Halloween Marathon 2021: V/H/S (2012)

The highlight franchise for this Halloween marathon is here as we dive into the first V/H/S.

V/H/S (2012)

Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence

Cast: Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett, Hannah Fierman, Drew Sawyer, Mike Donlan, Joe Swanberg, Sophia Takal,

When a group of misfits are hired by an unknown third party to burglarize a desolate house and acquire a rare VHS tape, they discover more found footage than they bargained for. – IMDB

V/H/S is a 2012 American horror anthology film which features a selection of found footage horror shorts linked together by a mainframe story which shows a group of misfits that go to burglarize a home owned by an old man to get a valuable VHS tape and one by one as they search through the house and through the tapes, one by one they disappear. The mainframe story itself isn’t exactly anything to call home about. In fact, it feels like its a background story that frames up these other stories well but feels a little more empty. It has a lot to do with the misfits really being shown as very unlikeable starting with their parking lot prank pulling up a girls shirt and their goal to earn more money going further doing bad things. There is a lot of suspense but its mostly unresolved. The mystery and creepy vibe does give it space for further sequels, of course.

Being a rather big fan of found footage style horror films, V/H/S has a decent variety of horror subgenres in its shorts compiled here. Not to mention its list of directors involved do have a lot of familiar names mostly with Adam Wingard (directing the frame short mentioned above), Ti West and Joe Swanberg. Another director in this group is David Bruckner which when this anthology released had directed primarily short films in 2012 but is more familiar now as he’s gone on to do Netflix British horror The Ritual (review) and recently, The Night House. Glen McQuaid is probably the lesser know director in this group with only a few films to his credit while Radio Silence rounds up the anthology and is probably now best known for its group of filmmakers making the awesome film, Ready or Not (review).

The first short in V/H/S that gets shown “Amateur Night” directed by David Bruckner is perhaps one of the most appealing ones which also ends up getting turned into a full feature called “Siren” afterwards. Amateur Night is a fantastic little creature feature of sorts as these guys try to get it on with these girls they pick up at the bar and it includes an odd girl Lily who eventually turns into some mythical creature or something. The found footage is from the angle of some surveillance glasses so making everything at eye level for the most part with the character wearing them. Its a great first horror short to kick off this anthology series and for myself, perhaps the highlight until it reaches the big finale.

“Second Honeymoon” by Ti West and “Tuesday the 17th” by Glenn McQuaid are a little odd overall or perhaps feels a little less surprising overall although the latter definitely has an interesting premise especially with the ‘slasher’ style that it chooses and the idea and design of the whole character that is the major threat. Its basically called “The Glitch” which tells all about what it is. The whole part is very static-y for the most part and it makes a lot of the details harder to grasp as its flashing through. Its a good idea and yet something about how it starts feels so hard to get into.

“The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger” directed by Joe Swanberg is an interesting premise. The endgame is a little abstract, at least in my interpretation compared to what I learned after some research. This type of story is odd but still has a sort of suspense where it lingers between the mystery of whether its supernatural or whether its something else. It plays well with the darkness and the whether there’s some other plot hidden. These sort of stories are pretty intriguing overall as it leaves a lot of room to guess. Its found footage style is through a computer screen which is the “screen life” style that I absolutely love as well.

Wrapping up the anthology is “10/31/98” directed by Radio Silence which is one of the longer stories as it sets itself on Halloween where some friends goes to the wrong house for a Halloween party and what they thought was part of a realistic haunted house set-up turned out to be some exorcism ritual being performed which takes them for a whirl when they need to figure out how to leave before they get caught. The whole setting really comes to life here. There’s a lot to love here. Apparently, there’s an alternate ending this segment which was shot as a joke that has a better ending.

Overall, V/H/S is pretty decent as a horror anthology. Most of the segments are pretty fun overall and have some clever twists and premise in general. As with most anthologies, there are some that stand out a lot more than others. For myself, the best ones were Amateur Night and 10/31/98 with The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger all working well.

