“Her curiosity was too much for her. She felt almost as if she could hear the books whispering on the other side of the half-open door. They were promising her a thousand unknown stories, a thousand doors into worlds she had never seen before.” -Cornelia Funke, Inkheart
I know I have been MIA and inconsistent on this blog for a while now. But I realized my love for blogging has been waning these past 2 years. I realized this when I found out that I was taking more than 2 weeks just to finish a blog post and everytime I would come back to it, I would have this feeling of dread. I’ve wanted to make videos for so many years but always excused it because I didn’t have the right equipment, the right timing, the right setup, etc. but I finally took the plunge because I’ve been making too many excuses and it was starting to bother me. Plus, I needed some place for all my thoughts to go instead of bottling it up and having it bounce around in my head without throwing it at someone and starting discussions that I love. Anyways, I’d love it if you could check it out, it’s a review of Pan’s Labryinth!
January 2019 was a stressful month for me but let’s be honest, January is never a great month for me. It’s too bad it happens to seem like the longest month of the entire year. It’s just that time where everyone is going back to their daily routine and all the fun festivities and chill time are over. You have to start reevaluating your life (as I did) and believe me, I was worried about a lot this month from taxes to money to school to what I’m going to do with my life. The thing about agonizing over big decisions that determine your life is that the process is painful but finally, finally you start to get out of your head and little by little you start to plan out the stepping stones until you feel it is feasible. I’m finally at that point and hopefully February will be better. At least it’ll be shorter. To end on a happy note, let’s end with the obligatory food pics 😉
But in the meantime, let’s talk about all the stuff I loved or didn’t in January. Starting with books:
The Lost Sisters by Holly Black (4/5) – You know I never read short stories when it’s part of a series because I never saw the point but this short story proved me wrong. It gave more insight into Taryn’s motivations from the first book which we can all agree was confusing and sketchy at best. But, I sympathized a lot with Taryn after this story and although I do not agree with what she did (the betrayal!!), I can at least understand it.
The Wicked King by Holly Black (3.5/5) – You know, now that the shock of all the plot twists has died down, I can look at this book with a more clear head. I definitely do not think it was as good as The Cruel Prince. It definitely felt like a filler book; the development of the characters were sacrificed for the sake of plot development, the worldbuilding was shot to the wayside, and suddenly there are a lot more one note side characters used for advancing the plot. Of course that did not prevent me from squealing at all the Cardan and Jude scenes (yo, dm me when you get to the end of Chapter 15), and of course at that killer, killer ending. I will be waiting with bated breath for the last book. Also, shoutout to Alicia from A Kernel of Nonsense for buddyreading this with me. The reading experience was so much more fun with you! 🙂
The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (4/5)– I’m not sure what was going through my head when I decided to quit this series at the beginning of the second book a few years ago because this series is simply amazing!! I’ve read a lot of YA books with political intrigue and none of them have really come close to the subtle machinations and plotting that this series has. Rest assure I will be doing a full review of this series once I finish the fifth book.
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (4/5) – The fourth book in the Thief series. Another amazing installment. This one follows a different character but I grew to love him just as much as the main characters. Again, review to come. Also, the new covers are WAY better than the old ones. Sometimes cover changes can be really good.
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (DNF) – The ultimate reason why I DNF’ed this was because it was boring. It’s a very interesting book if you look at it through a feminist lens (talk to me about this, I wanna know what you think), but I grew wary once the Lady Oonagh was introduced. Of course, the female villain of the story has to wear low cut clothes and be “ladylike” and be promiscuous and sly. I hate the virgin/whore dichotomy.
Bandersnatch (C)– Yes, the concept is novel and cool but only for about 10 minutes. The reason why I like watching TV and movies is because I can watch the characters come to their own conclusions. It’s part of the fun of watching characters different from you, but these “choose your own adventure” modes are you just being a stand in for the character. I could also argue that the story wasn’t right for this gimmick. If it were an adventure story such as surviving in the jungle where the choices have a lot more drastically different stakes, then sure maybe. Also, the ending was a bit too tongue in cheek and meta for me. An interesting watch, but not something I’d ever watch again.
Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse (B) – After all these years, Spiderman/Spiderwoman’s remains my favorite superhero and that’s because I love his/her origin story. He starts off as a teenager going about his high school life with the usual high school problems but is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes a superhero but he’s still a teen! His story is very much a coming of age story. In much the same vein, Spider Verse is about Miles finding where he belongs but trying to live up to his people’s expectations of him. Although the story does become oversaturated what with all the different emotional beats and all the different spiderpeople coming together, it was very entertaining. Oh and yes, I did like the animation. I definitely haven’t seen something like that done in a big studio movie.
Ali Wong: Baby Cobra (A)- I’m really liking stand up comedy right now and this one was no exception. She talks a lot about modern feminism (although she’s not as feminist leaning as a lot of female comics today), her husband, racism, and a myriad of other topics. She’s pretty raunchy and crass and she tells some Asian jokes that you will only really get if you’re an Asian so that was fun.
Ugly Delicious S1 Ep 7 (A) – I only watched one episode which was episode 7 “Fried Rice” but I really liked it. It had such an interesting blend of talking about culture, race, and even history surrounding the cuisine. Clearly, most TV shows need to be talking about these woke topics BUT it does so in such an insightful way. I really liked the conversation they had about how we perceive authentic Chinese food vs commercial Chinese food and the concept of high end Chinese food. I definitely need to watch the rest of the season.
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj Ep 1-3(B+)– I think it’s pretty great that more young people are getting more involved in politics, although that obviously comes with consequences like the rise of polarized news. Yes, Patriot Act is a left leaning entertainment news show but I must say though that for what it is, it is informative, sincere and enthusiastic about participating in the political sphere. Minhaj is a really charismatic host and the episodes are 20 minutes long so who doesn’t have time for that? I also really like the infographics he intersperses throughout; they are very concise.
The Good Place (A) – The Good Place is a show that I did not give a fair chance to the first time I watched it. I mean I quit it after the 5th episode but I gave it a second chance and I loved it! It is so sweet, charming and asks a lot of questions most sitcoms would not dare go near. I’m planning on a review of this as well since I’m all caught up! A must watch if you’ve already seen shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parks and Rec and Superstore, although this is probably my favorite out of all of them.
I am Not a robot (DNF) – You do not know how badly I want to fall in love with a korean drama right now but can’t find anything that I like (let me know any recommendations). This show moved kind of slowly and the whole robot thing could have led into some icky non consensual territory. Maybe I’m just making up excuses at this point.
You (C) – You may be a Netflix show but it feels a lot more like a CW show. Heck, it even has Penn Badgley from Gossip Girl and Shay Mitchell from Pretty Little Liars. The drama is of the back stabby, cat fighting, petty type. My problem with these types of shows is that the characters get into high stakes drama and then forget about it in the next episode. Dude, your best friend literally backstabbed you and sold you out, you got mad at her, and now the next day, with no explanation, you’re besties again?? The show was very entertaining and does delve into some interesting questions about social media and obsession. It’s a good show to binge watch.
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.
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.
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+
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.
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
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.
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.
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
I got to see this movie twice in theaters now and La La Land is first and foremost an ode. La La Land is an ode to many things. An ode to the old musicals of Hollywood. An ode to music. An ode to a city very near and dear to my heart: LA, but above all it is an ode to “the ones who dream” even as “foolish as they may seem”. I watched it with this in mind and just on that note alone, it is a beautiful piece of work.
I might be biased considering I’m a lover of all things romantic. And I don’t mean just the type of romantic love that occurs between Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). I mean the kind of romantic this whole movie is. The surreal, head-in-the-clouds kind of atmosphere that you associate with lovingly absent-minded people (or people who are just high) which is so fitting as an ode to dreamers. It’s probably predictable that my favorite scene in the whole movie is the one where Mia and Sebastian are dancing among the stars against sweeping music.
The main characters sort of exist in their own la la land heedless of the obstacles that confront them. Mia is an aspiring actress working as a barista while going to auditions that consistently humiliate her and Sebastian is a jazz pianist who wants to start a club to save old jazz music.
