movie reviews · tv review · Uncategorized

Reviews: A TV Show, A Movie, A Drama

For Beginners

Stranger Things season 2 was an inevitable thing considering the enormous popularity of the first season. As a whole, I think it succeeds but I have a few qualms. First of all, my feelings about the side characters are two fold. On the one hand, I struggle to see how they stand on their own throughout the season; I even question some of their significance such as Maxine’s stepbrother who is a dick for basically no other reason than being a dick. With that said, however, some of the success of Stranger Things is the fact that it juggles so many characters but gives each one their moment in the spotlight. It takes a while for some of the characters to show their true deal and sometimes I feel the side characters are just used to create tension in the plot like Bob.

Image result for stranger things season 2 gif

As conflicted as I feel about the side characters, I do like that the show continued to expand our core cast of characters with the exception of Will and Joyce. I wish Will hadn’t spent the entire season unconscious or confused or seeing visions. I think there wasn’t enough time for him to really develop as a character what with him being entirely missing in S1 and unconscious for much of S2. I also wish Joyce didn’t spend all season screaming. However, I feel as though the dynamics of the group are ever evolving in a good way. They are each trying to find their own identity outside of the group and because of that they spend a significant amount of time away from each other. Dustin discovers a new creature that he wants to keep despite the group’s skepticism. Mike is still trying to get Eleven back. Lucas is grappling with his feelings for Maxine. I’m very pleased with Eleven’s story arc as well even though the storyline with finding her mom was a little tedious. She finally figures out what her powers mean to her and how she wants to use them.

I have to say I was so very happy about what happened between Nancy and Jonathan, my OTP of this show. I like that Nancy really got to shine on her own. It was somewhat marred by the fact that Steve did not get any closure from this but I’ll take it and hope he gets some more development next season. And let me just say, I did not know I needed Steve as an unwilling babysitter till now. I completely love Steve as a character this season. He is an incredibly funny character and he plays it just right.

Image result for steve harrington season 2 gif

The cliffhanger was unsatisfying to me because I thought the entire season was about just this thing (that I won’t spoil). The plot continued to be compelling and it definitely got pretty gruesome at parts for a family show but I’m all for it. But side note, what is up with all the cliche one-liners? B+

For Beginners (1).png

Lady Bird is only one of a slew of coming of age movies that I’ve had the pleasure to watch in the past couple of years. It’s about a girl named Christine, or as she dubs herself, “Lady Bird”, in her final year of high school. I have to say it’s one of the most stylistically unique. It moves in vignettes and mere snapshots of Lady Bird’s life with no sense of beginning, middle, or even end. It just feels like you’re watching little video clips spliced together as she tries to figure out to get out of California and get into college to a school on the East Coast. She is misunderstood but that misunderstanding is as much a result of her own perception of herself as those of the perceived perceptions of her from the people around her such as her father, her brother, her friends, her love interests, and especially her mom. A hodgepodge of juxtapositions herself, she is romantic but crass, she is delusional but also very grounded in reality, she is an outcast but wants to fit in.

Image result for lady bird movie gif

She has a frustrating relationship with her mom and I like that they spend an equal amount of time focusing on all her relationships, romantic, familial, and friends.

No scene really begins with a clear purpose; no scene ends with a clear resolution. It could just be a clip of her and her mom shopping at the mall and then cutting to a scene of her at school. It is beautifully acted, often feeling more improv than scripted which is only a testament to the natural dialogue. Everything feels just well balanced. A lovely coming of age movie. A

For Beginners (2)

It is rare for me for me to have completed a kdrama and give it a B. Usually, I know it’s a B from the first few episodes and just quit it. You can see from my previous reviews of Descendants of the Sun, Age of Youth, Signal, and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo that I gave all of them A’s and if I didn’t, such as Tomorrow with You, I have already stopped watching by the 3rd episode. Despite the cons of the drama, I loved the poignancy of this drama and what it has to say about the institution of marriage. Ji Ho is a quiet, mousy 30 year old who wants to make it as a writer. She desperately needs a room while she is looking for jobs after quitting her first one as an assistant writer. She finds a room with Se Hee who just wants a roommate who will recycle and look after his cat and pay the rent so he can pay back his debts. They don’t ask for much from life, just a place to stay, food, and the ability to watch soccer games in their spare time.

Image result for because this is my first life cat

They fall in love, obviously, as one can only expect in a kdrama. This will not be the first time there is a marriage contract based korean drama nor will it be the last. It is, however, unique in many ways. Even though Ji Ho and Se Hee are the main characters, they are not exactly the type of main characters I usually gravitate towards and they are not charismatic enough to hold the storyline together. It’s a good thing then that the show focuses also on Ji Ho’s two best friends, Ho Rang and Soo Ji and interesting opposite studies on their own. Ho Rang goal in life is to get married, have kids, and be a good housewife. Soo Ji works at a big male-dominated company and dreams of becoming a CEO of her own company. The drama directly explores gender dynamics in a relationship such as proposals, sexual harassment in the workplace, and patriarchy in the family head on. The very subjects that Korean dramas never, ever, ever explore.

It’s even better that the drama does not take any sides on these issues but instead portrays the characters to the best of its ability and allows viewers to make their own opinion. It does not take Ho Rang’s side or Soo Ji’s side or even Ji Ho’s side although it could be said that it supports all these characters equally in their endeavors. On top of that, I will always support a drama that supports their female friendships. It asks us if she can live her life even if she doesn’t become her life-long career of being a writer. It tell us how complicated but how simple it is to love someone. And most importantly, it asks these characters what it means to live a meaningful life to them.

