Review: BlacKkKlansman

Going undercover.

Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) is the first black officer at the Colorado Springs Police Department. Eager to prove himself, but treated poorly by several other officers, he's finally given an opportunity to go undercover. Wanting to take it a step further, he infiltrates the local KKK chapter using fellow officer Phillip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to go as his "white" self while he speaks to to them over the phone.

Director Spike Lee is never subtle, nor gentle with his opinions and BlackKlansman is better for it. His direction is incredible. I especially loved how he would show the juxtaposition between the two groups. How we would be watching a klan initiation and flip back to a man telling a group of black college students about the horrors of racism and what they need to do to fight it. Lee manages to make you feel disgusted, laugh occasionally, and overwhelm you with power all within the film's two hour run time. If you think he's taking digs at our current administration during the film, just wait until the end when he flat out calls them out.

John David Washington has his dad Denzel's voice but he doesn't once try to emulate him in any way. He's completely his own character and he's tremendous in this role. Stallworth really believes in being a police officer and wanting to prove himself. Anyone who reads this blog knows that Adam Driver is currently one of my favorite actors and he's great here too as a Jewish officer tasked with physically being around a bunch of psychos. You legitimately feel anxious in these scenes where they're questioning him. 

Another thing Lee did that I found interesting was the way he shot Driver and Washington when they were sharing the screen. I felt like Driver was always subtly out of frame. He'd have his back turned or would be in the background somewhere. Was it because they were both playing "Ron" at different times and he wanted to remind us all who the real Ron was? 

In my first draft of this review, I talked about what he does at the end of the film that really hits it home and had me walking out of the theater with tears in my eyes. But it's best not reading about it first. Just go in and feel... and take those feelings with you when you vote. 

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "Did you get that?" - Ron Stallworth (John David Washington)

Indie Gems: Band Aid

Musical Marriage Counseling

Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Polly) are a married couple that can't stop bickering. To channel this, they decide to start a band with their eccentric neighbor, Dave (Fred Armison) where all their songs are their fights. 

On top of starring, Zoe Lister-Jones wrote and directed this. The plot itself is very clever and the little details she put into it were wonderful. When Anna and Ben are having a good spell, their clothes (and in some cases, lack of) reflect that.  She took on a lot and it paid off.

She and Polly are one of the most believable couples I've seen in a film in quite some time. Their fights were relatable and every married person, myself included has had a few. Listening to them sing it out was fun, and a little heartbreaking one you finally hit that emotional rock bottom you know is coming. 

I've had a few people recommend the show Life in Pieces to me, which Lister-Jones stars in (and a few of her costars such as Colin Hanks makes cameos here) after seeing everything she brought to the table here, I think I may finally check it out. 

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "I just like to sit on a toilet and let my butt hole be free. Makes me more productive." - Ben (Adam Polly)

Thursday Movie Picks: A Siege


Hold steady, this week at Wandering Through the Shelves we're talking about sieges! There's a lot to choose from this week, but my mind went straight to franchises. I'm sure everyone has seen these.

1) Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The siege of Helm's Deep is the gold standard of cinematic sieges, in my opinion. I loved watching this in theaters, it was so exhilarating and I felt the same way watching it at home. 

2) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

While it felt a bit more powerful in the book, the attack on Hogwarts is the most intense thing to happen in the Harry Potter books. There was so much going on, and we lost so many characters we loved.

3) Prince Caspian

The Chronicles of Narnia sequels didn't exactly soar at the box office, but I still really liked Prince Caspian. The siege in this film was focused more on Peter fighting Miraz, but it was a good scene over all. I got the feeling from the actor's commentary that it was their favorite to shoot as well.

Strange Things You Associate With Certain Films

You know what I'm talking about. You're watching a movie but because of something that happened during or around the time you watched it, you associate it with something else. Maybe it's a romantic comedy, yet all you can think of is a loud fight your neighbors were having. Maybe it's a horror film, but you think of a nice phone call you got from your grandma during it. Maybe they're so random you just never say them out loud.

Until now. Tell me the weirdest thing a movie reminds you of. I'll share a few of mine below

Beavis and Butt-Head Do America - Tornadoes

It was summer. I was 10 or 11 years old and home alone watching this on TV. Our TV room was in our basement and I had the volume up so high that I didn't notice the blaring tornado sirens that were going off outside. Not until my neighbor ran into my house to get me. I'll never forget stepping outside, looking down my street, and seeing a big ass tornado floating above the sky only a few blocks away. It never touched down, thankfully. But that's what I think of when I think of this movie now. 

Jaws 2 - Cabbage Patch Dolls

I had a Cabbage Patch Doll I inherited from my older sister, but it was never truly ~mine~ I remember watching this with her when my mom came downstairs and presented me with my very first Cabbage Patch doll that I could actually call my own. Her name was Glenda and you could crimp and curl her hair. What I question most about this memory now is if I was still young enough to want a doll, why the hell was I watching Jaws 2?

