The Polka King

Jill and I feel we didn’t cover douche-y men enough last week. God knows those middle-aged white boys need as much attention as possible or else they’ll just fade away – and we can’t have that.

So here we are in True Story land, learning what we can about the real life Polka King and his nefarious ways.

Keeping is saxxy

The Polka King (2017)

Local Pennsylvania polka legend Jan Lewan develops a plan to get rich that shocks his fans and lands him in jail.

Starring: Jack Black • Jenny Slate • Jason Schwartzman

*Minor spoilers*

Jan Lewan (Jack Black) fronts a popular local Polka band in Pennsylvania. Happily married to former-beauty queen Marla (Jenny Slate), he is something of an entrepreneur who also runs his own gift shop.

Things are looking good for the band, so much so that when Jan decides to add a dancing bear (not a real one) to the act, his clarinetist Mickey (Jason Schwartzman) decides to quit. Jan, ever the charmer, is able to talk Mickey round and promises there are good times on the horizon.

Sadly, he’s not quite as skillful in sweet-talking his mother-in-law Barb (Jacki Weaver), who’s constantly gunning for him and his life choices. (And is the best character in the film).

*Clink clink* bitches

When Jan is approached by an elderly couple who wish to invest in the band’s future, he takes their money without much persuasion. He then accepts thousands in further deposits, promising mammoth returns to his investors. Alas, the state authorities soon get wind of this scheme and tell him in no uncertain terms that what he’s doing is highly illegal. He’s given three days to pay back the cash and forget the whole crazy idea.

Which of course he does immediately and the film ends there.

NOT.

Instead he tells the state investigator that he’s quit – and promptly sets up a new scam. Meanwhile, business just keeps getting better and better for the Lewans as Jan starts a travel business giving European tours.

He manages to secure a private audience for his vacationers with the Pope – much to his own surprise – but Mickey begins to see the strings when he realises quite a lot of what Jan says is made up. Jan again keeps him on side by agreeing to let him change his name to “Mickey Pizzazz”.

You better WERK, Marla

Jan then gets the idea that getting Marla back on the pageant scene will be great for business – and even though she does a mediocre job, surprisingly she walks away with the trophy.

When it becomes clear that something about her success is amiss, the whole operation comes tumbling down around Jan’s ears. His investors no longer trust him and don’t want to be part of the ensuing scandal surrounding the couple.

Then the truth about his criminal activity gets out and there’s only one place for Jan to go now… and it’s not back to the Vatican.

“What did you just say about my braces?”

I found this film really boring. I didn’t care about Jan or even about the people he was conning. Jan has no remorse about what he’s done and even though I think for the most part his victims are just highly naive, his pride in being a part of the American Dream is irritating. We could all be as successful if we were willing to rip off old ladies. Still I guess you could argue it’s his charisma, nerve and talent that got him there in the first place. Hmm.

Jenny Slate is someone who never fails to impress in my eyes but she’s not given much to work with. Only Barb really does it for me as she focuses on proving that Jan is the wrong ‘un she’s always thought he was.

There’s nothing wrong with the performances or the story, it just failed to get me interested. Still, at least it’s not Peppermint (which is 2019’s Blog Collab mantra).

⭐⭐out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my girl think of this one? Would she give it all her savings or report it to the law? Find out here.

Behind Again

I’m still reviewing Halloween movies here firmly in December and that’s because I’ve been busy and lazy, a wonderful combination. So I’m going to have to squish some of my To Do list into one post, which I kind of hate but what can you do?

Here’s what I’ve been watching since the end of October:

Halloween

I waited for what feels like forever for this 40th anniversary sequel and… I can’t say I was disappointed. A lot of it doesn’t work, some of it spectacularly (looking at you fake Doctor Loomis/terrible podcasters) but all in all David Gordon Green‘s offering is a lot of fun and that’s what I wanted.

Jamie Lee is dope as the deeply affected, original Final Girl™ Laurie Strode. A lifetime of paranoia has made her into a reclusive survivalist and she is barely holding onto her family as a result. But what happens when all that preparation finally comes to fruition? Well, you’ll find out when Michael Myers busts out of the institution that has held him for the last four decades – and the whole thing is as gory and tense as you’d imagine. Plus, there’s something truly disconcerting about the humanisation of The Shape just before shit kicks off.