It’s quite a generic storyline though I argue that any story is generic if it is not supported. But this one is. The simple storyline combined with chaotic colors and frenzied movement just works. Maybe it’s not a matter of style over substance but of style supporting substance. The movie does an amazing job of bleeding magic into reality and reality into magic. Even when Mia is dancing a number in high heels with her roommates in a solid blue vibrant dress, you can still sense that realism come through like a heel scraping the gravel or a car door opening. And even Gosling and Stone themselves represent a sort of reality. The fact that they’re not exceptional singers and dancers just brought another sense of believability to the story. It was also a perfect blend of old and modern. Their fashion is old school but the humor is mostly modern (“Jamal, you be trippin”) but it works effortlessly together. As far as romances go, this one was so pure, it’s almost jarring how it was allowed to exist in pessimistic, jaded 2016. In its own way, II suppose that’s what this whole movie is about, that despite the jaded nature of reality, maybe the power of their dreams and passion reign over any type of second doubts they might have. It’s a good thing the romance worked for me as the whole movie was grounded in it. I’m glad to say that these performances had so much chemistry and charm. Gosling and Stone just work together so well. So well, that when their characters deny that they don’t like each other, you kind of laugh because well, it’s so obvious that they do.
What struck me about this love story was the fact that despite literally everyone around them telling them they couldn’t make it, Mia and Sebastian never doubted each other’s dreams. Mia may not understand jazz and Sebastian may not truly understand what it’s like to be an actress but they both understand what it’s like to be passionate about their dreams. I’ve heard critics say that this movie is very unrealistic in terms of if people even achieve these dreams but it’s suppose to be unrealistic, it’s suppose to pay tribute to people who have unrealistic dreams but who try and try anyways. Even the ending tells you how much sacrifice and bullheaded dedication to their passion that it takes.
I adore the score to this movie. It is upbeat and snazzy but it effortlessly dips into melancholy when the time calls for it that’s very reminiscent of old musicals. And it’s not always obvious when they’re about to merge into song which I liked. Even if you don’t like musicals, I think it’s worth watching because the music is very understated. There’s also the choreography to look at which was so fast-paced, a treat for the eyes. My favorite is definitely “City of Stars” which just recently won Best Original Song at the Golden Globes. It is a beautiful melancholic piano ballad with just the right amount of whimsy. The music is also not always about furthering the story along but conveying the mood of the character. The cinematography is also so beautiful. Please forgive me for using this word millions of times in this review. It can be really dizzying at times but there’s so many wide shots of the city landscape from the idealistic view of the LA landscape to the gritty art mural that was breathtaking.
I really like that this movie was shot in LA besides the fact that I very much love the city besides the horrendous traffic obviously. But somehow the movie even makes the traffic something endearing, the scene of a hopeful opening number, “Another Day of Sun”. The movie also shows the artsy pretentiousness vs the more mainstream culture that coexists in LA.
This was honestly a perfect opportunity to have people of color as the main leads to really highlight how diverse LA is but the movie didn’t go that route unfortunately. It’s a shame. But it does present a very diverse LA in the background which also seems to be a city that people go to to support their big artsy ambitions. You know the ones who come from small towns and go to LA to make it big (as Mia does) which in and of itself is a very romantic notion even though reality, as this movie illustrates, has to rear its ugly and uninvited head at every turn.
Maybe it’s fast-paced style made me forget how Hollywood loves to glorify the struggles of its people or really that Hollywood is in love with itself. This also confirms the fact that Hollywood loves to pay homage to past works which is getting kind of grating but La La Land, for me, is original enough to stand on its own. And I had a soft spot for its well-made romantic charm.
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore
I probably won’t be the first to tell you that I thought Mockingjay Part 1 was definitely a step down from the perfection that was Catching Fire. I guess I have to forgive it somewhat, the source material is not a fan favorite including for me–my biggest problem with the book being such a jarring tonal shift from Book 1 and 2 as to almost feel like part of an entirely different series. I went in and watched Mockingjay Part 2 with low expectations considering all the mixed reviews but surprisingly I liked it a lot. In fact, I think I liked it more than the book.
There is way, way too much to discuss in one single post so I’m just going to touch on the points that stood out the most to me.
