The Baby-Sitters Club (1995) review

Rated: 3/5

“Everybody knows us, because everybody uses us.”

No, that line isn’t from a film about hookers.  It’s more innocent than that.  The line is from a film about elementary to middle-school to junior high-school aged girls who run the Baby-Sitters Club.  A club that takes phone calls from anyone in town who needs a babysitter (or two) for their toddlers.  And they get paid for doing this, keep a schedule book, and are quite well organized.  I consider that a bit on the inspirational side.

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Better Blogging Through Podcasts: Announcing RadioPublic Embeds

The Blog

We love podcasts: they’re like the blogging version of radio, a medium anyone can jump into and use to share their story. They introduce us to new voices and give us glimpses into new perspectives… and they pair perfectly with blogs and websites, where they can add more texture and interest to what you’re already publishing.

Thanks to a new partnership with RadioPublic, you can choose from a quarter of a million podcasts to embed into your posts and pages on and Jetpack-powered websites. Whether you produce a podcast yourself, write about them, or just like to listen, you can share podcasts with your visitors, no matter where the podcasts are hosted.

What Can a Podcast Add to My Site?

Use a RadioPublic embed to share and promote your own podcast !  But even if you’ve never even listened to a podcast before, there are ways you can use…

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Detroit review and discussion of Hollywood’s portrayal of racism over the years

Rated: 3/5*
* = with caveats, especially with dialogue that self-references the year.  “Helloooo? This is 1967!  I can do whatever I want!”


Ok, so this movie. I had reservations going in. But there are times where I get sick and tired of being on edge, of having such a high amount of skepticism, of believing I’m in the minority of seeing things as they are and wondering if I’m wrong because of that. There are times I just want to be entirely wide open, entirely accepting, entirely trusting, putting my emotions on the line. Of watching a film and accepting what is given at face value. To not be so critical, because so many others aren’t. A part of me hates having my guard up against emotional manipulation so often for so many movies (especially of films made from around 2012 and onwards).

But I’ve been emotionally manipulated too many times in the past. I’ve seen that the things I’ve believed in and been taught to believe in are lies too many times. I fought on the wrong side for too long to risk going back so easily. It’s become a part of my nature now to watch any racially charged film like this (or any documentary for that matter) with a skeptical mind. I hate myself for doing this because it means I am usually unable to fully appreciate a good film containing subject matter like this upon first watch. But I would hate myself more if I did go into this blindly and putting my faith in the idea that it’s honest, that it’s made with honest intentions, has good lessons and/or entertainment within it, only to find out later on that it wasn’t.

Things weren’t always like this. Most films made from the late 60s to the early 2000s tended to be honest about these sorts of things, about their intentions, about their entertainment. Any mistakes made tended to be made in blissful ignorance rather than with intent. Like Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus film and how it portrays gladiators as nice family friendly guys when they weren’t slaughtering each other or Roman soldiers. Or those sword and sorcery films of the 70s and 80s which, well let’s face it all of them were pretty ridiculous in several ways. But there was a charm about it all, an innocence to it. Like how a child repeats what he hears and doesn’t consider the context of his words. But in this day and age, the child is grown up, and is fully aware of the context. We should likewise be aware, and act with wisdom.

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Dune Club notes part 4

Continuing from part 3 of the Dune Book Club, run by Comic Book Girl 19.



Pages 166-262

Notes before the Twitch Stream

Whew, lot of pages to cover for this section, so I’ll be a bit more selective. Anyway, it’s at this point in the readings where I started to notice the sort of analogies Frank Herbert has been using for various, um, things. Mainly in regards to describing things as insects. For instance, the poison snooper:

Page 165:

The thing’s sensor arms hung limply over the table, reminding Paul of some weird insect newly dead.

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Atomic Blonde and The Blood of Heroes dual review, and a discussion on female empowerment

Rated: 2/5

Cocksucker?  Really?

It was convincing wasn’t it?

