REVIEW: BAD BLOOD (AKA Wicked Blood)

CAST

Sean Bean (Game of Thrones)
Abigail Breslin (Scream Queens)
James Purefoy (Solomon Kane)
Alexa PenaVega (Spy Kids)
Lew Temple (Rango)
Jake Busey (Fast Sofa)

war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes-2964x2001-2017-hd-7554Hannah Lee Baker is a bright teen girl trapped in the dark Southern underworld of violence and guns, meth labs and vicious biker gangs, and whose only refuge is chess. She lives with Amber, her older sister; and her uncle Donny, an addict. All live in fear of Uncle Frank Stinson, who runs the illegal family business with an iron fist, aided by his psychotic younger brother Bobby. Things change for the worse when Amber falls in love with Wild Bill, a meth trafficker who finds himself at war with Frank. Hannah realizes the only way to save her family is by cleverly scheming to pit one pawn against another in a cunning chess game. wicked-blood-5I did enjoy this much more then I expected to. Overall, nothing amazing or new but it is entertaining and worth seeing.

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REVIEW: SCREAM QUEENS – SEASON 2

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MAIN CAST

Emma Roberts (4.3.2.1)
Kirstie Alley (Star Trek II)
Taylor Lautner (Twilight)
Lea Michele (Glee)
Abigail Breslin (maggie)
Keke Palmer (Scream: The Series)
Billie Lourd (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
James Earl (Gridiron Gang)
John Stamos (Fuller House)
Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Niecy Nash (Claws)
Colton Haynes (Arrow)
Brooke Shields (Freaked)
Glen Powell (Hidden Figures)
Oliver Hudson (Black Xmas)
Trilby Glover (88 Minutes)
Jerry O’Connell (Sliders)
Laura Bell Bundy (Anger Management)
Cheri Oteri (Scary Movie)
Alec Mapa (Ugly Betty)
Ivar Brogger (Andromeda)

Scream Queens’ second season, which manages against all odds to keep continuity with the absurd and funny first season. There’s a similar framing to Season 1, with a mysterious child and a murder kicking off the horror side of the story, but Season 2 seems to be much more interested than riffing off TV hospital dramas than horror tropes. Showrunners Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan found an excuse to bring back the Chanels, Zayday, Dean Dr. Munsch and even Denise Hemphill; later in the season Hester and, yes, Chad returns later in the season. We have newcomers Brock Holt (John Stamos), Cassidy Cascade (Taylor Lautner) and Chamberlain Jackson (James Earl). Jamie Lee Curtis is as fantastic as ever as Dr. Munsch, who used her New New Feminism platform to get the honorary doctorate taken away from Bill Cosby, and decides to take down America’s flawed health care system by creating a new hospital which aims to cure diseases modern medicine has deemed incurable. Everything about this premise is top notch, and echoes the best parts of Scream Queens: Season 1. It’s smart, it’s biting, it’s timely and politically aware, and it lets Curtis do her thing with much pomp and circumstance.There’s a bit of a course correction from Season 1’s finale, which was humorously inspired by the successes of Making a Murderer and The Jinx. Though Hester got away with framing the Chanels, an award-winning Netflix documentary revisited the case and Hester accidentally confessed her crimes to Denise due to a lack of understanding how double jeopardy works. Thus Hester was incarcerated and the Chanels set free, only to still be shunned by society and forced to work odd jobs in the medical industry in an attempt to do some good for the world and rehabilitate their image.

It’s all a convoluted way to get the Chanels, Zayday, Munsch and newcomers Brock and Cassidy in the same place: a hospital that just so happens to be the same one where a murder took place 32 years prior that birthed a green-masked serial killer. Will the murderer be the baby of the murdered man, like in Season 1, or did that swamp actually cause the discarded patient to turn into a mutated monster?Season 2 was a great season, sadly the cliffhanger will never be resovled and we are left wanting more that sadly wont happen.

