The FAFO Movies of July

After the Isolation Hot Mess Horror Film Fest, I find myself wanting to watch more horror movies, good, bad, or ugly. As a horror fan and writer, I can attest to the fact that, more often than not, horror characters suffer greatly from FAFO syndrome.  FAFO stands for Fool(or maybe it’s another four-letter F word) around and find out.  This statement stands as a warning so that people can behave appropriately. If you choose to act a fool, you will be treated as such.  This could include loss of private property or dignity, bodily harm, or even death. In other words, many of the characters in horror movies are warned long before the games begin. 

Prayer may be a good idea right about now

Incantation, now on Netflix 

This Taiwanese horror film spent some time on the streaming platform’s Top Ten(as in most streamed) and has been touted by some as the scariest Taiwanese movie of all time.  A found-footage mockumentary, the film follows a mom, Ronan, who has recently regained custody of her young daughter, Dodo, after succumbing to mental illness. Through flashbacks, we learn that prior to the little girl’s birth, Ronan, her boyfriend Dom, and his cousin Yuan were YouTube ghostbusters.  They decided they would visit Dom and Yuan’s family’s village to enter a cursed tunnel.  Six years later, Ronan is rightfully scared that the curse continues.  Possession and violent deaths ensue.  Not too many jump scares but there are some plot twists.  

I would tend to agree.

Nope, now in theaters

Jordan Peele’s highly anticipated third horror movie leans more into the sci-fi genre.  As with his previous hits, the social commentary is strong as Peele explores Hollywood’s chew it up and spit it out treatment of people and animals.  OJ(Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald(Keke Palmer) Haywood are third-generation Hollywood horse trainers who are struggling to keep the family ranch afloat after their father’s untimely and horrific death.  They realize there may be a UFO in the area and hope to capture video proof with the help of Fry’s employee, Angel Torres(Brandon Perea.)  Ricky “Jupe” Park(Steven Yuen), the Haywoods’ neighbor and nemesis, is a child actor turned Western-themed carnival owner. Jupe has been buying the Haywoods’ beloved horses.  Like his neighbors, he hopes to make money off the UFO phenomenon. 

Though both films have received mixed reviews, I thought both of the films were solid and entertaining.  I did definitely scream questions or curse words at the screen because most of what occurs could have been prevented.  But if folks didn’t FAFO, perhaps horror wouldn’t be such a popular genre. Tune in next month.  

New take on a timeless tale


We saw Beauty and the Beast on opening night. The movie is the live action version of the 1991 Disney cartoon. From the beginning to the final credits, it was both a tribute to the original and a beautiful stand-alone.


Belle is my favorite Disney “princess.” She’s a farm girl, daughter of an inventor (in this version, he’s an artist). She lost her mother at a young age. They are living in a small town where she is often misunderstood because she is bookish. (I love that word.) I wasn’t sure how I felt about Emma Watson being cast in the role. She’s a smart, beautiful young woman. I wasn’t sure if she could be Belle and not Hermione. She proved me wrong as she was Belle in appearance and spirit.

The cast is full of familiar favorites. They can sing and act. I know there were complaints about who played Mrs. Potts but I suppose Angela Lansbury passed up the role. A lot has been said about the Beast. No one is going to be happy when he becomes the Prince. (So everyone needs to calm down on that issue.)


Josh Gad as LeFou steals every scene where he is featured. He hams it up yet adds a human element to that character. He is a buffoon and a villain, though not as half as mean-spirited as Gaston. In this version, LeFou adds some camp to the film.

Music and additional scenes

I’m grateful didn’t have to listen to Ariana Grande and John Legend sing. (MAC makeup and sleek high pony aside, the girl just doesn’t do it for me.  Be mad!)  Nothing against John Legend but he’s no Peabo Bryson.  As for the new songs which have received mixed reviews, I thought they were appropriately placed into the plot.


I cried through the whole movie. I started during “Good Day” through “Beauty and the Beast “and “Something There.”  I cried the most during “Be Our Guest.” For one, it’s a Busby Berkeley-style over-the-top production number; a similar favorite is “Just Can’t Wait to be King” in The Lion King. “Be Our Guest” takes place in the enchanted castle’s dining room and kitchen.  It showcases traditional French cuisine and retells the story of the servants’ enchantment. It didn’t disappoint. At one point, I tearfully looked over at M and her mouth was literally hanging open.  “Be Our Guest” was one of M’s first competition dances. Aside from their cute costumes, they also had a big finish. I found myself remembering many key choreography moments from M’s dance so this added to my wistfulness.


