Waco, on Netflix

If you’ve been on Netflix lately, you’ve probably seen some hype about the show Waco. It’s a six-part series featuring Taylor Kitsch and landing in the “Top 10” section of Netflix, what’s not to like?

Well, if you love the American Crime Story from FX (like the OJ Simpson miniseries or the Versace one), you will most definitely love this as well.

This is based on a true story from the 1990s about a cult on a huge plot of land in TX who gets infiltrated by the ATF. A shootout ensues, leaving many on both sides wounded. The standoff lasts for more than a month, but you’ll have to watch the show (or read some articles below) to find out who wins and who survives.

The Branch Davidians are a sect of radical Christians with their own prophet, who take the book of Revelations literally. They think of this attack from the government as a part of an impending apocalypse. Their leader, David Koresh (who is played by Kitsch), tells them messages from God and makes decisions for the group. He also claims that God told him to take multiple wives, so he marries a few women from the group, even ones that are already married to another Branch Davidian.

If you want to find out more about the cult itself, look here:

https://www.menshealth.com/entertainment/a32290333/branch-davidians-waco-netflix/

https://www.history.com/news/waco-siege-what-happened-little-known-facts

If you want to learn more about other cults:

the Hulu show “Cults and Extreme Beliefs” interviews survivors and members of several different cults, including some from Tennessee.

Quarantarantino

For a long, long time, I have been meaning to watch all of Quentin Tarantino’s movies. Being stuck at home, I figured now is the perfect time! So I watched all 9 of the films written and directed by Tarantino, and I was pleasantly surprised. While they were all pretty lengthy — as the years have gone by, they’ve gradually gotten longer– for the most part the length is necessary.

Tarantino loves to use the same actors throughout his movies. Quentin himself makes a cameo in 5 of his works; Samuel L. Jackson is in 5 of the 9 films; Michael Madsen is in 5 of the films. After a conversation about 70s kung fu movies with Uma Thurman, Tarantino wrote the Kill Bill saga as a birthday present for Thurman. She stars in both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, as well as Pulp Fiction.

There are so many hidden Easter eggs throughout, that it’s pretty necessary to watch them in order. The fake cigarette brand Red Apple Cigarettes is featured in almost all of his movies. A gas can used in one film can be seen in Bill’s brother’s trailer in Kill Bill, Vol. 2. In Reservoir Dogs, Steve Buscemi has a whole dialogue based on his refusal of tipping waitresses. In Tarantino’s next film, Buscemi is a waiter. There are so many other Easter eggs throughout his films, you should definitely search for a more comprehensive list; it’s fascinating!

1992 brings his first film, Reservoir Dogs. This is a film all about a jewelry store heist gone wrong. Cops arrive to the scene seconds after this gang of thieves show up, and the rest of the movie is dealing with the consequences and trying to determine if there’s a snitch in the group.

Two years later brings Pulp Fiction in 1994. While the previous movie was easy to summarize, this one is a little more jumbled. It focuses on multiple groups of character: John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson as hitmen, a gangster and his wife (Uma Thurman), and various other characters. This multifaceted plot never really ties itself up at the end, as his other films do. His characters in this film are well developed and enjoyable, I just wish it had a neater ending.

1997 brings another crime movie, Jackie Brown. A flight attendant whose side hustle is to smuggle drug money back to her boss gets caught in the act, and works with the cops to bring down her drug dealer boss. With the promise of immunity from prison on one side, and the promise of a hefty sum of money on the other, whose side is she really on? Tarantino leaves you hanging ’til the final minutes of the film, and ties it up quite nicely. Really entertaining!

After quite a long respite, he came back onto the scene with the Kill Bill franchise. Kill Bill, Vol. 1 released in October 2003 while Vol. 2 followed close behind in April 2004. The films follow the journey of “the bride” (Uma Thurman), whose wedding got shot up by a gang. Once she awakes from a coma, she tracks down every member of the gang who killed her friends and family and kills them with her kung fu skills she picked up in Japan. Beautifully crafted, beautifully made, this is one of my favorites of Tarantino, and also acts as a bridge between old school Tarantino and his more modern, more experimental films.