Image result for because this is my first life

The main reason for my B rating are the last few episodes. I think it’s a shame that the previous explored these issues so deeply and carefully that the rushed last episodes felt like a bow slapped onto an almost finished present. I was especially dissatisfied with Ho Rang’s ending. I think what hurt the drama was that the writers thought, as with all kdramas, that there had to be an HEA when it would have been perfectly fine and even more emotionally enriching to have a more ambiguous ending. However, its poignant moments and its thoughtful dialogue on what it means to live a meaningful life make this worth watching. B

sig

movie reviews · Uncategorized

Mini Movie Reviews: Summer Movies

Wonder Woman | Directed by Patty Jenkins | Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine | B

It’s hard to live up to the expectation of being the most anticipated movie of the year. I can say that Wonder Woman both lived up to and disappointed those expectations. And I Image result for wonder woman movie posterthink in the movie’s essence, Jenkins really understood who Wonder Woman is at the core. She is someone who is a little naive and idealistic but ultimately resiliently caring and kind and that is who Wonder Woman has been since her inception in 1941. So even though the pacing was a little clunky and it falls into the same traps of typical superhero movies like a predictable and obvious villain and side characters that are not developed enough to be memorable, it still felt true to its heroine. What is slightly different is that Jenkins at least allows the development of small character moments both serious and humorous making sure that the small details about these characters are not slipping through. Just the small lines about babies and ice cream is enough to establish a baseline for the character. Of course, that allows the interactions between Wonder Woman and Steven Trevor to shine through and it was honestly where a lot of the humor came from. I do wish they had done a better job of establishing why Wonder Woman is the way she is. The way they portrayed her made it seem as if she was born like this; I wish they had showed some sort of catalyst. And I think sometimes she jumps a little too quickly to violence even though a big part of her character is showing mercy and kindness to all. Like any summer blockbuster, it’s not all about the characters, Wonder Woman revels in the dramatic and slow motion stylized action moments which is probably why the action sequences were some of the best parts of the entire movie. They felt adequately long and really built on each moment instead of being one long overdrawn battle sequence.  My forever favorite scene is when Wonder Woman walks into No Man’s Land to block the bullets and clear the way for the rest of the soldiers to come through. If anything else, Wonder Woman is inspirational precisely because, however cheesy it is, it is ultimately committed to its sincerity and that makes up for a lot of its flaws.

Everything, Everything | Directed by Stella Meghie | Starring Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson | C

Look, this is just not a good movie. Plain and simple. The entire movie felt like one long awkward conversation with excruciating pauses between dialogue and long, silent stares that last minutes too long. One of the biggest pitfalls of the movie is failing to establish aImage result for everything everything movie poster sense of chemistry and urgency. In a movie, if you are going to tell a romantic story about a couple, you must, must, must take the time to establish the individual characters first. I knew a lot about Maddy throughout but I don’t really know anything about Ollie. At all really. What are his dreams, his desires, his motivations, his fears? Without them, he has been spit out from the generic boyfriend machine. Even her mother who has a side role in the movie had better development than him. I wish I could see what the screenwriter of this movie was thinking because the dialogue felt so misplaced most of the time. Cheesy lines felt even cheesier than usual and serious lines were just plain hilarious. On top of that, they failed to establish a relationship between the two characters mostly due to the mediocre writing. So when climactic events occur, you can bet I did not feel a single thing and it’s not because I have a heart of stone this time. But more than that, there is no sense of real danger; I never thought for a second Maddy was in any danger of dying from SCID (and I haven’t read the book), and therefore, no real sense of loss and ultimately growth for these characters. I suppose if you’re in the right mood for a dramatic teen love story, I suppose you can watch this and have a good laugh but otherwise I recommend a hard pass.

Dunkirk | Directed by Christopher Nolan | Starring Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy | B

Dunkirk is the latest of Nolan’s impressive filmography so I expected nothing less than something stellar. I suppose maybe I am too used to blockbuster war movies (the last one I saw was Hacksaw Ridge) or other stylized ones in general. And while I appreciate the Image result for dunkirkcraft behind making this film, it was more apparent to me that the story lacked something. It starts off intriguing, a young soldier walking through a deserted neighborhood and for the first some 30 minutes after he almost barely speaks a word of dialogue. For the most part, this provides a sense of mystery, you don’t know this boy’s (I don’t think his name is ever mentioned) motivations, his desires, his fears. I suppose those things aren’t needed for a movie that is about, as Nolan states himself, survival. How he portrays the characters is at once it’s biggest strength but also it’s biggest weakness. Nolan flits between characters and their perspectives for a time before flitting back to another character. And even though I usually love that careful attention on small character moments, this time I wasn’t as satisfied with it. Usually in war films, there’s a period where the soldiers will reveal parts of their lives before they became a soldier and it turns into a point of emotional investment from the audience to the character but here we don’t get that. But even if we did not get the back story I would have at least wanted a better sense of motivation and desire. The characters just feel like faces in the crowd. And if Nolan wanted to portray survival, I think he only touched on surface level facets of survival that could have been explored deeper. There is no doubt that Nolan still knows how to craft a movie in his exact vision. The cinematography follows those frequent over the shoulder shots and careful time on small character moments. And of course, Hans Zimmer once again does an excellent of creating suspenseful and tension filled pieces to fill in the scenes. Maybe I wasn’t able to look too hard into the details. There’s also this sense of build up that continually builds up during the movie but there is no sense of that build up leading to anything significant or poignant at the end. Maybe that was the point, after all, in war, there is no discrimination and no time to focus on the individual, but if so, I think it could have been executed better.

sig

movie reviews · Uncategorized

Mini Movie Reviews: Coming of Age

Why do I even try calling these “mini” reviews? I can literally write a whole review on each one of these but then I would never catch up on my reviews. If you’ve been following my blog for the past couple of months, you’ll know how much I completely adore the coming-of-age genre. I just love the exploration of identity and just discovering what you want out of life while at the same time, faced with these growing burdens and expectations from the people around you. I think it’s such an interesting dynamic and I’ve been watching a lot of TV and reading books that revolve around this but I haven’t really talked about coming-of-age movies.

