Tag Archives: Film reviews

Palm Trees and Power Lines

Being an adolescent is a time of challenge for many individuals. There is peer pressure and a desire to be popular. There is also disconnect in young people’s relationships with their parents. In Palm Trees and Power Lines, the lines of disconnect and peer pressure intersect in this tale of a girl who just wants to feel loved. This movie is visually moving and utterly surprising. The film deals with deep emotions and will change the way many look at individuals growing up in challenging times. Through the eyes of actress Lily McInerny, we experience her vision of what she feels can bring her life and happiness. She is someone who deserves both, but the way she receives them may not be what everyone anticipates.

Palm Trees and Power Lines is focused on the pressures of a teen girl. There are many romantic opportunities for the girl. The issues, however, are that she feels like her mom does not connect with her, and her friends are strange. These issues cause her to not have the best judgment regarding what direction to go in her life. Palm Trees and Power Lines displays many of the emotional behaviors which can cause an adolescent to not think straight or think for themselves. The film is a vivid work of art that crosses boundaries. Despite the disturbing scenarios, it is faithful in its illustration of wanting to be connected.

The plot Palm Trees and Power Lines centers on Lea (McInerny). She is a teenage girl who lives with her mom Sandra (played by Gretchen Mol.) Lea feels disconnected because her mom cares about having a social life which does include Lea. Although Lea’s mom does not have bad intentions, Lea surrounds herself with friends who drink and get into other mischievous teenage behavior. All of this stops when Lea meets Tom (played by Jonathan Tucker.) The age difference between them is huge and concerning. Lea is only seventeen and Tom is in his thirties. When they’re together, Lea feels happy and connected. However, as they continue to hang out and have that romantic vibe, some red flags appear. For example, when Lea goes out with Tom, she is asked numerous times if she needs help which makes Lea question what Tom is like.  Still, she feels too connected to let him go.

The relationship between Tom and Lea raises a lot of eyebrows. It even shifts Lea’s behavior towards her mother. When her mother tries to be there for Lea, Lea becomes rebellious and acts like her mom is distracted. While her mom is distracted, she is not a bad person. Lea struggles to see who is looking out for her, as her relationship with Tom grows stronger. Since their romance is already inappropriate, Lea feels she is invested in being part of Tom’s life. Therefore, she spends more time with him than working on herself or her other problems in her own life.

The theme of Palm Trees and Power Lines is heavy and emotional. Some may find it hard to watch which I did during a few scenes. It is a story in which Lea must decide if she wants to continue the situation she is in with Tom. Is she truly happy?  Is Tom realistic about his feelings? With the age gap, there is a series of consequences that can ruin both their lives. Palm Trees and Power Lines demonstrates how adolescents make poor decisions during difficult times which made me feel empathy for Lea in the film.

One fact I reflected on throughout Palm Trees and Power Lines was that in young adults much of the human brain is not yet fully developed. This was evident in Lea’s performance. Because of her age, she does not understand what it is like to be in love or committed, but simply wants to feel cared for. Palm Trees and Power Lines is one of the heaviest representations I have seen related to the consequences involved in poor judgment while growing up. It is mesmerizing, although it may be hard to sit through a second viewing. Three stars.


Shazam! Fury of the Gods Review

The word, “Shazam!,” is where the positive superhero factor usually comes into play with a Shazam movie. In Shazam! Fury of the Gods there is a whole lot of “Shazam!” and much superhero nostalgia, but the film is actually somewhat of a trainwreck. The pacing is off, and I found myself wondering whether I could take this sequel seriously. For a continuation of a superhero franchise, this one felt very forgettable. It relies too much on the slapstick of its heroes and enemies, instead of focusing on the central conflict in the film. Director David F. Sandberg directed the first Shazam film in 2019, and he’s back for Shazam! Fury of the Gods, but this one just doesn’t seem to be one that will enthrall its superhero fans.

In Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Billy Batson (played by Asher Angel) is back as the superhero Shazam. As fans of the franchise know, when the word “Shazam!” is used Billy turns into the adult version of himself and he is recognized as the Shazam superhero. The adult and superhero version of Billy is played by Zachary Levi. The team of heroes and misfits are also back, ranging from Superhero Freddy (played by Adam Brody), Superhero Darla (played by Meagan Good), Superhero Pedro (played by D.J. Coltrona), and others. The enemies are Hespera and Kalypso (played by Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu).

