TV Binge: Never Have I Ever (Season 1, 2020)

Never Have I Ever (Season 1, 2020)

Never Have I Ever

Creators: Lang Fisher & Mindy Kaling

Cast: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Darren Barnet, Jaren Lewison, Poorna Jagannathan, Lee Rodriguez, Ramona Young, Richa Moorjani, Niecy Nash, Adam Shapiro

The complicated life of a modern-day first generation Indian American teenage girl, inspired by Mindy Kaling’s own childhood. – IMDB

While I haven’t been following Mindy Kaling’s career and probably only have seen one movie with her (Ocean’s Eight) and haven’t been exposed to her humor a lot, Never Have I Ever has a fun and unique script and layout. For one, a lot of shows that puts together cultural background with teenage coming of age do create a good effect. This show is no exception. When you look at the different elements of this teen coming of age comedy, there’s a lot to love.

For one, the script itself really brings these characters alive. Its not only Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) who has her spotlight even if she is a major focal as this season focuses heavily on her desire to be different whether its acting out from a deeper issue stemmed from her father’s death. At the same time, her two best friends Eleanor (Ramona Young) and Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) have their own unique quirkiness that makes the three of them really fun to watch together. Much like the two boys, Paxton (Darren Barnet) and Ben (Jaren Lewison) which also have their differences that separate them significantly as they start stepping more into Devi’s life. However, the show is much more than that as the cultural elements come with majorly with Devi and her family which consists of her mother and her pretty older cousin. As she navigates through school, family, grief, friends and boys, her life is narrated charmingly by John McEnroe with a special episode narrated by Andy Samberg for an episode focused on Ben. A great part of the series charm and humor does come from these voice-over bits as they are a little sarcastic, judgmental and analytical of the whole situation.

The main plot of the story with Devi almost links to films like The Edge of Seventeen (review) where it focuses on a high school girl trying to pursue a school hot guy to lose her virginity where Devi is in the same situation where she tries to break out of her nerdy and invisible presence at school with her friends and try to start the school year after a year of being mysteriously handicapped as her body’s defense mechanism after her father’s death, making her having the wrong kind of spotlight. With that mind, the three set out to pursue the good-looking popular guys which gives revelations on multiple levels as Fabiola embraces her sexual orientation while Devi starts building affections that exceed that of pure appearances as she starts to know Paxton more but also getting to find the points that she can connect with her school competition Ben. Much like Paxton and Ben also have their own set of issues with their own lives. Each of these characters are full of personality as they start to revealing them bit by bit giving them a lot more substance.

What makes them more relatable is that they aren’t perfect especially when looking at Devi who makes some of the worst judgment calls. It all builds up from her sessions with her psychiatrist which highlights the unsolved issues she has as she still hasn’t completely coped with the loss of her father which also has its weight especially in the family segments particularly her conversations with her mother. The family segments giving a lot of weight as it brings in a more dramatic side which definitely hits Devi harder especially with her mother (Poorna Jagannathan) while with her cousin Kamala (Richa Moorjani), its more of an envious side as she believes that her beauty covers up how nerdy she is which is something that she doesn’t think that she has. Devi turns into a rather unlikeable character at one part and needs to slowly redeem herself and these moments are constructed really well much like the character’s development all progress consistently and does make sense.

In many ways, Never Have I Ever’s first season is a pretty fun season to build a foundation for the show. The characters are built up well and there’s a good sense of how the relationships and chemistry with everyone as they can easily develop further from where they end at this point. Running at 10 episodes, Never Have I Ever is absolutely binge-worthy as its both fun and comedic. It has a really strong script giving a lot of memorable characters. There are some very awkward moments but then it does feel normal for a bunch of awkward teens making questionable decisions. Plus, while its mostly about an Indian American teenage girl acting out and pissing everyone off (its literally the title of one of the episodes), the story has a lot of depth and meaningful moments as it also deals with family, grief and loss which definitely adds to the whole story.

Tranquil Dreams Podcast #22: What’s Up 2021 Week 36 & 37

Welcome to Episode 22 of Tranquil Dreams Podcast as I dive into the next What’s Up 2021 doing a double week recap of Weeks 36 & 37. As reading gets set aside these weeks, I talk about the co-op game It Takes Two, a lackluster Netflix film, two Tarantino films and deep dive into a Russian horror thriller and a few variety shows both on Netflix and Chinese shows.

Thanks for listening and hope you enjoy!

Related Links

He’s All That – Film Review
She’s All That – Film Review
The Hateful Eight – Film Review
The Fatal Raid – Film Review

Music in the Episode:
There It Is by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4519-there-it-is
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Listen to the Show:
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Movies and Tea #45 – Girlfight

Next episode of Movies and Tea is here as we continue on with our Female Directors season and look at Karyn Kusama’s directorial debut film Girlfight. Head over to Movies and Tea to give it a listen!