 

REVIEW: SCREAM QUEENS – SEASON 1

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MAIN CAST

Emma Roberts (4.3.2.1.)
Skyle Samuels (The Stepfather)
Lea Michele (Glee)
Glen Powell (Ride Along 2)
Diego Boneta (Mean Girls 2)
Abigail Breslin (Zombieland)
Keke Palmer (Barbershop 2)
Oliver Hudson (The Breed)
Nasim Pedrad (New Girl)
Lucien Laviscount (Trollied)
Billie Lourd (Star Wars 7)
Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Ariana Grande (Victorious)
Jan Hoag (Faster)
Nick Jonas (Goat)
Breezy Eslin (Faking It)
Grace Phipps (The Vampire Diaries)
Niecy Nash (Guess Who)
Charisma Carpenter (Angel)
Chad Michael Murray (Agent Carter)
Patrick Schwarzenegger (Grown Ups 2)

Scream Queens never has been and never was going to be a show that worked for everyone. From the start, its sense of humor, its “girls are better” commentary and its writing style were divisive; either you found it hilarious and were on or you were turned off from the get-go and weren’t going to tune back in. I fell into the first category. Emma Roberts’ performance as Chanel Oberlin was fantastic camp, the bathtub baby story at the core of the show was a fun mystery and I appreciated the balance of horror movie and teen/college comedies tropes that creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan played with.We’ve gone from a time where 24-episode seasons were the norm to a time when 10- to 13-episode arcs is a preferred storytellers medium, but in Scream Queens’ case it works well. It’s clear that Murphy, Brennan and Falchuk revelled in writing to their premise, and it was in standalone sequences which showcased that fun that Scream Queens was at its best. When I think back to the highlights of Season 1, I think of Chanel’s scathing missive in “Dorkus” and the running cotton balls-as-meals gag and the hilarious ways Denise Hemphill would tell ghost stories. Every time I try to keep track of how Gigi, Boone and Pete (and to a lesser extent Hester) would go back and cover their tracks and get away with murdering people but not being suspected, I get a headache.The actors who shone in Scream Queens were the ones who were able to fully commit themselves to the camp. Glen Powell stole the show as Chad Radwell, and it’s a shame he was so lacking toward the end of the season. Niecy Nash was perfectly ludicrous as Denise Hemphill, and the music cues that went along with her character complimented that fantastically.Two Murphy alums, Emma Roberts and Lea Michele, continued to prove that they’re great at delivering his dialogue. Roberts in particular was a standout for me, and I relished every bitchy, whiny Chanel line she would give us. There’s one scene in particular from the finale when Denise’s stripper cops were arresting Chanel and she was resisting with all the loose-limbed anguish of a toddler having a temper tantrum that highlighted for me just how much she understood this part. Chanel is the caricature of the popular girl stereotype, but she is so committed to herself being the hero of her story — something that’s hilariously highlighted in episodes where she narrates — that most of the joke is how obtusely un-self-aware she is.For Michele, she had the burden of playing the mastermind for a season without knowing that Hester was the lead killer. Michele was so playing against type that it was fun to see her sink her teeth into a grotesquely unattractive character like Hester. It will be fun to go back and rewatch from the beginning with the knowledge that Hester is the one pulling the strings, but the fact that Michele didn’t find out about that until the final episode likely means there’s not going to be too much new information to glean from her performance.Other flashy additions to the cast, like Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Jonas, made their characters their own, but other stars like Skyler Samuels as Grace, Oliver Hudson as Wes, Diego Boneta as Pete, Abigail Breslin as Chanel #5 and Keke Palmer as Zayday each of them had memorable scenes and clear highlights from Season 1.At least Scream Queens did stick the landing, as the final hour, “The Final Girl(s),” was the best episode of the series since the premiere. Finally fully understanding the full scope of the Red Devil Killers’ plan — and particularly Hester’s role in it — was a great payoff, and Michele chewed screen time now that she finally knew what she was playing to.The Season 1 ride was a fun ride, with season 2 now airing it’s gping to be great to see what the seconded chapter holds.

