Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Our reviews and thoughts on the latest releases, classics, and nostalgic favourites. Things we loved, things we hated, and worst of all, things we were ambivalent about.

The Ugly Dachshund

Disney+ has so many hidden gems and unknown oddities that it feels like the vault is more like a mystery grab bag. Having adopted our first Dachshund about 6 months ago, we couldn’t believe that you’d ever call any of them ugly (our Walt was born with a birth defect – his left eye socket is too small, and he’s blind in that eye, but honestly it just makes him cuter) and we couldn’t wait to find out why they did – though we did wait, at least until Walt was out of earshot, just in case.

The Ugly Dachshund (1966) is about a young couple, Fran (Suzanne Pleshette) and Mark (Dean Jones) Garrison, who are perhaps a bit mismatched in the doggie department. Fran is obsessed with her prized Doxie, Danke, who’s just given birth to a litter of female pups. They are receiving the best start to life in Dr. Pruitt’s (Charles Ruggles) cushy vet office, where his own Great Dane has also recently given birth. Great Danes have much larger litters than little weiner dogs, and Dr. Pruitt’s concerned that his girl won’t have enough milk to go around, so the two men agree to sneak one of the Great Dane pups into Dake’s basket, who has the space and the food for one more. This, then, is the Ugly Dachshund.

Can you even?

Mark, who has never been a fan of the Doxies, is quite tickled to have Brutus the Great Dane, though he attempts to keep the breed a secret from his wife as long as possible – which actually results in poor Brutus having an identity crisis of sorts, believing himself to be one of the Dachshunds, never realizing he’s simply too big to be a lapdog. The Garrison household becomes a war of dogs, the Dachshunds getting into all kinds of trouble, with old pal Brutus taking most of the blame. Things come to a hilarious head on the night of a big backyard party; the Garrison’s social circle will never be the same!

This is an exceedingly cute movie if you don’t mind the casual racism, which of course we should. When Disney Plus started migrating all these old movies onto their streaming service, making some of them available for the first time in decades, they realized how poorly some of them had aged. Some of their films simply did not make the cut but others, like The Ugly Dachshund, is prefaced with a disclaimer: This programme includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. We want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together. We’ve seen this warning in front of Peter Pan recently, and Dumbo too. Certainly the “negative depictions” were not difficult to spot in any of those movies and if you’re watching with children, a follow-up conversation is probably appropriate. That said, this movie was extremely difficult for me to watch, mostly because of cuteness overload. If I thought having one little Walt running around our house was sweet, imagine having a proud mama, 3 adorable puppies, and 1 Great Dane in disguise. I literally squealed and squirmed my way through this movie, my heart aflutter over every puppy pile – and true to Doxie tradition, there were many piles indeed (they love to cuddle!).

In real life, Suzanne Plechette had a Yorkie at home named Missy who kind of resented the Dachshund scent on her mama at the end of the day, so Plechette had to shower and change before returning home. We have a Yorkie too (we have nearly as many dogs as the Garrisons). His name is Fudgie and he doesn’t resent Walt at all; in fact, he likes the cut of his jib so much that he frequently tries to mate with him.

Fun fact: you may recognize Brutus from another Disney film – he’d also starred as Duke, one of the Swiss Family Robinson’s two guardian Great Danes. Dean Jones, meanwhile, starred in That Darned Cat, which I think makes him a bit of a traitor, and frankly, I’m surprised the dogs didn’t take a collective vote and boot him off the film altogether.

Sightless

After being attacked in a parking garage, Ellen (Madelaine Petsch) wakes up without her sight. The nurse at her bedside tells her the damage to her eyes is irreversible. Unable to see, she is now dependent on her caretaker Clayton (Alexander Koch), whose main job is to help Ellen adjust to her new reality. Clayton spends a fair amount of time with Ellen at her apartment, and when he is not around, Ellen is occasionally visited by the detective investigating her attack as well as her two next-door neighbours, one who is abused and one who is the abuser.

But even without her sight, Ellen sees that something about this situation is….off. She can’t figure out what exactly is wrong but as she pulls at loose threads, her whole world starts unravelling.

Writer/director Cooper Karl establishes early on that the viewer’s eyes cannot be trusted, and it’s a recurring theme on which Sightless’ twists rely. While that approach likely was intended to match Ellen’s experience of being Sightless, it left me feeling disconnected from the film since I kept being reminded that I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. That disconnect neuters every one of this film’s attempts to shock, surprise and thrill, since nothing on screen can be trusted.