Movies and Tea

Continuing our season long celebration of female directors on this episode we look at both the directing debut of Karyn Kusama aswell as the acting debut of Michelle Rodriguez as a wayward teenager living in Brooklyn who finds an outlet for her agression and frustrations with life through boxing.

Further Viewing

Million Dollar Baby
Whip It
Southpaw
The Invitation
Creed
Raging Bull
Cinderella Man
Chasing Dream
Crying Fist
Tokyo Fist
Step Up
Bend It Like Beckham

Music on this episode

Theodore Shapiro – La Toro
Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare
Theodore Shapiro – Decision

Listen to the Show

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Afterlife of the Party (2021)

Afterlife of the Party (2021)

Director: Stephen Herek

Cast: Victoria Justice, Midori Francis, Robyn Scott, Adam Garcia, Timothy Renouf, Gloria Garcia, Spencer Sutherland, Kiroshan Naidoo

A social butterfly who dies during her birthday week is given a second chance to right her wrongs on Earth. – IMDB

Afterlife of the Party is a supernatural comedy film. There’s a certain trajectory for these films which focus mostly on the person who has lost their life trying to redeem themselves. In this case, its about Cassie (Victoria Justice) who is stuck in the in-between with a deadline to resolve three issues with three people on her list: her dad, her mom and her best friend, as they all cope with her death as it approaches its one year anniversary, each with their own sets of skeletons in the closet. With the help of her “guardian angel” almost like an emotional support, she starts to figure out how to connect with the living and move forward through her observations to figure out how to help them and herself to move on before the window of opportunity to amend her ways passes.

The journey for Cassie is one that is expected but feels less heavy-handed and fairly natural in Victoria Justice’s portrayal of her growth as it shifts from her self-centred party girl living self to the after death version which slowly starts to face up to the hard things and making this journey about helping them than about herself moving on. In that sense, the story does hit some good heartwarming notes as she does connect and resolve those feelings bit by bit. Victoria Justice fits into this role incredibly well and a lot of what makes this film fun to watch is her dynamic along with her best friend’s Lily played by Midori Francis. Midori Francis did a great job when she was leading the Netflix series Dash & Lily and it carries forward here although an older but still more closed character. However, the contrast of these two characters does keep them relatively grounded especially as Cassie tries to pull together Lisa and her little crush with the neighbor Max (Timothy Renouf). Those moments are definitely the more comedic moments. Much like the “guardian angel” role, Val played by Robyn Scott which is absolutely charming and fun to have around, it gives the film an overall fun vibe.

On the other hand, Cassie’s face-up to her dad (Adam Garcia) and her mom (Gloria Garcia) individually brings up a whole other element. The mom bits actually don’t pull the heartstrings as much as the connection she has with her sister, which ends up being a nice little surprise. While her relationship with her father which gets a good idea of where they stand from the beginning of the film actually rounds it up in a fairly heartwarming manner.

Overall, Afterlife of the Party is a pretty simple premise and relatively formulaic. However, it does feel better executed as its more natural trajectory and the characters are more appealing to watch. As much as Cassie feels like she isn’t great in the first impressions, she still has moments that do redeem herself throughout which feels well-transitioned and comfortable to watch. Plus, the cast all around is fun overall and does a decent job which makes this film a pretty entertaining.

Tranquil Dreams Podcast #21: What’s Up 2021 August Recap (Week 32-35)

Welcome to the next episode of Tranquil Dreams Podcast as we still try to catch up with the What’s Up 2021 as we cover the month of August (aka Weeks 32 – 35). Between catching up on reading and maneuvering through bigger blogging priorities, this month was heavily focused on TV series while still getting some gaming done in co-stream with my friend BrandelSavage on Twitch.

Thanks for listening! Hope you enjoy!

The next few episodes will still be some form of catch-up in the next week! Keep an eye out for the next episode which is a little special as a do a Fantasia Festival coverage (a little later than expected but still deserves some attention).

Related Links

Hope – Book Review
Blackthorn – Book Review
The Visitor – Book Review
Brandel Savage – Twitch Stream (I co-stream on Friday’s for horror and co-op games)

Music in the Episode:
There It Is by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4519-there-it-is
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

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Movies and Tea #44 – Clueless

Its Season 7 of Movies and Tea! This season is our first themed season which looks at notable female directors and their works. The first to kick things off is Clueless! Head on over to give it a listen!

Movies and Tea

Kicking off our season long celebration of female directors is Amy Heckerling’s Clueless a modern day adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel Emma as Beverly Hill’s high school student Cher tries to find a purpose in life.