Halloween Marathon 2021 Double Feature: The Boy (2016) & Brahms: The Boy II (2020)

The Boy (2016)

Director: William Brent Bell

Cast: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle, Ben Robson, James Russell

An American nanny is shocked that her new English family’s boy is actually a life-sized doll. After she violates a list of strict rules, disturbing events make her believe that the doll is really alive. – IMDB

At the first glance, The Boy feels like a generic horror film. Using dolls who come alive with evil outcomes isn’t exactly a novel idea at this point with Chucky and Annabelle taking its own stage. This also makes for some obvious horror tropes that show up in this film as well which feels a little predictable at times. However, the setting does itself a lot of favors as the mansion that its set in is the Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Nothing quite like a castle to capture the expansive space which is used incredibly well throughout the film as it navigates through the different areas of the house which all has its own purpose.

The foreigner going to a huge mansion for a nanny job is also a decent angle as the audience learns about the house and discovers its secrets along the way. The rules itself and her little observations along with the conversations she has and relationships she builds also brings a lot to the table as her story gets revealed. A girl running from her recent past to evade her own set of dangers and hoping that it doesn’t chase after her as well as facing her own losses which all become all too relatable in terms of the story of the family living in the house.

However, The Boy is its best when the big reveal is shown as it does has quite a shocking element. Of course, for those who are like myself who went into this knowing very little, I’m keeping that part spoiler-free. If there were any creeps, its definitely the big reveal that does pay off in the long run. In that element, it definitely exceeded expectations.

Sure, The Boy isn’t some top tier horror film with some sophisticated scares and for the most part, its more creepy than actually scary. However, it does have a clever twist reveal and the setting does have its haunting elements. There are some obvious issues with it but somehow, its always fun to find something that exceeds expectations and creates some surprises, right?

Brahms: The Boy II (2020)

Director: William Brent Bell

Cast: Katie Holmes, Christopher Convery, Owain Yeoman, Ralph Ineson, Daphne Hoskins, Keoni Rebeiro, Joely Collins

After a family moves into the Heelshire Mansion, their young son soon makes friends with a life-like doll called Brahms. – IMDB

Its a tad surprising to see that The Boy got a sequel mostly because the first movie does wrap up the situation enough and doesn’t really need to be further explored however, here we are! The sequel expands on the story in the future as years has passed between the first film’s events to the current events as a family moves into the guest house on the Heelshire Mansion property to heal from a burglary attack in their home that has caused psychological troubles to both the mother and the son. As they arrive and their son strays off into the woods and finds the life-like doll Brahms from the first film. Questions automatically pop up as to what has happened since and why its been buried outside. This makes the audience right away more aware than the characters themselves.

In reality, what made the first film shine was its use of the rather unique twist which gave it a lot of boost from its rather generic horror style. The sequel dials back to be a lot more predictable. It has to do a lot with already knowing what tricks the doll is capable of doing and knowing what it will do and rather just having that moment of building atmosphere to when it will do it. However, this film dives further into the lore of Brahms from the origins of the dolls to its dark past which changes the game a little for the film but still taking a more normal path. It ends up adding to the story which can be appreciated but it doesn’t feel too unpredictable that its much less enjoyable overall.

Brahms: The Boy II brings in Katie Holmes as the mother in the leading role. Its been a while since I’ve personally seen anything of hers and with what she had to work with, it was a pretty decent job. Whether its how the film tracks her character development from the traumatic start at the beginning to having to pull out the stops to protect her son from this doll before it would take him away. There is something rather sinister about the whole situation and the son played by Christopher Convery does a decent job as well. There are some well-executed horror moments in the film.

As a sequel, its pretty much exactly what would be expected. Even if it did build on the lore of the doll itself, the film overall is pretty bland. Its fairly predictable and expected. There’s not really anyone who says or does anything to unexpected and nothing too surprising that happens. It goes exactly as you’d expect a sequel from The Boy might go right down to the ending where it pretty much tries to set up the film for the unresolved issue under wraps, just in case it ever gets greenlit for another sequel.