Inglorious Basterds opens the new era of Tarantino in 2009, his first foray into alternate history. Brad Pitt is the leader of a special forces unit, hell-bent on killing as many Nazis as they can find. Another side plot features a German actress, working as a spy for the Allied Powers. Yet another side plot features a young Jewish woman escaping the Nazis and fleeing to France. She meets a high-ranking German officer who falls for her, and she comes up with a plot to destroy him, his fellow officers, and Hitler himself. The perfect amount of humor, action, and blood, this is one of my favorite films of Tarantino.

The all-star cast and acting featured Django Unchained in 2012 puts it at the top of both my and my fiancé’s list of Tarantino favorites. Jamie Foxx works with Christopher Waltz to track down his wife, who was sold to another slave owner. Along the way they cash in bounties of criminals found as Waltz teaches Foxx all the tricks of the trade. Don’t want to spoil too much for you, in case you haven’t seen it, but they eventually happen upon Leonardo DiCaprio in one of his most riveting roles. A must watch, for sure!

The Hateful Eight is very aptly named, as it is his 8th film, and the one I hated the most. After reading the information about the movie, it sounded very similar to the Django movie. It seems to be about a bounty hunter in the same time period, rounding up people to collect their bounty and become rich. Yet that’s where the similarities end. About three-fourths of the movie is spent in one room. And while we all know Quentin loves a lengthy dialogue, the constant chatter and cursing with zero action is too much. There is a surprise at the end and – of course – lots of blood, but it wasn’t enough to redeem the film to me. There is also an extended version on Netflix lasting four hours, but I was not delusional enough to put myself through that. If you watch that version, please le me know how it is!

His 9th movie and most recent release is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. With all the hype it got last summer, you probably know some about it already. Featuring Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, this is another of Tarantino’s ventures into alternative history. I’ll spare you too many details, as this one has a fantastic twist at the end and I don’t want to spoil it. This movie has a beautifully designed set, wardrobe, and dialogue. Clocking in over 2 hours and 40 minutes long, it is very much worth it!

Quentin himself has said that he’ll be retiring following his 10th movie. Only time will tell if he holds true to his promise, as well as what his final film will be about.

Streaming Guides: Movie Edition

Here’s the start of a new series: a compilation of various things for you to watch, based on your interests. This first edition is all about movies. Check the genres below to find some recommendations!

Crime Movies

Showtime! (2002) – HBONow – This movie stars Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro as cop partners starring in a reality TV show while simultaneously trying to catch a drug dealer. Part cop movie, part comedy, this is a great light-hearted stream.

Jackie Brown (1997) – STARZ – This is Tarantino’s third film, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, and Robert Forster. It follows a flight attendant – Jackie Brown – as she tries to pull one over on the drug dealer she works for on the side. Very exciting, with several classic Tarantino Easter eggs hidden throughout.

War Dogs (2016) – HBONow – Starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, this is a dark crime biography detailing the plights of two 20-somethings in the early 2000s. They work together to act as middlemen, selling weapons to the U. S. Government during the war in Iraq.

The Prince (2014) – Hulu – This movie features Bruce Willis and John Cusack in minor roles and stars Jason Patric. It is very Taken-esque, as Patric’s daughter ends up disappearing and he must retrace her steps to find her and save her.

Comedy Movies

The Money Pit (1986) – Netflix – This is a sweet, upbeat Tom Hanks film that I had never heard of before finding it on Netflix! He and his girlfriend buy a million dollar home for a steal, and they are quick to find out why– it is an absolute money pit. Hijinks and mayhem ensue.

Rat Race (2001) – Amazon Prime – This is an Amazing Race- style movie in which an ensemble cast race across the Western states to see who wins a grand prize of $2 million. Stars include Seth Green, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, and Cuba Gooding Jr., along with many others.

Just Friends (2005) – Netflix – This is a movie about high school friends reuniting after growing up. Featuring Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, and Tara Reid, it’s raunchy and silly and sure to make you laugh as Reynolds tries to break through the friend zone.

Jawani Janeman (2020) – Amazon Prime – This is a great introduction to Indian movies.  An aging playboy is forced to grow up when a daughter he never knew he had shows up looking for help. Silly and heartwarming.

Horror Movies

Stephen King’s A Good Marriage (2014) – Amazon Prime – This starts off as a classic tale of a middle-aged married couple. But while the husband is away on business, the wife discovers a sinister secret about her other half. Fantastic concept with several twists. No jump scares, this is more of a thriller.