In addition to the heroes, there is a god character who helps Billy. That character is also named Shazam and he is played by Djimon Hounsou. Sadly, though, the film does not develop this character enough or take it seriously.

Again, the directing in this film just seems out of focus. The pacing is off and the excess of humor detracts from the superhero importance. There is also not enough backstory about the enemies. The film leaves the audience wondering who is more powerful. Instead of lots of superhero jam it just keeps resorting to the buzzword, “Shazam!,” to keep the enticement going.

The credit I do give Shazam! Fury of the Gods is that it keeps its family-friendly approach. And that will help sell it to its target audience. But unfortunately, it is one of those continuation films that will leave much of the audience not appreciating the franchise. I still do, but this film didn’t help my appreciation. Overall, I just wish it could have stepped up its action, its twists, and given us some hidden gems of what is to continue in the franchise. This sequel was not very detailed, and when there is not much detail to a superhero franchise it doesn’t gives its audience enough information to anticipate what to expect down the road. I will say that I didn’t totally hate Shazam! Fury of the Gods, but I definitely didn’t love it, and it fell way below my expectations. Two stars for Shazam! Fury of the Gods.

Inside Review

Nothing is more anxiety-provoking than being locked up fending for survival. In Inside there is a tone of discomfort in its harrowing premise. Inside is Vasilis Katsoupis’ second project as a director. This film involves a problematic situation where the anxiety goes to the core of its main character. Inside is Castaway (2000) taking place in a New York penthouse. One error led to someone being completely locked up. Inside brings all kinds of frustrations while focusing on survival and escaping confinement. There is no easy way to define this movie experience because audiences will take away different emotions once they see Inside for themselves.

In Inside the focus is on an art thief, Nemo (played by Willem Dafoe). He makes his way to a high-end New York penthouse to steal expensive works of art. His heist runs into trouble when alarms are triggered which seal off the whole penthouse. With the owner never there and all contacts lost once the place is sealed off, Nemo finds himself trapped. With the precious works of art surrounding him, he must figure out if he can escape or survive in the penthouse. As he realizes that it’s impossible to escape, he decides he should start making the penthouse feel like a home until he can figure out how to get out. Can he maintain his patience? What legal trouble could he face if he escapes?

Inside filled me with repulsive feelings as Nemo engages in activities he did not plan for. The penthouse has a lack of resources. There is no running water, messed up air conditioning, and barely any food. Nemo does find a way to make his resources manageable, but his bizarre mindset grows under shocking tensions. Inside caused me to feel scared due to Dafoe’s brilliant performance as someone stuck in confinement.

The features in the penthouse also contribute to Nemo losing his mind. For example, the refrigerator plays music when it is open for too long which makes Nemo even more angry. The other big anger factor for Nemo is the fact that there is a camera system through the plasma screen TV of the penthouse. He can see that there are others working and coming in and out of the building. Sadly, they cannot recognize that there is anything wrong with the penthouse that Nemo is trapped in because it is soundproof, and the main owner is never there. The film’s audience knows who the owner is, through pictures and information, but they never see him on screen.

Do not expect conversations or a whole lot of dialogue during Inside. Expect a whole lot disastrous thinking from the mind of Nemo caused by his continued frustration with finding a way out from a mission that went awry and caused him to be trapped in the penthouse. There is only so much Nemo can do to prevent himself from going completely insane in his unprecedented situation.

There are moments when Nemo narrates. Dafoe’s performance in this role slurs and goes down dark alleys. He shares a story in his narration about when he was young and was asked what items would have most meaning to him that he would save in a fire. The correlation to his narration and the situation he finds himself in is that there is no value when something valuable is destroyed. Instead of Nemo hoping to escape and make a profit from the art pieces he stole, he now finds himself in locked-up solitude creating his own art.

In the film, Nemo says, “There’s no creation without destruction!” In Inside there is a lot of creation and destruction. Unfortunately, it is a lot harder than Nemo or the audience anticipates because there is no simple answer to get him out of confinement. From my perspective, this film is an experimental thriller that keeps its audience thinking. Three stars.