Greetings! Have you ever wondered if a movie's worth blowing the money on to see at the theater or what to add next to your NetFlix queue? Then you've come to the right place! Enjoy!

"Bottoms" Review

 What's in a name? Entertainment right now is in a state of near-irreparable decline due to woke Hollyweird's decision to declare open warfare on their audience with subpar content marketed with confrontational and abusive tactics like "fanbaiting" where the paying customers are told before the movie opens that everything they go to the movies for (storytelling, entertainment) has been replaced with agenda-driven agitprop which is meant to offend "those people" (i.e. who vote incorrectly for the wrong team) and when the movies flop because people took Hollyweird up on their "don't see our movie if you're not down to be lectured" promotion, they're slammed for being -ists and -phobes who hate [insert supposedly "marginalized" group here].

A prime example was was the 2022 gay romcom Bros, which blew it's own horn as "the first gay romcom by a major studio" (a tenuous claim because Jeffrey - a very funny gay romcom worth seeing - came out in 1995, albeit as an indie release) and received rapturous reviews from critics (because who is going to earn a rep as a -phobe by dissing the gay romcom?) and completely crashed and burned at the box office, prompting co-writer and star Billy Eichner to savagely attack the general public as brutal homophobes who failed to be allies to the wealthy homosexual filmmaking community, you bigots! Nevermind that, judging by their percentage of the population, gay people didn't see it either, it's the horrible deplorable straights who are the problem.

And let's not even go into what Disney has become.

So, into this contentious environment comes the absolutely horribly-named Bottoms (itself a gay term) which has been marketed as a "raunchy queer movie for Gen Z" and the press has been working the "Will straight people be able to handle it?" so the narrative is set that this is just another salvo in the Culture Wars which have divided the public into in and out groups of oppressors and oppressed. It sounds like a sequel to Bros which is further toxicity. But the missus overcame it to watch the trailer and suggested we give it a look. So how is Bottoms?

It's a total hoot which has had its wacky charms buried under a terrible title, propagandistic off-putting marketing, and does so in an environment where people are sick of being bullied and preached to by dominant subgroups.

It opens with our meeting besties PJ (Rachel Sennott, last seen in HBO's smutty trashfest - and I mean that as a complement - The Idol, where she played Lily Rose Depp's put upon assistant, and also co-wrote the script with director Emma Seligman) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri, The Bear), teenage lesbians who are also virgins and are fretting about getting laid before going to college. PJ is a loud, obnoxious, foulmouthed cretin and Josie is a shy introvert who is crushing on Isabel (Havana Rose Liu), a cheerleader who is dating the school's quarterback, Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine). PJ has the hots for cheerleader Brittany (Kaia Gerber, Cindy Crawford's daughter who got mom's looks). If you're getting Superbad vibes off this setup with PJ as the Jonah Hill character and Josie as Michael Cera, you are correct.

After an incident at a school fair involving the girls, Isabel and Jeff, buzz around the school is that PJ and Josie beat Jeff up and that they'd done time in juvie over the summer. Facing expulsion, PJ convinces the principal that they were actually practicing for a feminists self-defense club which would be handy considering a female student was assaulted by students at a rival school ahead of the Big Game. Using woke buzzwords ("ally") to corner the principal, they're given the go-ahead to run their club in the gym and they recruit a teacher, Mr. G (Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch, the former Seattle Seahawks running back), to be the adviser.

Their friend Hazel (Ruby Cruz) promotes the fight club and a small assortment of girls show up representing all the diversity checkboxes of appearance, color, etc. They're there for feminist empowerment and how to protect themselves unaware that the club is just a scam to bang cheerleaders, who do show up and participate. As the members go through the school with scrapes and black eyes, their popularity grows. Naturally, this offends Jeff and his body man Tim (Miles Fowler), who are offended that the girls are distracting from the football team's natural apex position and they set out to blow up PJ and Josie's club.

 I'm giving the synopsis short shrift because I don't want to spoil the insanity of what Bottoms achieves because it is truly bonkers for what it is, but more importantly, what it is not. As noted, the promotion for this movie (and that gawdawful title) have pigeonholed it and pretty much told 95% of the public "this ain't for you" when a whole lot of people who simply like to be entertained and have a taste for the off-center would probably enjoy it.

For starters, it's shockingly NOT woke in the sense that it's not played as "poor queer victims of the homophobic patriarchy of straight white men" (like Barbie skirted) because PJ and Josie aren't picked on for being lesbians, but for being "ugly, untalented gays" as they're paged to the office. We see a gay guy getting warmly greeted by skater boys at the festival while the girls mope about how good he is. (While their lockers are initially vandalized with the F-word, as the story goes on the graffiti becomes more complimentary.) The core of the story has little to do with their being gay and a lot to do with being lying a-holes.