Lemonade Mouth

Musical | Directed by Patricia Riggen| Disney Channel | D

To be honest, I only watched this movie because I wanted a point of reference to the other movies. In a sense, comparing a “bad” coming of age movie to a “good” one. Image result for lemonade mouth posterLemonade Mouth tries so hard to portray an authentic high school experience but it doesn’t work. It’s like making someone who has never been to high school make a movie about high school.

And because of this, this entire movie is so unintentionally funny. I’m not kidding you when I tell you there was a part in this movie where the school bully falls in someone’s lap and then for some reason the entire pizzeria starts fighting and everyone starts throwing empty red cups at one another. I’ve never been so painfully aware of a movie’s limited budget. There is no mystery to these characters or the fact they are having inner lives apart from the page. You know exactly what their deal is the minute they are introduced and their subsequent story arc only serves to confirm what you already know. For one, there is Charles whose parents want him to play soccer like his perfect older brother but guess what he doesn’t want to play soccer. Who would have thought? And of course at the end, it’s suddenly revealed that his brother is actually not so perfect (surprise). The dialogue leaves no room for conflict and neither does the story.

The songs aren’t particularly great either. The lyrics are too bright and dare I say it, too inspirational if that makes any sense at all. It’s kind of funny that this movie would be more of an inspiration for little kids or tweens rather than people who are actually in high school. It’s got that unrealistic teen empowerment message–like yeah I can do anything type thing and that cheesiness to go along with it. I will say that I have to give it credit for its diversity. That makes it feel more true to recent times but alas that’s really the only thing it’s got going for it.

The Breakfast Club

Directed by John Hughes | B+

So apparently this is the quintessential coming-of-age film. I can see why from just watching its beginning lines unfold. The most notable of which is in Brian’s monologue Related imagewhere he’s telling Mr. Vernon, “You see us as you want to see us…in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.” And every single high school coming-of-age film afterwards has tried to answer this statement. To show these kids as more than just their stereotypes. How does someone break into themselves in the pressure pot that is high school? The Breakfast Club is smart is so many ways, instead of tediously showing what life is like for these people, wasting scenes of waking up and showing what their room is like and things like that or following them through a typical school day where we mostly know what’s going to happen to them, Hughes puts them all together in the same room, where these so-called stereotypes would have never have met and forced them to interact in the same playing field–in detention. Slowly their layers are peeled back layer by layer. There is a lot of explosive angst especially from Bender who basically adds fuel to the fire in whatever he says. And there’s a lot of anger in these kids that is just brilliantly acted.

Although what they reveal about themselves isn’t terribly original like Vernon, who is stereotyped as the smart, straight A student is actually failing a class and of course Andrew who is presumably the star of the wrestling team, shocker, does not have the perfect life and has to live to his father’s persistent expectations, the way these secrets are revealed is explosive and surprising. And there’s really nothing better for me than to see a group of unlikely friends become well..friends.

This movie was produced in 1985 so while it feels timeless in some aspects, it also feels dated at the same time. It is sexist and the romances are so off-kilter, and while the cast is supremely more talented than the cast of Lemonade Mouth, the same can’t be said about its diversity. If there could somehow be a good remake of this movie, I’ll be the first one to see it.

Sing Street

Musical | Directed by John Carney | Ireland | A-

This movie is the reason this whole post was started. Sing Street is the most charming movie I have seen in a long time.

It is so inspirational and caught with youthful optimism but never descends into cheesiness because it is so grounded in realism. There are so many ways this premise could have gone wrong. I mean this movie takes Image result for sing street posterplace in Ireland in 1985 and it is about a boy who starts a band to impress this mysterious girl that he likes but doesn’t know anything about. But I was so unexpectedly and pleasantly surprised. It finds this perfect balance between the raw realism of the inner life of Conor as a teen with parents who constantly fight and dealing with kids and staff (who btw are priests) who bully him and the wish fulfillment optimism of of starting a band. The dialogue is so well-written, full of dry one-liners that you almost miss and reactions that never feel over-the-top or dramatic in any way.

 

Related image

Image result for sing street just rabbit stuff

Basically, they skip all the unnecessary parts and just get straight to the good stuff. There was this one part where the school bully tells our intrepid main character to dance naked in the bathroom, Conor says no and the bully just leaves. Just unexpected moments like that are what make this movie work. Or like the part when no one questions the unrealistic nature of starting a band. They just do it. It shouldn’t work, there usually is a period of disbelief that the characters go through because they think they can’t actually pull off start a band but the movie skips those parts we expect. I adored each and every song. They were so catchy and nostalgic and inspirational and so feel good. Easily could have fallen into Lemonade Mouth’s trap but it effortlessly avoids the same pitfalls by painting its characters with subtle and nuanced inner lives.

