she slept with Joey years ago due to peer pressure. Bianca tells Kat not to make decisions for her, so Kat relents and goes to Prom with Patrick. Bianca goes with Cameron despite Joey asking her, leading Joey to take Chastity (Gabrielle Union), Bianca’s former best friend.
At Prom, Chastity tells Bianca about Joey’s bet to sleep with her and Joey reveals that he paid Patrick to date Kat. Kat storms off and Joey punches Cameron, only for Bianca to beat Joey up for his actions. The next day, Bianca reconciles with Kat, as do Kat and Walter. Kat reads aloud a poem entitled “10 Things I Hate About You” which reveals that she still loves Patrick and the two reconcile.
Also, Daryl Mitchell plays the most aggressive English teacher ever and Allison Janney plays an erotica-writing guidance counselor.
Upon watching this film again, I realized that there’s nothing more appropriate for Shakespeare than to take a tired plot and revitalize it with clever lines and fun performances. As most of you probably remember from High School (where you might have been allowed to watch this film as part of the course), this is an updated version of the play The Taming of the Shrew. Much like this film, the core of the play consists of a man being hired by a suitor to seduce and marry the older sister of the second man’s intended. The twist is that the “Shrew” in the title, Kate (here Kat), is constantly rejecting proposals and has a harsh way with words. In the play, Petruchio (here Patrick), convinces Kate to marry him by being the only man willing to trade verbal jabs with her (in some of Shakespeare’s funniest dialogue).
However, the play doesn’t age well after that because he starts to psychologically torment her into being completely subservient to him and a “good” wife. This film mostly tries to avoid the latter part while keeping the harsh verbal jabs, which is probably the ultimate way to “update” the Bard. Instead of trying to “tame” Kat, Patrick mostly just tries to get her to open up about her interests and for him to realize that he actually likes her. Kat’s changes, while prompted by Patrick, are mostly internal, such as realizing that she only is anti-social because she has to push against any kind of peer pressure. While the film doesn’t make it explicit, it seems like part of her willingness to go to the prom is because she finally recognizes that only doing things because they’re against the crowd is still letting the crowd influence your behavior.
I remembered this being a fun movie, to be sure, but I actually was amazed how much I had forgotten about it since the last time I watched it, which, and I’m dating myself, was probably in High School. Right at the beginning of the film, I had forgotten how we were introduced to the characters and the world. Most of it is through either David Krumholtz introducing the various “cliques” around the school (something that would be taken to the extreme in Mean Girls and parodied in Not Another Teen Movie) or through Allison Janney interviewing the various students as a guidance counselor while attempting to write her own pornography. Interestingly, the only two students who actually contribute to the erotic language are Kat (who contributes “quivering member”) and Patrick (whose antics motivate Ms. Perky to use Bratwurst as a euphemism). These are intercut with some witty dialogue exchanges between the various characters which gives us an idea of who everyone in the film is within just a few minutes.
Between Ms. Perky’s wildly inappropriate behavior with the students and Mr. Morgan’s tendency to bluntly berate the students for failing to acknowledge their privilege, the film doesn’t treat teachers like impartial authority figures as much as most high school stories, but more like regular people who somehow fail to get fired. In contrast, Larry Miller, the actual authority figure, is shown being genuinely just concerned for his daughters, even if he’s over the top. Mr. Morgan seems to mostly serve to keep taking the students down when they forget to check their privilege, something that becomes incredibly blatant when he tells Kat “[i]t must be tough for [her] to overcome all those years of upper middle class suburban oppression. His character seems a bit ahead of his time, when you consider this movie is from the late 90s and Mr. Morgan repeatedly points out that the school refuses to let him teach black authors and that Shakespeare’s prevalence, while valid, doesn’t mean that he wasn’t still complicated by being a white guy from the 1600s. Both of the teachers just seem to exist to give the characters an opportunity for honest and funny interactions.
While the story is an update of a play, I will acknowledge that this movie is very dated. From the slang to the outfits to the pop culture references to the soundtrack, this movie screams “welcome to the 90s.” If you were a kid in the 1990s, you’ll probably find almost everything nostalgic. If you weren’t, then there are a number of jokes in this film that will fall flat. While I do love the soundtrack, I will also acknowledge that the heavy presence of Letters to Cleo also feels off, since the band broke up shortly after this film. Their cover, with Save Ferris, of “Cruel to Be Kind” does really elevate the prom scene, though. However, all of the other music gets overshadowed by the sheer beauty of Heath Ledger’s iconic singing of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” That scene is so over-the-top and ballsy and genuine that it really should never have worked, except that Ledger completely commits. You can feel that he knows it’s ridiculous but that he is willing to do it anyway. It’s iconic for a reason.