TV Binge: Midnight Mass (2021)

Midnight Mass (2021)

Creator: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Kate Siegel, Zach Gilford, Kristin Lehman, Samantha Sloyan, Igby Rigney, Rahul Kohli, Annarah Cymone, Annabeth Gish, Alex Essoe, Rahul Abburi, Hamish Linklater, Henry Thomas, Michael Trucco, Matt Biedel, Crystal Balint

An isolated island community experiences miraculous events – and frightening omens – after the arrival of a charismatic, mysterious young priest. – IMDB

The third Netflix limited series of Mike Flanagan takes a completely different direction. Midnight Mass is bigger than the haunted house set-up but instead tackles an isolated island community and the uprise in religious faith after their new priest is able to create a miracle. This review will be mostly spoiler-free so some things will be much more general. If you’ve watched it, you might what I am addressing.

Diving religion and belief is a pretty ambitious direction to take especially since it also is a rather touchy subject for the most part. It brings up a lot of different viewpoints of religion in community which in a small little island setting does show the diversity of how many people treat religion on a daily basis as well as the extremities of beliefs and perhaps the dependency on it when faith creates miracles. There’s quite a few themes here but in reality the most important element being how these characters are crafted from their experiences and the relationships that grow whether on a family, romantic and friendship. The setting itself gives it a closed off and isolated environment but also manages to create a lot of diversity. When you bring in a stranger, the unknown and mysterious parts of this stranger become a spotlight and brings on the curiosity especially when they are more charismatic than dangerous. Much like someone returning to the island with their own background also has a sense of a new character where they try to re-establish themselves.

Where Flanagan’s shows are most successful is how the story crafts its characters. It makes human nature be the biggest force in what creates the creepy elements sometimes even more than the horror and sinister elements themselves. That’s not saying that Flanagan doesn’t create some genuine startling moments which does bring on a lot of questions especially with their unknown “monster’ that is rumored from their deserted off island where the youths go to hang out in the beginning to its appearances showing up across town. It brings back memories of Absentia when Flanagan creates a character with so little revealed that it creates so much suspense and mystery that brings along the horror. Of course, that’s been while ago and Midnight Mass has much more budget where it can create something a little different in what is actually going on. Although, in terms of execution, it does feel like the big reveal was done a little too early which makes what happens after feel like it drags a little bit longer than it needs to therefore losing the effects. its not to say that its not a shocking ending or that the end result does leave space to contemplate about some of its messages.

That being said, its hard to not talk about the characters here which are pretty well-casted overall. Starting off from Zach Gilford as Riley who returns from his four year prison sentence after killing a woman in an recent accident that causes him to be haunted by the scene over and over again every night. He returns to having to readjust both to the small town and their judgments as well as getting back to good terms with his family so that they can accept him while also facing his ex-girlfriend, Erin (Kate Siegel) who he soon finds out has returned back to the island pregnant but has followed her mother’s footsteps as a schoolteacher. Their reunited friendship keeps both of them comfortable as Erin helps Riley find somewhere that he belongs and isn’t judged but also understands the hurdles of coming back while they respectively have changed in their faith in opposite directions as Riley has lost his religion and faith where Erin has found it upon her return. These two characters are no doubt the center of the entire plot. Much like the island’s new sheriff, Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and his son Ali (Rahul Abburi) also have a pretty strong role as their difference in appearance and religion create their own hurdles of how certain members of the island creates barriers of how they don’t understand how the island operates, sticking to their own ways. This leads to the church portion which brings on a very well-portrayed in the most frustrating sort of character who sits at an extreme of the religious spectrum in her absolute faith and belief, Miss Keane who is one of those very strong type of characters that carries the sharpest words, narrow-minded and is overall a pretty extreme type of person who acts like she is doing good when she is actually a pretty mean person as she manipulates others using her influence. Which leads to the new member of the Church, the young priest Father Hill who temporarily replace their elderly priest who is both charismatic and wise with his views and plays the mystery stranger role which has quite a shocking reveal.