With Sightless lacking any edge due to its structure, you’re better off seeing what else Netflix has on offer.

The White Tiger

I didn’t like the book and I didn’t like the movie.

I am so, so tempted to leave this review at just that one sentence but I know that would be a bit disingenuous since I am very much in the minority on this. So I’ll give you a slightly fuller picture and you will be your own judge. If you’d like to watch this movie, you have my blessing, and you’ll find it on Netflix.

Balram (Adarsh Gourav) is a servant in India; his caste is his destiny. He works for people he admires – Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and Pinky (Priyanka Chopra) – which doesn’t mean they’re nice, only that they’re wealthy, and upwardly mobile . Balram would like to be those things one day too, but for him there is no opportunity and no path toward a better life. Society itself is built around oppressing his kind and making sure they never, ever get their own ideas. So he must beat down his own path, with whatever meagre tools and talents he has. It’s going to be brutal, and it’s going to be bloody, but for Balram, entrepreneurship is the ultimate goal and the holy grail in one. It is worth any price.

The movie kept my attention better than the book, which I found tedious; the film benefits from brisk editing and a Jay-Z remix. I still didn’t enjoy it though, and I’m realizing it’s partially because the protagonist is so dislikable. Balram is hardly the first anti-hero though, and somehow I usually manage to cope. I suppose it’s that when I encounter other characters I dislike – Batman, for example – there’s usually something else I can root for, like good vs. evil. The White Tiger doesn’t give you that; it’s bad vs. worse and you can never be sure which of these slippery sides our protagonist is leaning toward. I guess I needed something to hold onto, and Balram’s underdog status just wasn’t cutting it. Balram’s story is given to us via a letter he’s writing to some successful Chinese businessman, who ultimately brushes him off, unimpressed by the story and the man, and I suppose I, too, was left cold by Balram’s plight. Perhaps you will feel more sympathetic.

Rapture-Palooza

The “Rapture,” if you believe in such things, is an end-time fairy tale made up by evangelicals that basically says God is going to pull a Thanos, do a snap, and with that, all the good little boys and girls (and men and women) will vanish from earth, having ascended to heaven, and the rest of us will be left behind, shrugging at each other like “Ooops!”

The rapture has happened and young lovers Lindsey (Anna Kendrick) and Ben (John Francis Daley) have indeed been left behind. The rapture is followed by several plagues, like locusts and blood rain, and the anti-christ’s reign. The anti-christ, who prefers to be called The Beast (Craig Robinson), nukes Chicago and Orlando and threatens to do more, and worse. Whatever he asks, you say yes. That’s just how it is now. Unemployment is high and what little you have can be taken at any moment by the flaming rocks falling from the sky, so to get by you’d better do as you’re asked. And just in case Jesus gets any big ideas about coming back to save humanity (again), The Beast has a really big laser for that.

Anyway, when Lindsey and Ben’s dreams of owning a sandwich cart are crushed, literally, by one of those big flaming rocks, so they have to go to work with Ben’s dad (Rob Corddry), who works for The Beast. Which is how The Beast lays eyes on Lindsey, and decides to take her for himself. This situation suits neither Lindsey nor Ben, so they hatch a plan to rid the Earth of The Beast. One little catch: you can’t kill The Beast, or he comes back as Satan. So the plan involves trapping him, subduing him, and caging him…for one thousand years. It’s a great plan. What could go wrong?

Is this a good movie? It is not. If you like any of the talent involved, you might eke out a few laughs, but you won’t be proud of yourself for it. You have to be smart to pull of satire, and this movie is very, very dumb. It’s crass where it should be incisive, crass where it should be biting, crass where it should be crafty. You get the idea. It’s stoner r-rated raunch and I’m pretty sure the world could live without it.

Sylvie’s Love

Picture it: 1950s Harlem. A young man is walking by a record store. Through the window he spots a beautiful young woman behind the cash register, visibly enjoying an episode of I Love Lucy. Something urges him inside – he grabs the Help Wanted sign out of the window just to have something to say. The young woman, Sylvie (Tessa Thompson), attempts a quick dismissal, but her father (Lance Reddick) stops the young man, and engages him on the spot. I’m not sure Robert (Nnamdi Asomugha) meant to find employment on this day, but it’s a great excuse to see Sylvie again, so he’s not about to turn it down.

