NIMONA (2023)

(Netflix) NIMONA, the illustrated comic series this film was adapted from, immediately opens with shapeshifter Nimona ingratiating herself on the super-villian Ballister Blackheart by simply knocking on his door and insisting that she becomes his sidekick.

She’s alone in the very first panel, spryly sidling up to his hideout.

The filmed adaptation of NIMONA doesn’t reveal her for 15 minutes.

Despite being the titular character, with NIMONA — the film — there’s a character imbalance. This feels more like it’s Ballister’s story (now named Ballister Boldheart instead of Blackheart), not Nimona’s, which is a goddamn shame. ND Stevenson’s original comic did an astounding job of balancing both Ballister and Nimona’s stories, how one needed the other, their push-and-pull, how they mirrored each other while also being completely separate individuals.

Sadly, what’s worse is that Ballister feels sanded away from the thornier, more morally ambiguous, more complicated character that resides in the books. Granted, while Nimona is the one who gets a richer back story later on in the film, it still feels like she’s often only there to bolster Ballister, to right his wrongs. In the comic, while Nimona constantly posits that she’s merely his sidekick, they’re more or less equals; they balance each other.

You got betrayed by someone you trusted.

I’ll note that these are disgruntled remarks from someone who expected a bit more fidelity from this adaptation. If you ignore the source material, it’s a progressive and entertaining film that is a breath of fresh air compared to many contemporary animated efforts. Nimona is brazen and fearless, with one hell of a sly grin, but still has her own insecurities and often feels like an aberration. Ballister and Goldenloin are still very gay. (Finally, a family animated feature that isn’t afraid to show two men kiss!)

The world kicks you around sometimes. But together, we can kick it back.

It’s also a visual marvel with a style all its own, even if it’s far denser than Stevenson’s evocatively simple thin line work. They capture Nimona’s wild expressions perfectly, and there’s a fluidity here that helps to recreate the kinetic nature of the original work. It feels like it’s a labor of love, encapsulated by the attention to detail paid to the end credits, of all things.

Hopefully this film will have legs, and will become the sort of work that is nostalgically discussed twenty years from now by those who stumbled upon it at a very young age. It traffics in characters that are seldom seen in family-friendly works; queer and monstrous characters who are just trying to be themselves, but are ostracized for being who they are.

Because once everyone sees you as a villain? That’s what you are.

Lastly, I’ll note that the trailer features a song from THE TING TINGS: That’s Not My Name, which I previously featured in a prior post!

CATS (2019)

Let me get this out of the way first: Yes, Tom Hooper’s CATS is not considered a ‘good’ film or even an adequate adaptation, and that reputation is well-earned. It’s an absolute mess; there’s a lot of miscasting, the visual effects are wall-to-wall uncanny valley, and, well, let’s just say it feels like a cocaine-fueled revisiting of an already cocaine-fueled theatrical work. (Also: I am pretty sure T.S. Eliot would not approve of his cat poems being reworked in this way.) For a work that is so absolutely bonkers — we’re living in a musical feline-based underworld where everyone is vying for a spot to ascend to a higher plane that can only be deigned by what is essentially a Queen cat — it is surprisingly boring!

(That’s basically the entire story as I understand it, apart from some weird offshoots about ancillary cats and Idris Elba lapping it up as a villain who has some weird superpower that apparently puts folks in what I believe is his version of purgatory. Or he just transports them to a boat/harbor? Frankly, it doesn’t really matter.)

Now that I’ve addressed that: I still love Tom Hooper’s adaptation.

Again: this is not what one would consider a ‘good’ film. It’s a lot of noise and bluster and every facet of the film distracts from anything that would normally be considered merit-worthy.