War of the Worlds - Flooding

After seeing this in theaters with a group of friends, it was raining so heavily when we got out that one of the roads by the theater was covered with water. I drove through with no problem. So did the group in the second car. The third car? Nope. Got stuck right in the middle and we all had to get out and push this car out of shin high water all while cracking jokes of the impending alien invasion. 

The Last Samurai - A tangled mess 
Not my actual photo, but pretty damn similar

If you've ever worked in a movie theater, you were probably familiar with the possibility of having the film "wrap" around the projector. Or dropping an already put together movie (you use clamps to hold it together) to move it from one projector to another. If I remember correctly, a second of footage is about a foot long. So you can imagine how massive The Last Samurai was at two and a half hours. Our copy wrapped and the projectionist at the time decided to move the film from one platter to another, but the clamps he used to secure it didn't secure properly and he dropped it. I got to help him put it back together. If you thought watching that movie was long, imaging unraveling and splicing it back together. I cringe just thinking of that film now. 

Kung Fu Hustle - That time I almost left my future husband before our relationship even started

Man, Kung Fu Hustle is something. Back then, I didn't have the appreciation for bad movies that I do now. So when my first date with the man I would eventually marry was to this, I seriously questioned bailing. It's funny to think about now. Especially when he had tried to justify it with "You really need to see Shaolin Soccer." 

The Passion of the Christ - Sno-caps
My theater was not prepared for this movie. Not only did we end up selling out every showing for weeks but we ran out of every single concession we offered except Sprite, Coke, and Sno-caps. Nobody likes Sno-caps. Although really, with the amount of people that ran out of the theater screaming and crying because of the violence, I don't know why the fuck they thought they wanted refreshments during it. 





Indie Gems: You Were Never Really Here

It's not a dream

Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) is a veteran of the Gulf War who makes his living now as a hitman. He's traumatized not only from the war but from past experiences. He takes care of his elderly mother and wanders from job to job in an almost dream like haze. When he's tasked with finding the young daughter (Ekaterina Samsonov) of a senator that hasn't returned home, things escalate. 

I was a huge fan of director Lynne Ramsay's last film, We Need To Talk About Kevin and I've been looking forward to this ever since it was a huge hit at Cannes. Since it never came near me in theaters, I had to wait for the DVD, but it was certainly worth that long wait.

The film is very dreamlike. Despite being centered around violence Ramsay doesn't show a lot of it. Most of the time the scene cuts to the aftermath of Joe's jobs and it works. It makes this more than just another hired gun film.

Phoenix is phenomenal. I'm hoping Oscar voters don't forget this because he'd surely get a nomination had this had a fall release date. He's so good that unfortunately the rest of the cast doesn't make nearly as good of an impression. He outshone them all.

My biggest complaint is that this film went by so quickly. At 1 hour 29 minutes it completely flew, and I wanted to spend a little more time with Joe. 

Grade: B

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "Joe, wake up. It's a beautiful day." - Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov)

Thursday Movie Picks: Body Switch

This week's theme from Wandering Through the Shelves is about switching bodies and of course I already used Freaky Friday this year. Your girl struggled this week. This was hard for me. I know I'm stretching this a bit but here's what I came up with. 

1) In Your Eyes

I really like this indie gem. It's about two people on opposite sides of the U.S who all of a sudden have a telekinetic connection and can see through each other's eyes. That counts as a body switch...right? 

2) Get Out

One of my favorites from last year. When Chris finds out exactly what Rose's father wants to do - put someone else's brain in his body, he takes Get Out into full horror movie mode. 

3) In Her Skin

Now this is a total cheat, but Caroline literally wants to be Rachel. If she could body swap, she would. This movie was based on a true story in Australia that I wasn't familiar with beforehand but it has one of the most horrifyingly realistic murder scenes I've ever watched. 

Indie Gems: Permanent

Middle school is hell. 

Aurelie (Kira McLean) is about to attend a new school and wants to get a perm. Her parents, Jeanne (Patricia Arquette) and Jim (Rainn Wilson) are tight on cash so she goes to a hair school and it goes horribly wrong. On top of Jim fretting about med school and Jeanne being kind of a spaz, Aurelie is at an awkward spot in life.

Whenever I rent an independent film from Netflix, I always make sure to watch the trailers. They usually have something that never got on my radar and Permanent is one of those films. 

The best way to describe it is "cute." It's nothing mind blowing. It falls victim to one of the most annoying tropes out there - over the top bullying - but McLean, Arquette and Wilson have wonderful chemistry and watching their family antics was a decent way to spend the evening.

I don't think you need to rush out to see this, but if it ever streams on Netflix or another platform, give it a go. 

Grade: C+

Watched on: Netflix DVD

Memorable Quote: "If you try to please all the dipshits of the world you'll be in an elevator going straight down." - Jim (Rainn Wilson)