REVIEW: SIGNS

 

CAST

Mel Gibson (Mad Max)
Joaquin Pheonix (Quills)
Rory Culkin (Scream 4)
Abigail Breslin (Scream Queens)
M. Night Shyamalan (Split)
Patricia Kalember (Limitless)
Merritt Wever (Birdman)

Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), a former priest, lives with his asthmatic son, Morgan (Rory Culkin), his daughter Bo (Abigail Breslin) who leaves glasses of water around the house for various reasons, and his younger brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), a failed minor league baseball player, on an isolated farm in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Hess has lost his faith and gave up his priesthood after his wife, Colleen, died in a traffic accident caused by a town local, Ray Reddy (Shyamalan).One morning, Graham discovers a crop circle in his field. While investigating the crop circle with the local law enforcement, Graham learns of animals becoming violent across town. Morgan is forced to kill one of the family dogs when it turns violent against Bo. They hear reports of crop circles appearing around the globe, and there are reports of lights from invisible objects over Mexico. Later, Graham and Merrill find the farm is being watched by a tall dark figure which disappears into the fields when they give chase. The next day, they hear strange noises over a baby monitor, but cannot find their source. Graham approaches the crop circle but on seeing a green leg sticking out of the cornrows, flees back to the house.After opening up to Merrill about the death of his wife, noting that her last words were “tell Merrill to swing away”, Graham goes to visit Ray, the first time since the incident. When Graham is gone, Merrill and the children watch a news report about footage taken of an alien creature in Brazil, showing that the aliens can blend into their surroundings. Merrill joins the children in wearing tin foil hats, believing the aliens can read their minds. At Ray’s, Graham finds Ray is bleeding from an injury but otherwise apologetic for the accident. After Graham accepts his apology, Ray departs for a nearby lake, saying “they” do not like water. Graham finds Ray has trapped one of the aliens in his pantry, and tries to see what the alien looks like using a kitchen knife under the door; the alien grabs at him, and Graham reacts by cutting off its fingers before fleeing. On his return, and hearing news that more lights have been seen in the skies across the globe, the Hess family decides to stay at their house instead of leaving for the lake, barricading the doors and windows.After an emotionally charged dinner, they hear the same noises on the baby monitor before their television signal drops out, and place the final barricades and defenses before they gather together. As the aliens attempt to gain entry into the house, the family discovers they have left the attic door unguarded and quickly retreat to the basement. The aliens assault the basement door and in the subsequent chaos the light goes out as Graham and Merrill prevent their entry. However, Morgan suffers an asthma attack when the aliens attempt to enter by way of an old coal chute. By morning, reports on the radio reveal that the aliens have left Earth as suddenly as they arrived. Graham leaves the basement to locate Morgan’s asthma inhaler, the others following him. But they discover an alien, the one trapped in Ray’s home, is still there, and takes Morgan hostage. Colleen’s last words come back to Graham, and he instructs Merrill to “swing away” with a baseball bat from his minor league days. Merrill attacks the alien but not before it attempts to poison Morgan by spraying him with a toxin from its body. Graham recovers his son when the alien drops him and takes Morgan outside with his medication. Merrill continues to attack the alien, causing it to fall onto the ground, knocking over one of the glasses of water Bo had left and splashing it with water. The water reacts like acid on its skin, making it scream in agony. Merrill strikes the alien against furniture where it is doused with water full on its face, and dies. Outside, Graham administers Morgan’s medicine and waits for his son to wake up, hoping that due to his lungs being closed from his previous asthma attack he was spared. Then, Morgan wakes up and the family rejoices.Some time later, the Hess family has recovered from the incident and they appear to be doing much better than before. In the final scene, Graham is shown returning to his priestly duties, apparently having regained his faith.Just as Unbreakable slowly revealed itself to be Superman re-thought as an intense personal drama, this is The Birds redone as a religious drama of faith lost and perhaps regained. The tone is less certain than the earlier films–some of the laughs seem unintentional and Gibson’s performance isn’t quite on a level with Willis’s commitment–but Shyamalan still directs the suspense and shock dramas better than anyone else.