However, it has a lot of charm, and most of that is due to the fact that this feels so earnest only in the way that a theatrical musical can get away with. Apart from the woeful casting of James Corden and Rebel Wilson — both very game and talented performers but they chew the scenery so much that Corden actually vomits later in the film — everyone is emoting like mad. Hell, even fucking Dame Judi Dench almost pulls off what can only be called uh, fully presenting her crouch in an absolutely ridiculous CGI leg pull.

(Yes, I will circle back to the utter horniness of the film. Please be patient.)

Putting aside the very creepy visuals and absolutely warped sense of physical scale of these cats living in what is supposed to be a real world, and Corden & Wilson, CATS feels like a very odd, very surreal, very singular labor of love. The production design is astounding, presenting like an under-populated Gotham City with its neons and rain and wrought iron as opposed to the London it’s supposed to be. Francesca Hayward — a Principal ballerina for The Royal Ballet — is astounding in the lead role of Victoria; she’s all wide eyes and hurt and wonder and dexterity. She whips and twirls and effortlessly hurls herself around and it’s visually majestic. Ian McKellen practically steals the show with his number and the melancholy and sadness he conveys. Oh, and Robbie Fairchild with his longing looks? Yes.

The choreography is exceptional and the soundtrack hits all of the right notes, if you’re into Webber. (I am not the biggest fan, as I still have nightmares about playing the endlessly dull cello part of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in high school, but there are a lot of great songs here as well as some smashing callbacks and refrains!)

I’ve seen this film more times than you would think and yes, I have seen a stage production. (I did not care for the stage production, but that’s not the focus here.) The most recent time I viewed it was at Chicago’s Music Box as a ‘Rated Q’ event.

I wrote about ‘Rated Q’ in my post about BOUND but to summarize: ‘Rated Q’ is a monthly film event curated by Ramona Slick that extolls queer and underground works, while also adding a theatrical drag performance prelude that always entertains and titillates.

When I heard that ‘Rated Q’ would be screening CATS, I knew I had to attend. I thought I’d either love the experience or hate it, as I wasn’t sure if the audience would treat it like THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW which, for some, is thrilling but feels overly self-indulgent to me.

I loved it.

I cannot overstate how much fun this screening was. This may sound like hyperbole but typing this post is painful as my left hand provokes pangs because of how over-enthusiastic my clapping was and how much my wedding ring is inappropriate for long-lived clapping. (Yes, my wedding ring is on my right hand. Orthodoxy and all that foistedupon jazz.) I had a beaming grin on my face for the entirety of the film. I’m sure my voice is a tad worn out by how much I laughed and how vocal I was, and everyone else there was just as enthusiastic. Hell, I even sang along with some of the songs and I am not that kind of person!

I have never seen people dance in their seats at the Music Box. I have never seen folks pull out lighters and phones to sway to a scene at the Music Box. I have never seen folks wildly throw their arms up in the air at the Music Box, pumping along to the beat of a song. Now I have. (I realize that if I would attend one of Music Box’s ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW sing-a-longs I’d probably see all of the above, but realistically that simply isn’t going to happen.)

This was all elicited by a film that has been considered a laughing stock, a joke, an absolute failure, but for most of those that filled the seats — and it was a very well-attended screening for a Thursday night — for two hours everyone shared a love for this very weird film that by all rights shouldn’t even exist.

I endlessly harp about the experience of communal cinematic viewing, of watching a film with like-minded individuals who revel in a film they know inside-out and I hate to do so again but I have to: there is absolutely nothing like it. Part of that’s because it is very singular — every ‘Rated Q’ screening I’ve attended has been solo — but even if you’re attending with friends, your eyes are focused on the screen and for two hours you are part of this strange world and surrounded by the glow of collective enthusiasm and appreciation and, if you’re lucky, it means everything to you. This one screening meant everything to everyone and it was glorious.


You thought I forgot about the horniness? I did not! Every five minutes an audience member would shout out ‘Kiss!’ because this film feels like it’s on an Olympics-scale version of sweatiness and lust. While the cats never kiss, they are endlessly rubbing up against each other or throwing each other all sorts of wanting glances. I never thought I’d expect to feel such heat between a modern-day Judi Dench and a woman young enough to be her granddaughter, but yes, that definitely happens.

