Willy’s Wonderland Review: Not Enough Nick Cage

By: Kori Miller

Slasher and goofier horrors have been lacking lately in recent media, with the primary focus being on psychological horror films (A path paved by directors like Ari Aster and Robert Eggers). It’s a genre that’s been dead since Friday The 13th, with an extended cult following that makes you wonder where this caliber of the movie went. Apparently, the answer is simply that these people have run out of ideas. This is evident in early 2021’s Five Nights at Freddy’s reminiscent film, Willy’s Wonderland. Yes, the title is that bad. 

The film follows Nicholas Cage, who I will be referring to as such because his actual character is unnamed. Nick finds himself stranded in a small town after all four of his tires are punctured by some poorly placed spike strips, and with no ATM in sight, he is offered to work off the repair costs by spending a night cleaning the abandoned children’s attraction, Willy’s Wonderland. He grabs a few sodas, throws on a complimentary Willy Weasel t-shirt, and gets to work. Assuming you don’t know where this is going, the animatronic characters come to life in the dead of the night and wreak havoc.

Nick, although a talented actor, has a bit of a track record of never declining a project as long as he’s paid fairly. If this film was nothing but him beating the spit out of a bunch of Chuck E. Cheese rejects, it’d be perfectly good fun without having to pull weight by making sense or being compelling. It’s Nicholas Cage gutting CGI animatronics, what more could you ask for? However, as I stated, he wishes to be paid fairly for his time. This film was a smidge over a microbudget, so paying Cage for the main character role was not gonna work without some adjustments. The result? His character has zero lines, no name or story, and simply shows up for twenty-minute intervals to throw down and then slunk off to the corner to play pinball. 

As a result of this limited screen time, we are presented with my worst nightmare; filler. A handful of teens (who cannot act to save their lives, mind you) show up to get picked off one by one in between Cage’s ultimate smackdowns. They distract from the sheer absurdity by being loud and obnoxious, when the movie is primarily dialogue-free when Cage is on screen; and thank god too, because the writing is awful. It’s a tonal shift that makes you scrunch up your nose and reach for the remote to fast forward. But as I said, you gotta do what you’ve gotta do to book Nicholas Cage as your cover image. 

In short, Willy’s Wonderland is a scrappy b movie that doesn’t overstay its welcome but doesn’t fulfill its space either. If you like nonsense and Nick Cage, congrats. You’ll love it. If your sort of thing isn’t 90 minutes of animatronic weasels getting gut-punched, however, you may want to skip over this one. Whatever the case may be, thanks for reading and I hope you understand what I subject myself to in order to entertain you guys.

Willy’s Wonderland currently has a 65% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.6/10 on IMDB.

Girls Basketball

By: Kori Miller

Senior, Kayli Kennedy prepares for a layup against the Gonzalez Apaches.

The Pleasanton High school girls basketball team began their second round of district this season, going head to head against La Vernia, but falling to the Lady Bears with a score of 57-29. On January 29, Navaro traveled down to face off with the Lady Eagles for the second time. After a close game, Navaro ultimately won 42-30. On February 2, the Lady Eagles traveled to play the Gonzolez Apaches to determine who would place 4th in the district to make it to the playoffs. Pleasanton triumphed, scoring 32-29. However, because the Apaches had won the first round of district against the Eagles, the teams would have to go to a pre-playoff game to determine who would make the cut. On February 5, the girls played in Lavernia and after a tough game, Gonzolez won 39-34, knocking the girls out of their shot at playoffs. We’re very proud of the fight our Lady Eagles showed us this season, packed with determination and will. We´re all looking forward to seeing what our PHS athletes have in store for us next season!

Don’t Tell a Soul (about this movie)

By: Kori Miller

Thrillers, albeit difficult to pull off, are probably one of the most diverse genres practiced in film. They’re usually pretty straightforward; keeping you on the edge of your seat down until the final seconds of the satisfying conclusion. They’re also probably the most popular genre to date. This month’s flavor of the week has been Don’t Tell a Soul, a film with an all-star cast that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Matt and Joey are brothers robbing a tented house, making out with over $12,000 in cash. Although they manage to escape, the only witness, a security guard that goes by Hamby, ends up falling into an abandoned well in the midst of chasing them. The pair of boys have to make an important decision; leave the man to die and keep the cash, or save the life of someone potentially innocent. 

It’s hard to find a place to begin with this dumpster fire of a “psychological” thriller. When you read the cast list, there’s a lot to expect considering it is composed exclusively of very capable actors. However, the writing and motivations for the characters are so skewed that even the best of the best would seem as bland as a bowl of chowder. It’s almost embarrassing. It’s the kind of film you have to completely turn your mind off to enjoy, as one split second of complex thought will have you second-guessing

what it is you’re even watching. We’re meant to believe not a single character in this film owns a cell phone, none of them consider the legal repercussions of a single decision they make, and most of all, no one has a brain in their skull. It’s intensely distracting for the kind of film you’re supposed to sit around and think about. The issue with this one is that the longer you think about it, it ages like a slab of ham left out in the sun.