Doctor Sleep (2019) – Rent on YouTube or Prime – This long-awaited sequel to The Shining is well worth the wait! While The Shining is a slow burn to a fairly exciting ending, this movie is exciting throughout. Such a great storyline, and way better than the original it’s based on.

Antrum (2019) – Amazon Prime – I hesitated to put this on here, as the movie itself, for the most part, was pretty lackluster. If you enjoyed Midsommar, you may enjoy this. Regardless of if you watch it or not, definitely look into the hype surrounding it. A supposedly “cursed” film, it’s tagline is “the deadliest movie ever made.” The backstory of early premieres of this film are definitely creepy, but that’s about as interesting as it gets.

Paranormal Activity 6: The Ghost Dimension (2015) – Crackle – Out of all the Paranormal Activity movies, this one is the most entertaining, to me. They’re all pretty much the same, focusing on a different family each time yet the premise stays the same: home recordings of a demon or ghost terrorizing a young family. While some of the underlying plot lines that run through all the movies may not make sense to you if you start with this one, this is definitely the most entertaining edition, and the most realistic. The fourth installment is also worth watching.

Action Movies

Deep Impact (1998) – Netflix – What would this list be without a doomsday movie, given today’s times? Morgan Freeman is president, and a giant meteor is headed straight for earth. Scientists project it will destroy all life on the planet. You can definitely tell this is a 90’s movie, with all the technology and the outfits and cars, but it’s still a good story!

Daylight (1996) – HBONow – Throwing it way back here, featuring a young Sylvester Stallone. The tunnel connecting NY to NJ collapses, leaving some innocent bystanders trapped inside. Stallone, a fired EMT Chief, sneaks back in to save them. This will have you on the edge of your seat. It aged really well; you forget it was made 24 years ago.

Man on a Ledge (2018) – Amazon Prime – This movie is fairly recent, yet I had not seen it before. Maybe I just missed the memo Summer of ’18… This is a thrilling movie about an ex-cop, a jewel heist, and even features Elizabeth Banks in a serious role as a cop who talks down suicidal citizens. Really good movie with some twists!

Salt (2010) – Netflix – This could also fit into the crime category as well. Classic action-filled Angelina Jolie film that she loved to make in the late 2000s. She plays a CIA agent. Or is she a Russian spy? Does she have a treasonous twin? Watch to find out the answers!

Romantic Comedies

Prime (2005) – HBONow – Uma Thurman is a 37-year-old dating a much younger man. Turns out, that man is her therapist’s son. The best part? Her therapist is Meryl Streep, who is a wonderful therapist but an overprotecting, controlling mother. How long does the relationship stay secret? Do they end up together despite Streep? Watch to find out.

Mr. Right (2015) – Netflix – I hesitate putting this movie on here, as audiences have strong reactions to these certain actors. Sam Rockwell, America’s Sweetheart, takes justice into his own hands and “kills all the bad guys” he comes across. His dearly beloved? Anna Kendrick, who in my opinion is becoming the next Kristen Stewart. If your love for Rockwell overpowers your hate of Kendrick (as is the case with me), go for it! If Kendrick makes you cringe (like my fiancé), then maybe skip this one. Great story, and lovely to see Rockwell in a leading role after being cast in supporting roles so much lately.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2020) – Hulu – This does have French subtitles, but if you’re looking for an LGBTQ romance, this is an incredible one. Based in France in the 1700s, watch as these two women go from strangers to so much more. Beautiful story, beautifully made.

Just Go With It (2011) – STARZ – Did you see “Murder Mystery” on Netflix last year and think, “Man, Sandler and Aniston have surprisingly good chemistry, I wish they’d make another one,” you’re in luck. This came way before “Murder Mystery,” but is just as good. Sandler is a playboy, Aniston is his assistant at work. Through some crazy happenings, they end up on vacation together in Hawaii, where more hijinks ensue. You’ll have to watch to see how their story unfolds!

This Month in Review: April 2020

Below are all of the movies I have seen in April 2020, along with a rating on each one. I’ve put  a * next to all of the ones that are actually worth watching, in case you need some more things to watch during this extended quarantine.