REVIEW: MAGGIE

CAST

Arnold Schwarzenegger (Conan The Barbarian)
Abigail Breslin (Scream Queens)
Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck)
Douglas M. GBriffin (mr. Right)
J.d. Evermore (Django Unchained)
Rachel Whitman Groves (Claws)

In the present-day Midwestern United States, society struggles to function in the aftermath of a zombie pandemic barely under control (Necroambulism). Maggie Vogel (Abigail Breslin) calls her father from a broken city under curfew; her voicemail urges that he not seek her and that she loves him. Her arm was bitten. Knowing she has only weeks before the “Necroambulist virus” turns her cannibalistic, she left home to protect her family. Maggie’s father Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has searched two weeks, despite her warning. Finding her in a hospital for the infected, he brings Maggie home to care for her until she must eventually be quarantined. During their return, a zombie attacks Wade at an abandoned gasoline station and he breaks its neck.At home, Maggie’s younger half-siblings Bobby and Molly (Aidan and Carsen Flowers) are leaving to stay with their aunt. Maggie talks to Bobby, who mostly understands what she is undergoing. She withdraws from her family, struggling to cope with her hopeless situation and torn about contacting her friends. Falling from a swing, she breaks a finger on her infected arm, from which black fluid oozes. Terrified, even though she feels little or no pain, and despairing over her deteriorating body, Maggie cuts off the finger. She flees outside and encounters a neighbor, Nathan, and his young daughter, both senseless with infection. Wade kills both zombies but feels extreme remorse. The responding sheriffs consider Wade blameless, instead blaming Nathan’s wife Bonnie, who hid her infected family from the authorities. Bonnie visits Wade that night, decrying the dehumanizing treatment of the infected and revealing that Nathan had locked himself in with his sick daughter, becoming infected himself, rather than abandon her to death among strangers in quarantine.A doctor warns Wade that Maggie’s condition is worsening quickly, leaving him three eventual options: she can be quarantined, which Wade refuses; Wade can administer at home the same euthanasia injection offered in quarantine, which he’s warned is painful; or Wade can “make it quick” himself. Wade and Maggie make the most of their remaining days, reminiscing about Maggie’s deceased mother. Despite Maggie’s physical deterioration (she’s woken by maggots wriggling in her dying arm) she struggles to maintain normality. She attends a bonfire with high school friends Allie and an infected boy, Trent (Bryce Romero), whom Maggie previously dated, and whom she kisses. He tells rumors of horrible conditions at the quarantine facilities, saying he would die before going there.One day, Maggie smells food near her stepmother Caroline (Joely Richardson), though Caroline smells nothing and muses that Wade must be cooking downstairs. Finding the kitchen empty, Caroline realizes in horror that Maggie has begun to smell living flesh, in this case Caroline’s, as food. Maggie receives a desperate call from Trent. At his home, Trent has locked himself inside his bedroom after he too felt hunger smelling another human. Maggie tries to comfort him but watches helplessly as the police forcibly remove Trent to quarantine.Back home, Maggie encounters a trapped fox in the woods. Later she runs into her home, hysterical and coated in blood, admitting through tears to her frightened parents that she freed the fox but then couldn’t stop herself from attacking it. Wade shoots the half-eaten fox. Caroline departs and urges Wade it’s time Maggie is taken away. Two officers arrive and Wade fights one of them before Maggie appears, assuring them she has not yet turned. The sympathetic sheriff leaves Wade with a warning that he’d better decide what to do with her before they next come to check on Maggie.Wade shows Maggie white daisies he’s grown in her mother’s old garden, “Daisy” being a nickname he sometimes uses for Maggie. She thanks him for the garden’s beauty, but also begs him to promise that he will “make it stop” before she grows worse. Later, Wade sits alone with his shotgun, still unable to use it. He pretends to sleep when Maggie approaches, her skin now gray and her eyes blackened. She lingers over him, smelling him, seemingly on the edge of self-control, before kissing his forehead. She then climbs to the roof and jumps off, her last memories being of herself as a child frolicking outdoors with her mother, picking a daisy.This is in many ways a good, strange and different film, it is a zombie film, but not in the way you would expect, this is a drama about a dad finding and taking care of his daughter in her last days of an illness. The illness being she is turning into a zombie. I was entertained throughout, it’s a good Zombie Drama movie.

