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Showing posts from May, 2019

Capsule Reviews: Compliance

Quick-hit movie reviews for the masses.

Craig Zobel's chilling 2012 ripped-from-the-headlines Compliance is hard to sit through. Unlike many films that claim to be "based on true events," Compliance seems to faithfully recreate an astonishing true tale of victimization and abuse that actually happened in 2004.

The film serves as an eye-opening social experiment that explores just how vulnerable we all are to authority figures like police officers—or, in this case, a man posing by phone as a police officer. On what seems like just another typical day at a fast food chain restaurant, things fall apart fast when this scam artist calls and asks to talk with the store's manager about one of her employees. What follows is a relentlessly unsettling story that will leave you squirming in your seats and probably yelling at the characters onscreen to stop it.

The manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) is an easy mark: low on self-esteem and already resentful/jealous of the petite blonde te…

The Nikita Watch: All the Way

Random thoughts while working my way through the entirety of the CW's 2010–2013 show starring Maggie Q.

A dozen episodes into Nikita and things are starting to heat up. The show's mythology is slowly building, piece by piece, and some interesting revelations about various characters have come into play. We've learned that Percy, head of Division, is a master manipulator with zero empathy skills. Michael continues to serve as Percy's lapdog for the most part, but he's starting to bristle and push back against his boss. Alex's natural skepticism seems to indicate she might be doing some pushing back against Division soon, too. As it is, she's already working as Nikita's mole on the inside, corresponding via direct message (and in code) with her, leading to way too many scenes watching Maggie Q and Lindsy Fonseca staring intently at their computer screens.

By the first mid-season finale, several plot lines begin to come together. Alex goes undercover to kill…

The Nikita Watch: Maggie Q Goes Rogue

Random thoughts while working my way through the entirety of the CW's 2010–2013 show starring Maggie Q.

When Nikita premiered on the CW in 2010, I watched the first few episodes, but, for reasons I can't remember today, stopped thereafter. It wasn't because I didn't like it. While it was too early to tell whether or not I was going to love it, I liked it fine. I really liked model turned actress Maggie Q in the titular role. While she may be petite in stature, but she's absurdly fit and performs many of her own stunts with a powerful blend of power and elegance. She kicks copious amounts of male ass in this series, too, and there's something to be said for watching a woman lay waste to one hulking male aggressor after another.

So, who knows why I dropped the show back in 2010. All I do know is I've always considered going back and binging it. Well, last night I started doing just that for two good enough reasons: it's on Netflix, and it's Maggie Q. O…

Capsule Reviews: Starcrash

Quick-hit movie reviews for the masses.

Luigi Cozzi's space opera Starcrash (1978)is one of the most entertaining entries in a genre that was red-hot in the immediate aftermath of Star Wars. It's a cult classic for a reason, proudly flaunting its gonzo spacesploitation style with maximum gusto at every turn. Cozzi also enthusiastically flaunts the assets of 1970s sci-fi/horror/fantasy queen Caroline Munro. She captivates, as rough and tumble intergalactic smuggler Stella Star—one of the great heroines in exploitation cinema.
When she isn't determinedly staring into space as if contemplating the great mysteries of the universe, Munro runs around in an outfit consisting of a bikini top with a vampire cloak collar on it—space fashion is avant-garde, y'all. Intensely strange '70s actor Marjoe Gortner tags along as Stella's faithful sidekick Akton. After they're arrested by the Imperial Space Police, we're treated to a full-on space women in prison interlude…

Capsule Reviews: Jane Fonda's Workout

Quick-hit movie* reviews for the masses.

*This one isn't technically a movie, but it is the best-selling VHS tape in history, so let's do this.

For decades now, Jane Fonda has been an American cultural icon. We can partially chart the evolution of American popular culture over the last five or six decades through Fonda's various and disparate phases—from beautiful 1960s ingenue, to interstellar sex goddess in Barbarella, to controversial 1970s anti-war activist, to an advocate for working women via the film 9 to 5, and on and on. There's an article to be written about this, "The Jane Phenomenon," but that's for another time. For now, let's just bask in one of her most curious and culturally significant phases, as the 1980s aerobics queen in Workout (1982).

Workout certainly helped usher in the '80s fitness boom. That's the star power of Jane Fonda in action. Today, it's almost impossible to properly contextualize the monumental popularity of…

Capsule Reviews: The Neon Ceiling

Quick-hit movie reviews for the masses.

The 1970s produced an exceptional number of smart, thoughtful dramas about women breaking free of troubled relationships (like Barbara Loden's Wanda) and, usually with a kid or two in tow (like Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore), embarking on a journey of self discovery. The 1971 American television movieThe Neon Ceiling is one of the best of the bunch, thanks in no small part to the legendary Lee Grant, as a mother running away from crushing suburban languor—and an appallingly indifferent husband—and taking her young daughter along for the ride.

With no destination in mind, mother and child (played by Denise Nickerson) stop off at a remote gas station and wind up sticking around longer than expected. There they form a tentative, uneasy relationship with the station's eccentric and lonely owner, played with unnerving intensity by Gig Young—only seven years before the actor killed his wife and then took his own life …

"His Vision Changed Everything": Rest in Power, John Singleton

In the aftermath of filmmaker John Singleton's death at the age of 51 earlier this week, tributes to the man and his work poured in on social media. Friends, family, colleagues, critics, and fans, all paying respect to the writer-director-producer whose films—from Boyz n The Hood (1991) to Poetic Justice (1993) to Higher Learning (1995) and beyond—changed their lives. One such tribute came from another Black writer-director-producer, Jordan Peele, who tweeted simply, but powerfully, "RIP John Singleton. So sad to hear. John was a brave artist and a true inspiration. His vision changed everything."

That's the legacy Singleton leaves behind—a cinematic vision that helped bring real, honest-to-goodness representation to the screen for Black audiences, at a time when this was all too rare. In fact, he and Spike Lee—whose Do the Right Thing had lit the cultural Zeitgeist on fire just two years before Boyz—ushered in a truly incredible era for Black films made by and for

Bea Arthur and Angela Lansbury: Just Being Their Best Selves

As depressing and infuriating as it often is around the internet, now and then it manages to redeem itself and bring a big ole smile to your face.

Case in point: A while back, I stumbled on a killer meme of Bea Arthur (may she rest in power) and Angela Lansbury (still rockin' in her '90s), just hanging out at an awards show, being effortlessly amazing together.

While I have no idea what was actually happening when these photos were snapped at the 41st Emmy Awards in 1989—although part of me really hopes Bea's rolling her eyes at that smarmy hunk on the left—I'm happy to report that it's easily one of the coolest thing on the internet. Ever. It captures a wonderful moment between two legends. Note how Bea and Angela look off in the distance in the first shot, almost identical "WTF" expressions on their faces. Then, in the second, glorious shot, they show us youngsters what it really means to throw shade. Epic.

If these moments in time don't make your …