A Kind of Murder  4/10

Smart House 3/10

Duplex  4/10

Salt  7/10 *

Bridesmaids  7/10 *

Showtime  7/10 *

It Felt Like Love  2/10

Pulp Fiction  5.5/10

Jackie Brown 7.5/10 *

Reservoir Dogs  5.5/10

Kill Bill Vol. 1  7/10  *

Kill Bill Vol. 2  8.5/10  *

Django Unchained  8.5/10  *

The Hateful Eight  4/10

Inglorious Bastards  7.5/10  *

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood  7.5/10  *

War Dogs  6.5/10  *

The Signal  5/10

Vice (2015)  2/10

Nine Months   5/10  *

Bedazzled  5/10  *

Enemy  4/10

The Rocker  3/10

Cop Out  6/10  *

Groundhog Day  5/10

Deep Impact  7.5/10  *

The Endless  4/10

Prime  7/10  *

Artificial Intelligence  5/10

Flubber  4/10

Daylight  7.5/10  *

The Money Pit  6/10  *

Once Upon a Time in Venice  5.5/10  *

Rat Race  6.5/10  *

The Prince  7/10  *

Spread  2/10

Stephen King’s A Good Marriage  7/10  *

Bhoot (Hindi)  7/10  *

Just Friends  7.5/10  *

Jawani Janeman (Hindi) 8/10  *

Man on a Ledge  8/10  *

Antrum  4/10

Paranormal Activity  4.5/10

Paranormal Activity 2  5/10

Paranormal Activity 3  4/10

Paranormal Activity 4  6/10 *

Paranormal Activity 5:  The Marked Ones  4.5/10

Paranormal Activity 6: The Ghost Dimension  6.5/10 *

American Pie  4/10

American Pie 2 4.5/10

American Wedding 5/10

The Con is On 5/10

One Movie I Loved:  Jawani Janeman.  If you’re looking to branch out from your normal movie watching, this is a great introduction to Indian movies.  An aging playboy is forced to grow up when a daughter he never knew he had shows up looking for help.

One Movie I Hated:  Vice… Not the Dick Cheney one. Interesting concept (a theme park for adults to live out their wildest dreams), but terrible acting and dialogue.

One Movie I’m Looking Forward To:  How to Build a Girl https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LX6jal6-qu0

Yearly Movie Total: 122

Perdido Key, FL

While you’re stuck inside for now, many of you may be starting to make summer (or even fall) plans. One great spot you may not have heard of is the tiny beach town of Perdido Key. Within an hour of Pensacola, FL and Gulf Shores, AL, it’s convenient yet distanced far enough to avoid many crowds. Below is all you need to know to plan a weekend or three-day getaway.

Stay.

Molokai Villas.

See the source image
southernresorts.com

Nestled between two towering condo buildings, you will find a cute strip of townhomes is right on the main road, connecting Perdido Key to Orange Beach and eventually Gulf Shores. Very convenient location, with great access to convenience stores, restaurants, and activities. If you manage to get a townhouse in the A or B section (Villas 1-7), you will be on the side of the road with direct beach access; you even have a private boardwalk to your private strip of beach. We were lucky enough to stay in Villa #3, so this was the very from our (very large) back deck:

Dine.

Islander Food Shack.

Islander Food Shack

Just five minutes from Molokai Villas is this sweet little bar and grill, which seems very popular with the locals. There is indoor seating as well as the outdoor patio complete with string lights. The menu has plenty of options, even for vegetarians, and they have both bushwhackers and frozen margaritas “on tap” in Icee machines inside. Their fries are delicious, and the atmosphere was very welcoming!

Veggie Skewers with a Rum Glaze.

Safari Club.

A feature of the newly-reopened zoo is this delicious restaurant! The décor is phenomenal; they clearly spent lots of time and money choosing pieces to adorn the walls. Vintage photographs line the walls, ceramic monkeys hang from the lamps, and elephant tusks (faux, of course) jut out from the wall behind the bar. The menu is extensive, with lots of options that you cannot find anywhere else in town. You don’t even have to pay the zoo entrance fee to eat here; it has a separate door. It even has a large balcony so you can look out over the zoo while you dine. They have a brunch menu for Saturday and Sundays.

Vegan “BBQ” sandwich with beer battered onion rings.

Jellyfish.

This restaurant can be found in this adorable little strip mall, on the top floor so you get a great view of the ocean. It features a unique menu: half Japanese, half typical beach fare. You can get a catch of the day platter, along with sushi or miso soup. The restaurant also features a bar, and several aquariums to look at while you dine.