My Rating

4.5/5. Probably for nostalgia more than anything.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

In my opinion this movie suffers for not featuring enough Jack Black but IT’s Jeremy Ray Taylor does a fine job as a mini version of the man himself. If I’m honest, I don’t remember too much about the plot (I think because I saw The House with a Clock in its Walls right before it and they’ve sort of blended into one) but I did enjoy its childlike Halloween wonder.

The effects are very good – plenty of inventive monsters and sadistic gummy bears – the kids are fantastic and Slappy is a dollop of mischievous fun. I think I’ll always be here for the Goosebumps movies honestly, they’re charming. I’ll definitely be hitting this up with a re-watch as soon as possible.

My Rating

3.5/5. Witches be crazy.

The Hate U Give

Based on the YA novel by Angie Thomas which I have half read, THUG is a pretty solid adaptation, if a little heavy-handed in its delivery. Starring the ridiculously talented Amandla Stenberg as our main protagonist Starr and the ridiculously cool Regina Hall as Starr’s ferocious mother Lisa, this movie examines subject matter that is all too relevant. I enjoyed the ride and also cried like a baby throughout.

While I could never understand what Starr and her family and community have to deal with, I was pumping the air with triumph as Starr stood up for herself and her lost friends in the most dramatic, tense scenes imaginable. Not only does this movie look at the horror of racism and police brutality, it also hones in on the insidiousness of subconscious prejudice, particularly within Starr’s own friendship group. Russell Hornsby is fantastic too as Starr’s wise old ex-gang member father.

My Rating

4/5. Powerful stuff.

Slaughterhouse Rulez

Meh. This, sadly, was a steaming pile of nothingness and given the cast, I’m surprised. It’s just not that memorable, funny or endearing – and takes an age to get going. When it does there are a couple of okay moments but there’s not enough to make it worth the effort. Sorry, Nick Frost, I still love you.

My Rating

2.5/5. A real stinker.

Widows

My takeaway from this is that Viola Davis should be cast in every film from now on. Literally every single one. As freshly widowed Veronica, she is mesmerising – the perfect blend of vulnerability and strength – I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. She is matched perfectly though by Elizabeth Debicki as Alice, who steals scenes left and right, even from the Queen herself.

I enjoyed this film very much, it follows the lives of a handful of women left devastated by the death of their husbands, a band of bank robbers. But as with most crime capers, there are twists at every turn and danger lurking in every shadow, not least the terrifying Manning Brothers, Jatemme and Jamal (played, respectively, by two of my favourite actors, Daniel Kaluuya and Brian Tyree Henry).

My Rating

4/5. Girl power at its finest.

***

What have you been watching?

Girl Gang: Christmas Edition

Inspired as always by my girl, it’s your festive edition of the Girl Gang series. Obviously.

Barb, Black Christmas (1974)

Oh, why don’t you go find a wall socket and stick your tongue in it. That’ll give you a charge.

I have a real soft spot for the festive sub genre of Christmas horror movies and Black Christmas is no exception. While it offers up a traditional slasher narrative, it is also very sad. I also love it for the progressive tackling of its abortion story line and its delivery of super messed up characters, particularly Barb (played by the late, great Margot Kidder).

By rights I suppose Jess (Olivia Hussey) should be the standout for this gang, given her position as the level-headed Final Girl but Barb pips her to the post and I’ll tell you why. Sure, she’d be quite the challenge as an actual friend, her drinking is very damaging but the girl needs help damn it. She’s sassy, she’s mean (but funny) and she’s also quick-witted AF (particularly when snarking out an obscene telephone caller).

Every GG need a blunt and dynamic member and Barb’s our girl, though maybe someone needs to have a word with her about getting kids drunk. I hate that Barb isn’t the sole survivor of Billy and his murderous tendencies but if you’re going to go out, why not take death by crystal unicorn? ICONIC.

Let’s be honest that Den Mother, Mrs Mac (Marian Waldman) totally has an open-ended invite to join this group too – what a dame. You can read my review of Black Christmas here.

Bridget Jones, Bridget Jone’s Diary (2001)

Wait a minute… nice boys don’t kiss like that.

Inviting Bridge to the party seems like a pretty obvious move and I’m not sorry. BJ is a sweary hot mess who makes poor decisions and messes up a lot but she also takes risks and isn’t afraid to make a tit of herself. I can honestly say that there is nothing more appealing to me than a person who can embrace their goofy side (my friend Heather is a shining example of this).