Also: most of these cats are essentially nude the entire time. However, Idris Elba wears a trenchcoat for most of the film but in the final act he throws it off and is finally naked and goddamn, the audience went wild, all sorts of gasps, and hooting and laughter and applause and it was all in the ‘Rated Q’ spirit.

Normally this is where I embed a trailer, but this is far more emblematic of the experience — for better or for worse — and is absolutely about trying recapture magic, so here you go:

If you’re in or around Chicago on September 14th 2023, the next ‘Rated Q’ screening is LEGALLY BLONDE. Join me, won’t you?


I ignored the DCU TV efforts when they first launched. I had no interest in signing up for yet-another streaming service, much less one solely focused on rehashing works like DOOM PATROL that I had already read and loved and didn’t want a watered down distillation.

“What is this place?”

Now that all of the DCU TV efforts have been merged into Warner Bros/HBO, it’s far easier to watch them, and holy fucking shit, they’re all amazing, all swing-for-the-fences efforts that somehow have managed to chug along for the entirety of the pandemic.

“It’s a safe place for you to heal. You, and others like you.”

I should have known better. DC doesn’t micromanage their TV creatives the way Marvel does. And DOOM PATROL is amazingly devastating.

Unlike Harley Quinn, I’ve actually been very familiar with DOOM PATROL for years. I have read the entire Morrison run twice over. Shared it with my wife. While I probably should have read it when the original issues were rolling out while I worked in a comic book store, reading them in my late twenties was good enough.


Unsurprisingly, as someone who has been diagnosed as having anxiety, hypomania/bi-polar/whatnot and PTSD (yeah, I’m a fucking shitshow), ‘Crazy Jane’ with her 64 mindsets is the character I identify most with. Diane Guerrero portrays that sort of mental whiplash perfectly.

“Ooooh, please touch me…”

(I’ll note that I have no idea how many appleboxes they have to use to block scenes with Diane Guerrero, but it has to be more than a few. However, her performance has a ferocity that measures her above every one of her co-stars.)

This show is immaculately cast and paced and costumed. April Bowlby is perfection as aloof and fallen Hollywood star Rita Farr, and the extremely form-fitting attire is an amazing narrative nod. Brendan Fraiser’s voice-over work for robot Cliff Steele is astoundingly vulnerable, and the physical effects for him are so tactile. Matt Bomer’s queer confliction as Larry Trainor +1 is so well-penned.

I have no idea how they talked Timothy Dalton into this, but he’s the best Chief you could ask for, and the house they’re shooting in? I want to go to there. It’s all rich Victorian wood and feels old and lived in and haunted. (I actually think I have been, as it looks like one of the WB lot houses, but they did a lot of great work with it!) Also: CIint Mansell provides the score! Alan Tudyk is Mr. Nowhere!

Everyone involved knew what they needed to do, and they did it to perfection, even if they were doing it in service of a bunch of misfits unfit for society.

I am shocked at how good it is, although it is not a subtle show. This isn’t ‘just good’ for a comics adaptation, or ‘just good’ for a genre TV series — it’s a great show, full-stop.

It’s the first show to remind me of SENSE8 in a long time, despite the fact that it is a pretty sexless show. It’s all about misfits trying to come to terms with their realizations and reckoning with them, and we do not have enough of that.

“Do you remember what it felt like? […] To be normal?”


Content Warning

This post contains spoilers for THE LAST OF US S1, the video game THE LAST OF US, and mentions of queer death.

Upon watching the season finale, I exclaimed to my wife: “I can’t wait to quit this show!”

See, I’ve played the game. I know where this story goes — although perhaps they’ll tune it, but I doubt it considering the adaptational fidelity they’ve taken on. (And I admit, goddamn, they did a brilliant job with that!)