A classic film from the 90’s while also staring a who’s who of young talent who would nearly all go on to become big stars in the wake of the films release.

Further Viewing

Edge of Seventeen
Sixteen Candles
Pretty In Pink
Booksmart
American Pie
Clueless (TV Show)
Gossip Girl (TV Show)

Music on this episode

Cracker – Shake Some Action
Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare
Jill Sobule – Supermodel

Listen to the Show

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Book Review: The Visitor by Terry Tyler

The Visitor
By: Terry Tyler

Genre: Mystery/Post-Apocalyptic

In 2024, a mystery virus ravages the entire world. ‘Bat Fever’ is highly contagious and a hundred per cent lethal.

A cottage tucked away in an isolated Norfolk village seems like the ideal place to sit out a catastrophic pandemic, but some residents of Hincham resent the arrival of Jack, Sarah and their friends, while others want to know too much about them.What the villagers don’t know is that beneath Sarah’s cottage is a fully-stocked, luxury survival bunker. A post-apocalyptic ‘des res’.

Hincham isolates itself from the rest of the country, but the deaths continue―and not from the virus. There’s a killer on the loose, but is it a member of the much-depleted community, or someone from outside? As the body count rises, paranoia sets in; friend suspects friend, and everyone suspects the newcomers.

Most terrifying of all is that no one knows who’s next on the list… – Goodreads

Having read two books before by Terry Tyler, The Visitor continues on being able to showcase her ability to craft engaging murder mystery thrillers. The Visitor’s plot benefits from our current pandemic situation as it sets itself in the future after another pandemic has struck the world which is 100% lethal and much more brutal but sets it in a little village where another threat has hit them simultaneously in the form of a murderer which causes the fear to grow in its inhabitants. The backdrop is one that feels almost like it could happen in our current landscape with variants popping up in our current landscape, making it hit home a little more.

There’s a lot to love about The Visitor other than its familiar backdrop. One of them is a familiar form in Terry Tyler’s books which focuses around the point of view from a few of its core characters. In this one, its from the view of the few inhabitants living in the cottage and bunker who ends up there through some connection whether it is the leftover family and companions of friends that had gotten the invitation. As they gather in the bunker and keep it secret, they observe the people around them and get to know the different members of the village. As they each struggle with their own loss and current situation, they each have their own speculations. The benefit of jumping between characters is that it leaves some blind spots and blank spaces giving the unknown to spark. At the same time, who actually knows the depths of someone’s mind although the killer’s perspective usually does draw certain clues from one chapter to the next and slowly does give an idea of who is behind it by the end.

The Visitor also crafts really good characters. The group in the bunker themselves having their own differences and backgrounds and how they get there is one that definitely sets their own character as much as what they do after the settle into the village and each having their own pursuits and responsibilities. Two of them being best friends but also old flames, one of them being a survivalist (but also could be viewed as selfish), one dealing with her massive loss but navigating through being more of a loner: add in their own sort of purpose and personality that grows throughout the story as they get more involved into the village’s affairs and the villagers themselves, human nature is a tricky thing to say the very least.

The great part is how the focus of the novel smoothly shifts from its beginning of the big threat with this mystery virus which takes the front seat and determines their own means to survive and the desperation of the whole situation due to its lethal nature. However, subtly the story shifts to the murder and slowly the routine of surviving through this “post -apocalyptical” world becomes secondary as the murders become more frequent. It almost blends the two together so well that the story and character plot shift is done incredibly well.

Overall, The Visitor is a fantastic murder mystery. Not only does it have well-developed characters but it also builds a great post-apocalyptic world that is not only relatable in the current age but also pushes it further. Perhaps at times it feels a little bit too soon to be already diving into it but it also adds to the unsettling and uneasiness. Smooth plot transition and executed well, The Visitor is a well-paced and engaging thriller to dive into.

The Kissing Booth 3 (2021)

The Kissing Booth 3 (2021)

Director (and co-writer): Vince Marcello

Cast: Joey King, Jacob Elordi, Joel Courtney, Molly Ringwald, Taylor Zakhar Perez, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Meganne Young, Stephen Jennings

It’s the summer before Elle Evans is set to head off to college, and she has a big decision to make. – IMDB

The final film of The Kissing Booth trilogy takes place the summer before college which pretty much picks up almost after the last film. With college decisions, friendship and love to balance out, Elle is stuck trying to please everyone but not exactly being able to achieve it especially when she has to accept her father also moving on and finding himself a girlfriend who seems to want to replace her mom. If you have seen my review of the first (review) and second (review) films, you will probably know that I am not a big fan of the films, in fact The Kissing Booth getting 2 more films after the first one was a pretty surprising development overall. Still, there’s always hope that it can get better since the second one was a tad better than the first. Who knows, right? With the mentality to finish up the trilogy and to keep on track with Netflix releases (since I’m not going to the theatres yet), here we go!

