Happy Labor Day

by Chance Lee Joyner

Movies About Toxic Workplaces in 100 Words or Less

The Assistant (2019)

Jane (Julia Garner, Ozark) works as the assistant to a powerful Hollywood executive. Her job is the same as anyone else’s: doing menial tasks for a big boss. However, her boss is a dramatized version of Harvey Weinstein, and Jane starts to realize what an abusive creep her employer is. Can she do anything to stop him? Garner gives a riveting performance in this bleak drama.

Compliance (2012)

At a fast-food restaurant, the manager (Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale) receives a call from a man claiming to be a cop. The officer convinces her that one of her staff members (Dreama Walker, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23), is a thief. To prove it, the cop asks the manager to strip search her employee. This intense thriller takes unbelievable turns. If you think it is implausible, the movie is based on a true story. 

Up in the Air (2009)

A pair of corporate downsizers named Ryan and Natalie (George Clooney and Anna Kendrick) fly around the country to fire people when their own bosses are unwilling to do it themselves. As they travel coast to coast, making a living by ruining the lives of others, they face their own existential crises. Vera Farmiga plays a charming flight attendant who is Ryan’s “in the air” love interest. Directed by Jason Reitman (Juno), the film’s terminated employees are played by real people who thought they were filming a documentary about unemployment. 

9 to 5 (1980)

“I’m gonna change you from a rooster to a hen in one shot!” – Doralee Rhodes (Dolly Parton)

American Psycho (1999)

Corporate life is a killer. Literally. In this film, based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, Patrick Batemen (Christian Bale) is an executive in murders and execut… er, mergers and acquisitions for a major New York City firm. The film is a showcase for Bale’s transformative talents. Directed and written by women (Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner) the film is an improvement on the novel. Come for the savage 1980s satire, stay to watch Jared Leto be dismembered with an ax while Huey Lewis and the News sings “Hip to be Square.”

Murderous Mothers

by Chance Lee Joyner

Mother’s Day movie picks in 100 words or less

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992)

The Bartel family hires the perfect nanny, Peyton Flanders (Rebecca De Mornay). Unbeknownst to them, Peyton plans to destroy the family from the inside because she blames them for her miscarriage. De Mornay owns her iconic role as the psychotic caretaker. Realistic performances from the family (Annabella Sciorra, Matt McCoy) ground an otherwise campy and outrageous premise. Julianne Moore has a small role as Claire Bartel’s BFF, a brassy chainsmoker skeptical of Peyton’s plans. After watching this thriller, you’ll never look at a greenhouse the same way again.

Serial Mom (1994)

Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner) is the perfect housewife: she cooks, cleans, recycles, and takes care of her teenage children (Ricki Lake, Matthew Lillard). She also murders anyone who goes against her ideal suburban lifestyle. This irreverent black comedy is the most fun and accessible work by cult filmmaker John Waters. When Beverly is arrested after a string of murders, she represents herself in court and becomes a national phenomenon – and a hero to frustrated housewives nationwide. 

Carrie (2013)

A few subtle changes make Kimberly Peirce’s remake more sympathetic toward the tortured heroine than Brian de Palma’s sleazy 1976 original. Chloe Grace Moretz assumes the role of the young teen confused by budding telekinetic powers – as if high school wasn’t hard enough. Things are made worse by her domineering, abusive mother, played by Julianne Moore in a no-holds-barred performance. Ansel Elgort co-stars as the charming but doomed Tommy Ross. Worth a look even for fans of the original. 

Friday the 13th (1980)

As all horror fans know, Jason Voorhees and his iconic hockey mask is not the villain of the first installment in the long-running Friday the 13th franchise. It’s his mother, Pamela. Mrs. Voorhees blames the neglectful counselors of Camp Crystal Lake for the drowning death of her son, Jason. To enact her revenge, she dispatches them one by one in a variety of gruesome ways. Did she deserve to be branded a villain, or was she just doing what any mom in her position would do?

Ma (2019)

Sue Ann Ellington (Octavia Spencer) aka “Ma” wants to be the fun mom. She lets the local teens party and drink in her basement. However, Ma has ulterior motives. She plans to use the teens to get back at their parents for what they did to her many years ago. Octavia Spencer plays Ma as totally cuckoo bananas the way no one else ever could. Don’t make her drink alone!

Hold on to your Heart ♡

By Chance Lee Joyner

Anti-Valentine’s Day movie picks in 100 words or less

In the Cut (2003)

Franny, a New York professor (Meg Ryan), begins a steamy affair with NYPD detective Malloy, played by Mark Ruffalo. Malloy is investigating a gruesome murder. Franny may be a key witness, and he might actually be the killer. Sadly, the film’s biggest victim was Meg Ryan’s career, as this was one of her last major studio roles. Like its characters, this movie is tightly wound and misunderstood. Jennifer Jason Leigh gives a vivacious performance as Franny’s sister. This dark romance understands the dangers and the allure of toxic masculinity. Based on the novel by Susanna Moore.

Fatal Attraction (1987)

An all-time classic, this film is “not going to be ignored”! The affair between Dan (Michael Douglas) and Alex (Glenn Close) defined this type of thriller and continues to serve as a template almost fifty years later. For a more modern twist, check out Adrian Lynde’s 2002 masterpiece, Unfaithful, with Richard Gere and Diane Lane or the Ben Affleck/Ana de Armas helmed Deep Water, only available on Hulu.

Play Misty for Me (1971)

Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut shares a similar plot to Fatal Attraction. Dave (Eastwood), a radio DJ, becomes entangled with an obsessive fan, Evelyn, played by a deliciously unhinged Jessica Walter. A key moment features the Edgar Allen Poe poem “Annabel Lee.”

Boy Next Door (2015)

A gender-swapped Fatal Attraction, this film stars Jennifer Lopez as Claire, a teacher having an affair with Noah, one of her male students (Ryan Guzman). Kristin Chenoweth is a firecracker as Vicky, Claire’s friend and the vice principal at her school. When Claire tries to break off the illicit affair, Noah becomes unhinged, targeting her friends and family. A slow boil with an over-the-top ending. Suspenseful, but with genuine camp factor, such as when Noah gifts Claire a first-edition copy of Homer’s The Odyssey.

Sliver (1993)

Sharon Stone’s steamy follow-up to Basic Instinct, Sliver is a less well-regarded, but perhaps superior thriller. Also penned by Instinct scribe Joe Esterhas, this film stars Stone as Carly. Upon moving into a luxurious apartment, a murder occurs in the building and Carly discovers hidden cameras watching her every move. She begins a passionate affair with Zeke, a video game designer played by a characteristically uncharismatic William Baldwin. A twisty plot and a shining Stone make this forgotten flick worth a look. Based on the novel by Ira Levin.

The Power of the Dog (2021)

Directed by Jane Campion (also the director of In the Cut) this Western explores the attraction between an overly masculine cowboy named Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his sister-in-law’s effeminate son (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Once again, Campion tackles the theme of masculinity, although this time with a predominantly male cast. Kirsten Dunst, as one of the only female characters, delivers a riveting performance as Phil’s tormented sister-in-law. Based on the novel by Thomas Savage.

Ralph G. Robeson Hero Square

The Ralph G. Robeson hero square is one of the many sites in Tyngsborough that honor a fallen soldier or first responder.