Image result for sing street gif

And let me tell you that the female love interest is not nearly as manic pixie dream girlesque as one would expect.

The Edge of Seventeen

Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig | A

The Edge of Seventeen is my favorite out of the bunch and that’s because it’s just got the best ingredients of the coming-of-age genre. Nadine is a character that isn’t “likeable”. Most ofImage result for the edge of seventeen poster the awkward situations she gets into are of her own doing. This is truly someone whom no one understands and even she doesn’t understand herself. She’s self-centered and melodramatic and is always ready to pick a fight. And the one person who did understand her most was her dad who died when she was just going through middle school. The dialogue is crude and unapologetic but the story is so sincere and charming. It’s as if the person who wrote this movie has been Nadine before and is chuckling and shaking their head at their past self. And hey, there is an Asian male love interest who is into drawing and is even more awkward than our main character. It’s so wonderful. Image result for the edge of seventeen gifThis coming-of-age film is not necessarily about finding her own identity so much as finding a way to make the most of her present as shitty as she thinks it is which is honestly how a lot of high school teens feel. This feeling that even though you know this is temporary, this part of your life feels so permanent and you’re just waiting for the day when you can find your way out. This movie is also just funny. I love the wit between Nadine and her history teacher played by Woody Harrelson, the one and only Haymitch, and he was such a great casting choice for this role. Like the Breakfast Club, it’s about the character’s perceptions of other people, just as we try to see past our perceptions of the characters, we see from the very beginning, that Nadine’s “hate” for her older brother is a little misguided. Her brother who appears to be golden boy the one who gets everything he wants and doesn’t give a shit about anyone else. But though many of the things Nadine thinks about her brother may be true, there’s many other things that she doesn’t quite know about her brother.

Related image

I actually watched this movie a 2nd time just so I can write this review and I don’t regret a single moment.

Let me know if you’ve seen any of these movies and if you have any other coming-of-age recommendations.

sig

 

movie reviews · tv review · Uncategorized

Mini TV/Movie Reviews: Animation

So I’ve noticed I’ve been watching a lot more animation lately. Usually, animation is not something I normally gravitate towards especially animated TV and anime but there are always exceptions (See Voltron: Legendary Defender). I do tend to like animated movies more just because there are studios like Disney and Pixar that are always making really good content but even then I usually they don’t have quite as much emotional impact on me as they seem to on other animated fans but again there are exceptions (See Zootopia). And the ones I’ve seen recently are as expected a hit or miss.

Tangled Before Ever After (TV Movie) & Tangled: The Series

Starring Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi|Disney Channel | Currently 4 episodes released

Image result for tangled the seriesI’ll admit I was pretty excited but also really hesitant about watching these two. I didn’t know how well the 3D CGI would translate to 2D. The movie animation was absolutely stunning and I was worried the TV show would lose a lot of the feel of the original. But I was totally surprised. At first look, the 2D looks juvenile and a little sloppy but after watching it, it is absolutely stunning in its own way. The background and scenery are so bright and vivid but really detailed at the same time. They look like drawings in a picture book. It also helps that the voice actors for Eugene and Rapunzel are the same as in the movie and they do an equally good job in this one. The TV movie and TV series take place after the events of the 1st movie but before the Tangled short film where Eugene and Rapunzel get married. The first few episodes that have been released follow Rapunzel as she learns how to be a princess after being locked up in a tower. The relationship between Rapunzel and Eugene is just as cute and cheesy but there are worse things to show in a relationship than being cheesy. It is very healthy and respectful and I do like that they are getting separate storylines as they each figure what they want to be. There’s also a new character that’s introduced, Cassandra, who is Rapunzel’s lady-in-waiting and she’s awesome. She’s fearless and adventurous and a great foil for Rapunzel. She has an interesting hate relationship with Eugene which is fun. The storylines aren’t terribly original and I can forgive that because the show is very clearly targeted towards very young children (8-12) but they are refreshing in many ways and just solid storytelling. Fun and easily bingeable. I have a feeling shows based on popular Disney movies are going to continue being a thing in the upcoming years. I am particularly excited for the Big Hero 6 show coming out this Fall (again 2D) and the voice actors for most of the original cast will be the same which is exciting.

Trollhunters

Created by Guillermo Del Toro | Season 1: 26 episodes | DNFed: Episode 7 |Netflix

It’s very clear to me from seeing Pacific Rim and now Trollhunters that Guillermo Del Toro has such an imaginative and epic visionary style but I wish he paid as much Image result for trollhuntersattention to his stories. The world of the Trollhunters is riddled with interesting trolls and troll lore. The city that the Trolls reside in is beautifully animated (in the same CGI as Tangled) but as beautiful as the animation is, the story is lacking soooo much. It is overly cliche with by-the-book humor and one-note characters. It has the bare bones of an underdog-turned-hero story. Our hero, Jim Lake, is living in the suburbs with his doctor mom. He is kind of the outcast of the school and is bullied by the blonde-haired jock at school. His best friend, Toby, is the fat and lovable sidekick who is obviously fodder for a bunch of fat jokes. And to add on top of this mountain of cliches, he has a crush on one of the girls at school but of course does not think he is good enough for her attentions. But he’s a special snowflake so he finds this jewel and turns out that he is the savior of the trolls. Do you see where this is going? Much like the Kaijus and the Jaegers, the Trolls are extremely well-designed and varied. I really wanted to like this show because it seems like a show that I would like but 7 episodes in, I just couldn’t get past the bland storytelling. I’ve heard it gets less cliche as it goes on with the side characters getting their own development separate from their association with Jim but I don’t have enough patience to stick around.