Midnight Mass is full of well-developed characters which each contribute so much to the plot itself. There’s a lot to love about this mini series. In some ways, it dances around the sensitive topic of religion and faith when it is taken to its extremities and how it turn into something that can be freely interpreted using the Bible with any situation to manipulate situation when its believed to be good but it isn’t. As the character dynamics change with the constantly changing situation, this island and community becomes so intriguing to watch. Even if the ending seems a little wild, it does manage to keep its audience contemplating about the deeper messages portrayed here whether its about loss, grief, belief, faith, religion, etc.

Halloween Marathon 2021: Escape the Undertaker (2021)

Escape the Undertaker (2021)

Director: Ben Simms

Cast: Mark Calaway, Ettore Ewen, Kofi Kingston, Austin Watson

Can The New Day survive the surprises at The Undertaker’s spooky mansion? It’s up to you to decide their fate in this interactive WWE-themed special. – Netflix

Escape the Undertaker is a mystery comedy Halloween interactive film which runs about 30 minutes to get to the end. The goal is to escape the spooky mansion alive and destroy the Undertaker’s urn. First things first, wrestling is a blind spot for myself. The only wrestlers I have heard of are the mega famous or turns to actor ones and all I know about wrestling world are the basics, mostly from the documentary You Cannot Kill David Arquette (review).

However, this special has nothing to do with it other than the wrestling figures here, The New Day and The Undertaker as the leading roles as The New Day goes to The Undertaker’s mansion to borrow his urn which takes them for a ride when one of them ends up almost losing their soul and needs to save it before the ritual is complete, sending them on their separate paths. Of course, in the heart of choose your adventure, you only get to choose one of the three to follow, meaning you can always go back to see what the other paths are like, depending how much time you want to toss into this film. For myself, I at least went through until I could get the intended ending where they escaped and destroyed the urn. Its pretty straightforward so it was achievable on the second run where it also gave the chance to explore some other options to see a little bit more of this mansion. Its not particularly hard to find the right path that they want but I’m sure there are many other outcomes if you wanted to test out other paths to expand the experience.

The New Day has a pretty positive vibe overall and they seem fun enough to watch without anything too cringe-y in terms of dialogue or acting so its decent entertainment. Much like The Undertaker that has this somewhat campy villain sort of feeling as well. The two sides of the spectrum from the good and bad have a decent contrast taken from their wrestling personas. I mean, I’m just basing it on what I saw in this film so you can let me know if I’m completely wrong or this film was playing it up on any element.

With that said, Escape the Undertaker is somewhat of a silly idea and feels a little random overall as its all a little too straightforward perhaps. However, its a fun enough time. You are going into a film featuring a cast of wrestling figures in this interactive movie, so I’m not exactly sure how high the expectations should be. For myself, its not exactly anything too special but it was a good time. As a simple Halloween themed choose your adventure, I think its ticks the box well enough with some silly, fun and not so spooky escape adventure.

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021)

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021)

Director: Adam Robitel

Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Thomas Cocquerel, Holland Roden, Indya Moore, Carlito Olivero, Deborah Ann Woll

Six people unwillingly find themselves locked in another series of escape rooms, slowly uncovering what they have in common to survive. Joining forces with two of the original survivors, they soon discover they’ve all played the game before. – IMDB

Taking place soon after the ending of Escape Room (review), the sequel starts off the previous films survivors trying to track down Minos and reveal their evil plans. However, they yet again get caught up in another escape room game when their subway tram breaks away from the rest and takes another course where they realized that the other people are all past survivors of previous Escape Rooms each themed with their own experiences and traumas with one survivor quickly revealing the subtitle of the sequel “Tournament of Champions” near the very beginning.

While Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is a sequel, it isn’t completely necessary to see the first film as the beginning of the film does a quick recap of what happens and fills in the audience of the key elements that needs to be remembered and if you happen to be one of those adventurous audience who likes to jump into sequels regardless of its prior film, then that should helps. Much like its first film, it manages to retain one of its strengths and that is the room designs themselves. The room designs here right down to the different dangerous elements and the time countdown really kind of ups itself from its predecessor. If anything, the progression of room designs all have their own story and even their own sort of flow. For viewers of the first film, it might start seeing this sort of similarity in the general progression of the rooms. This one starts on fairly high stakes as it plays with electricity and does slow itself down. There’s a lot to love here as each room gives pretty engaging obstacles to solve its puzzles, each having its own theme as well.

Looking at the characters itself, as mentioned before, they are all people that have won/survived previous Escape Rooms designed by Minos which gives an idea of who they are when they talk about their themed sessions of the group that was gathered. The main character is still the girl from the first film, Zoey (Taylor Russell) who gets involved after dragging along the other survivor from her game, Ben to follow the trail of clues to hopefully take down Minos, however getting caught back into its claws for the next game. These two are almost like the brains of the operations. Perhaps its the element that these all are survivors and know what’s at stake and want to flip it around, they work together much more quickly and figure out the puzzles with a lot of cooperation. The whole cast here is actually pretty decent. There is some bad dialogue and some overacting which happens fairly early in the film but slowly does fade away as other elements of the game starts to piece together.

Keeping to my spoiler-free style here, the pieces all come together to a fairly interesting twist to the film which brings it to its final act. The twist itself being pretty good overall and demonstrates the manipulation and power of this “evil” corporation on many different levels. Sure, I’m going to say it again like with the first film that I’m not a fan of films that seem to want to bait the unnecessary sequel set-up or leave it at this weird cliffhanger like there’s always more which doesn’t keep it as standalone and plus, its so normal for films to do that now that it makes it so predictable and yet, its hard to say that there isn’t a smidge of cleverness and curiosity on how far they can carry this concept.

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions is currently available to watch on demand and was released on Blu-Ray and DVD today (October 5th).

*Screener received from TARO PR*

Halloween Marathon 2021: The Superdeep (2020)

Welcome to this year’s Halloween Horror Marathon! This is the kick-off post for this year. While I had initially wanted it to be a double feature, I figured that this is a great way to show what this month is going to be about: diving in to the Shudder catalogue especially on the Shudder Originals as much as possible along with some Netflix horror films that I’ve missed this past year or so, plus a few other little fun bits. There will be other stuff as well like TV binges and hopefully books. I have a lot of horror catch-up to do in every department. Also, this year’s highlight, thanks to Shudder’s release of V/H/S 94 will be the V/H/S franchise. As its only 4 films, it’ll be released one film per week. The first V/H/S review will go up in a few days. With that said, the goal is to have a total of 31 reviews at the end whether its in the form of single reviews, double features or TV binges, so maybe not a post everyday but I will definitely try.

With that said, nothing like a Shudder Original to kick things off as we dive into an English dubbed Russian horror thriller called The Superdeep. Let’s go!

The Superdeep (Kolskaya Sverhglubokaya, 2020)

Director (and co-writer): Arseny Syuhin

Cast: Milena Radulovic, Nikita Dyuvbanov, Kirill Kovbas, Sergey Ivanyuk, Vadim Demchog, Nikolay Kovbas, Albina Chaykina

A small research team went down below the surface to find out what secret the world’s deepest borehole was hiding. What they have found turned out to be the greatest threat in history. And the future of humanity is in their hands. – IMDB

The Superdeep is a 2020 Russian sci-fi horror thriller with elements of creature feature and body horror. Running at almost 2 hours, this film has a decent pacing. Aside from some below average effects and some debatable slow motion cinematography choices in various parts, this film is fairly well-executed in premise. If anything, its dubbed in English which for some characters feels a little more obvious which is a peculiar choice as the version to be on Shudder as there’s one part of news broadcast which is in Russian so not exactly sure why this is the case. However, it does a decent job in the dubbing for the most part so its easy to get used to it quickly.