If you couldn’t already tell, this film is a complete pass. Without a second of its runtime being even minorly worthwhile, you’d likely find more entertainment in watching paint dry. It falls into the same tropes we’ve all seen a million times, from the brother dynamic to the ‘x is actually a serial killer’. It’s a tired script that should have been recycled the second someone sat down to write it, and I pity the stain this will leave on the filmography of everyone involved.

Don’t Tell a Soul currently holds a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.9/10 on IMDB.

Movie Recommendation: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

By: Kori Miller

As the winter days and their cold embrace take their toll on us this December, most of us like to get comfortable on the couch with a Christmas-y romance. Most of us, excluding those like myself. I feel like the absence of warmth is an important token of the holiday season, and accompanying that should be films that strike you cold, perhaps in a good way. Taking a trip down memory lane, this month I’d like to remind you of an older flick.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a classic romantic film, but not in the ways you may expect. Joel, a sad, lonely man, is taking a train to nowhere after skipping work on a fluke. On the train he meets Clementine, a bubbly young woman who believes they have met before. He doesn’t think so, but she persists. The two hit it off extremely well, likely because they have met before, and were in love. However it ended poorly, and they both underwent a procedure to erase their memories of one another. 

This film’s movement through chronology and locations demands your attention throughout its runtime. Gondry and Kaufman utilize qualities of cinema that are easy for us to understand, all the while being captivating and complex. Considering a significant portion of the film takes place inside Joel’s mind, we see larger than life events unfolding to remind us that what we are seeing is entirely subjective. The memory “flashbacks” and their utility within the film gives us a look at Joel’s character from perspectives that are unconventional and raw. It’s strikingly enthralling, and you quickly become addicted to Joel and his attachment to the quirky Clementine. 

Moreover, the aesthetic of this picture is easily considered phenomenal. The universe we’re inserted into, albeit a bit campy, is easy to adapt to, almost as if you’ve lived in it your entire life. The colors, the costuming, the lighting, and every ounce of worldbuilding feels comfortable. It’s best described as organic. The events feel consequential, everything feels deliberate and natural. The pain the characters experience is your pain. And when you cry, you cry hard.

Rather than throwing on a Christmas classic, maybe this season would feel more appropriate with Eternal Sunshine. It’s a beautifully spun tale of cut ties, lost romance, and sincerity. I’d recommend it for just about every kind of person. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is available for streaming on Netflix, and currently holds a rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes as well as an 8.3/10 on IMDB.

Love and Monsters: A Post-Apocalyptic (Almost) Romance

By: Kori Miller


With a year as chaotic as this one has been, it’s not exactly easy to find a feel-good film that’ll take you somewhere new. Between the seasonal horrors, aimless cartoons, and senseless action films, where’s the originality? Fortunately, director Michael Matthews decided to break the trends and give us a well-deserved post-apocalyptic quest film. With Dylan O’Brien and Michael Rooker, Love and Monsters might be what you’re looking for.

Love and Monsters follows a burned-out colony dweller, Joel, seven years after the monsterpocalypse took over the world and forced humanity underground. His life has been less than exciting since he gave up everything he once loved for safety. That is until he contacts his highschool sweetheart’s colony over the radio and falls for her all over again. Desperate to rekindle the flame he lost in his teen years, Joel ventures on to the surface with a sole mission: find Aimee. 

Films like these have a very important responsibility; they have to build a convincing universe for our characters to explore. The monsters in this movie are spectacular, each extremely unique and with their own strengths and weaknesses. They blend seamlessly into the world around them. The characters, albeit a bit campy, all have unique motivations and personalities. O’Brien doesn’t hit every time, but his emotional scenes have you hurting for the character in ways you wouldn’t expect.

Other than being good fun for two hours, there’s not a whole lot of comprehensive substance to Love and Monsters. We’re led to believe it’s a romantic quest, but it ends up being less than that. It’s bittersweet with minimal payoff. The universe and its diverse creatures end up being more interesting than the plot itself, reminiscent of similar films like Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them from 2016. It’s a perfect example of filmmakers who put their hearts in the wrong places, making the movie in itself an identity crisis on the big screen.

If you want a quick getaway from the painstakingly boring reality we live in, Love and Monsters is the perfect way to elicit a smile. It’s cute, heartfelt, and genuine when it needs to be. However, if you want something challenging, I’d politely redirect you to another film.

Love and Monsters currently holds a rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7/10 on IMDB.

2020 Presidential Election

By: Kori Miller

If 2020 wasn’t hectic enough, it’s election year in the United States. Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, ran for his second term this year as the Republican candidate. He ran against former Vice President and Senator Joe Biden, who ran as the Democratic candidate. Biden’s name is not one that is unfamiliar in politics; he has served a total of 44 years in our government. Trump, on the other hand, served his first four years in politics as the leader of our country after a career in business and as a television personality. The two have faced off against one another in debates and interviews, but what it really comes down to is the votes.

As of November 17th, Joe Biden has taken the popular vote with 79,046,356 votes, Donald Trump following with 73,320,694. The electoral college currently sits at 290 votes for Biden as opposed to 232 for President Trump. As of today, Georgia has yet to submit its official ballot counts. 

