Category Archives: film

[film]don’t you forget about me: a look back at the breakfast club

“…And these children
that you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware
of what they’re going through…”


Teen angst has been a selling a point for movies for a very long time. It’s forever immortalized in movies from Rebel Without a Cause to Carrie. Perhaps the most perfect storm of teen angst can be found in the Breakfast Club however. Telling the story of five teens serving detention on a cold day at Shermer High School in Shermer, Illinois, the Breakfast Club is very much a story told through the lens of youth and a world that doesn’t understand them. To be honest, it’s a world that very much does not want to understand them. It’s the penultimate teenage feeling of us against the world. The moment when a loose collective becomes a unit to fight against the ultimate tyranny of the adult world.

What is it about this particular teen angst film that endures when so many others tarnish with time and growing up? The reason is likely equal parts nostalgia, quotability and just being an all around well done film. It is the rare film that you can watch as an adult and, instead of finding yourself rooting for the adults, you find yourself partially a teenager again, full of hope and existential angst all at the same time. The adults run the gamut from clueless to indifferent to outright antagonistic and there isn’t a positive one in sight. These are not the adults any of us wanted to grow up to be, but had no choice in becoming.

“When you grow up, your heart dies.”


Some days it does feel as if your heart has died. You look at yourself and see missed chances and opportunities. You hear the way you speak to your children or about the next generation and realize that you have become every adult you hated. Sure, you try and fight it. You even tell yourself that maybe your parents and teachers weren’t as bad as you thought (in most cases at least). To be honest, you’re probably right. The Breakfast Club (and movies like it) tap into the way teenagers have always felt and will always feel. It gives you the empathy to understand that what your own teenager hears you say is not at all how you meant it.

Obviously, all impact a film has on someone is completely subjective. All men I’ve dated (including the one I married) have at least a little bit of John Bender in them. He was probably my first full fledged film crush and created a blueprint for what I looked for. Also, for better or worse, I operate under the impression that all of the Midwest is like Shermer, while accepting it’s a pretty flimsy basis for thinking that.

The Breakfast Club put together five archetypes that we can all see ourselves in a bit. I’ve always fancied myself a halfway point between John and Allison, a little rebellious and a little weird at the same time. Much like David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” is my favorite song, Breakfast Club is my favorite 80s movie. It takes one perfect day and lets us live on that edge of hope that these kids are going to be okay and their happy endings are more than a moment waiting to shatter when they walk off screen into their real lives. John Bender’s triumphant fist in the air at the end is all that we need to be left with.

Dear Mr. Vernon,

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…

…and an athlete…

…and a basket case…

…a princess…

…and a criminal…

Does that answer your question?

Sincerely yours,
the Breakfast Club


[film]wonder woman

Full disclosure: I was never an avid reader of the Wonder Woman comics. My comic heroines tend to be gals like Tank Girl and Devi from Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and I Feel Sick. Having said that, I exist in the world and in the world of pop culture specifically so I have a love of the character and a love of seeing more female super heros in general.

Wonder Woman is the redeeming ray of light the DCEU has so badly been in need of.  I feel no need to rehash the same thoughts we’ve all heard a million times before here, but I am not a fan of the gritty equals realism lens that we’ve been given before. It works for Batman, not for anyone else necessarily.

Here’s the thing with Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman: Even in the midst of an actual war there is more light (literal and figurative) than any other movie has given us. Diana Prince believes in love and light and isn’t afraid to admit it. There’s a quote from Jenkins in circulation about how she didn’t want to shy away from what could be perceived as too earnest and cheesy. That mentality is what best serves this movie. Because that is Wonder Woman. She is earnest and believes in doing the right thing. Sure, her initial experiences with humanity throw some curve balls at her, but that’s to be expected. The world is not the idyllic island she was raised on and it takes some getting used to.

There’s a love story, but it neither bogs down the storyline and action or feels like it was forced in because it’s a “girl movie”. The supporting cast around Diana is delightful, especially Lucy Davis as Steve Trevor’s secretary, Etta. I would honestly watch the adventures of her teaching Diana to exist in the real world over and over.

