Monday, March 1, 2021

Valerie and Her Week of Wonder

Greetings, commies!

Spring is around the corner, and all sorts of "awakenings" are in store for us. If you are up for an artsy, sexy European flick that pulls no punches, consider Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, a 1970 masterpiece of the Czechoslovak New Wave movement. The film portrays the heroine as living in a disorienting dream, cajoled by priests, vampires, and men and women alike. The film blends elements of the fantasy and horror film genres.

My thoughts:

If you are fans of Kurt Russell's over the top, dreamlike, hallucinatory, gorgeous films, you must add "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders" to the list. If you are familiar with the historical and political nuances behind Czech cinematography of the 1960s and 70s, you will enjoy the movie on a different level. But if you are just watching it as a straight up psychedelic fantasy, you will still appreciate it. You will pick up on the plot elements from "Little Red Riding Hood": a pubescent young woman with a rather complicated, potentially sinister relationship to her maternal relatives, predatory males, heroic rescuer figures. The film depicts that sexual awakening in a woman is not just about having attraction to a boy. It also contains an element of violence. It's not just about consummating with the boy next door - sometimes it's about setting the whole village on fire. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Look Away - a teen horror flick a cut above the rest

Greetings, commies!

If you are craving a teen horror flick one cut above the rest, consider Look Away. Maria, an alienated high-school student has her life turned upside down when she switches places with her sinister mirror image.

My thoughts:

Here is a teen-centered horror movie that doesn't actually insult the viewer's intelligence with jump scares and toilet humor. You will see some familiar horror staples. They mystical properties of the mirror have been explored in cinema before. And yes, you will find elements of Stephen King's "Carrie", but then, you can expect that from any movie about a high school outcast. The leading actress, who was in her mid-twenties when the movie was filmed, pulls off a high-schooler convincingly. An old soul trapped in a child's body - that works well for her character. The premise of the movie really made me think that we all have a dark twin living inside of us. You may not be tempted to sleep with the lights on after watching this movie, but you will certainly spend a few extra seconds staring at your reflection, wondering who's on the other side.

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister: money solves everything

Greetings, commies!

Valentine's Day is coming, and you wouldn't expect me to review anything vanilla or traditional. So here is my review of BBC's biography drama The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, the story of one of England's first modern lesbians. 

My thoughts:

If you expect a heart-wrenching outcast story, this film is not it. Anne Lister, the focal heroine, enjoys a pretty high quality of life despite not confirming to social expectations. Apart from an occasional remark from a male neighbor or an indignant glance, she is not really harassed or victimized. It certainly helps to have land and money. Material things make everything better, they make one's exile a little less bleak. An heiress of independent means can afford to be a little ... eccentric. From what I know about 19th century morality, female homosexuality fell under the radar during the regency and the Victorian era. While there were legal and social consequences for gay men, lesbians were scrutinized to the same degree. It is said that Queen Victoria denied the very existence of female homosexuality.

The most surprising part is the number of like-minded women around Anne Lister. At least in this film, her immediate surrounding abounds with women who are at least open to exploring romantic prospects with other women. Anne is hardly isolated. Far from it. She has her own internal posse. When one romantic partner leaves her to marry a much older man, she has no trouble replacing her without much advertising. It's also said that Anne did not really care about the plight of the poor. Her focus was on improving her estate. She basked in her privilege and did not apologize for it. I guess, back in the early 1800s it was considered more controversial to rebel against the class system than against the gender norms. Anne did not try to start a revolution. No, she wanted to capitalize on her estate and enjoy her personal, private happiness.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Evil Eye: an avalanche of ethnic stereotypes


Greetings, commies!

Happy New Year! Today's rotten turnip is a tryin'-to-be mystical thriller Evil Eye, a part of the Blumhouse anthology. A seemingly perfect romance turns into a nightmare when a mother becomes convinced her daughter's new boyfriend has a dark connection to her own past.

