Movie Review – Swallow

Swallow (2019)
Written & Directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis

They have sold Swallow as a body horror film, but it is by no means that at all. Instead, Swallow is a dark character study, grounded in reality and not really horrific, though very disturbing. The film’s visuals and sound design are right on point, but I think the narrative lacks any subtext. There are points in the movie where characters literally say the theme out loud and undermine any sort of tension or nuance that could have been. It’s not a bad movie, but not one really worth of repeated examination because it essentially lays everything out on the table without ambiguity.

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TV Review – Succession Season Two

Succession Season 2 (HBO)
Written by Jesse Armstrong, Jon Brown, Tony Roche, Georgia Prichett, Will Tracy, Susan Soon He Stanton, Jonathan Glatzer, and Mary Laws
Directed by Mark Mylod, Andrij Parekh, Shari Spring Berman & Robert Pulcini, Matt Shakman, Becky Martin, and Kevin Bray

Season two of Succession starts with a feeling numbing cold. Kendall Roy (Jeremy Armstrong) is at a European spa when he’s summoned by his father, Logan (Brian Cox), to make a statement on the strength of his dad’s position in a pending buyout. Kendall complies, broken from what transpired in the final moments of season one and now forever kneeling before his father, who bailed him out. That is the arc of this character throughout these ten episodes, exploring if he can ever have his own voice or will forever bend the knee and allow his privilege to protect him. Some viewers may see Kendall as the one “good guy” in the Roy family, but Kendall is not. He actively participates in the cruel and criminal acts; his family perpetuates, and he benefits from the outcomes.

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Movie Review – Desert Hearts

Desert Hearts (1985)
Written by Natalie Cooper
Directed by Donna Deitch

It wasn’t too long ago that even in what is considered the “liberal bastion of Hollywood,” being out of the closet or even depicting a loving gay relationship was taboo. LGBTQ characters were relegated to supporting roles or, in sadly too many cases villains. Lesbian parts were often either psychologically manipulative of straight women or tragically destined to be alone or kill themselves. If you were an LGBTQ teen, there weren’t many positive media representations to help you get through adolescence and understand what romantic love looked like for someone like you. Director Donna Deitch set out to find a story that featured a lesbian romance outside of the urban and bohemian. She wanted a Middle America to help showcase how normal it was to everyone.

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Movie Review – The Legend of Billie Jean

The Legend of Billie Jean (1985)
Written by Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal
Directed by Matthew Robbins

On paper, the concept for The Legend of Billie Jean sounds fantastic, yet what ended up on the screen was a tonal mess and thematically murky. It’s a shame because the story being told was relevant in 1985 and continues to be timely. The more you unpack the picture, the more frustratingly confounding it becomes, allowing what should be direct and straightforward to become bogged down by side characters and subplots. What this could have been was a superhero origin story, but instead, we get a half-assed “girl power” movie that doesn’t do anything meaningful with the material.

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TV Review – Best of Moonlighting Part 3

Come Back Little Shiksa (Season 4, Episode 2)
Original airdate: October 6, 1987
Written by Jeff Reno & Ron Osborn
Directed by Allan Arkush

In the wake of season three’s conclusion, nothing was holding back David and Maddie from being together. However, the writers seemed to know that breaking that simmering tension took away an element that the viewers loved. So, they decided to send Maddie away from Los Angeles as a curveball to David. She goes home to Chicago, staying with her parents, and tries to explain to David she needs time to figure what this is and where it is going.

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Movie Review – The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club (1985)
Written & Directed by John Hughes

No name is associated more with teen movies of the 1980s than John Hughes. The writer-director had quite an impressive record: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Outside of teen films, he penned and/or directed all the National Lampoon’s Vacation films, Uncle Buck, Home Alone, and the stellar comedy Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Hughes found ways to make comedies that appealed to broad audiences yet were smart with pathos. He also found ways to inject stylistics flourishes playing with the reality of his worlds, it never felt out of place but blended perfectly with the more realistic tones. The Breakfast Club is considered by many of his fans to be the quintessential Hughes teen movie.

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Movie Review – To Sleep With Anger

To Sleep With Anger (1990)
Written & Directed by Charles Burnett

To Sleep With Anger is a mixture of things. It’s a meditation on modern urban family dynamics. It is a retelling of the Biblical stories all mashed together. The film is an extension of fears about nostalgia, especially in black communities who have lots of moments in history that they reasonably should fear. It’s ultimately hard to classify this picture into a single genre, which is a benefit and a flaw at times.

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