Then there’s the poem that gives the movie its name. I remembered that it existed, but I will admit that I forgot that it really is the climax of the film. Kudos to Julia Stiles, it comes off as completely sincere even though the poem is slightly ridiculous. I mean, one of the lines is “I hate you so much it makes me sick – it even makes me rhyme.” That’s pretty corny. However, when she reaches the end, she finally breaks down as she openly admits that, as much as Patrick did to her, she still can’t hate him.
Overall, this film really does still work. Yes, it’s mostly for 90s kids, but I think anyone would appreciate the clever dialogue and great performances by most of the cast.
A man is given superpowers, but is controlled by a mad scientist.
There is a black hole collapsing out in the galaxy and it is poised to release a huge burst of gamma rays. In the event that it does, Earth will be destroyed. A mysterious voice contacts a scientist (Colm Feore) and tells him that there is only one way to save the world. At the same time, Joe Steadman (Ron Eldard), a recovering alcoholic who lost his wife tries to reconnect with his daughters. When he meets with his oldest daughter, Zoe (Jordan Hinson), he loses his temper and attacks her physicist boyfriend, Michael (Austin Stowell). His youngest daughter, Rhea (Marielle Jaffe), is revealed to be a drug addict. Later, Joe is attacked and knocked unconscious. When he awakes, the scientist now has a chip embedded in Joe’s head and eye, and he forces Joe to start committing crimes, eventually causing him to overload an experimental energy source. Now Joe has control over the four fundamental forces of the universe, but they are tied to his emotions. He can potentially save mankind… if he doesn’t destroy everything first.
I’ve mentioned repeatedly that I tend to love horror movies especially when they serve as an effective metaphor for some kind of trauma. Even though this movie isn’t solidly in the horror genre, it still contains a lot of horror elements, and one of them is that this movie does convey an excellent metaphor. But more on that in a second.
Any movie that has Colm Feore in it, particularly as the bad guy, is off to a good start. While my favorite of his villainous performances is in The Chronicles of Riddick, Paycheck and even Stephen King’s Storm of the Century got a boost from his ability to play a calculating and sadistic character. In this, he mostly operates as a disembodied voice that controls Joe, but his voice adds a level of gravitas to it that other actors might not have been able to pull off. Ron Eldard, who I really only remember from the movie Ghost Ship, does a good job playing a morally ambiguous character. Joe is massively flawed, having lost faith in almost everything due to the loss of his wife and instead turned to alcohol and violence. He’s trying to get his life back together, but it’s obvious from his daughter’s reaction that he’s failed at this before and he immediately fails again upon hitting any hurdle. Then he gets dragged into a situation in which he is being forced to do things against his will because they can threaten his daughters. After he gets powers, he has to deal with trying to control his anger in order to become something more than himself.
While the script for this film is kind of basic in terms of dialogue, often having some clunky exposition or over-the-top melodrama, the concepts are so neat and the film progresses so swiftly that you probably will overlook it. It helps that the movie contains a visual style that alternates between being drab and gritty and being vibrant and luminous to separate the local with the cosmic. The film frequently talks around the insignificance of humans on the universal scale, yet it embraces the idea that perhaps humanity can ascend.
The big metaphor for the film is that of recovering from addiction. The film’s title, and a few lines in the film itself, reference the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The first step of AA is to admit that you’re powerless over alcohol (i.e. that there is a problem), but the second step is to believe that a higher power (i.e. God) can restore you. In this film, Joe is revealed to be powerless over both his drinking and his anger. However, after the scientist takes control of him (the scientist is literally billed as “Control”), then Joe is forced to give himself up to a higher power who is literally controlling him. Eventually, after successfully giving himself up to it, Joe has recovered enough to finally take control himself, over both his addiction to alcohol and to anger, allowing him to self-actualize. As is common in addiction recovery, the film has Joe put something above himself in order to finally change: His children.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. Give it a try.
Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti star in this smart romantic comedy.
It’s November 9th and Nyles (Andy Samberg) is at the wedding of Tala Wilder (Camila Mendes) and Abe Schlieffen (Tyler Hoechlin) with his girlfriend, Misty (Meredith Hagner). After the wedding, a drunken Nyles delivers an impromptu toast, which bails out Tala’s unprepared sister, Sarah (Cristin Milioti). Nyles starts up a conversation with her and the two hit it off. She and Nyles find Misty cheating on him, so they start to make out in the desert until they’re interrupted by someone named Roy (J.K. Simmons) shooting Nyles with arrows. Injured, Nyles crawls into a strange cave and Sarah follows. She finds herself waking up on November 9th, now stuck in a time loop with Nyles. Hijinks definitely ensue.