REVIEW: ENDER’S GAME

CAST

Asa Butterfield (Hugo)
Harrison Ford (Star wars)
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Abigail Breslin (Scream Queens)
Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3)
Viola Davis (Suicide Squad)
Nonso Anozie (Cinderella)
Brandon Soo Hoo (Tropic thunder)

In the future, humanity is preparing to launch an attack on the homeworld of an alien race called the Formics who had attacked Earth and killed millions; however, their invasion was stopped by Mazer Rackham, who crashed his fighter plane into a Formic queen ship, stopping the invasion at the apparent cost of his life. Over the course of fifty years, gifted children are trained by the International Fleet to become commanders of a new fleet for this counter-attack.Cadet Andrew “Ender” Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) draws the attention of Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Gwen Anderson (Viola Davis) by his aptitude in simulated space combat. They order the removal of his monitor, signifying the end of the cadet program. Ender is attacked by Stilson, a student he defeated in the combat sim, but Ender fights back and severely injures him. Ender confesses his grief to his older sister Valentine, but is harassed further by their older brother Peter. Graff arrives to reveal he was being tested and is still part of the program. Graff brings Ender to Battle School, placing Ender with other cadets his age, but treats him as extraordinary, ostracizing him from the others.Among other studies, the cadets are placed in squads and perform training games in a zero gravity “Battle Room”. Ender quickly adapts to the games, devising new strategies older students have not yet seen. Graff reassigns Ender to Salamander Army, led by Commander Bonzo Madrid. Bonzo, believing that Ender is inept due to his size, prevents him from training with the rest of the squad. Another cadet, Petra Arkanian, takes Ender and trains him privately. While Bonzo is aware of this, he does not take any action against Petra. In one match, Bonzo orders Ender to stay behind while the rest of the Salamander Army fights another team; however, seeing Petra in trouble, Ender comes to her aid and helps the Salamander Army win. After the match, Bonzo is humiliated by the other students and threatens Ender if he embarrasses him again.Meanwhile, Ender plays a computerized “mind game” set in a fantasy world aimed to present difficult choices to the player. In one situation, Ender creates an outside the box solution to overcome a seemingly unsolvable problem. Later, he encounters a Formic in the game, and then a simulated image of Valentine entering the ruins of a castle. Inside, he finds another image of Valentine but as he nears, it turns into an image of Peter before the game ends.Graff promotes Ender to his own squad, made from other students that have gained Ender’s trust. They are put in increasingly difficult battles. In one match against two other teams including Bonzo’s squad, Ender devises a novel strategy of sacrificing part of his team to achieve a goal, impressing Graff. Bonzo accosts Ender in the bathroom after the match, but Ender fights back and Bonzo falls during the struggle, seriously injured. Distraught over this, Ender prepares to quit Battle School, but Graff has Valentine speak to him and convince him to continue.Graff takes Ender to humanity’s forward base on a former Formic planet near their homeworld. There, Ender meets Mazer Rackham, who explains how he spotted the shared-mind nature of the Formics to stop the attack fifty years prior. Ender finds that his former squad members are also here to help him train in computerized simulations of large fleet combat; Rackham puts special emphasis on the fleet’s Molecular Detachment (MD) Device that is capable of disintegrating matter.[note 1] Ender’s training is rigorous and Anderson expresses concern they are pushing Ender too fast, but Graff notes they have run out of time to replace Ender.Ender’s final test is monitored by several of the fleet commanders. As the simulation starts, Ender finds his fleet over the Formic homeworld and vastly outnumbered. He orders most of his fleet to sacrifice themselves to protect the MD long enough to fire on the homeworld. The simulation ends, and Ender believes the test is over, but the commanders restart the video screens, showing that the destruction of the Formic homeworld was real and Ender had been controlling the real fleet this time. Despite Graff’s assurance he will be known as a hero, Ender is furious as he feels responsible for the annihilation and everyone will remember him as a killer.As Ender struggles with his emotions, he recognizes one of the Formic structures nearby similar to the ruined castle from the game, and believing they were trying to communicate with him, races out towards it. He follows the path set by the game, and encounters a dying Formic queen. The Queen acknowledges Ender’s role in the genocide of their race, but that he simply wanted peace in the long term and forgives him. The Queen later gives Ender a queen egg that it had been protecting. After the war, Ender is promoted to Admiral, given a small ship, and left to his own devices. In a letter to Valentine, he tells her that he is going into deep space, determined to form a new Formic colony with the queen egg.Ultimately the climax of this movie and its main message is what sets it apart from many other Sci-Fi films. The emotion is very much there, and anyone willing to give this film a try will not be disappointed.

