It Is All In Your Head (I Feel Pretty, 2018)

I_Feel_Pretty_posterSo, remember that movie Shallow Hal? Renee Bennett is an average girl in an average life…who always always wished to be as beautiful as the models on magazines who advertise for her employer high end makeup producer Lily LeClaire. One day at a Soul Cycle Session she gets a hit to the head and awakens to find she is suddenly one of the most beautiful women she has ever seen. Perfect body and face…the hitch is…only she can see this. Completely unaware that she looks the same as before to everyone else, she proceeds to walk through her life believing she is physically a new person.

This is, of course, where most of the humor is mined. As Renee tries to convince her friends she really is still Renee, not some strange woman they have never met, her friends react totally confused recognizing the same woman they have always known.

Renee gets a lot of confused looks as she responds to advances and compliments never made. She talks about being able to eat whatever she wants and “still look like this”, believing the stunned and incredulous looks are reactions of agreement. Because she simply believes she is beautiful.

Unknown to her, this confidence has a powerful impact on the perceptions of those around her.  When she hits on Ethan believing he has made the first move, he finds himself confounded and totally taken with Renee.  And even her dream hunk, the brother of her boss, finds himself drawn to the cocky and self assured Renee.

But as she starts to succeed in ways she believes are only due to her newfound beauty, it starts to strain her friendships.  Because, when it comes down to it, Renee has bought into the notion that it is all about the exterior package. And so she starts to try and treat her friends as a product to be up-sold to other people.

The film avoids any cliched villains.  In fact their are no villains. When we are first introduced to Avery LeClaire, she seems to be a vapid elitist.  The elitist part is true, she struggles to connect with her grandmother’s desired discount product. But she turns out to have been a well educated young women who has long struggled to be taken seriously, judged on her exteriors.  Same with the beautiful young model Renee idolizes as being problem free…the film goes out of its way, in fact, to acknowledge that regardless of how you look, women are in this together.

Of course, Hollywood’s “it’s what is inside that counts” anthems are often well place but can feel a little empty.  Remember how I mentioned Shallow Hal? In that film, Hal is a guy obsessed with physical beauty. A chance encounter with a self help guru leaves Hal hypnotized so that he sees the inner beauty of a person.  So, he sees each woman he meets in an idealized light. But then, each female character Hal meets is a model later in makeup to make her look less pretty. Now, that film has it’s own positive and negative issues (typical with the early Farrelly Brothers material). But Hollywood is pretty looks obsessed. We humans favor beauty and Hollywood is more than happy to define it and feed it to us.

I Feel Pretty Tries to keep things grounded, and one of the smart things the film does is that we never actually see Renee’s idealized form. We don’t know what she is actually seeing. We see Amy Schumer the whole time.

The biggest problem the movie has is length. It just drags at times.  And most of the information in those scenes is communicated better elsewhere in the film. But largely, I enjoyed I Feel Pretty. It is largely funny, has it’s heart in the (mostly) right place and tries hard to leave it’s audience with a sense that life is a lot better if you don’t worry that your package is not good enough.


Break the Silence (A Quiet Place, 2018)

A_Quiet_Place_PosterOften, film makers like to look at the giant epic excitement of alien and monster invasions.  It is the spectacle, and does not let up. But every now and then, you find writers and directors who are more interested in the stories you can tell in the aftermath.  The deeply personal tales.

John Krasinski (you know, Jim from the Office) has directed two films prior to this and some episodes of the Office… but A Quiet Place is unique from his other works (both as an actor and a director, this is his first horror film) and also is set apart from a lot of modern horror.

Set in a near future where vicious predators appeared that hunt by sound have decimated the planet, the Abbott family is trying to come back from tragedy and survive in a world where silence truly is golden.

People walk barefoot, they communicate through sign language (the Abbott’s daughter Regan is deaf, giving the family a leg up). In fact, the film contains nearly no audible dialog.  Sometimes the film takes us into Regan’s perspective by going completely silent.

The film is incredibly intense and yet, emotionally engaging.  Late in the film, tension is built by a character struggling to evade a monster while enduring a very specific physical struggle. Krasinski and his real life wife Emily Blunt bring their relationship to the front here, as glue that holds the family together.  They are dedicated parents who will do whatever it takes to protest their children.  And the kids in this film give wonderful performances.  This is especially true considering that nobody in the film gets to sell their emotional beats with a dramatic monologue, it is all in their eyes.

This is not basing it’s horror in gory gross-out effects and buckets of blood…it is in the cat and mouse between the family and these beasts that wander through the countryside. A Quiet Place a wonderful movie, and a unique horror entry.