Bridge is somewhat normal and when I’m hanging out with girls I want to feel comfortable and never judged about my own dubious choices. BJ would never shame me and she’d be down for whatever, ride or die to the end. I think she’s inspirational too in so many ways, while she’s fucking up she does also learn and eventually realises her worth isn’t dependent on validation from Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant).

If we were friends though I would have to have a very stern chat with her about her constant diet talk and calorie counting – do it on your own watch, Miss Jones for the love of God.

Iris, The Holiday (2006)

I’m looking for corny in my life.

Oh, Iris, let me count the ways in which I love you.

The Holiday, I would say is on par with Love Actually in terms of quality but that’s not to say I don’t fucking adore it. But, while Cameron Diaz skips through snowy fields with Jude Law, I’m always dying to get back to Iris (Kate Winslet) in the city of Angels.

Iris is a perpetual romantic with her heart set on the ultimate bad boy (Rufus Sewell) – been there, done that. The thing is, she’s just about done with his games and her apartment swap is the first step in a long journey to getting the fuck over it. Step in Jack Black and arguably the much more important leading man, Arthur (Eli Wallach).

Iris is a good, kind woman and she’s a laugh. She’s into movies and she’s into banter and I want to have a drink with her in a bar so bad – and then I want to go home and watch old videos with her into the early hours and laugh about all the rat bastards that have ever broken our hearts.

Selina Kyle, Batman Returns (1992)

Honey, I’m home. Oh, I forgot. I’m not married.

Sure, lonely but lovely Miss Kyle becomes one of Gotham’s greatest villains/heroes of all time following a terrible ‘accident’ at the hands of her boss Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) – but even before that she was an interesting person and I want Selina on my team.

While she’s portrayed as a bit of a door mat, I don’t see her that way. Selina’s ambitious and damn good at her job. While the men around her only see her as a lowly secretary, the woman holds everything together (familiar?). Our girl is gorgeous and sweet – and what’s more, nothing can keep her down. Not even death and certainly not Batman or Shreck – or the pervy Penguin.

Selina evolves from self-deprecating loser to mischievous minx to the sassiest adversary Gotham’s dark knight has ever seen and the arc is beautiful. PLUS, I want her apartment and her entire wardrobe SO BAD. SUE ME.

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Selina Kyle: so good she deserves her own slideshow…

Who’s in your gang?

The House with a Clock in Its Walls

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018)

I’ve a little bit of weakness for YA horror/fantasy, I can’t help myself. I think it might be because these are the kind of films that made me fall in long-term love with horror. I also have a little thing for JB and therefore this was a no-brainer. I enjoyed this ride, despite being the oldest member of the audience not accompanied by a child.

As Lewis gets to grips with his new life, living with his eccentric uncle Jonathan Barnavelt (Black) and occasionally, just as kooky next-door neighbour Florence Zimmerman (Blanchett), he learns that there is more to life than meets the eye – magic things – and there’s nothing more magical (and also sinister) as a house with a hidden clock buried in its walls.

While the family search for this torturous contraption, concealed somewhere deep in the core of the building, Jonathan’s arch nemesis Isaac Izard (Maclachlan) plans his comeback, with a little help from his beloved wife, Selena (Renée Elise Goldsberry). And Lewis must also navigate possibly the hardest landscape of all – middle school.

Honestly, this is a beautiful looking film with wholehearted performances from everyone. Cate is utterly breath-taking as the damaged (but determined) Florence. I feel like she should never veer from her purple colour palette ever again, it’s such a good look for her.

The effects are good and it’s above all fun to experience. There’s a really wonderful scene set in the ornate back garden that is stunning – and a head to head between our heroic trio and a bunch of haunted pumpkins. What’s not to love?

My Rating

3.5/5.

Goosebumps (Film) Review

20846872145_6e5bb2b6b4_oAfter a lazy morning in front of Modern Family and a fresh haircut at my favourite granny salon, we headed to our local multiplex to take in something a little family friendly but still edgy.

The fact that it also offers adequate Jack Black action didn’t hurt. He’s definitely having something of a revival in my crush rotation right now (must be because School of Rock (2003) was on the TV the other night).