Kimi No Na Wa (Your Name)

Directed by Makoto Shinkai | Based on the manga: Your Name by Makoto Shinkai

This is one of those unfortunate instances where I’m wondering if everyone is watching the same Image result for your namemovie as me. I won’t deny that the animation and directing is beyond gorgeous. Much like Hayao Miyazaki’s films, the animation is hyper realistic and detailed especially in its scenery. But the storyline falls so flat for me. I think my biggest problem with the story is the fact that they were trying to insert 3 whole storylines into 1 movie which was too much and each storyline suffered because of it. What I thought I was getting was a body swapping storyline and eventually a romance but then halfway through, that sort of changed and went into more fantastical explanations for why this was happening that felt contrived. And to be honest, I didn’t really need to know why the body swapping was happening. And because of this deviance in plot, the characters never get past the stage of typical high school teens. In fact the things that happen when Mitsuha and Taki switch bodies are completely forgotten the next time they go back to their own bodies which makes me wonder how the fuck they could fall in love. And the parts where the relationship is being developed is filmed in a montage which is just annoying. This might just be me, however, I don’t like “they are bound by fate” storylines but I still felt like these storylines were not integrated well enough and felt like they were totally separate storylines. And then that random plot point at the end??

Image result for why gif
And at the end, I just didn’t care about these characters and I was just bored. There are two reviews that explain my thoughts in a more well-written manner, however be warned they both contain spoilers.

Review #1 | Review #2

Let me know if you’ve seen any of these and what you thought of them (especially Your Name). And if you have any animated recommendations for me, I’d love to know 🙂

sig

movie reviews · Uncategorized

Mini Movie Reviews: Oscar Nominees 2017

The Oscars are tomorrow! I’m especially excited for this year’s Oscars because I’ve actually seen a lot of the nominees whereas in other years, I would have watched only one or two of them. I think this year I was a lot more interested in the movies released. The following are all nominees for best picture and two of them actually have the most nominations behind La La Land. I still wanted to see Hidden Figures but alas it’s tomorrow and I wanted to get this post up today. I will see it though sometime! In the meantime, enjoy!

Moonlight

Contemporary Drama | A

My favorite quote from this movie is spoken when Juan was telling Chiron about an encounter he had with an old woman: “In moonlight, black boys look blue” and the woman Image result for moonlight postertold him: “You’re blue. That’s what I’m gonna call you: ‘Blue'”. I really like that part mostly because it speaks to the preconceptions we have about others because of how we see them even though we don’t really “see” them. We see them shrouded in blue. And our main character, Chiron, struggles with finding his identity separate from the judgements that people bury him under. We first meet Chiron when he is running away from bullies as a young child. He is quiet, reserved and unassuming, contraindicative already of so many other black American narratives of hyper masculine men. In three separate acts from his childhood to his teenage days to his adulthood, the movie follows Chiron as he discovers who he is and his sexuality and what he has to sacrifice of himself to survive in this harsh ghetto environment that has a very limited idea of what it means to be a man. The fact that he also has no one to confide in only amplifies his struggle.  It just makes the 2nd and 3rd act all the more vivid and heartbreaking. Part of this movie works so well because all three of the actors playing Chiron do an amazing job of channeling Chiron’s inner state. I do think this film deserves something for its film editing because it is just so seamless even when there are dream sequences and dream sequences usually hold back the narrative for me. It also is nominated for best original score which I can’t decide if La La Land or Moonlight deserves more. Moonlight has a beautiful classical score that settles in even in Moonlight’s most violent scenes which further magnifies Chiron’s sense of isolation and difference from the other boys. I really enjoyed this movie and I hope it at least gets some of the awards it deserves.

Hell or High Water

                                                          Neo-Western, Heist | B+Image result for hell or high water poster

I initially wanted to watch this solely because Chris Pine was in this movie and I’m shallow
af. But it turned out to be a well-executed movie with nuanced acting and a good screenplay that transforms the modern Western into more of a character study than a gun-slinging action adventure. The storyline is simple enough, it follows two brothers who rob banks and Jeff Bridges plays a detective who tries to apprehend them. It does play and subvert these tropes well especially towards the end and delves with the idea of tradition vs progressivism. As well-executed as it is though, I think other nominees do it better and it’s probably not going to win any awards if I’m to be honest. Jeff Bridges is good in it but Mahershala Ali was better imo; editing is probably going to go to La La Land and I’m 99% sure it’s not going to be winning Best Picture. I’m glad to see it’s getting recognition though.

Arrival

Science Fiction | B-

Image result for arrival posterFor some reason, Arrival actually was a bit of a let down for me? I thought the screenplay was unoriginal and it’s trying to tackle so many themes, themes of using language to communicate, themes of time-travel and knowing your future, themes of motherhood and it doesn’t explore any of them as deeply as I would have liked. The side characters were just so dull and were mostly used as plot devices than to serve as actual characters. Like why were you even here Jeremy Renner??? I will say that it’s different from other award-winning science fiction movies we’ve had of late. With Gravity and Interstellar and The Martian, it was about going into space or the perils of space itself but Arrival is about first contact with aliens and how humanity deals with a race that has a different language than ours. It has a good concept but its execution was off and I was expecting a lot more. Also, why does Amy Adams feel like the only important female character in this movie? Where are all the female scientists?  Maybe hype got to me because most people seem to like this.