The Never Ending Story (Avengers: Infinity War, 2018)

Avengers_Infinity_War_PosterIn 2008 Marvel began their ambitious plan of creating a cinematic version of their comic book universe. The lead up to the Avengers seemed like a giant mountain to climb…and it paid off for Marvel. And over and over, Marvel saw themselves succeed.  And here we are at ten years and 21 movies later were arrive at the culmination of that success.

The Avengers were left in a pretty broken state after Captain America Civil War.  Picking up shortly after the end credits sequence of Thor Ragnarok, the film kicks off with a sense of sacrifice. Thanos has finally stepped into the light and with his acolytes has decided he must collect the stones that have been the undercurrent of the  films for so long himself.

As the various corners of the Marvel Universe come together, Thanos and his minions get closer and closer to achieving his goal.  This can be a tricky balancing act, to bring together such a large number of characters.  And the film mostly is able to make this work by pairing groups off.  The Guardians of the Galaxy meet up with Thor and they split into two groups while Iron Man, Spidey and Doctor Strange go on a trip through space and so on.

Thanos is one of the stronger villains the Marvel Universe has presented.  Brolin gives him a dark sincerity.  He clearly believes in his goal, and sees it as good.  It becomes clear that when his acolytes proclaim he brings mercy, he actually believes this.

Seeing the interactions between characters who have, so far, been in their own worlds, such as the Guardians and Doctor Strange is a lot of fun.  The film contains plenty of entertaining and light hearted dialog.

The movie is full of exciting action and moves along at such a fast clip the two and a half hours just flew right on by. Infinity War is fun, with just enough seriousness to keep some of the shocking moments from feeling cheap.

I really enjoyed Avengers: Infinity War and am looking to see how this all plays out in the films to follow (well, Ant Man & the Wasp and Captain Marvel both take place before Avengers: Infinity War, but hey, there is an Avengers movie after that).


What If the Piranhas Were Tiny Sharks??? (Deep Blue Sea 2, 2018)

Deep_Blue_Sea_2_PosterSpielberg’s Jaws begot Joe Dante’s Piranha which begot more man eating fish movies.  One of the most fun of these films was the 1999 smart sharks thriller Deep Blue Sea.  A fun film starring Thomas Jane, Samuel Jackson, Saffron Burrows and LL Cool J, Deep Blue Sea has become a bit of a cult classic.  In spite of painfully dated (and weak) CGI sharks (though the mechanical sharks used in the film are quite impressive) the film still holds up as a solid b-movie thriller.

So, to capitalize on the success of the original, nineteen years later we have a sequel.  Shark conservationist Misty is hired by the billionaire Carl Durant to offer her expertise with his special project involving sharks. She is introduced by “loving” shots of her diving with sharks in a sexy wet suit accompanied by a theme song that literally contains the phrase “the Deep Blue Sea”.

Along with Misty is a scientist couple Leslie and Daniel Kim. Durant is using genetically modified sharks to try and create a powerful serum. The purpose of the serum are vague, and Durant is revealed to be injecting himself with the serum and it appears to be destroying his mind.

The plot is essentially the same.  The characters are trapped in a sinking research lab besieged by super smart sharks. Oddly, we do not see them deal with the sharks all that much as the main threat is actually the babies of the lead shark. The babies hunt in a big pack and behave like the piranha in the Piranha movies.

These changes don’t really make the film feel all that fresh…and the motive of Durant is laughable terrible.  In the original film, the obsessed scientists were trying to create a cure for Alzheimer’s.  It was a noble cause where you could totally understand the risks they took. But in Deep Blue Sea 2? Durant’s goal is to create a serum to genetically modify people to prepare for the coming robotic/AI takeover. He is trying to prepare for the arrival of Skynet.

The movie also has a lot of callbacks to the first film, but all they do is remind you how much better those scenes were in the original.  Probably the only area where the film has an improvement is the CGI sharks look better.

Deep Blue Sea 2 is a prime example of the “Unnecessary Sequel”. It fails to live up to the original and yet cannot even manage to be the realm of so bad it is good. It comes close to that edge, but never manages to fall over it.

The Past, Present and Future of the DC Cinematic Universe Part 4

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice continues…a movie in which the most compelling hero is not Batman or Superman. And is the best thing in spite of have no discernible plot-line of her own.

Marvel and it’s related characters are © 2018 Marvel Entertainment

DC and it’s related characters are © 2018 Warner Brothers.