So, I went into this movie totally blind. I was told that it was funny and it stars two people I like, so I figured I would watch it eventually, but I didn’t know anything about the film. I almost wish that I could talk about this movie without mentioning the central conceit. However, it is a hallmark of good filmmaking that I was able to guess the underlying time loop premise just based on a few scenes of Andy Samberg interacting with the crowd. It was at that point I paused the movie and said “This is awesome.” It would not be the last time I did so during this film.
Actually, that amazing efficiency of storytelling is part of what works best about Palm Springs. It doesn’t have to really tell us everything that Nyles has gone through because we can see how he interacts with the world now. His nihilism (not saying that’s why his name is Nyles, but…) has taken over his life because literally nothing he does matters. He has been through so much that he barely feels human, but we also get the idea that he was never filled with an abundance of ambition before this. Nyles, despite having spent what has to be literal years in this loop, doesn’t appear to have actually used it to gain new skills or better himself, he’s just given up and gotten drunk. The movie takes advantage of the fact that you’re probably familiar with at least some other Groundhog Day loop media and uses that to skip over some of the more common stages in the trope, like moving past the suicide montage. It does the same with many tropes of romantic comedies, allowing us to skip quickly past some of the dumber formulaic elements and move towards some more genuine and compelling interactions.
Cristin Milioti is one of my favorite actresses in recent years, mostly due to her amazing performance as the titular Mother in How I Met Your Mother. In this film, she is damned near perfect and the chemistry between her and Andy Samberg is so natural that it never seems forced even under the most bizarre situations. Sarah is a screw-up and basically the black sheep of her family, something that doesn’t exactly seem undeserved based on some of her actions during the film, but we also see that unlike Nyles she doesn’t give up easily. Her growth throughout the film is hard-won, but it’s almost more satisfying than Nyles’s arc because we see her initial fall into depression after she realizes that she’s stuck in a loop.
Oh, and then there’s the comedy. My god, there’s the comedy. Andy Samberg isn’t exactly playing his usual goofy layabout like in Brooklyn Nine-Nine or the oblivious Rock Star from most of his Lonely Island projects. Instead, he’s a broken man, and he nails the humor that comes from that kind of darkness. His dialogue delivery and even his physical performances kept me laughing throughout the entire plot, but it only gets better when he’s with Milioti. Her comedy reactions are on-point, as is her delivery. She can give a good line a push into great, or give a look that moves a fun joke into uproarious. I was laughing so hard at points I almost broke, and a lot of that was just the two of them messing around with the time loops. All of the supporting characters, too, help create this hilarious environment.
Overall, I just loved this movie. It was one of the most fun times watching a film I’ve had in a while. I recommend it to everyone.
Just making sure that people get what happened at the end here. Sarah, having studied Quantum Mechanics, determines that the only way to get out of the time loop is to destroy the cave while the loop is actually transporting them back to the beginning of the day, because it’s a temporal wormhole. If they destroy the cave and themselves at the same time while the cave is transporting them back, that’ll cause the wormhole to try and restart twice at the same time, essentially overloading it and blowing them into tomorrow. Now, this is entirely insane, but why listen to me, I’m just a physicist. We don’t find out of they started the next day where the first loop ended or where the last loop ended, but since they both have memories of the full loops, probably the latter.
At the end of the movie, we also see the dinosaurs which the pair saw while they were on mushrooms earlier. It turns out that these are the Cabazon dinosaurs, a set of giant roadside attractions that were previously in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. The dinosaurs are visible from Palm Springs due to their size and proximity. They appear to be moving in both scenes, but I think the first time that’s because of the drugs and the second time that’s because of the thermals coming off of the desert. However, it’s also possible that because there’s a magic time portal buried in the mountains, there might also sometimes be dinosaurs near the fake ones. After all, love is just as crazy as a time portal.
Come along with me to a show that managed to turn every cliche on its head.