But besides the perving opportunity, this was actually quite a solid way to spend Saturday afternoon (and almost worth getting dressed and putting on make-up at the weekend).

Almost.

I went into this movie adaptation of R.L Stine‘s nineties Goosebumps series as a GB Virgin. I think I was just a smidge too old for these books when they first came out so missed the hype, sadly. This is a shame really as I would have been all over them like a rash.

*Spoilers!*

Goosebumps (2015)

Director: Rob Letterman
Stars: JB, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee

IMDB Synopsis: A teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R. L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.

My Review:

The set up here isn’t anything particularly new. Zach and his mother, Gale (The Office’s Amy Ryan) have moved to small town Madison from New York, following the death of Zach’s father. He’s dealing with this situation as best he can when he meets the girl next door, Hannah.

Unfortunately, Hannah’s overprotective father (Black – hello!) is none too pleased with this and quickly warns Zach not to come near either of them again. Luckily for Jack Black, teenagers always do what they’re told and never break rules. Zach also makes a new friend in the form of Young Tim Curry-alike, Champ.

One evening, Zach and Hannah take an unauthorised stroll to an abandoned theme park (as we all did as teenagers) and there’s a definite spark between them (duh). But Jack Black wasn’t kidding when he said he wanted Hannah to stay away from Zach and later there’s a domestic disturbance which leads Zach (and a reluctant Champ) to sneak into Hannah’s home to save her.

Expecting to find Hannah chained up in the basement by her crazed father, the boys are not at all prepared for the reality of the actual situation, though reality is a loose term in this movie.

“What do you mean you’ve never read Jackie Collins’ Hollywood Wives?!”

After finding a carefully (but not that carefully) secured collection of the original Goosebumps books, our heroes speculate about what happened to the author, Mr Stine. They then royally fuck up the system and accidentally free one of Stine’s most ferocious characters from the pages of one of the books. That’s right, these literary monsters have the ability to leap straight off the page and into real time. Ooooooh!

What follows is a monster mash of epic proportions as R.L Stine’s finest creations escape and tear up the town.

TWIST! R.L Stine, the elusive author is actually… Hannah’s father, y’all! Together, this motley crew take on a seemingly endless stream of ghosts and ghouls, legendary monsters and their mastermind, the wonderfully creepy Slappy the Dummy (also voiced by my boy Black).

That’s sort kind of it in terms of the story line. Stine and pals must get to the high school, where Zach’s mother happens to be Vice Principal and is also chaperoning the school dance. Stine’s beloved typewriter on which he wrote every one of his books is also displayed there and the gang have determined that the only way to beat these pesky beasts is to write them back into a new story.

“Put your pants back on Abominable Snowman!”

They must fight their way past werewolves, garden gnomes, a giant bug and the cast of the Thriller video in order to reach their goal – while keeping it together as a collective on the way. Will they make it godammit? To the Questions section!

Questions:

Will our intrepid teens make it to the school in time to help Stine save the day? Will Hannah and Zach GET IT AWN? Will Champ ever win the heart of the hot girl? Why does Hannah keep lighting up like a roman candle in the night?

How fucking creepy are ventriloquist dummies? And, finally, why didn’t anything this cool happen to me when I was a teen?

goosebumps-movie-jack-black

George Clooney is ageing suspiciously well

My Thoughts:

I really did enjoy this film and not just because I love me a plucky werewolf. It offers a lot in the way of fun, the main characters are likeable (if nothing new) and Jack Black’s R.L Stine is superb. It’s always satisfying when Black plays it straight and I really appreciated the character’s obvious bitterness towards writing rival, “Steve” King.

There’s also a quite touching reason for Stine’s protectiveness towards his daughter, which we learn more about. I won’t lie, there may have been a tear shed on my behalf as the end drew near – I liked that Goosebumps packs an emotional punch as well as all the monster stuff.

I also love the writer within his own story gimmick. I’m not sure if it’s all true but Black makes ‘outsider’ Stine seem more sympathetic as he shares an insight into what made him write these characters in the first place. There’s even a little Stan Lee-style cameo before the credits roll, see if you can spot it.

All in all, fun fun fun. Not sure if my step son really loved it but fidgeting was kept to a minimum, which is always a good sign.

My Rating: 4/5.

Spooky Saturday Fun (and I might read some of the books now).