So I must confess, Atomic Blonde is a film that I initially didn’t have any interest in.  That is, until I saw this little parody via Steven Crowder:


Now for the record, prior to watching the film, I assumed he was just exaggerating with the jokes, that this film wasn’t anymore beyond the realm of believability than some film like John Wick, or Commando, or The Protector (aka Tom Yum Goong).  And after watching the film, I can pretty much safely say he was kind of exaggerating.

Well look at me now, I fear I’m turning into one of those stubborn thick-headed hard-ass far-right republican hillbilly redneck motherfuckers who believes women should know their place and can’t possibly ever be as strong as a man, blah blah blah.  So I was getting ashamed of myself for thinking like this, and was trying desperately for the sake of fairness and for the sake of not being a big hypocrite and one-sided to suspend the disbelief factor for this film as I have for so many others with men in the roles.  You know, thinking that it’s silly to believe that Hollywood has gone that far in pushing the woman power agenda, that it’s no more silly than the male power thing (which in all fairness is more natural from a biological point of view, not trying to be sexist here, at least not THAT sexist). Plus it shows she trained hard for the role.

I was even willing to accept the lesbianism halfway through, trying not to look at it in the way of, “She’s too good for a man, she needs a woman!”.  I was assuming that too much of Steven Crowder and other individuals who have been trying to influence my line of thinking were getting to me too much and making me too biased towards a particular view.  So I just looked at it as a smoking hot lesbian sex scene that is pleasing to the male eye (not the best I’ve seen, but it’s appreciated), and to the young female eyes who desire to experiment with lesbianism while they and those around them are still young and hot before they realize it sucks to be a lesbian when you’re middle-aged or older.  Other nudity bits during the first half were nice too (the justification for at least one of them to show that she’s bruised all over from head to toe).

So I went along with this, thinking it was all in my head (it’s elemental) that there was some underlying devious pro-feministic theme going on with this film.  But then during the second half the lines start to show up.  Lines such as a big burly man (the same guy who gave John Wick a run for his money in the first John Wick film) calling Theron a bitch, and then she kicks said individual’s ass and remarks, “Am I still a bitch!?”  And then James McAvoy saying something along the lines of, “The world would be a better place without women,” prior to getting his just desserts.  You know, a few scenes like that, so that the movie makes it clear that it’s pushing a female empowerment agenda.  Well, goddamnit, you had me going there for a while movie!

So that’s one strike against the movie.  But something like that wouldn’t be anywhere near close enough to ruin the entire thing for me.  I initially went in to see this film for over-the-top action sequences that I can laugh at and make fun of, while still enjoying because of the unbelievability.  You know, like Commando, and Strike Commando, and just about every martial arts flick ever made.  But there aren’t that many action sequences in this.  This doesn’t try to be John Wick in that department.  The biggest difference between this and John Wick is that John Wick prioritizes the abundance of action sequences over the story.  This film seems like it actually gives a damn about the story and thus puts more focus on the plot and characters.  That ends up being to the film’s detriment, because the film never really drew me into the story.  I didn’t give two shits about the story when all is said and done.  Not interesting enough, and neither are the characters.

Yeah, that guy, Daniel Bernhardt, from John Wick 1, he’s in this.  And he’s Russian!

Such a pity too.  Charlize Theron is definitely capable of playing a solid character and investing badass (surely Mad Max: Fury Road taught us that, and that film is better than this one in almost every way).  James McAvoy managed to make an M. Night Shymalan film good, yet despite his efforts here, he only shines through in a couple instances and is otherwise just as dull as the rest.

The other thing that brings this film down is that it tries too hard to be stylish.  You know, like those Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez/Frank Miller rip-off films that show up all the time on the Netflix shit-list.  Except that this film has a higher budget, better actors, a better director.  But it isn’t much better in the writing/pacing department.  It tries to be cool for the sake of being cool, letting you know it’s based off a comic.  It just doesn’t have a natural style to make its own like the John Wick films do.  Plus it gets a bit annoying have almost every action scene having retro music blaring loudly in the background with the hopes of, I don’t know, making the action scenes more hip somehow.

Hey look, its sword-legs from Kingsman!