Veggie roll.

Play.

Pelican’s Snowballs.

Pelican’s Menu

This easily could have fit into the “Dine” category, however I will list it here as it serves no true meals. These are classic New Orleans style snowballs. Since I have never been to New Orleans, I cannot vouch for their authenticity, however they are fabulous! They boast over 100 flavors of snow cones, and they even have some special combinations with add ins as well. Each location has signature flavors, too. If you’re unsure which to true (it’s a tough choice!) they will give you a tiny cup with a sample of the flavors you want to try. I went with a flavor I’d never heard of in snow cones before- Tamarind- and I was not disappointed. I also list this under play because once you enjoy your icy treat, they have giant yard games to play, as well as this giant snow cone cut out to take a picture with. Pretty far from the main part of town, but definitely worth the trip. Fairly close to the zoo, which I detail below, in case you want to combine the two activities into one day.

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.

Just 30 minutes away from Molokai Villas is the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, which just opened at its new location in March 2020. Gorgeous décor is scattered throughout this 100 acre property, and there are lots of unique options for animal encounters. You can pet a baby kangaroo, a sloth, an anteater. There is a petting zoo in which you can feed several different farm animals. My personal favorite was the giraffe feeding, where you get to feed lettuce to two of the giraffes. The gift shop offers some typical wares, but some unique ones as well. The zoo was the subject of an Animal Planet docuseries ten-or-so years ago, and copies of that are for sale along with painted prints created by animals throughout the park. There is even a brand new restaurant on location, which I talked about above. Wonderful experience!

BONUS!

Coming home on I-65 North? Stop by Priester’s Pecans, a general store/candy factory at exit 142. You can go upstairs to view the candy being made, or shop downstairs for freshly made candy and pies. They even have lots of boutique items as well, in case you forgot to grab a special someone a souvenir. Don’t pass up the Fiddlesticks, they are lifechanging!

This Month in Review: March 2020

What a wild ride this month has been! If you are anything like me, you’re running out of ideas on what to watch. Below are all of the movies I have watched throughout the month, along with the rating I would give each one. I’ve put a * next to all of the ones that are actually worth watching, and I’ve listed where you can find each one. Let me know what you think of them!

In Theaters (But probably streaming at this point)

“Invisible Man” – 9/10 *

“Sonic the Hedgehog” – 7/10 *

“Call of the Wild” – 6/10

“Emma” – 6/10

“Beneath Us” – 8/10 *

“Greed” – 3/10

Streaming and Home Release

“Dodgeball” – 4/10 (HBO Go)

“Along Came Polly” – 7/10 * (HBO Go)

“The Manchurian Candidate” – 6/10 (HBO Go)

“SnowPiercer” – 6.5/10 * (Netflix)

“The Last Thing He Wanted” – 3/10 (Netflix)

“Troop Zero” – 5/10 * (Amazon Prime)

“The Adjustment Bureau” – 8/10 * (HBO Go)

“Extinction” – 7/10 * (Netflix)

“Beware the Slenderman” – 6.5/10 * (HBO Go)

“Luce” – 4/10 (Hulu)

“Honey Boy” – 6.5/10 * (Amazon Prime)

“The Farewell” – 6.5/10 * (Amazon Prime)

“The Tourist” – 6/10 * (Netflix)

“Juliet, Naked” – 5/10 (Amazon Prime)

“The Wilde Wedding” – 2/10 (Amazon Prime)

“Dear Zachary” – 6.5/10 * (Amazon Prime)

“The Shining” – 5/10 (Rent through Amazon Prime)

“Doctor Sleep” – 8.5/10 * (Rent through Amazon Prime)

“The Invitation” – 5/10 * (Netflix)

“Message from the King” – 6.5/10 * (Netflix)

“Blow the Man Down” – 4/10 (Amazon Prime)

“I See You” (2019) – 5/10 * (Amazon Prime)

“Finding Dory” – 7/10 * (Disney+)

“Just Go With It” – 7.5/10 * (STARZ)

“The Female Brain” – 7/10 * (Hulu)

“Half Magic” – 6/10 (Hulu)

“Killer Joe” – 5/10 (Hulu)

“Where’d You Go Bernadette?” – 7/10 (Amazon Prime)

“Chloe” – 7.5/10 (Netflix)

One Thing I’ve Loved: Kim’s Convenience on Netflix. A sweet Canadian sitcom about a Korean family running a bodega in Toronto. Four seasons are now streaming.