First of all, let’s talk about Peeta and Katniss. If you’ve read my Winner’s kiss review, you’ll know that I’ve come to loathe the amnesiac plotline for many reasons, emotional cop out, contrived, yada, yada, yada. And I wasn’t a fan of the device for Peeta either. But after looking back on it more than 4 years after reading it, I think it has grown on me. And the Peeta and Katniss dynamic in this movie was mostly well done thanks in part to the improved screenplay and of course, the always top notch performances. One of my favorite scenes was when Haymitch comes up to Katniss and Katniss was already ready to give up on Peeta but Haymitch says that no, it doesn’t matter what you want, it’s for Peeta. It kind of speaks volumes about who Katniss and Peeta are as characters. Katniss is someone who does not show pity and if you are the weak link, then screw you. But Peeta has always been the one to not leave anyone behind and in the book as Haymitch so accurately says, that if it were reversed and Katniss was the one injected with tracker jacker venom that Peeta would never for a moment think about leaving or killing Katniss. I think Josh Hutcherson did a great job showing Peeta’s conviction that these new twisted hallucinations were entirely real but that gradual shift to confusion once he’s learned that the events weren’t real was also really well acted.
Ok but honestly, it just hurts that it’s happening to Peeta, literally the sweetest fictional character in the history of fictional characters..but I guess I can see why Collins did it..I guess
I love the tension between the rebels at the beginning of the movie when Katniss is about to give a speech and chaos just erupts with rebels killing each other and Katniss says, “we are slaves to Snow” and the rebel says “I’m not a slave”and Katniss says “I am”. Chills, man, chills. But Katniss also says to him, “why are you killing rebels, your neighbors, your family” which is so powerful because we think Snow is evil because you
know, he kills people but here the rebels are killing other people too. Snow is operating on his own morality (I will kill children but I don’t do it without purpose) but then so are the rebels because these rebels and even Coin thinks that he/she knows what is best for Panem but when is that boundary crossed.
With everything else going on in this movie, I‘m pleasantly surprised they paid so much attention to how the impact of media propaganda but I’m really glad they did because it’s just so relevant today. It was so chilling when Caesar Flickerman, who once seemingly had only the best words for Katniss, is now speaking for the Capitol, saying things like “Katniss and her foolish rebels” or “the girl who was so violent now meets a violent end”. It’s just so scary because if you think about it, Caesar Flickerman can easily play two sides because you don’t actually find out what he stands for throughout the entire series. But he says things with such conviction and charisma that everything out of his mouth seems believable.
And ahh, the deaths. How do I put my thoughts together on that. It’s such a polarizing topic especially considering who dies (esp. Finnick and Prim). But, oh god, was Finnick’s death so heartwrenching because he was literally the one left behind and the mutts just consume him. Ugh, it hurts but I’m ok with it..
For me personally, I’m of the firm belief that a death in a book should be, for the most part, symbolic. It should mean something. For example, Mufasa’s and Bambi’s mother’s death, the loss of innocence. Boromir’s death, showing the power of the Ring. So even after the movie I still don’t know exactly to what purpose Finnick’s and Prim’s deaths serve. If anything, these deaths were such a bold choice on Collins’ parts precisely because it does not serve a clear purpose. I mean this entire series was catalyzed because Katniss volunteered for Prim and then she ended up..dead. No matter how main of a character or how important you are, war does not discriminate and it just kills whoever is in the way. But, at the same time, it seems like such a complete waste of a character. Like fattening up a pig only to eventually slaughter it. So, in conclusion, I’m still confused. I do really like the scene where Snow is about to be executed but instead Katniss kills Coin and Snow is killed by the people. How fitting.
And finally, the epilogue. I’m not sure why I’m not entirely satisfied with the epilogue.The editing makes it seem like the beginning of a horror movie which I guess is kind of the point because it’s a very haunting scene but still..
Katniss’s battle armor is always so bada, video game developers take note: the outfit is formfitting BUT FUNCTIONAL IN BATTLE.
Speaking of badass, that word is stamped all over Cressida played by Natalie Dormer. She just commands every scene she’s in even if she just said one word.
Another badass is Johanna. She is so harsh but so funny.
omigosh the mutts looked so scary..but that action scene was so thrilling. A+
Gale is actually not that annoying in the movie which is surprising because I wanted to kill him in the book.
So in ranking, I think Mockingjay Part 2 is my third favorite. almost being on part with the Hunger Games for second place. Obviously Mockingjay Part 1 is my least favorite and Catching Fire is my favorite by leagues.
What are your thoughts on Mockingjay Part 2? What’s your ranking of the movies?