Hacksaw Ridge

War, Historical Fiction (WWII) | A-

Hacksaw Ridge is based on a true story of Desmond Doss who was the very first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor for actions above and beyond the call of duty during WWII. This movie really has to thank its script and direction because if thoseImage result for hacksaw ridge were even average this movie would have just been a mediocre underdog story. And indeed, some of scenes feel a little trite and predictable. I mean we have all seen that one part in a movie where the underdog is beaten up by bullies and when asked who beat him up, he denies anyone did. There’s that one bully that we all hate but it turns out he never had any parents and he gets a redemption arc. *rolls eyes* However, Andrew Garfield always plays it just right so he kind of saves this role. In the second half of the movie, we get some overlong battle sequences that feel a tad too gratuitous. And I say that because, unlike movies like Private Ryan, Hacksaw Ridge surprisingly retains its stylized quality throughout. Not to say that it wasn’t violent (it was; there are spilled intestines), but even in the beginning, the colors are bright and saturated; there’s no shaky cam or “in-the-moment” camerawork that war movies seem to love.. Despite my qualms with it, I loved this movie; it’s probably my favorite behind La La Land and Moonlight for Oscar nominees because it is so grounded in its main character, Desmond. You get to really feel that conviction that Desmond has in his faith and his beliefs are the only thing he has to hold onto. It’s also quite a suspenseful movie especially in the latter half that really works because you feel so much for Desmond. Highly recommend because it is an Oscar nominee but it also can stand as a “blockbuster” movie. I like movies that can cross those boundaries.

Let me know if you’ve seen any of these movies, which one of them you would want to win Best Picture or which one’s your personal favorite. For me, it’s still La La Land and I know it’s now a trend to hate La La Land but I love it.

sig

Book to Movie Review · movie reviews · tv review · Uncategorized · What I've Been Watching

What I’ve Been Watching: Winter 2016-2017

Because I always seem to do these in big groups, I thought why not just do seasonal wrap ups of what I’ve watched; winter meaning November-February (so far). As always, I will be listing all the movies first and then TV shows. I have links to my reviews. I decided to do something different this time and rank them from my least favorite to favorite of the season. So least favorites are at the top, favorites at the bottom of that specified list. I also added a letter rating to each. And sorry for being the most inconsistent person ever, these wrap ups always look different every time I do them. If anyone is interested in talking spoilers,  leave a comment tagging spoilers or hit me up on my Goodreads or email me at cqncarols@gmail.com or you can even message me on Tumblr =). 

Movies

Image result for ms peregrine home for peculiar children movie poster        Related image

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Fantasy, Family Movie, Book to Movie Adaptation | Director Tim Burton| Review

Overall, I was pretty disappointed; it was just so uninspiring. It seems that for every one great Hunger Games movie, we have to get at least 50 duds. D

Me Before You

Romance, Melodrama | Featuring Emilia Clarke, Sam Clafin | Review

I was also pretty meh about it. It wasn’t totally horrible thanks to the cinematography but I didn’t expect much and I got pretty much exactly what I thought I would get. No tears were lost in the process of watching. But maybe a good Valentine’s Day movie..if you have a bottle of strong liquor with you. C

        Image result for animated wonder woman poster   Image result for the dressmaker  Image result for fantastic beasts poster

Wonder Woman: Animated Original Movie (2009)

DC Comics adaptation, Animation, Children’s | Director Lauren Montgomery, Written by Gail Simone

Because I’m freaking obsessed with Wonder Woman now, I thought that I would try and watch some of the movies. Sadly, this was just ok. But Wonder Woman was so well-animated as a person like girl crush alert. And she is just so badass. Steve Trevor, however, was just weird and a womanizer in a creepy and annoying way. If you take away all the lines he says about creepily flirting with women, you’d only have around 3 lines left. It’s pretty good for a TV movie but nothing great to rewatch or seek out if I hadn’t already had a predisposition to WW. B-

The Dressmaker (Australia 2015)

Historical Fiction, Revenge, Comedy-drama | Featuring Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth

This movie tries hard but ultimately does not sustain itself in my opinion, I mean this movie has won a bunch of awards. Kate Winslet is good in it and so was Liam Hemsworth but they are not enough to carry the whole movie. It also hosts a cast of quirky side characters that are not odd enough to be quirky and not interesting enough to be compelling. The story itself was also way too linear and simplistic to warrant such a long movie. It could have been cut in half. The ’50’s costume design was a feast for the eyes though. B-

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantasy, Family Movie | Director David Yates, Written by JK Rowling

So I finally got to watch this and honestly I was a little disappointed. I think it’s because there was no sense of urgency throughout. Grindelwald was mentioned at the beginning of the movie and then not again until really the end. There were just so many loopholes and inconsistencies in the magic system (why is everyone so careless about doing magic in front of Muggles, excuse me, No-Majs) it didn’t really even feel like the wizarding world sometimes. But it was so much fun getting to learn about the different creatures (can I please get a Niffler) and Eddie Redmayne is always great in whatever he does; he is such a precious cinnamon roll as Newt. I can’t really see anyone else as Newt. The other characters were good (how sweet is Jacob??) but the romances were kind of boring. I say that but the ending made me tear up a little. I did NOT think they would go there. Also, petition to open a Jacob Kowalski bakery please and thank you. And after watching this, I’m wondering how they have enough material to sustain 4? more movies. B