One Thing I’ve Hated: My body no longer has an internal clock. Dinner at 10 p.m.? Pajamas all day? It’s not like you can leave, no one will know.

One Thing I’m Looking Forward To: Reuniting with my favorite Indian buffet when this is all over.

Yearly Movie Total: 70

Beneath Us

Wow. Not many movies leave me speechless. But wow. What a take on our society today.

If you’ve ever seen Blackkklansman, you know how powerful that ending is. It leaves the entire movie theater silent, processing what they’ve just seen and how it relates to modern society. The ending of this movie had the same effect on me. There was a lot of meaning packed into this little-hyped, 90-minute thriller.

Overall, it is very similar to Get Out, but rather than black vs. white, it is undocumented immigrants vs. natural-born Americans.

The movie opens with Memo, one of the main characters, crossing the border from Mexico and showing up at his brother’s house in California. His brother takes him under his wing, and they go out to find construction work together. They, along with two fellow workers, get picked up by a buxom auburn-haired woman who needs some work done on her house. Once they arrive at her property, it’s quick to take a sinister turn.

Forcing them to work all hours of the night, using racial slurs, holding them at gunpoint, she quickly strips them of all their dignity (figuratively and literally) and reminds them of their status: beneath her. The situation becomes deadly soon after.

The crew does their best to complete the job, but you’ll have to see the movie to see who all surives. I wouldn’t call it horror; it’s more of a haunting take on society today, with a couple jump scares thrown in (nothing too terrifying, though). It will leave you creeped out, disappointed in our country, and (hopefully) empowered to help undocumented peoples in your community.

This movie is a limited release; it was showing at my local AMC theater, so check Fandango to see if it’s available nearby you! It’s definitely worth seeing!

Sonic the Hedgehog

I’m going to start this one off by letting you know that I had zero expectations for this movie; my fiancé was the one who even made me go.  This was one that I was going to skip altogether.  While I found the original drama over the initial trailer hilarious, it didn’t make me want to see it.  Have no idea what I’m talking about?  Look how bad the movie could have been:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXDa8i75PpM.

               I’m sure the production company is breathing a sigh of relief over the reception of this movie.  It was sure to be a flop with the original CGI; pushing it back a few months for them to redesign the main character was definitely the right choice!  With the new animation, Sonic himself was pretty adorable, which made it easier to watch.  James Marsden also did a great job, as did Tika Sumpter as his wife.  Jim Carrey, we’ll get to in a moment. . .

               Given that I saw it nearly a month after opening weekend, there were no children in my screening, so it’s hard to tell how the jokes will play out with their intended audience.  However, I was one of about 8 adults in my theater, and there were many giggles throughout the whole screening.  Lots of inappropriate comments, a twenty-minute chunk of the movie filmed in a bar, and one awkward villain were the cause of much o the laughter.  Whether that plays out well with children, I’m not so sure, but it sure was enjoyable for us grown-ups.

               I honestly cannot decide how I feel about Jim Carrey in this film.  He was an arrogant, evil, quirky bad guy contracted by the government to find the little blue alien (did you know Sonic was an alien?  I did not…).  He has many lines that are supposed to come off funny, but are actually pretty cringeworthy.  However, he also has several scenes that are absolutely hilarious.  Overall, he played his role well, but I think some of his dialogue could have been written better.

Surprisingly, I thought it was a cute movie!  I’m not against live action with CGI characters; if you are, you probably won’t like this.  But even besides my positive review, it’s gotten some decent reviews elsewhere too:  all the kids at my school loved it, and it also has a 93% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.  If you have a movie theater subscription (like AMC A-List or Regal Unlimited), then definitely go see it!  You can even go see it at your local AMC for $5 on Tuesdays.  If you don’t have access to any of that, wait for it to stream.  It’ll be worth a few bucks to rent, but I wouldn’t waste $12-$15 on it in theaters.

Brahms: The Boy 2

               When I first saw the preview for this movie, I was both surprised and confused.  The original, The Boy, was one of my favorite horror films of 2016, in part because of how nicely it ended and how it did not leave much room for a sequel.  I also enjoyed it because (spoiler alert):  the doll was not actually haunted.  (If you haven’t seen the original by now, sorry about it…).