The Superdeep is mostly winning for its premise and setting. The setting takes a lot of credit here as the underground element being a deepest borehole in the world makes for a lot of other dangers mostly from elevation, air pressure and oxygen. The setting itself also has various floors in their underground facility which gradually falls apart. As the characters move through these spaces, the use of space gives the setting a character of its own especially in a relatively unknown area. Plus, from other horror movies, the depths always have something sinister going on and in this case, it feels a lot like an experiment gone wrong bringing in some sense that it drew inspiration from video game Resident Evil 7. I mean in appearance and nature but not exactly what the whole premise is. There are also other inspirations here that draw from perhaps The Thing and Alien which might be the most recognizable. While there are bits that feel familiar, the threat itself is still rather intriguing and has its creepy elements.

If there was anything to criticize about the film, it is the unnecessary frustrating bits where there’s a critical moment set in slow motion which probably was meant to either add drama or anxiety but didn’t seem to achieve it. The already runs at 2 hours so some of these bits seem to be pointless however, thinking more about it, it could be trying to play on the danger element and the pain of it all. In reality, the whole film is fairly decent even if some of the characters are fairly predictable in their place in the film but the setting itself and the danger element is designed well but it all comes crashing to a rather disappointing sort of ending. The ending itself is acceptable if it wasn’t executed the way that it was. However, from the limited Russian films that I’ve seen (I’ve only seen 4 or so at this point), I’m not sure that I’ve seen a film that has given me a very good ending yet even if the whole film itself was a great time overall. It all dials down to whether the sum of its parts is worth your time at the end of the day. For this one, it does on some levels.

While Shudder has a slew of bad and average reviews for The Superdeep (when I saw it), I actually think the opposite. Its a pretty fun premise which did appeal to myself. It had some decent body horror moments and the virus or creature that it creates is decently designed as well. For sure, there are issues with this like the lack of character development and some predictable moments and a very lackluster ending (which I do hope isn’t an attempt to create another film for this world). That isn’t say that I didn’t like the film but the reason that I see this film working is because of the underground facility setting which brings in a lot of other unknown factors that makes this intriguing to watch. Strip that element away and this film probably might not have had the same effect. With all that said, its a decent enough way to kick start this marathon.

To All The Boys: Always and Forever (2021)

You can check out the review of the first 2 movies of this trilogy below:

To All The Boys I’ve Love Before
To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

To All The Boys: Always and Forever (2021)

Director: Michael Fimognari

Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Ross Butler, Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Trezzo Mahoro, Sarayu Blue, John Corbett, Henry Thomas

Continuing the romantic life of the teenage girl and facing her good and hard times with her friends and family. – IMDB

As we reach the last movie of the To All The Boys trilogy on Netflix, this is based on the third book of the trilogy of the same name. The third book is focused around Lara Jean but this time, unlike the first one where its about facing up to her feelings despite making herself vulnerable or the second book that its about choosing between two guys, this one is dials back to her as she struggles with choosing between a college that she wants to go to and the guy that she loves, worrying about the future of what might happen if she chooses one love over the other or a more suitable future over her love life, despite having to face up to changing plans and the consequences related to it. The story itself centering back to the basics of family, her future and her love life.

While its not a complete change back to its first film and lacks somewhat of the same type of charm, Always and Forever is a definite step up from the second film. However, that’s not to say that this one has some issues as well as it has a feeling piecing together montages a lot and jumping from one sequence to the next rather quickly creating a little sense of disjointedness. Where this film does carry back its fun elements is bringing back more screen time for the three sisters and the relationship they have while each also having their own sense of settling with a new situation to come with their father remarrying. There is no doubt that a big part of what works for this trilogy is the family element especially when the other sisters are charming characters along with their father.