SYLVIEÕS LOVE

In fact, Robert is a jazz musician, he plays the sax, and he’s very impressed by Sylvie’s deep love and knowledge of music. They spend a lot of time together in the record store, exchanging stories, and barbs, and heated looks. You might even say they were falling in love, except for one little hiccup: Sylvie was engaged to be married. Her fiancé Lacy is away for the summer, but they’ve been very much betrothed ever since her mother caught them making out. This little speedbump keeps the flames on low for a little while, but they’re young, they’re attractive, they actually like each other – soon those flames ignite because passion cannot be denied. But then summer’s over and Robert’s jazz quartet is taking him away, to Paris. He invites his love Sylvie of course, but at the last moment she demurs, she stays and he leaves. Sylvie is pregnant of course, but Robert must never know; she believes in his talent and won’t get in the way of his dreams. They part.

Five years later, Sylvie is married to fiancé Lacy (Alano Miller), who married her knowing she was pregnant with another man’s child. He provides for Sylvie and Michelle but it’s instantly clear that theirs is no love match, and we can’t help but compare it unfavourably to that of Sylvie and Robert, and suspect that she must as well. Like any good love story, Sylvie and Robert’s isn’t over yet. They will cross paths again, and try again. Great romances aren’t about the destination, they’re about the journey. It’s the story that matters, the obstacles overcome, destiny pulling them together.

Writer-director Eugene Ashe gives us a lush period romance with Black leads, which the genre has heretofore tended to ignore. But he also grants us a full picture of Sylvie’s life, which doesn’t just revolve around this one crush, but is populated with family, ambition, dreams, and obligation. Because she’s an actual person, her love story isn’t straight-forward. Real life seeps in, threatens to wipe the shine off new love. The triumph is in honouring love despite its challenges. It’s in making the compromises and acknowledging one’s surroundings and still pursuing the heart’s desire. Sylvie’s Love is one for the ages.

Death Of Me

I like to call it vacation mode; sticking your toes into the hot sand of some exotic beach just sort of does something to you. You sleep late, drink early, fuck lazily, then murder your wife a little and toss her body in a shallow grave.

Last week I was saying that if you missed travel, why not escape to Iceland through the movies? This week let me tell you, if you miss travel, this movie right here will cure you of that notion right quick.

Christine (Maggie Q) and Neil (Luke Hemsworth) wake up on the morning of their last day in Thailand hungover, dirty, and confused. With no clear memory of how they came to be this way, they flip through photos on Neil’s camera and are surprised to find a two hour video detailing events neither has any memory of, ending in some pretty rough sex, and what appears to be strangulation. And not, like, a little light strangulation, but it appears that Neil kills his wife, digs a shallow grave, and dumps her body into it quite unceremoniously. Of course, that can’t be what happened, because Neil and Christine are both right here, watching the movie together, although with increasing dread and panic, in slightly unequal amounts. Come to think of it, Neil’s got dirt under his fingernails and Christine’s got a ring of bruises around her neck. When she starts vomiting earth, well, what the hell?

Attempting to reconstruct the night’s events uncovers deeper and darker secrets. They get sucked into the island’s veil of mystery, black magic, and murder; the next 24 hours before a ferry can be boarded are going to be extra, extra long, and pretty darn arduous. Paradise turns into a nightmare, but while this movie believes itself to be a horror, it’s a little lacking in execution, spoiling a promising premise. There are a few decent jump scares but clichés just don’t have the same power to scare you, and this movie relies on them pretty heavily – they’re the meat AND the potatoes. You’ll spend so much time trying to figure out what the heck is going on, you’ll not have time to be entertained by the film, let alone delightfully horrified by it. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity, but it’s rare for a murdered woman to be investigating her own murder while being pursued by murderers, so perhaps that’s reason enough for you to watch.

The Vanished

Well that was a hot mess.

Paul (Thomas Jane) and Wendy (Anne Heche) take their ten year old daughter Taylor on a camping trip over the Thanksgiving weekend, But Taylor doesn’t make it to the holiday. She disappears on the very first day, while mom is away and dad is flirting with the hottie next door.