My thoughts:

Thumbs down for the sloppy, flippant, simplistic Indian stereotypes. The campy, lame depiction of a complex culture turns this supernatural thriller into a caricature. Indians are portrayed as superstitious, xenophobic, arrogant and obsessed with matrimonial politics. If you have any Indian friends or coworkers, ask them what they think about the movie, just out of curiosity. Most importantly, the cultural component does nothing to enhance the plot. This could have happened with any ethnic group. So the plot and the ethnicity kind of exist side by side, in separate universes, not really enhancing each other. The concept of curse, evil eye, reincarnation is not unique to Hinduism, yet the screenplay makes it sound like it's somehow tied to Hindu folklore. This really doesn't teach you anything about Indian culture, more about Indian stereotypes. So try to divorce the plot from the setting if you want to make the experience more enjoyable.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Unintended: a coming of age "almost murder" mystery

Greetings, commies!

You know that feeling following the thump-crunch under your wheels? You know it's a squirrel. Its flattened corpse will haunt you on your drive home from work. Now imagine accidentally killing something human size? Now you can imagine how Lea felt when she killed her neighbor in Unintended. I must say, I really wanted to like that movie - if only it could figure out what genre it belonged to. 

My thoughts:

"Unintended" is basically an embryo that doesn't know what it wants to be when it develops. I am all for cross-genre movie, but this one can't decide if it's a thriller or a heart-warming, tear-jerking coming of age slice of Americana. It starts lowkey but sinister, and then just devolves into sappy. Too many images of Lea having an exaggerated panic attack. Too many pill-popping, hair-pulling scenes that do not add to the story. Not to mention, it's totally implausible from the criminal justice standpoint. No way can you just walk away from a potential manslaughter without the police involved. People don't just disappear into thin air without the authorities raising some questions. I can see someone hiding the impulsive murder of a newborn, but not a fully grown teenager that everyone knew in that community.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Crush: a triumph of lazy casting


Greetings, commies!

I will be doing a series of reviews on unworthy films. They are free on Amazon, so I encourage you to give them a chance. Today's rotten turnip is Crush.


Crush is a 2013 American direct-to-video thriller film directed by Malik Bader and written by Sonny Mallhi. Starring Lucas Till, Crystal Reed, and Sarah Bolger, it follows a popular high school student portrayed by Till who finds himself being stalked.

My thoughts:

The casting director clearly did not want to take any chances or cast - God forbid - against stereotypes. Of course, the creepy girl is a skinny brunette. Of course, the object of her admiration is the "sensitive jock" with an actual conscience. The characters are not very plausible. I do not know many high school athletes who look like the male protagonist yet take the time out of their day to consider the feelings of the little people around him. In addition to being a star soccer player, he also loves old black and white movies and drawing portraits. I get it, even jocks have souls, and human beings have layers and dimensions, but this chap is so darn perfect, he is not very convincing. And I cannot imagine a straight 17 year old rejecting a hot female friend who sneaks into his bedroom with one intention. Too many cringeworthy, awkward character development twists. Paired with lazy predictable casting, and you get a C- product.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Kelly + Victor: a most unsexy movie about sex

Greetings, commies!

How desensitized you must be to need drugs and whips and chains to get off? Good question. A better question yet: how much can we romanticize low lives? Nothing shocks modern audiences. Drugs, random sex, torture? Yawn. Kelly + Victor is a desperate attempt to shock the unshockable audiences. 


After meeting at a nightclub, Kelly and Victor are removed from their dull, ordinary lives when they start an exciting sexual relationship.

My thoughts

Why is it that most movies about sex that claim to be "edgy" and "raw" are really so ... not sexy? I don't know if the director did any research, but doing lines of cocaine is a sure road to impotence. The characters are so off putting, makes me want to wash my hands and gargle my mouth. I am not a prude or anything, but hopping into bed with a random stranger you met at some dingy club is a little anticlimactic. You know next to nothing about the characters, so it's hard to become emotionally invested in them. The sex scenes are gratuitous and unconvincing. It's like watching mice squirm on the bottom of a barrel. A general "eeeek" reaction.