Welcome to the Land of Ooo, where magic thrives, princesses are plentiful, and heroes are born. Oh, it’s also Earth after a nuclear war wiped out almost all of humanity. Finn (Jeremy Shada) is the last human and a courageous hero with a love of adventure and fighting. His adopted brother is Jake (John DiMaggio), a magical shapeshifting dog who is laid-back and fairly lazy, mostly because his powers allow him to do almost anything. Finn and Jake act as protectors of the Candy Kingdom, which is ruled over by the supergenius nerd Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch). The pair often have to rescue her from the machinations of the Ice King (Tom Kenny), a magical king who is obsessed with kidnapping princesses. Finn is also friends with Marceline, the hard-rocking Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson). There’s also an adorable sentient computer named BMO (Niki Yang), the sarcastic Lumpy Space Princess (series creator Pendleton Ward), the fiery Flame Princess (Jessica DiCicco), Jake’s girlfriend Lady Rainicorn (Niki Yang), and an insane number of recurring characters.
Adventure Time is the ultimate coming of age story, because it progresses in the same way that life tends to progress when going from childhood to the cusp of adulthood. This is embodied in Finn, who ages from 12 years old to 17 during the series and, apparently, 18 in the HBO Max revival that’s coming out this year. Likewise, the show itself starts off as a really simple and childish series about a magical land where dreams come true and heroes and villains are easily discernible. As the show goes on, though, everything starts to get more and more complicated, with the good guys revealed to be morally ambiguous and the bad guys revealed to be more sympathetic or having deeper motivations than we had previously been privy to.
That’s what really makes this show special, because it takes a simple outlook of “good people vs. bad people,” then slowly destroys it, the way that people will need to have it destroyed at some point in their lives. Now, the show doesn’t say that there aren’t truly bad people out there in the world, in fact it makes a point of having a few characters that are just truly bad and never really get redeemed, but it does show that a lot of them have been made the way they are, or that they’re really trying to do the right thing and they just haven’t been able to. Similarly, seemingly good or innocent characters are shown to have selfish or stupid motivations. “People are complicated” is one of the hardest lessons to learn, because even when you know that fact, we often still want to group people into “good” and “bad.” However, that’s rarely ever the case, when you see what made them that way.
One of the other great things about this show is how thoroughly it blends storytelling ideas from throughout history, although it’s almost entirely Western history. We see a lot of influences from fairy tales, because Ooo is a world where you can spontaneously stumble upon an old woman offering cursed apples or magic beans or maybe just a random princess trapped in a tower. The randomness of happenings in the world allow for shorter-form storytelling, because they eschew set-ups. We also see a number of episodes derived from mythologies ranging from Greek and Roman to Egyptian, where our characters are just pawns caught in the grasps of higher beings. Then, there are the more modern stories where the characters are playing video games or addressing fan fiction. By combining all of these influences, the show gains a more timeless quality and a greater level of relevance to almost any viewer.
The animation and the voice action are highly stylized, but that also lets the show play with styles more and convey more visually than many shows could. It mostly does a good job in making body horror and grotesqueries look cartoonish enough that they’re not really scary. The show does frequently do horror storylines or episodes, ranging from possession to murder to existential horror, but despite the darkness, the show’s animation and the emotional resilience of the characters manage to keep it bearable for any viewer. It helps that the show’s storytelling is unbelievably streamlined, with each episode being 12 minutes and yet often feeling like you’ve watched a full normal episode of television. They do this by using a lot of quick cuts and clever visual storytelling tricks to convey massive amounts of information in a few seconds.
The main reason why I want more people to watch this, aside from helping any viewer with their emotional development, is that the show teaches a valuable lesson that most shows can’t teach because they don’t grow the way this show does: Even though life is complicated, you can always keep fighting to do the right thing. What is “right” will always change as you get more information, so it’s tempting to just not learn more, but it’s better to learn and grow and change yourself. The right thing isn’t usually the easy thing, particularly when you have to accept that you might have been wrong in the past, but the world works out better for everyone, including you, when you work to change it for the better.
The downside to the show’s brilliant structure is that the beginning of the show is extremely childish and simple, with humor that often is in the same vein. In other words, some of the episodes just aren’t that fun to watch for adults until around Season 3. If you want to just spend 15 minutes to test if the show will be for you, I would recommend watching the Season 3 episode “What was Missing.” If you like it, give the show a try. If, after seeing that, you want to get into the show without having to go through all of the early episodes, I recommend the following episodes in Season 1:
“The Enchiridion,” “Ricardio the Heart Guy (it’s got George Takei),” “Evicted,” “What Have You Done?” and “His Hero.”
For Season 2:
“It Came From The Nightosphere,” “The Eyes,” “To Cut a Woman’s Hair,” “The Silent King,” “Guardians of Sunshine,” “Death in Bloom,” “Susan Strong,” “Heat Signature,” and “Mortal Folly/Mortal Recoil.”