All that being said, Wonder Woman is not without its problems.

The universe continues to be racially tone deaf as fuck, if not to the same extent as Suicide Squad was. Amazonians of color are limited background imagery for the most part. The few that speak any lines only get one or two at most. The mammy stereotype is even employeed. Once Diana is out in the world the stereotypes of sneaky Native American and dishonest talkative Middle Easterner. Warner Bros needs to step up their game and realize there’s more to diversity than tired tropes and stereotypes again and again.

The other memo they failed to get is that often heroes are only as interesting as their villains. The villains are lackluster at best. Dr. Poison is potentially the most interesting, but she’s never really developed beyond the “chick who makes the poisons and wears a half mask”. Which is also symptomatic of the other thing that is underserved in Wonder Woman: A diversity of types of strong women. We are constantly being reminded of how beautiful everyone finds Diana, but Etta, while wonderful, is mostly shown to be somewhat bumbling instead of as the capable woman she clearly really is. Hopefully these are things that we see in future sequels, but this is a thing Hollywood frequently struggles with so I’m honestly not hopeful.

All and all though, the bright points outshine the problematic areas and hopefully will lead to more movies about female superheroes of all colors being greenlit. In the dearth of female fronted and directed super hero films, the perspective is much needed and, while the fight scenes are adrenaline inducing, this one is all about the heart. Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince is a hero that can be looked up to by small girls and grown women alike.

My Supergirl on our way in to see Wonder Woman


Anthology horror movies are a mixed bag in more ways than one. Often times they have flashes of brilliance in one short and everything else falls flat. XX (2017) is a collection of four short films written and directed by women. It is an excellent example of an anthology done exactly right. It captures a consistent tone with distinct style differences between all the shorts.

First off there’s an amazing stop animation frame story directed by Sofia Carrillo. It’s creepy and is about dolls. That’s absolutely all I need in something ever. It is a full enough tale unto itself that it almost counts as fifth short. It sets the tone from the get go that you’re in for a quirky and slightly unsettling ride, but ends on a sweet note.

Which leads us to the shorts themselves:

The Box
(Jovanka Vuckovic)

Based on a short story by Jack Ketchum, a boy asks “what’s in the box?” to a stranger on the train. The stranger shows him and proceeds to lose his appetite and stops eating altogether.

Let me just take a second to say that the answer to “what’s in the box?” is never ever something good. It just isn’t. So don’t ever ask it in real life. Did se7en teach us nothing? Now that we’ve established that, the Box feels like a psychological mind fuck about how mothers can feel alone and isolated even amongst the people who love them most.

The Birthday Party
(Annie Clark/Roxanne Benjamin)

Annie Clark is better known to the world as St Vincent and she makes some of the most amazing music ever. Here she delivers a psychedelic and delicious black comedy about the lengths we’ll go to for our kids. It is my favorite in the four films. It walks a perfect tightrope between dark, weird, funny and still making sense.

Don’t Fall
(Roxanne Benjamin)

Don’t Fall is a pretty quick and straightforward possession tale about four campers who camp on cursed land. There’s excellent monster makeup and a well done transformation scene. Super enjoyable, but it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel.

Her Only Living Son
(Karyn Kusama)

Eighteen years after living on the run, a woman must confront who (or what) her son really is or if he is even really her son. Another one that is pretty straightforward, but speaks so much to the strength of women even with things they have very little actual control over.

What XX offers us is a unique take on women in the horror genre. It is the rare film that doesn’t depend on over sexualisation or damsel in distress cliches. This is one of best shot and well crafted collections to come along in awhile. Every single one of these women has a unique and much needed voice. These stories are just good stories. XX is completely worth a watch.

[film]star crossed

True story: I am not an overly romantic person. Or, if you ask my husband, a romantic person at all in any traditional sense. It took him a long time to fully get used to the idea that, no, I don’t actually want flowers and, really, I’m okay skipping all the traditional trappings of Valentine’s Day.