Sidebar: The problem with most gay storytelling is that the sexuality is made the ONLY important detail. Characters are GAY and then everything flows from that in the way straight character stories have the sexuality either unmentioned or inconsequential. Think about it: What words come to mind when thinking of Batman? Rich guy, orphan, detective, superhero, tortured, crime fighter, etc. Does anyone really think "hetereosexual"? Now think of gay protagonists in gay movies - it starts with "gay" and pretty much calls it a day, doesn't it. Velvet Goldmine thought the most important thing about glam rock was being gay, not that gender-bending was more a "shock the squares" pose than anything. Gay movies sabotage themselves because they make the least important thing the most important thing. There's a difference between a characters who is gay and a gay character.

 Back to the review - while the story follows the typical teen movie beats including the scam being exposed and everyone hating them for their duplicity, it's not played any differently than "straight movies" (which isn't a genre for some reason) would play it. How many movies have done the She's All That plot where the handsome guy bets he can transform the geek girl into the prom queen only for him to fall in love with her then she discovers it was all a prank and yadda-yadda-yadda? Exactly.

It's the little throwaway details which set Bottoms apart like how the girls never put down pads on the gym floor to soften the impacts yet no teacher or parent seems to notice their students/daughters looking roughed up and how the football team roams the school in full uniforms and pads every day (not just wearing their jerseys on game day like happens in the real world). The final Big Game scene results in such mayhem that it's clearly not meant to be taken seriously.

 But under the bizarre and outrageous details is a warm sweet heart that's not divisive or exclusionary to the 95-97% of the world who isn't queer. It may be too raunchy or weird for some audiences, but so was Superbad. If you could handle that, you can handle Bottoms. The title is still the worst.

Score: 8/10. Catch it on cable.

"Retribution" Review

 Oh look, it's AARP action hero Liam Neeson in another thriller where he probably growls most of the time. This time it's something called Retribution that the missus wanted to watch, so let's see what this is about.

It opens with a literal bang as a car explodes on the road. We then meet Neeson's Matt Turner, a financier in Berlin as he's hitting a punching bag to show he's a kickass senior citizen. He gets a call from his partner Anders (Matthew Modine, whose photo is in every dictionary next to "punchable face") asking Matt to call a skittish client about losses his account is taking.

Distracted by this task, his annoyed wife Heather (Embeth Davidtz, who sounds like a character from Dune) asks him to take their squabbling bratty children - Zach (Jack Champion, Tarzan Boy from Avatar 2) and Emily (Lilly Aspell) - to school. He reluctantly accedes and off they go. After making his business call to calm the client, a phone starts ringing. It's not his or the kids, but a bashed up burner phone stashed in his glove box.

Answering it, he's greeted by a menacing disguised voice telling him there's a bomb under his seat with a pressure plate that will detonate it if he or the kids leave the car with a cell phone backup trigger. The voice is accusing him of malfeasance while Matt pleads for his children's lives. Directed to go from place to place, the cops rapidly believe Matt is the bomber and pursue him.

 As premises go, it's a tad familiar and frankly, I guessed who the villain was immediately because it was both so random and so obvious. Director Nimrod Antal (Predators) working from a script that is the 3rd remake of a Spanish film does an adequate job keeping things tense, but there are a few too many leaps in logic with the omniscient mastermind both seeming to know what's going on and the cops being patronizingly stupid.

At a short hour-and-a-half, this would fall into the "mindless fluff to watch on cable on a rainy Saturday" category, but while competently executed, it's just too insubstantial to wholly recommend.

Score: 5/10. Skip it.

"Hush" Review

 Just finished watching Mike Flanigan's Midnight Mass series on Netflix and in reading about the production discovered that while he was trying to develop it into a novel or film, he had made it a book within the movie Hush, which starred and was co-written by his wife Kate Siegel, who stars in his projects. Despite not currently available to stream anywhere, I *obtained* a copy to check out.

 Siegel stars as Maddie, a deaf-mute author who lives alone in a rural wooded area. One night a mysterious masked man (John Gallagher Jr.) lays siege to her home, cutting her power & taking her cellphone, isolating her from contacting anyone. Armed with a crossbow, she can't just outrun him, so how will she survive?

That's pretty much it. Who is this stalker? Don't know. Why is he targeting her? Looks like mere chance as he was chasing his previous victim to her door. It's a lean story set in one house which probably made horror producer Jason Blum of Blumhouse fame eager to greenlight the project other than it being mostly a night shoot.

 Seigel is effective especially considering she doesn't have any dialog other than one scene where her interior monologue is dramatized; she communicates solely through sign language. Gallagher is adequate in a one-note role and fans of Midnight Mass will enjoy brief appearances of Michael Trucco and Samatha Sloyan as Maddie's neighbors. The direction is taut and atmospheric considering the limited room to work.

Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable. (Not on available on any streaming service at the moment, however it appears someone posted it on the tube of you site. Ahem.)

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