The only action scene that stood out and made the movie worth anything is this 6 minute “long take” sequence where she’s fighting a few guys down these stairs inside a building.  Not only is that sequence great, but it’s silent.  There’s no fucking retro hip music playing at all during that entire sequence.  Thank the heavenly host, I would’ve praised the scene over all the others just for that aspect alone, nevermind that it’s one of the best action sequences done in recent memory by an American studio.  I just wish it was in a better film.  Those John Wick film-makers better get their asses in gear for the 3rd and final one and make some outstanding sequence like that before Keanu gets too old for this shit.

Anyway, one good action sequence, the rest of the film is kind of a bore.  It never really got me all that interested in anything that was going on, it goes out of its way to make the plot and the character motivations less coherent than necessary, and it tries too hard to be stylish.  And there’s the female empowerment thing.

But no.  Oh no.  I’m not going to leave this review ending on a note like that.  Bullshit.  I’m going to review a film that shows more of what I want for a film that can be considered to have a female empowerment message, and it does so without trying to shove it down our fucking throats.  And it’s a hidden gem from 1990 that you’ve probably never heard of.


Rated: 4/5

So it’s not just the recent years where people didn’t go out to see a good film.  This film got overlooked and bombed theaters and went practically unnoticed.  I’m not even sure if this film has the cult following it deserves, let alone the HD remaster it desperately needs.  It’s on DVD in America, but the video quality isn’t great and the audio quality is worse (you will need subtitles to understand what they’re saying half the time).  The best edition of this film you can get that I know of is a Japanese blu-ray which seems to be region free (or at least multiple regions), has 2 versions of the film (the American cut, and the unrated European cut that goes by the alternate title Salute of the Jugger), and the audio/video quality is better than the DVD version.  That being said, it’s only slightly better than the DVD version in terms of quality, which is bullshit mostly because it’s blu-ray, but mostly because it costs fifty fucking dollars to get a hold of.  That’s bullshit!

With the technical video/audio qualities out of the way…  This film takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.  How did the world get this way and how does it currently work?  Who knows and who cares?  The movie certainly doesn’t.  All you need to know is that, like Rollerball (the James Caan version, not that fucking 2000s remake), there’s a hard-hitting sport that is popular among everyone, but it’s more than likely you will get crippled and/or die from playing it.  This sport is all about taking a cow skull that starts in the middle of the field, and try to place it on this spear on the opponent’s side of the field.  Like a hardcore rugby game, where just about everyone on the team has a weapon, whether it be a club, a chain-linked net, or other things.  Everyone on the team matters.  If one falls, the others will wash over everyone and get an easy victory.  Various teams practice this sport all around the land, hoping to get good enough and experienced enough to take on those in the big leagues, gaining an opportunity to live among the best of society should they win.

So Rutger Hauer leads a team across the land to have a match in some random village where Joan Chen’s character lives.  And she wishes to join the team and seek a better life.  She has talent, she has speed, and she has quick reflexes.  But she lacks experience.  But she does decent enough right away like Million Dollar Baby to show she more than belongs on the team right?  Wrong!

She gets the shit kicked out of her during her first match, getting head injuries so bad I wondered how it is she wasn’t in a coma.  But despite how bad she got beat, she continues on and follows them, since the team needs a new member to replace their “runner” who got his leg broken during their match.  So they train her, she gets better, and soon enough seems like every bit as much of an integral part of the team as every other member.  No better, no worse.  And that’s what I love about this movie the most.  The two central characters, Rutger Hauer and Joan Chen, even though they’re the main focus, the film makes it clear that they’re not invincible, and not necessarily much better than anyone else.  The others showcase their importance as well, including Vincent D’Onofrio before he ate too many donuts and got a role in Law & Order (or whatever fucking cop-drama show he was in).

And the action scenes are very hard hitting, and quite brutal at times.  I mean, shit, there were a couple moments where I was starting to think the actors actually got hurt for real on occasion.

The film moves at a quick pace for the first half, but then slows down during the second half by having none of the team members participate in any fights for a while.  That’s because it’s build-up, making the audience crave the anticipation for the final match that everyone is waiting for, so that it’s a more glorious moment when it happens.  And I have to admit, by the end of it all, it provides quite an inspiring sensation, with a great theme of hard work and perseverance generating a payoff.