I don’t harbor the amount of bitterness that some people do to the holiday though. I’m not specifically anti romance. I am anti cookie cutter get a girl flowers, jewelry and candy romance. (Off topic: My husband does have my version of romance down. One example: I was obsessed with Popples at one point and he put a ton of work into tracking one down for me as a gift. It was back when we were first dating and it was the sweetest thing anyone had done for me ever at that point.) I’m also pretty anti cookie cutter romantic movies that tend to feel like they’re just the film version of hearts and candy romance. I do however enjoy a well done story about star crossed lovers across genre lines.

Presented here however is five of my go to romantic movies, some more traditonal than others.

Natural Born Killers (1994)

This is my husband and I’s movie so putting on this is list is almost obligatory. It’s also the tale of star crossed lovers who overcome all odds to be together forever. There’s also a good old fashioned killing spree, a ton of social commentary and an insanely good soundtrack.

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Worth noting, I actually love Shakespeare, but in general struggle to ever connect with productions of Romeo and Juliet. Aside from the story being a little silly, it just doesn’t resonate with me like other Shakespeare plays. This is the only version that I genuinely love. Claire Danes’ acting aside, there isn’t much fault in it. It’s visually stunning and (again) has a fantastic soundtrack.

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Yes, the second Baz Luhrmann movie on this list. Again, visually astounding, incredible soundtrack, etc, etc. I actually went through a phase where I was obsessed with this movie so it may actually be a case of the less said the better, but sex and absinthe fairies, oh my.

Stardust (2007)

In my world there is very little that Neil Gaiman can do wrong, and though the film adaption is quite a bit different from the book, this is Gaiman perfection. It’s snarky and romantic, smart and sexy, adventurous and funny. It puts the literal star in star crossed. (Also Claire Danes is delightful in this to balance out how not delightful she is in Romeo + Juliet.)

Princess Bride (1987)

I mean, you didn’t think any list about star crossed lovers wouldn’t have the greatest romance of all time, did you?

[film]he never died

In my experience people either love or hate Henry Rollins. Honestly, I get both sides of that argument. I personally have no issues with the man. Yes, Black Flag was a better band with Keith Morris, but Rollins has never embittered me like he has others I know.

All of which brings us to the film of the day, He Never Died (2015). Jack (played by Rollins) is a mysterious man who lives alone and just wants to be left that way. He had a mysterious and dark past alluded to in dreams. He goes out to play bingo and to the same restaurant to eat and that’s about it. One day the past comes knocking on his door in the form of a daughter he didn’t know about and his comfortable day to day existence is thrown into chaos. We find out that Jack has lived a very long time and cannot to all appearances be killed despite occasionally seeing actual literal Death hanging around from time to time.

Henry Rollins is basically playing Henry Rollins (albeit the immortal variety) here. Enjoyment of this movie hinges very much on which side of the Rollins fence you reside on. He does turn in a solid performance however. Kate Greenhouse also turns in a fantastic performance as Cara, someone who goes from having a crush on Jack to wanting nothing to do with him whose drug along for the ride.

If He Never Died suffers from anything, it’s a sense of meandering through the plot at times. As much as this may have been intentional from the stance of here’s a man whose lived a very long time and ennui is bound to set in, it does make it difficult to drive a story at times.

He Never Died is dark, funny and unexpected storywise. Underneath everything there’s a vein of hopefulness. None of us wander so far that we are completely lost and undeserving of some form of love. More than anything, that heart is what sells this movie. (Even though some rad gore scenes don’t hurt either.) It’s pretty much destined to be a cult film, but in the best possible way.

[film]the craft or how i learned to stop worrying and love being a feminist

Teenage me was one of those girls who used to think feminism was a bad word. I didn’t like other girls, because I bought into the idea that they were all catty, mean and probably talking shit behind your back. It didn’t help that I had dealt with some intense bullying and slut shaming by girls I considered close friends after being raped. In my head, if women were getting the short end of the stick in society, it wasn’t society. It was the fact that women were petty and spiteful.

Junior year of high school two things happened to make me step back and reevaluate my life. One of these was an amazing history teacher named Mr. Berry who forced us to critically think and not just take what we were told by books and adults at face value. In introducing me to the extensive history of the Women’s Rights Movement, he made me realize that women are, yes, sometimes spiteful and mean. They are also bad ass and amazing. I was still convinced that I was a girl who wasn’t like other girls though.