The Kissing Booth 3 feels pretty much exactly how I felt about the previous two. The story itself is pretty basic. The characters are not really too likeable and the dialogue itself feels a little forced. The chemistry is mostly not too great between Noah and Elle. It really feels like I’m being a bit harsh with the film but I’m not trying to. Its not all bad to be fair. Every single film has one highlight event and that usually lands pretty well. Much like the second movie’s dance competition preparation, this film was all about Lee and Elle’s summer bucket list. That part was a ton of fun as it really focused on their friendship and the fun ideas that they had, no matter ridiculous or silly that it would be. Those moments packed in some fun surprises overall.

These films really are at its worst when it focuses on the deeper feelings as it just doesn’t carry well. In fact, they become really frustrating to watch in general. I’m usually pretty easy to please in this department (considering I watch Asian dramas which are probably the most formulaic). However, Elle and Lee has this solid friendship that seems to easily break apart when life throws them curveballs and Elle doesn’t choose Lee in some situations, which on some level is understandable. Elle and Noah is just an annoying relationship as their chemistry isn’t too great and the arguments increase with each film over the same issues essentially. Its this vicious cycle that whether its one person being careless about the other or they are fighting for each other, it just feels like something is missing between them while they seem to pair up much better with their other friends.

With that said, the character development here is visible. For Elle, she’s a much more likable character as she is working hard to balance everything even if some moments still sees her being a little insensible as she’s overwhelmed but there are shining points of her that truly get shown here. Its the same for Noah and Lee individually. Perhaps the most heartwarming moments are the family ones especially the conversations between them and the parents. Molly Ringwald’s character as Mrs. Flynn is one that truly shines when she acts as a parent figure for Elle much like Elle and her dad’s conversations also are pretty heartfelt as well. However, I do want to mention that the character of Marco, played Taylor Zakhar Perez is pretty good even if his role here is even lesser than his previous one. He is a pretty good second male interest which is a likeable character overall.

Overall, The Kissing Booth 3 is one that I felt pretty indifferent. It delivers about the same feelings as the previous two films. Its not a complete loss but its really not my type of film. While some bits are fun to watch, it never adds to the story as a whole. It might be a script problem or an acting problem or just the cast and chemistry issue. Its hard to really say at this point. As a little spoiler (highlight to see if you have seen the film or don’t mind reading it) and a general thought about the ending: the best part of the film was breaking up the characters at the end and if the film had kept them broken up as the big finale, years down the road, it would have landed so much better. But then, it wouldn’t fit the film genre and turn into some romantic drama, I suppose. If you’ve liked the previous 2 films, you will probably like this one, if you didn’t, then its really up to you whether finishing the trilogy is worth it or not.

After Hours: One Cut Of The Dead

Welcome to the next episode of Movies and Tea as we continue with the last episode of this season’s After Hours with my pick of One Cut of the Dead, a Japanese zombie film which works in elements of found footage and one take and its fresh and clever. Head over to Movies and Tea and give it a listen! Of course, there are some spoiler alerts so best to listen after you’ve seen it. A strong recommendation on my part!

Movies and Tea

Elwood and Kim look at the Micro-budget zombie comedy “One Cut of The Dead” which might also be one of the freshest takes on the genre in years as a film crew attempt to film thier zombie movie only for a zombie outbreak to disrupt thier filming…..or does it.

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Tranquil Dreams Podcast #20: What’s Up 2021 – Week 28 to 31 July Recap

Welcome to the next episode of Tranquil Dreams Podcast. There was an unexpected hiatus the last month or so as festival coverage took over most of my time. Things are getting back to normal as the next week should see the the next few episodes to catch up and brings things back on track. The first to kick things off is the July recap for the What’s Up which covers Weeks 28 to 31.

Everything is relatively back in action as I finish up a graphic novel that I started at the beginning of the year, played a Kickstarter demo which is still available on Steam and watched and rewatched a multitude of films with a highlight on the Fear Street Trilogy while TV is very much in action as I started a lot of new shows and finished almost equally the same amount of TV series and shows. A lot of good stuff overall throughout the month!

Thanks for listening and hope you enjoy!

Related Links

Wayward Kindred – Book Review
Pitch Perfect – Film Review
Burlesque – Film Review
Monster Hunter – Film Review
Fear Street Part 1: 1994 – Film Review
Fear Street Part 2: 1978 – Film Review
Fear Street Part 3: 1666 – Film Review
The Witches – Film Review
Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness – TV Binge

Music in the Episode:
There It Is by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4519-there-it-is
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Listen to the Show:
Anchor
Spotify
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Breaker
RadioPublic