The game, but especially the show, is just wall-to-wall trauma and I hate it. I’ve said it before, but I’m very over nihilistic media, and this is abso-fucking-lutely bleak and, apart from the LEFT BEHIND ep, I really wanted nothing to do with it.

I told my wife: I’m watching for LEFT BEHIND and I’m not even sure it will show up this season. Then it aired, and I absolutely glowed.

While neither Bella Ramsay or Pedro Pascal resemble their gaming avatars, they absolutely inhabit the roles. There’s not a single casting misstep here. Every character is amazingly portrayed to an astounding degree. It was utterly delightful to see Anna Torv (FRINGE) back on the small screen again. And the production design? They understood the assignment and A+ to all of them.

When LEFT BEHIND did pop up, as stated: I fucking glowed. I’ve noted this in prior posts, but more and more as I get older, I just want to see people be happy, and LEFT BEHIND is all about giving Ellie a joyful bit of reminiscence about a sliver of queer joy in her life. I realize that narratively, that often isn’t the most enthralling thing, although TALES OF THE CITY threaded that needle quite well.

I will note: I was immensely frustrated by the third ep. Was it a sweet, well-handled episode? Yes, yes it was. However — and I’m trying to not step up on a soapbox here, but it’s hard — it felt to me like yet another display of patriarchal bullshit:

“Oh, the male queers get to have a long, serene life (until it isn’t), but Ellie essentially has to kill her queer best friend not even an hour after her own personal queer awakening? That is some fucking horseshit right there.”

From the moment I moved to Chicago, I’ve always lived in queer spaces because they felt safe; they felt welcoming. (I’ll note that I do not identify as queer, but queer-adjacent. I’m just a weirdo, a misfit who has no real place, but this is as good as it gets.) And that’s a lot of what THE LAST OF US is about: aspiring to find a safe space and living normal, happy lives without feeling threatened.

However: I do keep having to move because these areas inevitably end up overrun by male toxicity, which has sucked. We currently live in what was formerly known as ‘Girlstown’ and it used to have one of the oldest lesbian bars, and it is the home of the show WORK IN PROGRESS, but thanks to capitalism it has mostly become ‘elder Boystown’ and it is frustrating because dudes — even queer dudes who have been inevitably been bullied in the past — apparently love to bully folks, even older weirdos like me.

It is a finely crafted show, but fuck. I’m so tired of miserabilia, I’m so sick of protagonists being pursued and having to run, and I’m especially aware of this very specific type of miserabilia. I first wrote: “It’s not you show, it’s me” before realizing that it shouldn’t be on me. People deserve better than this, escaping into fight-or-flight scenarios, real or imagined. People deserve comfort, and it’s disheartening that this is what culturally lights us up, even if it is representative of the constant fears of a fragmented society.


This was the last film I saw in a theater with my wife prior to COVID lockdown and we were enthralled by it. Before this, I hadn’t really experienced much of Harley Quinn apart from a handful of early BATMAN ANIMATED eps from my youth.

For reasons previously touched on, I’ve stupidly identified with Harley Quinn over the past few years, and this was the first glint of that.

Director Cathy Yan’s vision here is extraordinarily vibrant, extremely well-edited, features a pitch-perfect ensemble, an amazing Marilyn Monroe dissociative recreation, and absolutely nails the dubious nature of hands. Seriously, watch for that visual motif. (It’s not subtle! But the subtext works so well!)

I’d be remiss to mention Margot Robbie, who basically willed this production to life and is astounding in the role as Harley. I can’t imagine a better live-action Harley. There’s a physicality here that perfectly exacts how Harley would move.

(Also, I desperately want all of the live-action spin-offs: BLACK CANARY; Renee Montoya THE QUESTION; THE HUNTRESS! A pre-BATGIRL!)