For Lara Jean, the center back to her and her friends along with the idea of how to go for the future she wants in terms of college and think a little more about making the decision suitable for her comes into play. Of course, To All The Boys is also about Peter and Lara Jean’s relationship and there is a decent balance of it here as well especially as they each face their own insecurities about a future that might involve them being apart from each other and finding the courage and confidence to face those problems together. In some ways, for Lara Jean, its a lot about how she decides to be true to what she wants and for Peter to be able to support her choices even if it means taking a harder route for them.

To All The Boys: Always and Forever also packs in a really nice soundtrack that definitely matches with everything. There is a use of romantic comedy references which is pretty fun as well as the concept of Peter and Lara Jean’s meet-cute. The script here fills in those pieces of what hasn’t been talked about in previous two books while also tying in Lara Jean’s love for romantic comedies that makes it feel like it fits well. It also brings back a snippet of the first film’s use of having her talking to an imagined version of Peter Kavinsky as she struggles to tell him the truth behind something was misinterpreted. With that said, the charming characters of Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky as their own characters and as a couple is still one of the highlights of the film, which also makes perhaps some small little details feel very touching to watch, especially the near ending scene that is probably one of my faves and gives a nice feeling of the series coming full circle.

Overall, To All The Boys: Always and Forever is a pretty good sequel. Its a nice way to wrap up the trilogy and manages to bring everything back to a nice feeling from the first film. It addresses all the characters in Lara Jean’s circle for the most part and sees a progress throughout the time being in school and how they’ve also changed as well or made amends in other cases. Its about growing up and these characters definitely feel like they have. Its a satisfying ending and a great way to wrap up the trilogy.

TV Binge: Bridgerton (Season 1, 2020)

Bridgerton (Season 1, 2020)

Creator: Chris Van Dusen

Cast: Phoebe Dynevor, Regé-Jean Page, Jonathan Bailey, Ruby Barker, Nicola Coughlan, Ruth Gemmell, Adjoa Andoh, Claudia Jessie, Luke Newton, Luke Thompson, Polly Walker, Golda Rosheuval

Wealth, lust, and betrayal set against the backdrop of Regency-era England, seen through the eyes of the powerful Bridgerton family. – IMDB

Based on Julia Quinn’s first book of the Bridgerton book series called The Duke and I, Bridgerton’s first season is like a Regency London’s era of Gossip Girl. Its scandalous and there’s a mystery lady called Lady Whistledown writing on everyone’s gossip and spreading her speculations about different situations. Set during the beginning of the season where the debutantes go into society to look for their suitors, the first season is all about Daphne, the oldest daughter of the Bridgerton family as she enters into society and navigates her way through everyone’s different opinions before hatching a plan with the newly arrived Duke Hastings who wants to craft a fake connection with her to avoid having to deal with other mothers of available daughters as he doesn’t want to marry while creating the smoke screen for Daphne that will make other men desire her more because of already being desired. Of course, its no doubt that Daphne and Duke Hastings form a real connection eventually and it becomes quite the push and pull relationship, full of drama and soapy elements as well as the many sex and intimate scenes going on.

Bridgerton is thoroughly a guilty pleasure. There’s no other way to put it. Its not exactly untapped territory especially for myself that watches a ton of Chinese dramas which revolve around crafting fake relationships that turn into real connections and so on so forth. What makes Bridgerton fun is of course the Regency London era with its beautiful houses and lovely clothes and the very innocent and protected debutantes who are protected from everything about sex and intimacy. At the same time, the world that its crafted is a racially integrated Regency era London where (according to Wikipedia because I haven’t read the source material) it differs from the book’s setting. However, they do a great job and justifying how it all came to be briefly in conversation. The story itself definitely has those expected frustrating moments where the two misunderstand each other and then there’s some scheming that creates them to diverge in their feelings and its a whole roller coaster ride in terms of the few months of the season that Daphne and Duke Hastings go through.