Part 1-
Part 2-
Part 3-

Comedy Is Like Marriage (The Honeymoon Stand Up Special, 2018)

Honeymoon_Standup_posterA good standup can give a real cathartic laugh or even challenge your perceptions through humor.  While I was familar with Natasha Legerro through various appearances on Comedy Central…I really only know Moshe Kasher from some appearances on the late @Midnight.  I knew that with Legerro I would be getting some raunchy jokes mixed with some pushing the limits of polite conversation. I did not know what to really expect from Kasher.  Other than, for some reason, I always thought he was a gay guy.  And apparently (in spite of a joke about jerking off to gay porn at the fertility clinic) he is not. He and Leggero are married and have a child (they were still in the expecting stage at the time)…hence the title of the Honeymoon Stand Up Special.

Split into three parts, the special starts out with Leggero’s set.  Leggero is one of those comics who kind of plays into “being a girl comic” but quickly makes it clear she can be raunchy and push back against boundaries. When the audience cheers for her being pregnant, she warns them she is still within the potential area of abortion.

Honeymonn_NatashaThe whole comedy of discomfort can be a difficult tight rope.  Sometimes you can reap great reward from making your audience squirm and laugh.  Usually this comes in the form of uncomfortable truths and “I cannot believe the comic went there”. But in some cases, the joke is dying a slow death.  Unfortunately, Leggero’s set suffers from this a couple times.  She can definitely elicit laughs, but an offhanded joke about the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandal would have worked if it did not get drawn out into a cringe worthy discussion about how the altar boys are “asking for it”. On the other hand…men will likely find it uncomfortable just how many women have tales of random men masturbating in public in front of them. We are awful.


Part two is Kasher’s stand-up.  Kasher actually ratchets up the raunchiness by focusing heavily on masturbation.  And actually, some of this is pretty funny, as he talks about how his “progressive militant feminist” single mom took him to a sex shop at thirteen to allow him to buy porn…but since she was a feminist and believed porn to be inherently misogynistic…he was only allowed to buy from a selection of text based lesbian erotica. But like Leggero’s set, Kasher can take a funny joke and stretch it past the point of laughter.

So, you are probably thinking…well, Thom clearly hated this special.  And this is not true.  I found both sets to be pretty hit or miss.  I laughed at some jokes…but not enough to feel like I fully had fun.

But then came the third part.  In part three, Leggero and Kasher share the stage.  They discuss her conversion to Judaism (noting that it is way harder to become a Jew than a Christian).  They then start to bring couples up on stage.  Natasha and Moshe have a good chemistry as a team. They play off each other in a way that has a sweet tension. And when they bring up couples to question them about their relationships, the special takes off.  I really enjoyed part three.  The banter between Leggero, Kasher and the couples is a whole lot of fun.  Part three absolutely shines.

And so there you have it. I highly recommend Part three of the Honeymoon Stand Up Special.

The Past, Present and Future of the DC Cinematic Universe Part 2

In Part two, we explore the movies that came right before the Man of Steel, as well as some of the failed attempts to kick off the Cinematic universe. We also begin discussing Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.

Marvel and it’s related characters are copyright © Marvel Entertainment

DC and it’s related characters are © Warner Brothers.




The Past, Present & Future of the DC Cinematic Universe

So, after giving it a lot of thought, I have decided to jump into the world of video blogging.

The video blogs will not be straight up reviews.  Instead they will be more analysis.  I will be using them to explore things going on in the industry of film, as well as look at popular film series and explore them.

The first video for the Tripping Through Gateways blog turned into a series. I did not realize as I was writing it just how long it was going to be.  So I broke it down into seven parts.  Part one actually explores the landscape preceding Man of Steel. This is the only video in the series to deal extensively with the Marvel Movies in any form of contrast, and it mainly for the purpose of exploring DC and Warner Brother’s progress with their shared film universe.

However, as I state in the video, this is not about Marvel vs DC. This is not a proclamation on who is better. I enjoy the characters from both Marvel and DC. And I want to see DC have real success. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Matter Eater Lad deserve that much.


Shazam! art by Doc Shaner

New Gods art by Jack Kirby

Ultimates art by Bryan Hitch

Marvel and it’s related characters are copyright © Marvel Entertainment

DC and it’s related characters are © Warner Brothers.

Special Announcement…

I have been working on this for the past couple of weeks, which is why there has been no new reviews. Tomorrow is the first Essay…a new video each week for the next two and a half months or so…


Music is Cool Hard Facts by Kevin MacLeod

People referenced in this video:
Lindsay Ellis (
Shaun_Jen (
Hbomberguy (
“Movie Bob” Chipman (

Apologies to Hbomberguy for calling him Hbomberman in the video credits.
All photos © 2018 their respective owners

All non-comic book Artwork by Me.
Savage Dragon © 2018 Erik Larson
Hellshock © 2018 Jae Lee
Jonah Hex © 2018 DC Comics

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