               So when I first saw this preview, in which the doll is very much haunted, it left me curious:  how can they seemingly change the plotline? 

               Before I get into the actual movie, kudos to the casting director for landing Katie Holmes in a sequel:  she was fabulous.  The actual story, however. . . left something to be desired.

               Apparently, the doll has been haunted the entire time, by some demonic energy that takes control of whichever child is in possession of the doll.  This go-around, the doll is in possession of Katie Holmes’ son, Jude.  He quickly turns from a sweet boy to a crazed one, torn between consenting to what the doll wants and trying to protect his family. 

               I’m all for a cheesy horror movie; this one even has some decent jump scares towards the beginning, but as it progresses it just gets worse and worse.  The climax at the end actually made me chuckle—it was that absurd and poorly written.  The production company is seemingly trying to take advantage of the success of the Annabelle franchise by creating a boy doll version, but they don’t seem to care to spend the necessary money on a quality writing staff.

               If you’ve seen the first movie and want to see how the story progresses, then go for it.  But please don’t waste your money in theaters, wait til it’s streaming for free in a few months.  If this movie is your first venture into The Boy’s storyline, you’re better off not seeing any of them in the first place.  This disappointing installment taints the originality of the first one.

Walkin’ in Memphis

Another great weekend trip is only 3 hours to our west:  Memphis!  There are plenty of obvious activities to do, like check out Beale Street, go to the Civil Rights Museum, or head to a Memphis Grizzlies game.  But if you want to experience what locals experience, here are some tips:

Eat.

Pho Binh.

This Vietnamese restaurant is a local hotspot; ask any local about the best Asian food nearby, and the majority of people will point you here.  Their claim to fame:  Lemongrass Tofu.  Even if you are not a devout tofu worshipper as I am, you can still give it a shot.  It is the most incredible flavor I’ve ever experienced.  Even non-vegetarians who (think that they) don’t like tofu come here just to taste it.  I crave this dish quite often, but I have yet to perfect it in my own kitchen.  https://www.facebook.com/Pho-Binh-104336099611112/

Babalu.

               This is a favorite of my best friend who lives in Memphis, and I can definitely see why!  With many different menu offerings, its hard to nail down exactly what cuisine this is.  They have some Spanish-inspired dishes and a short tapas menu, burgers and sandwiches, as well as guacamole and queso.  A little bit of everything, and it’s all spectacular.  They also have a $10 sangria flight, which I highly recommend.  There’s some cute little boutiques next door, too!  The whole area is very similar to Nashville’s Hillsboro Village.  https://eatbabalu.com/menus

Imagine.

               I have to include one vegan recommendation, so here you go:  Imagine Vegan Café.  With an entire menu just full of vegan options, they’ve got a little something for everyone.  This is more of your casual, junk food vegan menu.  Fried mozzarella and potato skins are offered as appetizers, with lots of “Chicken” as entrees—the Chicken Bacon Melt is great.  The atmosphere is rustic and casual, with some cool animal paintings on the walls.  The wait tends to be on the longer side, but my little vegan heart is perfectly fine with that.  If you’re looking for a quick(er) bite, go for the Tofu at Pho Binh.  https://www.imaginevegancafe.com/

Explore.

Ghost Tours.

               While I did not do this on my most recent trip to Memphis, this is one of my favorite memories from visiting the area.  Historical Haunts puts on a great tour, and they have several to choose from.  Bus tours, walking tours, even a haunted pub crawl; if you have any interest in the supernatural or even in local history, then this is a great activity for you!  You’ll stop by many local businesses with a sinister past and get to hear ghost stories both modern and antiquated from the area.  Check out their schedule here:  https://www.historicalhauntsmemphis.com/.

Loflin Yard.

               This bar/restaurant/community space has tons of different events!  From Karaoke, to Grizz watch parties, to a community market, this is a must stop.  Check out their Facebook to see what they’re offering while you’re in town.  The Memphis Modern Market happens a couple Saturdays a month and features vendors from throughout the city.  Art, handpoured candles, jewelry, and some vintage clothing retailers all set up booths so you can shop to your heart’s content.  http://www.loflinyard.com/