The second thing that happened that year was the release of the Craft.

The Craft, for those that are somehow unaware, is a movie about four girls who come together to create a powerful coven of witches. There are lessons about forcing what you want and ultimate power ultimately corrupts. It was the rare horror movie that put women front and center, with men serving little more purpose than a supporting cast.

More than anything, for me, it’s a movie about sisterhood and how much stronger we are when we work together. It’s also a movie about owning your personal feminine power unapologetically. As someone who had been distancing myself from all I saw as feminine in myself it was a revelation. When they do end up fighting, it’s not over anything as paltry as a boy. It’s over the power to control the world around them.

As I’ve gotten older, I realize that in some ways it’s a flawed example of feminism in pop culture. What starts as a sisterhood degenerates into a mindset of uniformity of thought being necessary (to the point of attempting to kill the one that doesn’t go along). I now see that Nancy was always only interested in personal gain with Rochelle and Bonnie sycophantically following along. I can excuse this even now though. If their coven had survived the growing pains of being granted ultimate power, I can’t help but feel like they would have grown up to be their own Witches of Eastwick (probably without the babies though).

For all its flaws, the Craft made me open my eyes and start looking for the supportiveness in other girls. It made me start to build other women up instead of tearing them down by assuming they were catty at first meeting. It made me examine the idea of Girl Power and what it means. Pop culture has always been a lens of self discovery for me and the Craft is perhaps one of the biggest cornerstones of that.

Thanks, girls, for all the inspiration.

(February is Women in Horror Month. I wanted to write this piece as the perfect example of where women and horror intersect and create awesome moments. Please check out #WiHM8 for more amazing women in the horror community.)

[film]bad kids go to hell

Bad Kids Go to Hell (2012)
Genre: Horror Comedy

Have you ever found yourself wondering what would happen if Bret Easton Ellis had written the Breakfast Club? Probably not, but if you had Bad Kids Go to Hell is there to assuage your curiosity.

Six kids that attend prestigious Crestview Academy show up for Saturday detention where they learn something about themselves and that they’re not so different after all. Things like they all could die before the day is out. Will Mommy or Daddy even care if what may or may not be a Native American curse kills them? Can you fit in having meaningless sex while being scared for your life? What is that awful, terrible thing they did last summer? And will Judd  Nelson ever actually show up in this movie since he has main billing?

There’s the Princess (daughter of a sociopathic politician), the Athlete (token black dude), the Brains (hot redhead with big boobs and immigrant from some unspecified country), the Criminal (scholarship student) and the Basket Case (Pagan who claims to talk to her dead parents through seances). Judd Nelson plays the headmaster. There’s a big statue in the middle of the library where they’re to serve their detention. There’s a kind of creepy janitor that always seems to be around.

If all this sounds familiar, it should. Bad Kids Goes to Hell owes a lot of its good moments to these homages to the Breakfast Club. It’s the Breakfast Club through the lens of a Bret Easton Ellis novel though. Murder, mayhem and a lot of stylistic sex and violence instead of a heartwarming tale about disaffection with authority and temporarily putting aside differences. There’s still plenty of disaffection, but no one has time to put aside differences once bodies start hitting the floor.

After watching, I found out that Bad Kids Go to Hell is based off a graphic novel. One can’t help being left with the feeling that perhaps some scenes worked far better in that medium. Fast paced cut scenes and flashbacks with out of this world physics especially.

Bad Kids Go to Hell is a fun enough film and horror comedy is notoriously difficult to pull of well. It suffers from style over substance as it strings together cliches in an attempt to be more clever than it really is. (Again, much like the majority of Bret Easton Ellis’ work is.) There’s a half way decent unexpected ending, but it also feels a little hollow motivation wise. By then though it’s clear no one really has any motivation for anything they do so it doesn’t even really matter.

Rating: 6/10

(Fun extra fact: Upon investigating IMDb, it turns out there’s a sequel called Bad Kids of Crestview Academy that recently came out. The headmaster is played by Sean Astin.)