And like Mad Max: Fury Road, even though it’s billed as having Rutger Hauer being the big name and the main character, it’s every bit Joan Chen’s film as it is his.  Both are significant, and both have their own little character arcs.  And not once does anyone in the film make some argument along the lines of, “But she’s a girl!”  Nope.  She’s treated like any other rookie.  In fact, she’s not the only female on the team.  There’s this big buff female mamma jamma who looks like she could kick anyone’s ass who is also on the team.  And no one makes a big deal about anything gender-related, not once.  And that’s the sort of female-empowerment film I like to see.  Not one that’s trying to preach, but one where it’s not brought up or addressed.  They are no better or worse than anyone else for the most part.  They just belong.  They just are.  And no one has a problem with it.  Why the fuck can’t we get more films like this?

Well anyway, this film is great entertainment, and it’s worth checking out.  I managed to see it via  It’s currently free to watch, but there’s commercial breaks every 15 minutes and the video/audio quality isn’t that great.  You can tell what’s going on, you can turn on subtitles to understand what everyone is saying, but just know what you’re in for.  It’s a film released in the very early 90s (in some places late 80s) which never got a high definition upgrade, and this needs one badly.  And it deserves one.

PS: Yes, there is a brief sex scene in this movie too. Joan Chen and Mr. Law & Order himself Vincent D’Onofrio bunk up and go at it, in what proves to be an interesting sex scene. By interesting I don’t mean it gets that particularly intense or revealing or anything like that. By interesting, I mean Rutger Hauer comes in and watches them while they’re in the middle of it. And after nearly a minute of observing them grunting and moaning, I’m pretty much wondering, “What the hell Hauer? Are you a fucking creep in this film or something?” But then he says:

“Two Juggers can’t fuck after the game. It doesn’t work. Unless you like to rub wounds against wounds.”

And it’s at that point I realized they weren’t moaning in pleasure, they were moaning in pain and frustration, trying to turn it into pleasure. But they’re so fucking sore from all the bashing they took from the game they played a few hours ago that it’s just impossible for them to enjoy themselves in this way. And Hauer was there to watch in amusement, like, “Yeah, I’d like to see you guys try to have sex after a game like that.” And sure enough, they can’t do it. I started busting up at that point. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film successfully turn a sex-scene into a joke in that way. Brilliant!

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets review

Rated 3/5

Eh, this movie is just ok. It’s entertaining enough and all, it looks great, but it’s not something all that memorable to me. But it does make me interested in checking out the comic series Valerian and Laureline (started all the way back in 1967, and ended in 2010).

Oh Lucas, you and your ripoffs.

I haven’t read the comics, I don’t know exactly how the plot in those go. But I believe it would’ve been better if this film had an entirely different plot that didn’t go along the lines of, “We’re all gonna die unless you save us!” I mean, the first 5 minutes seem worthy of being a stand-alone film on its own, showing how humanity has slowly but surely begun construction of an international space station (making sure to highlight the Chinese people because this is a Chinese produced film so it can get a bigger release in China). And eventually we make contact with an alien species who wish to join us in our peaceful space settlement. And it continually grows larger and larger in size until it has to move out into the universe away from Earth so that the station’s gravitational pull doesn’t start to negatively affect Earth (holy shit, there’s some realistic physics in this). Granted, all the aliens pretty much walk on 2 legs and have 2 arms, so it’s not THAT creative or imaginative in that regard, but I’ll take it. I wanted to see more details in this. I wanted to see more of what life is like living on this place, seeing what the alien cultures/technology is like, how coexisting works, etc. Couldn’t we get a movie that is just like that? Without some action/adventure plot? Something that’s less on the conventional side? Apparently not.