Over the next week, as the cops try and fail to find their daughter, Paul and Wendy unravel. Almost anyone would, in their shoes. It’s a terrible thing to lose your child, and to sit helplessly by while search and rescue continues to turn up nothing. But it’s also terrible to disregard official police “advice” and take things in hand themselves. People under incredible emotional duress don’t make the best decisions. Wendy and Paul make particularly bad decisions, but it turns out they’re not the most stable people.

Peter Facinelli writes, directs, and appears as one of the inept cops, and should be deeply ashamed of all three. This movie is so out of this world improbable that, at times, it feels like the writer meant it as a comedy but the director wildly misinterpreted everything, except that Facinelli is of course both the writer and the director and very very bad at both. The entire movie is built around a terrible twist ending that takes a page from the very worst of M. Night Shyamalan and actively seeks to one-up him in a competition of awfulness. Even Anne Heche and Thomas Jane, neither of whom was ever mistaken for a good actor, do their best worst acting in this.

My very best advice: try your damnedest to avoid this one on Netflix.

One Winter Proposal

In 2020 I was living in a narrow, dark little world, ignorant that Hallmark had its own shared universes and extended stories. But late last year I came into the light and there’s no looking back now.

Just a week ago I was telling you about One Winter Weekend, in which a couple of gals rented a ski chalet that turned out to be shared with a couple of guys, unbeknownst to all four. They were all mildly attractive and wildly single, so by the end of just one (winter) weekend, they’d coupled up, strangely along race lines. Happily ever after is assumed when you close with a Hallmark kiss, but this particular movie has since reached franchise status with a sequel that gives us a glimpse of what’s been happening in the year since.

In fact, it’s been a very good year for Cara (Taylor Cole), who is now publishing that mystery novel she was working on when we first met her, and boyfriend Ben (Jack Turner) who has indeed founded a new snowboarding company that makes a helmet with a ponytail slot. They’re spending a romantic weekend together at the same chalet that started it all, and Cara suspects an engagement might be imminent. Ben is less sure – Cara is impossible to surprise, plus the weekend’s turning out to be less about romance and more about business as he’s meeting a possible investor there. Oh, and there’s the fact that Megan (Rukiya Bernard) is tagging along, for work. And Sean (Dewshane Williams), well, he gave up his Seattle surgeon gig to be a ski resort doctor full time, so the whole gang’s back together. Not together together – Megan and Sean never made it was a couple – so it’s either going to get super awkward, or shit’s about to get rekindled.

Will Ben’s company get funded? Will Cara get a ring? Will Megan and Sean bump uglies? The possibilities are endless, and each more juicy than the last. Hit them up on Hallmark.

Shirley

Shirley Jackson was a wonderfully spooky and wildly talented writer and she undoubtedly deserves a biopic that lives beyond the borders of ordinary. This is exactly that movie.

Shirley (Elisabeth Moss) is a reclusive horror writer known for her gloomy temperament and spiky sensibility. Husband Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg), a literary critic and professor at the nearby college, calls her “sickly” and “unwell” as he philanders all over campus. He and Shirley take in a young newlywed couple, Fred (Logan Lerman) and Rose (Odessa Young); Fred is to be Stanley’s protégé, and though Rose was not long ago a promising young student herself, Stanley now expects that she’ll cook and clean and care for his oft-bedridden wife.

Shirley is writing yet another masterpiece and while her creative process is at first disrupted by the new arrivals, she soon finds Rose to be open and trusting and ripe for manipulation. Rose is curious, and fascinated by the brilliant author, and though Shirley seems, at times, grateful for a friend, her only true allegiance is to her work. And she is, of course, filled with neuroses and wildly unpredictable, so the house becomes volatile as loyalties shift too quickly to be counted upon. Meanwhile, Stanley is jealous of his would-be protégé and inappropriate with Rose, which means no one’s motivations are pure and home has become quite hostile. The more hostile things become, the more the film itself blurs the lines between fiction and reality.

Josephine Decker’s film is provocative and challenging much like the author herself – which, to be honest, means that I didn’t enjoy the film so much as admired it. Certainly I admired the committed, prickly performances, the dedication to some pretty unsavoury characters, and an ambiguous, haunting story-telling style that was nearly a performance in itself. It was an uncomfortable watch though, not what I would consider satisfying, too off-putting for me to truly recommend it. Although I appreciate the boldness it takes to make deliberately ugly art, I always end up wondering what the point is, exactly, if no one wants to watch it.