The cuteness

On our way out, Rambo made mention of Belle being a victim of Stockholm syndrome.  I had a smart retort since I usually don’t expect him to have a serious read on pop culture. Still, I had no problem taking M to see this film.  Belle is one of the few Disney protagonists I like. Belle is a strong, smart woman.  Gaston shoulda, woulda, coulda been the right match but he was truly rotten whereas the Prince undergoes an n external and internal transformation. I recommend Beauty and the Beast; bring a sense of humor and sense of wonder.

Recoil therapy

This morning, I came very close to buying myself a designer handbag.  Thankfully I didn’t give in to this craving; I am minding my budget and cannot afford big ticket treats. So I turned to a tried and true outlet: scary movies. Two horror movie trailers later, I feel recharged.
Horror movies have fascinated me for most of my life. As a child, like many Bay Area natives, I stayed up late to watch Creature Features, Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Night Gallery. An avid reader of many different genres of books, I became a fan of Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft. Having watched The Exorcist at the age of 6 may have inspired me to sleep with a nightlight until my teens but it did not cause me to forever avoid horror films.If anything, it made me seek out more scares. 
Horror movies are like roller coaster rides. They can be funny, exhilarating, intimidating, shocking, and stomach churning all at once. Some are the kiddie versions, predictable and tame.  Others are for the daring and require you to woman up and face your fears. While I can be a horror movie snob and boycott the Hollywood blockbuster versions in local theaters (I still have never seen any of the Saw movies), I also enjoy camp and cult classics as seen on local favorite Creepy KOFY Movie Time.
The bag would have been cute. But it couldn’t have raised my heart rate in quite the same way. 

Note: Shelley Duvall and I are the same sign!  

Harry Potter gets darker: Movie review

“What if after everything that has happened to me, I have become bad?” Harry Potter

Harry Potter is a pop culture icon and name brand franchise, the latter which I usually avoid/disdain, along with the likes of Bratz dolls, Disney stores, Coca-Cola products, and Paris Hilton. But when you’re a high school English teacher, as I was for nine years, you realize that freshmen(and all high school kids for that matter) don’t always like to read independently. Imagine my curiosity when student after student submitted Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for a book chat(a brief interview with a reader, much more fun than an ordinary written or oral book report.) I finally gave in and became a fan of the boy wizard, both of the books and the movies. I recently bought the long-awaited final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows(already nearing page 400 after only 24 hours!)and today my mother and I saw the fifth film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

For those of us who remember our adolescence as a time of angst and pain, we will relate to the very different Harry(played by Daniel Radcliffe.) Now embittered by the death of a classmate and still very troubled by the chain of tragic events in his life, Harry is a moody, somber teenager. Harry has grown up and his future doesn’t look bright. The film seems to echo the change with dark, gloomy sets and more dramatic acting from the leads. Harry’s archnemesis, Lord Voldemort(a hideous Ralph Fiennes), gets much more screen time as their final showdown(supposedly taking place in Book 7) approaches. Though the special effects are impressive, the light moments are scarce. This is a bittersweet movie.

My favorite scenes were actually the sad ones. In one scene, Harry wonders about the connection he shares with Lord Voldemort. He complains to his godfather, Sirius Black(played by Gary Oldman), that he feels “angry all the time” and wonders about the darker qualities of his personality/soul. Tears started running down my face. Who hasn’t wondered if they were more evil than good? Who hasn’t been scared when we have made wrong choices? But this existential angst was countered by the core tenet of the Harry Potter phenomenon: Power is great but love is greater. Harry Potter became the Boy Who Lived because his parents loved him. Harry Potter remains a good person because he loves his friends. As he faces Lord Voldemort, Harry declares “you will never know love or friendship.” Ultimately, this is what keeps saving Harry’s life. And many of our own.

I don’t recommend this fifth installment to Harry Potter newbies. It’s much too depressing if you are not invested in the storyline and characters. Nevertheless, I found it moving and faithful to the books.