But anyway, speaking of convention, this film basically turns into another version of the same damn thing we’ve seen before in just about every film about Native Americans since the 80s. There’s a group of peaceful natives on a planet where everyone is happy and content and at peace and there is absolutely nothing wrong going on (gag me with a spoon, no fucking culture is that peaceful!). Until the evil human/American race shows up and blows the shit out of everything! So now our main protagonists have to make it right somehow someway. Despite all the potential with looking into the thousands of alien lifeforms and cultures and such, that ends up being the plot. Such a waste. It would’ve been more meaningful if the colony was expanding, and questions start to get raised about whether or not they should make contact with a race, if the entire colony is starting to get so big there isn’t enough power to run the entire station and so the possibility of resorting to gaining power through raiding a planet of its resources arises, and all the political/ethical debates that arise between all the species on the station regarding this issue. That would make for a much more intriguing film. But nope, typical action/adventure fluff. Puts me off when something like this settles for “adequate” when it had the potential for so much more.

Another thing I disliked about this film is that it goes that Star Wars Attack of the Clones route. By that I mean it delves into chase scenes that go on for too long and don’t serve much of a purpose other than “It’s supposed to look cool.” Attack of the Clones is probably the main film that suffers the worst from this sort of element, of dragging on a chase/action scene for far too long, and there’s at least 2 sequences where this film suffers from the same element. But there’s that, and then there’s the middle segment of the film where Valerian and Laureline (tangent: I wish the film had a different title, either “Valerian and Laureline”, or “The City of a Thousand Planets”; because it kinda sucks to have the title mainly focus on only 1 of the 2 main protagonists) get separated. From getting pulled up by the electric butterflies up until they escape their captors, the entire movie drags. This entire segment could’ve been thrown out and left on the cutting room floor and the film wouldn’t have suffered from missing it, at all. The only reason I can think of as to why this entire prolonged “rescue” portion of the film is here is to have an excuse to showcase a dance scene.

I mean, that dance scene is cool and all, but it distracts from the rest of the film. So does the entire “rescue” segment of which the dance part is a part of. I mean, one could argue a similar opera scene in The Fifth Element is every bit as much of a tangent as this is, but that film actually had a legitimate excuse to put that in there. Plus in The Fifth Element, it intercuts with an action scene. Plus The Fifth Element is better than this film in every way, save for visually. Because let’s face it, as much as I harp on the things in the film that irritated me, all of which I find to be legit grievances, there’s no denying that this is a good-looking film that makes use of the best CG currently has to offer.

So, a plot that should’ve been ditched in favor of a better one, chase scenes that go for too long, and a big fat tangent in the middle of the film, those are the big cons. Other than all that, I found the film to be fairly enjoyable. Decent enough action scenes, not every “high up” official ends up being an asshole (most of the time in films like this, all political/military “higher ups” tend to fall on the villainous side), and there’s enough entertainment to be had from everything else. Cool to see how some of the technology works, and cool to see how a couple of these alien creatures live and work. It’s just a pity we couldn’t get a film that was more about that previous sentence. Makes me feel less bad about the fact that this bombed theaters, like John Carter (that movie didn’t deserve to bomb).

Dunkirk review

Rated: 3/5

This is one of a very few select theatrical films coming out this year that I’ve been eager to see. The number of films I’m willing to shell out money for (let alone time) has been dwindling over the past couple years, and this year has accelerated that trend for me. Christopher Nolan has never disappointed me. He always makes an extra effort that most director’s wouldn’t even bother with nowadays. Most directors are like, “Hey, this ain’t the pre-milennium anymore dude. We can take the easy way out with CG, it just depends on how much money and time we throw at it.” Christopher Nolan tends to be like, “You bag of pussies! CG is the easy way out! There aren’t enough blood sweat and tears to be felt with CG. Practical effects are where it is and always will be at. CG is just another way to compliment them much like stop-motion and animated drawings of the past did.” Sure enough, he brings that to this movie.