I find it extremely upsetting that it was so rejected at the box office — to the extent where producers truncated the film’s title — because it was so well-done and, culturally, we need more of this.

“Do you know what a harlequin is? A harlequin’s role is to serve. It is nothing without a master. And no one gives two shits who we are beyond that.”

I also really, really want an inverted version of her self-emblazoned shirt.

“Harley. Focus.”

I endlessly rewatch this trailer (and film, when I have the time); it’s my filmic comfort food.


This is one of the most spectacularly fucked-up comic book adaptations of all-time and I am 100% here for it. Apart from a bit of a rushed third act, I have no notes. Fuck all of you Nolan-lovers — this is the real deal.

DARE ME (2012/2019)

It’s no secret that Megan Abbott is my favorite living author. QUEENPIN was absolutely foundational for me in the current phase of my life. She completely hones in on the physicality, wants and needs of folks, in many expert ways.

With her novel DARE ME, she focuses on cheerleading and bodily control and power.

Granted, I’ve never been a cheerleader, much less a teenage girl, but goddamn — as someone who was a former amateur gymnast — I love to throw myself around and be thrown around. It is absolutely thrilling. My body just wants hands on them, which kind of sucks and has managed to get me into more trouble than I’d like. However, I can’t help it, and there’s power and command that comes with that physicality, and Abbott absolutely nails that facet with DARE ME.

The show she helmed is dreamier and more heightened than even I expected from the source material, but it is glorious however sadly short-lived. It was exquisitely drawn for multiple seasons, but barely survived for one, but what a season.

“In the end, I couldn’t stop it.”


Why yes, I did briefly write about Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS a few years ago, but I wanted to return to it because I don’t think I said all I had to say about it then. Also, my wife gifted me a Christmas portrait of the reveal of HELL HERE, and it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received, by one of my favorite artists — Dijana Granov. This photo does not do it justice: her watercolors and markers lend it a luminosity and vibrancy that feels like the character is reborn, and rightfully so. (Also, my wife framed it properly as a window sill, which is absolute perfection.)

I’ll note that I hate overly demonstrative performances like these being labeled as camp, because no: it’s not. It’s sincere. We all have our breaking points. What affects me about Catwoman and BATMAN RETURNS is her being reborn out of traumatic circumstances, in a new skin, and becomes vengeful because of it, but also stronger — a different person.

When she reacts to hearing her abuser’s name on her answering machine, after literally being killed by him, she flies into a fury that I’ve felt so many times; loud acts of desperation, exacted solely because you don’t know what else to do. And then Selina becomes …..something different, someone different, someone capable of reconciling her strife.

Honey, I’m home.

Oh, I forgot. I’m not married.


(Hulu) HELLRAISER (1987) never needed a sequel. Like the best horror films, it said all it had to say — a paean to want and need and physical sensations and hedonism — and got the fuck out. However, Hollywood is never content to leave a well-crafted character design alone, so we ended up with over ten Pinhead — excuse me, The Priest — films.

I bailed after the second. Maybe there’s a gem in there somewhere. I wouldn’t know; I’ve spent enough time trying to mine gold from long-running franchises to realize it’s usually a fool’s errand.

Reboots are another thing entirely, and a reboot of a singular BDSM horror film over thirty years old certainly intrigued me, especially since they recast Pinhead — excuse me again, The Priest — with SENSE8’s Jamie Clayton.

Unfortunately, they placed it in the hands of stolid David S. Goyer, then punted it to the creators of THE NIGHT HOUSE — a mighty fine film, but an incredibly icy work. The end result is a defanged property, almost completely removed from the messy, horny entity of its origin. This is just another slasher in different makeup.

So why am I recommending it? It is a visual marvel, a literal puzzle-box-in-a-puzzle-box. The decision to model the mansion around the original HELLRAISER puzzle box is inspired and expertly handled. The new puzzle box, and the explications regarding its transformations? There’s a lot going on there! Also, Odessa A’zion is amazing as the lead, all wild eyes and curls and smart and savvy while also being a fuck-up! It’s a fun time!