Suspicion of voter fraud due to the increased use of mail-in ballots has called for multiple recounts and lawsuits. While Georgia has currently issued a recount to ensure accuracy, Trump’s team has filed lawsuits against Michigan and Pennsylvania to stop certifying their election results until later this month to give more time for the campaign to handle its legal challenges prior to the federal deadline of December 8th. Because of this, we may not have confirmed or accurate results until much later into the month. 

As it currently stands, Joe Biden is projected to be the US president-elect, and he and Kamala Harris are set to take office on January 20, 2021. Biden has expressed big plans for his term, including a stimulus proposal, a reversal of Trump’s immigration policies, lowering the Medicare eligibility age, a full-fledged COVID-19 team & plan, rejoining the Paris agreement, and many more.  

Halloween Movie Recommendations

By: Kori Miller

One of the best elements of the spooky season is its movies. Many timeless horror movies draw inspiration or a setting from Halloween, making for some timeless classics to watch over and over again. So this October, I’m going to put some of my all-time favorites into the spotlight. I tried to primarily include movies you probably haven’t seen, so enjoy!

Hereditary (2018, R) – Starting the list off strong is a psychological folk-horror that’ll disturb you long after the credits have rolled. Hereditary is an Ari Aster film that follows the estranged happenings that come across the Grahams after their matriarch passes away. Things seem to keep getting worse for the family, and I guarantee you’ll never be able to predict the ending. 10/10

Little Shop Of Horrors (1986, PG-13) – If horror isn’t quite your style, Little Shop Of Horrors might be. It’s a dark comedy musical about a man-eating plant that also happens to be an amazing singer. We follow Seymour, an unfortunate employee at a floral shop after he comes across a fly-trap looking plant with a taste for human flesh. Unsure of what to do, he entertains it… But how long exactly can that go on? 8/10

The Fly (1986, R) – Sometimes all you need to complete your Halloween night is a bit of good ol’ fashioned body horror. The Fly is a film about science, teleportation and… A human fly hybrid. Yeah, it’s pretty gross. 8/10

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988, PG-13) – The title for this one is kind of self-explanatory. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a classic movie about teenagers being terrorized by, you guessed it, killer clowns from outer space. It’s quirky, bizarre, bordering abstract, and a lot of fun to watch with friends. 6/10

Raw (2016, R) – This French movie isn’t exactly for the weak-stomached. A vegetarian girl entering veterinary school partakes in her first bite of flesh as a part of the school’s initiation and immediately undergoes a strange transformation in cravings. She simply cannot get enough meat, no matter where it comes from… including humans. 9/10

What We Do in the Shadows (2014, R) – Ending on a lighter note, What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary-style comedy written by and starring Taika Waititi. It follows a group of vampires from various time periods living together in a flat in New Zealand, and they don’t exactly get along. Our characters spend a majority of the runtime arguing about the dishes or whose turn it is to take out the trash. It’s an ironic setting for immortal killing machines and a perfect spooky comedy. 10/10 

Well, those are the handful of films I’ve selected as my go-to’s for the season. I hope you find something you’ll love this fright night, and please remember to stay in and stay safe! Happy Halloween!

Honorable Mentions: Edward Scissorhands (1990, PG-13), Gremlins (1984, PG), Midsommar (2019, R), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007, R), Heathers (1988, R).

The Lighthouse: A Maritime Nightmare

By: Kori Miller

Movie Poster for The Lighthouse (2019)

Modern directors and a higher demand for quality in films has created a breeding ground for exceptional horror movies. Directors like Ari Aster and Jordan Peele are single-handedly reshaping the genre, and it’s a welcome change. In this instance, it’s Robert Eggers stepping up to the plate with his latest horror film, following The Witch in 2015. With a short and sweet filmography, he has already proven himself to be capable of masterpieces. In 2019, he released The Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse is a psychological horror film that follows Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson), who is serving a contract job as an assistant to a lighthouse keeper (Willem Dafoe) for a month on an isolated island off the coast of England. As the two are eventually stranded with no contact with others and seemingly no hope, the only thing left for them to do is ration their food and pray for the best. However tensions rise as secrets emerge, and the two cannot stay away from each other’s throats for long.

This film has a gritty style, being shot entirely on black and white 30mm film and with a 1.19 to 1 aspect ratio to make it appear older and more sophisticated. This, matched with the combined production value and filming location, makes the real elements almost indistinguishable from the staged ones. And against all odds, it manages to fuse a surprising element of comedy, almost in self-awareness.

The actors are entirely convincing, which ironically poses a challenge for a western release. The filmmakers studied journals kept by old lighthouse keepers to develop convincing accents for the actors to dawn in the film. Due to the unique dialect, the plotline is difficult to follow without aid. This normally wouldn’t be a threat to conventional psychological films, but The Lighthouse is uniquely dialogue-based and a good portion of its relevant scenes require a lot of attention. Additionally, the film’s themes and imagery are rather disturbing which makes it unsuitable for a general audience. These factors create a following for the movie with a very specific taste. Despite the quality, not very many casual film fans took much interest upon its release.

As one of the best-received films of 2019, The Lighthouse holds a rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.5/10 on IMDB.