Dunkirk is not like most other war films. I’m not talking about terms of special effects and the way the film is shot, though those aspects are great here. I’m talking about the pacing, the feel of it. A feeling that can only be captured thanks to loyal music partner Hans Zimmer, who is becoming as associated with Nolan as John Williams was to George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Like Inception and Interstellar, there’s that “tick-tock tick-tock” beat to the music, as if counting down to something happening, or giving the feeling that the protagonists on-screen need to get something done soon before they run out of time. The music makes the entire film feel like one gigantic sequence as opposed to several sequences put together to make a film. Don’t get me wrong, the film is still very much the latter, but the music tends to encourage you to forget that. That is what separates it from most other war films, which are usually composed of big gigantic shootouts/explosions with a few long stretches of silence between each action sequence, like Saving Private Ryan or A Bridge Too Far. There is the other category, that of the non-stop action type like Black Hawk Down or We Were Soldiers. This film is its own category, something that feels like a blend of the two. I won’t say that alone makes the film outstanding, but for now it does make it more unique, and unique is something we don’t get enough of nowadays. Enjoy it while you can.

The film focuses on 3 separate characters, for 3 different views on the event. A soldier on the ground with all the other thousands of soldiers. A fighter pilot trying to shoot down German bombers and fighters in the hopes if providing the relief those on the ground so desperately need. And the crew of a civilian boat on their way to Dunkirk with many other civilian boats to evacuate the soldiers. Each view is arguably as engaging as the other, but I found myself most invested in the fighter pilots. Because it is a breathe of fresh air seeing these plane sequences shot so well and realistically as this, especially compared to George Lucas’ Red Tails (he thinks they fly the exact same way as X-Wings). How the camera moves in an off-balance way so the viewer gets the same sense as the pilots when they’re maneuvering. Some of the most engrossing fighter plane shots I’ve seen since Cowboy Bebop: The Movie.

But the most terrifying aspects come from the soldiers on the ground, who are always in fear of the sound of the next plane to arrive and shoot them down or blow them and their ships up. And unlike most other war films, the enemy (ze Germans) is never clearly seen. The bullets tend to come playing suddenly and/or out of the corner of the camera. Because in reality, soldiers don’t tend to see who/what is shooting at them before they have to react and run for cover. That, and how they continually have to pick themselves up after each close-call, from standing back up after laying down on the beach after a bombing run, to swimming from a ship after it sinks (and trying not to get stuck within the confines of the ship and drown), to avoiding the flames of ignited oil spilled all around the ocean waters. An exhausting nightmare that never seems to end.

Then comes the aspect of hope, of home, personified by the crew of the civilian ship, risking their lives in their non-military-equipped vessel to save who they can where military vessels could not (because they are bigger targets for plane bombings and U-boat torpedoes). The ones I was least-interested in, but that’s not saying much because I still found them investing, and perfectly complimenting the other two perspectives in the film.

The theme seems to be about the victory in surviving, the victory in being brave enough to rescue those in need, of putting others before yourself. And being able to live or help others to live so they can go on to fight another day. It’s personified in this final speech made from the reading of a newspaper.

So, long story short, I recommend this film. It’s a different sort of war film, even if it wouldn’t seem that way on paper, or from watching the trailers. My rating could go higher upon a rewatch, but I’m not sure. I enjoyed the film, I’m just not sure right now how much the joy factor should be.  What I do know is that I didn’t find there to be a single weak scene in the film.  Plus I can’t help but appreciate such a film that has so much practical effects and actual planes and ships and stuff, yet it somehow underplays the special effect aspect, making sure it never overtakes the narrative, but rather compliments it perfectly.

Edit: Read a review that contains a brilliant analysis that I have to bring up here:

Like I said, storywise it’s straightforward. But this is still a Nolan film and like in practically all of his other films, he just cant keep it simple. He chooses to tell his story disjointed. Once I started noticing there was something off in the way certain scenes followed each other I felt that ‘Nolan dread’ creep upon me, feeling sure he messed it up yet again. Fortunately that couldn’t be further from the truth. A ticking clock is what makes it work.

Time is messed up in this film. We switch between three narratives but they are not always synchronized. What this does is that in Dunkirk, time simply disappears, there is only now and the next moment we need to survive. That beach felt like purgatory, a place you can’t escape from. This a-synchronous approach could make it all feel too loosely connected and confusing, but Nolan manages to find urgency in each and every frame of his film. And for that he uses a simple trick. A constant ticking clock in the background. It is what ties everything together, no matter how hard you try, you can’t escape time. And that clock becomes as big a monster as the faceless beast stalking that beach.

— written by DirkH of