Image result for train to busan poster    Image result for mustang movie poster   Image result for wadjda poster

Train to Busan (Korea 2016)

Post Apocalyptic, SciFi, Zombies | Director Yeon Sang-Ho Featuring Gong Yoo | Review

Train to Busan lacks in anything substantial thematically but it was still a lot of action fun and the immediacy of the zombie transformation heightens the suspense into more good fun. B+

Mustang (Turkey 2015)

Contemporary, Drama | Director Deniz Erguven | Review

A quietly feminist movie about 5 orphan girls dealing with the restrictions of freedom and sexuality placed on them. A-

Wadjda (Saudi Arabia 2012)

Contemporary, Drama | Director Haifaa Al-Mansour | Review

Wadjda-A charming and feminist movie about a girl who wants to own a bike. A

Image result for la la land poster      Image result for the edge of seventeen poster

La La Land

Musical, Magical Realism, Romance | Director Damien Chazelle, Featuring Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling | Review

Despite the simplicity of the storyline, La La Land boasts an inspiring color palette along with stunning technical visuals and two charming and romantic leads. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy and inspired inside and I love it for that. A

The Edge of Seventeen

Comedy, Coming-of-Age, High School | Featuring Hailee Steinfeld

I know this movie slipped under the radar among the giants of Oscar bait but that’s such a shame because it is a hilarious and honest coming-of-age movie. I know it seems like a teen comedy that doesn’t have much to offer but its authentic screenplay (these are things teens would actually say!!) and an amazing lead performance (Hailee Steinfeld) catapult it above the rest. The side characters have a kind of depth beyond their stereotype that is rarely seen in teen movies and the love interest is Asian!! Props to him for actually being a 30-year-old but looking like a 17-year-old. How is that even possible? It has a lot of heart and sincerity combined with really funny jokes. I love this movie and I’ll definitely be rewatching it again. A

Want to Watch:

Moonlight

Hacksaw Ridge

TV

Image result for seven first kisses      Image result for sherlock season 4

Seven First Kisses (Korea 2016)

Webdrama, Romance, Contemporary | Featuring Lee Cho-Hee, Lee Jong-Suk (aka bae), Lee Min-Ho, Ji Chang-Wook, Kai, Lee Joon-gi | Youtube | Finished

I’m going to be honest with you; I only watched this short webdrama (available on Youtube right now) because Lee Jong Suk was in it. He is too precious. And I loved his episode the most. But other than that, it was so cheesy and ultimately boring. I actually watched this in twice the normal speed which made it more entertaining lol.  Watch it if you have some eye candy you need to see more of. D

Sherlock Season 4

Mystery | Featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman | BBC, PBS | Finished | Review

What even happened this season??? What even is Sherlock?? C

Image result for what the fuck gif

 

Image result for the abominable bride poster      Image result for w two worlds

The Abominable Bride

TV Movie, Historical Fiction, Mystery | Featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman | BBC, PBS

Half of my enjoyment of this was due to the constant references to Sherlock’s hat and the ever cool transition and text scenes. The other half was due to the costume design. The rest was sort of forgettable. Shouldn’t it be obvious to everyone that it couldn’t have been a ghost? And if it wasn’t obvious, it shouldn’t be so obvious to the audience. Also, the ending really rubbed me the wrong way. B

W Two Worlds (Korea 2016)

Urban Fantasy, Thriller, Romance | Featuring Lee Jong Suk, Han Hyo-Joo | MBC | 16 episodes | Finished | Review -ish

I mentioned this in my honorable mentions of my favorite TV shows of 2016 and all the reservations that I had about it after episode 9 came true. Awkward…It was so illogical, inconsistent, Oh Yeon Joo’s character just devolved into a pawn for Kang Chul’s emotional development, and the ending was so abrupt and unsatisfying. However, something about it still kept me watching though so I give props to it. And even at its messiness, I still found it to be incredibly enjoyable and suspenseful. B

Image result for the people vs oj       Image result for voltron legendary defender

The People vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story

Crime/Court Drama | Featuring Sara Paulson, Sterling K. Brown, Kenneth Choi, John Travolta | FX | 10 episodes | Finished | Review -ish

A compelling, bingeworthy drama worthy of its hype and praise. A

Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 2

SciFi, Children’s, Animation | Produced by Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos | Netflix | 13 episodes | Currently finished with Season 2 | Review of Season 1

Oh man, this show is so dear to my heart and makes me so happy. I think I liked the second season even more than the first. The animation is definitely better especially the landscapes. It also got more heavily anime in my opinion but that’s definitely not a pro or a con. It is the definition of fun at its most finest. I love each and very one of these characters to death and I will defend them till I die. I don’t think I can wait another year for the next season to come out.  For the record, I ship Klance and Shallura 😉 A-/A (for ripping my heart in shreds)

Image result for insecure tv poster       Image result for the americans poster

Insecure Season 1

Comedy, Contemporary | Created by Issa Rae, Larry Wilmore | HBO | 8 episodes | Season 1 Finished

I love Insecure soooo much. It’s about the friendship between two black women, their friendship, and exploring the realm of dating, jobs and everything in between during their late 20’s. It is funny with a diverse cast and so well executed. The humor is sarcastically dry which is just my type of humor. It slyly explores race, gender, and sexuality in a natural and underhand way. It was pretty steamy for a comedy but only in the last episodes and only sprinkled throughout as part of the narrative (although this is a show on HBO so what did I expect). It feels a lot like a Netflix show because one story arc will just bleed into the next episode to make the season one giant story and I binge watched in two days. Excluding the one distasteful Asian joke, I can’t wait for Season 2. A