REVIEW: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

CAST

Meryl Streep (Into The Woods)
Julia Roberts (Mirror Mirror)
Chris Cooper (The Bourne Identity)
Ewan McGregor (Big Fish)
Margo Martindale (Orphan)
Sam Shepard (Swordfish)
Dermot Mulroney (The Grey)
Julianne Nicholson (Kinsey)
Juliette Lewlis (Natural Born Killers)
Abigail Breslin (Scream Queens)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange)
Newell Alexander (Sordid Lives)

The title designates time and location: an unusually hot August in a rural area outside Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard), an alcoholic, once-noted poet, interviews and hires a young native American woman Johnna (Misty Upham) as a live-in cook and caregiver for his strong-willed and contentious wife Violet (Meryl Streep), who is suffering from oral cancer and addiction to narcotics. Shortly after this, he disappears from the house, and Violet calls her sister and daughters for support. Her sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) arrives with husband Charles Aiken (Chris Cooper). Violet’s middle daughter Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is single and the only one living locally; Barbara (Julia Roberts), her oldest, who has inherited her mother’s mean streak, arrives from Colorado with her husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and 14-year-old daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin). Barbara and Bill are separated, but they put up a united front for Violet.After five days, the sheriff arrives with the news that Beverly took his boat out on the lake and has drowned. Youngest daughter Karen (Juliette Lewis) arrives with the latest in a string of boyfriends, Steve Huberbrecht (Dermot Mulroney), a sleazy Florida businessman whom she introduces as her fiancé. Mattie Fae and Charles’s shy, awkward son “Little Charles” (Benedict Cumberbatch) misses the funeral because he overslept and is met at the bus station by his father. Charles loves his son, whereas Mattie constantly belittles him. Ivy confides to Barbara that she is in love with her cousin, “Little Charles”, who plans to move to New York, and she cannot have children because she had a hysterectomy. She feels this is her only chance to finally marry.The family sits down to dinner after the funeral, fueled by Violet’s brutal “truth telling”, which results in Barbara pouncing on her mother. She decides she has had enough of her mother’s drug addiction and confiscates all her several kinds of pills. Later, after Violet has had a chance to sober up, she has a tender moment with her daughters and shares a story that demonstrates how cruel her own mother was when she longed for a new pair of cowgirl boots when she was in her early teens.As “Little Charles” sings Ivy a song he has written for her, Mattie Fae walks in and berates him. This exhausts Charles’s patience with his wife’s lack of love and compassion for her son, and he threatens to leave her if she keeps it up. Mattie subsequently reveals to Barbara, who unintentionally listened in, that she had a long-ago affair with Beverly, and Charles is in fact their younger half-brother and that is the true reason why Ivy and “Little Charles” cannot be together. That evening, Steve and Jean are playfully sharing a joint of marijuana. Johnna sees this and, sensing that he intends on molesting her, goes after him with a shovel. Barbara confronts Jean and slaps her. This impels Bill to take Jean back to Colorado, leaving Barbara. Karen also leaves with Steve.Later, Ivy tries to tell her mother about her love for “Little Charles”. Barbara tries to deflect the admission. Violet tells Ivy Charles is actually her brother, something she knew all along. Ivy leaves and promises to never come back. In the last confrontation between Violet and Barbara, Violet admits she was contacted by Beverly from his motel the week after he had left home, but did nothing to help him until after she removed money from the couple’s joint safe deposit box. By this time he had already drowned. This revelation leads Barbara to depart, realizing that her mother has slipped beyond help. Violet is left with only Johnna. Barbara is driving through the plains, stops, gets out of the car, cries then gets back in the car and follows signage showing highways and number of miles to Wichita, Salina and Denver.Fantastic film – see it if you enjoy witty, clever writing, a strong storyline and a first rate cast.