So, if you just watch those episodes, you get most of the show’s set-up, but you only need like 3 hours to do it. Once you get to Season 3, the show quickly starts to get much stronger, especially when you get to “What was Missing,” and “Holly Jolly Secrets,” an episode that I put on my list of the best episodes of television.
Overall, this is one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and the fact that it’s still going brings me nothing but joy. Please give it a watch.
A woman adopts an adorable puppy who helps with her anxieties… by removing them.
Maggie (Judy Greer) is a journalist who is approaching 40 and still trying to find Mr. Right. After discovering that her paper is going digital and that her job has been downgraded to independent contractor by her boss (Steve Guttenberg), she decides to get an emotional support dog. She finds a small dog named Reuben (Chico the Dog) and adopts him. Despite Reuben being temperamental, she still starts to bond with the dog, eventually becoming one of those dog moms that you know you’ve seen before. However, it turns out that Reuben is more than what he seems. Whenever something starts to cause Maggie stress, Reuben attacks it, including all of the people. Also, the movie has Ellen Wong, Elise Neal, and Maria Conchita Alonso.
Honestly, I liked this movie pretty well, despite the fact that it’s not much of a horror film. There’s almost no terror at any point in the movie, because a lot of the kills and attacks lack any atmospheric buildup. There are a few strange mind-bending scenes, but they don’t seem to have much of an impact on Maggie, so they don’t leave much of an impact on the viewer. There’s not a ton of traditional “horror” either, since the movie doesn’t really focus on the repulsive nature of the deaths. Without atmosphere or gore, you’re missing the two things that usually make a horror movie work. However, what you do have is an interesting blend of a romantic comedy, drama, and horror that mostly manages to stay upright because they cast Judy Greer, an incredibly talented comic actress, as the lead.
The film is mostly about how Maggie is trying to deal with being a woman whose life just didn’t work out the way she wanted. Despite being smart, good looking, and, apparently, a talented writer, Maggie can’t seem to find someone who wants a family and she doesn’t make enough money to do it on her own. While she does start to meet a nice guy (McKinley Freeman) during the film, she still finds herself having severe issues trusting his intentions. That’s why she becomes so attached to Reuben, because he’s a dog and therefore isn’t going to betray her. In the hands of any other performer, this kind of thing would clash with the horror elements, but somehow Judy Greer keeps it balanced.
I thought it was a bold move on the part of the series to use June’s holiday (every Into The Dark is based on a holiday) on Pet Appreciation Week as opposed to Father’s Day (although they did that last year, they have used Mother’s Day twice). The movie does actually do a pretty good job of showing why people can become so attached to their pets, particularly in the modern world where a lot of human connections suffer due to distance or societal pressures. I also like the fact that nobody in the movie really questions the merit of having an emotional support dog.
Overall, though, the movie just stays a bit too tame for horror and has too many horror tropes to work as a black comedy. I still enjoyed it, but a lot of that is that the cast was really solid for an Into the Dark film.
ENDING EXPLAINED (SPOILERS)
Okay, so the movie is actually pretty sparse on details of exactly what Reuben is. We know that he’s clearly not just a normal dog or even a really smart dog, because we see that he is strong enough to tear a cage apart despite his size. Then, towards the end of the movie, we even see him grow in size to the point that he’s roughly the size of a bullmastiff. However, the film does give us a few flashes in the film that we can piece together a little bit of what he is.
Here are the things the movie makes explicit: Reuben makes other dogs very anxious. His bloodwork is abnormal, to the point that the veterinarian says that it’s “all over the place.” This just seems to confirm what we already knew, that Reuben isn’t really a dog. We see a jump scare that shows one of Reuben’s victims, Maggie’s landlady, as an ethereal specter. We also see that the more Maggie loves Reuben, the stronger he seems to get and the more aggressive that he gets. We also get a hint that this film is just one of many times that Reuben does this exact same thing, as his previous owner was in jail for murder, just like Maggie is at the end of the film. So, what is Reuben?
Reuben appears to be a variant on an incubus, an evil demon that typically feeds on sexual energy. Like most demons, it’s repulsive to animals and can change shape. However, rather than trying to devour Maggie’s sexual energy, Reuben apparently feeds on her affection, and in return kills all of the things that make her anxious. His victims end up being seen as shades, due to their unnatural deaths. At the end of the film, when given a choice between Reuben and Nate, Maggie actually realizes that she has more affection for Reuben, which is what ends up allowing the “dog” to kill Nate, but seals Maggie’s fate.