The Americans Seasons 1 & 2

Spy Thriller, Melodrama | Featuring Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys | FX | 13 eps per season | Finished Season 4, Season 5 starts March 2017

Why didn’t I watch this sooner??? It is so amazing. An amazing combination of family drama and spy action and mystery during the Cold War. The main two leads are Soviet spies and was arranged to be married to keep up their spy covers. They move to the US where their next door neighbor is an FBI agent working for counterintelligence to capture spies.  I love it because so much attention is paid to character layering and the two main leads are fast becoming my new OTP even though their relationship so messed up. They often have to form relationships with other people, platonically or sexually or even romantically to get information they need. There’s definitely not as much action as I would like sometimes but it’s great anyways. A

Currently Watching: 

Tomorrow with you (Kdrama)

Powerless (NBC comedy)

The Crown (Netflix show on Queen Elizabeth)

Secret Love Affair (Kdrama)

As always if you think I would like something based on what I’ve watched, let me know!! I’m always down for recommendations. 

sig

movie reviews · Uncategorized

Mini Movie Reviews: Feminism, Zombies, and more Feminism

I promised this post last year and I’m finally getting around to it. I’m really excited to share my thoughts on these three films. For the record,  these are foreign language films for me (me being an English-speaking resident of the United States). I really enjoyed watching all of them and I would wholeheartedly recommend all three. Enjoy! =)

Wadjda (2012)

Wadjda should be given a standing ovation just purely on the fact that it was so difficult to film. It is set in Saudi Arabia, a country that remains to this day, one of the most regressive societies on women’s rights in the world. And because of this, director Haifaal Mansou had to film from the back of a van because she was not allowed to be seen in the company of the male crew. She often had to communicate via walkie talkie and see the actors’ performances on a monitor. It’s only really an inkling of how difficult it is to be a woman in Saudi Arabia as is shown in the film. The film is supremely feminist but not because it shouts feminist messages from the rooftops. Instead its

simple storyline about a girl who just wants to own and ride a green bike to race her friend but isn’t allowed to, speaks volumes by itself. The actress playing Wadjda was a first time actress and she just plays it perfectly. She is endearing, sassy, playful and ultimately good-hearted. You just want her to have this bike. It effortlessly reveals the struggles of women not in any dramatic fashion but just as something women have to endure every day. Wadjda’s mother struggles with a disrespectful driver during her commute and constantly tries to please her husband so he won’t leave her for his second wife to bear him a son. I loved the relationship portrayed between Wadjda and her mother; it is flawed but always filled with the best intentions. The film is gently directed, not pointing fingers at anyone; there is no abusive father, no evil men as seems to be the case with a lot of these movies about the middle east but still a society that seems to value its women much, much less than its men. But the small acts of rebellion inspire not just tolerance, but change and it was so inspiring.

Train to Busan (2016)

Train to Busan is a Korean zombie movie and although it doesn’t really have anything to add to the saturated zombie genre, it is really fun and entertaining and sometimes funny. Seok-Woo (played by Gong Yoo from Goblin no less) is a workaholic who is bringing his daughter, Su-an, to Busan via train to see her mImage result for train to busan posterother. On the way there, they’re joined by a cast of other characters as they try and escape the sudden zombie infestation in the
train. The exciting thing about the zombies themselves is that they immediately turn into zombies after they are bitten. There’s no sad goodbyes or dramatic exits, nope. They just turn into people-eating zombies that try to tear you apart right away which does turn the suspense factor way up. The performances were wonderful although the actors probably lost weight just from the all the running they had to do. It literally felt like they were trying to run away from zombies every 5 minutes which really hurts the character development especially the females who are essentially just there for the male characters to have something to protect. However, what keeps this movie from being a mediocre zombie movie is again, the performances but also the brilliant use of lighting using the train windows, and solid editing. There’s always something happening so if you’re in the movie for a zombie movie that’s not too heavy, I think this one is a good choice.

It’s funny because Gong Yoo’s character in Goblin goes on a date and they watch this movie together. HIS OWN MOVIE LOL

Mustang (2015)

Mustang is a movie that’s all the more impactful because it is so much more quiet. It subtly comments on the ways in which people try to control female sexuality and how it affects girls. Although it is set in a remote conservative society in Turkey, its theme Image result for mustang movie posterresonates with all women around the globe. It follows 5 orphan sisters who after being seen playing an “indecent” game with boys (you know the game where girls sit on boys’ shoulders in the pool and the other girl tries to knock the other girl into the water), their grandmother and uncle forbid them from leaving the house and start to marry them off one by one. This movie has an amazing ensemble cast especially the female leads who weren’t really aspiring actresses. They gave the performances such a realistic and natural edge. You feel as if they were actually sisters. I often felt as though I was watching a documentary instead of a fictional movie. It is bleak but there’s always a sense of hope infused throughout as these girls discover their sexuality and are ok with their growing curiosities about sex. The lighting is also really impressive. It uses mostly natural lighting (or what seems like natural lighting) and uses it again, to set that ordinary and realistic tone. The ending was really intense and hit just the right notes for me even though it was a little on the wish-fulfillment. Sometimes you just need something hopeful like that. 

*All gifs and posters are not mine. Let me know if you have recommendations for foreign language films, if you’ve seen any of these or if you want to! 🙂

sig