However, it’s a dull echo of the original film. There’s no sensuality; it’s simply a basic slasher film that leans a tad more into flayed flesh for scarlet fashions. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I wish that for once someone would embrace Barker’s original vision.


(AMC+/kanopy/peacock/Prime/VOD) Shirley Jackson has been lucky in that she had to suffer few terrible film adaptations — even THE HAUNTING (1999) is better than it needed to be and probably wouldn’t cause her to roll in her grave — and this adaptation of WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE is no exception. While it ramps up the spectacle a bit and cuts a bit of the fat, it’s completely faithful to a tale of two sisters, of abuse, of being castigated by locals. Oh, and it’s bolstered by an amazing cast: Taissa Farmiga as the younger Blackwood, Alexandra Daddario as the elder, and Crispin Glover as their uncle.

Stacie Passon’s take captures the vacillation between fear and comfort that I felt Jackson captured as an anxious person; Daddario is perfectly cast, with her almost-preternatural blue eyes, and Passon commands the atmosphere. The set design is pitch-perfect, and she even manages to keep Crispin Glover dialed-in.

“The world is full of terrible people.”


(Theaters only/VOD soon) Audrey Diwan’s HAPPENING (original French title: L’ÉVÉNEMENT), adapted fromAnnie Ernaux’s autobiography of the same name, may initially look like a slice-of-life character drama: It’s France in the early 60s and Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) is a devoted student of literature, ready to buckle down and pass her final exams. Her parents are supportive, albeit overly industrious small bar owners and, after sunset, she enjoys a bit of the nightlife with her clique, while occasionally being glared at by her enemies.

In another film, that could be the opening of a quaint, comfortable ‘that one crazy summer’ movie. Not HAPPENING. Underneath its sun-washed gauzy palette of aqua blues and verdant greens is a tense, unwavering tale of a young woman under pressure as she realizes that she is pregnant in a country where abortion is outlawed and vehemently taboo. Anne is gravely aware of her ticking clock and she is determined to roll it back.

Anna gets to work and, as she goes from one failed plan to another, we see how her possibilities and her world shrinks. The already-tightly composed framing — shot in an 1.37 aspect ratio, closer to the boxed-in look of a standard definition TV show than a widescreen film — finds the camera inching closer in on Anna; rooms she inhabits feel smaller, more constrictive, she takes up more of the frame, her wide, defiant eyes inhabiting more and more of the screen. Her friends distance themselves, and those she talks to cower in fear of being jailed for simply hearing her broach the idea.

Anna’s solutions become more desperate, the world increasingly hostile to her escape attempt, and the camera refuses to flinch or turn away, brusquely displaying her efforts through longer and longer takes. Her strength and vitality wane, exhaustion sets in due to the strain of the clock, the machinations of her body draining her, and she finds herself more and more emotional drained by her time spent lurking in the shadows.

Yet, during all of this, Anna unwaveringly brandishes her physical desires with confidence. That detail helps to set HAPPENNING’s scope to that of a steadfastly look at an unjust twist in a singular person’s life as opposed to one part of a grander coming-of-age tale or a film consisting of well-meaning scare tactics.

HAPPENING is an affecting work that resonates past the France of the 1960s, a headstrong tale of individual survival. Diwan, who is open about having had an abortion, had the following to say about why she adapted L’ÉVÉNEMENT:

“Lots of people told me in the industry, ‘Why do you want to make the movie now, because we’re in France and we already have [a law legalizing abortion]?’ And I was like, ‘OK, I really hope that you’re going to ask the same question to the next filmmaker that comes to you and says they’re going to make a movie about World War II. Because I guess the war is over.’ It was not easy to have them understand. I mean, look at how many women died on that battlefield and tell me it’s not a war. It’s a silent war.”