Other than the setting, Bridgerton is all about the characters. For starters, the main couple Daphne and Duke Hastings has a ton of chemistry and that reflects well as their connection grows stronger and they love each other more. The sex scenes are done incredibly well and very believable. Above all of it though, its about Daphne’s sexual awakening and the gradual revelation and learning about how sex works and how getting pregnant works and all that comes together that crafts her character in a certain way. Aside from these two, the story does also deliver some other great characters. The favorite going to Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) who is Duke Hastings aka Simon’s mentor. Hands down the best character in the whole first season. The first season also laid down the foundation of the Bridgerton family whether its their widowed mother Violet or the three brothers, Anthony, Benedict, Colin and Gregory or the younger sisters Eloise, Francesca and Hyacinth who all make an appearance, big or small. Seeing as the following seasons will be about the other members of the family, that foundation is rather important plus the first season also follows some of the relationships and character development for a few of the siblings especially for Anthony, Benedict, Eloise and Colin.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the 10 episodes of the first season of Bridgerton. For those who like Regency era London settings, this one is a pretty decent choice. The first season’s most compelling parts are the scenes that build up the relationship between Daphne and Simon. The slow connection and the comfort; the change from disapproval to love; the fake relationship to real; what they teach other and grow together: it has its frustrating moments but then it also has some well-crafted moments. The second compelling element has to be trying to figure out who is Lady Whistledown especially when she’s voiced by Julie Andrews. When I finished watching it the first time, I had some mixed feelings about it but when I watched it a second time around, I realized that there is something there that does work.

As an aside, Season 2 has been confirmed and its going to follow the brother Anthony who had his tangent in season 1 although, I was rather lukewarm to the whole thing. However, the season ended hinting that it would be focused on him finding a wife so we will see where that goes. In the meantime, I’m going to catch up with the series when I have a moment see how the series match up to the source material.

Double Feature: Angela’s Christmas Wish (2020) & The Grinch (2018)

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wrapping up this year’s Holidays marathon on Christmas day is how it usually works so the next double feature is the final 2 movies of the marathon, although I did have one more alternate Christmas movie but we’ll pair it up later after Christmas. This time, its a animated Christmas films double feature with a Netflix sequel, Angela’s Christmas Wish and 2018’s adaptation, The Grinch.

Let’s check it out!

Angela’s Christmas Wish (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Damien O’Connor

Voice cast: Lucy O’Connell, Ruth Negga, Moe Dunford, Brendan Mullins, Shona Hamill, Oscar Butler, Janet Moran

A sequel to the much loved Angela’s Christmas, Angela’s Christmas Wish is a heart-warming tale of a determined little girl who sets out to reunite her family in time for Christmas. – IMDB

There’s something so heartwarming about Angela’s Christmas Wish. It has that same type of charming little girl character for Angela that continues from Angela’s Christmas (review) where Angela’s imagination is one that makes it so beautiful to be a child because of the naivety to believe in the things that she knows probably isn’t true but also shows her big heart. Last year was keeping baby Jesus warm and stirring up a lot of commotion that the townspeople hasn’t quite forgotten as it still gets mentioned but this year, its running around trying to bring her father home. Being an adult watching this, its obvious that whatever she is thinking up is absolutely impossible to happen and the adults do bring it up, however its the persistence and the pure hope of bringing her father back home that makes this such a heartwarming tale, which takes her on an adventure and makes a new friend in the process.

Wrapping it up with a tale about a pauper and what he wished for that made him happy as a string between the conversation and a Christmas surprise to look forward to, Angela’s Christmas Wish is all about family, the meaning of happiness and the best intentions. The story is all about the kids and their shenanigans especially based on their simple minded ideas that kids have, liking digging to Australia. Its all the world that crafts up these cute funny moments that make up this story and makes Angela such a charming character who has this convincing enthusiasm that makes her brother and this other little girl to follow along her since her wish would make for her father getting involved and that would allow him to spend time with her. Its all these little desires from children to be close to their parents and yet, adults can see through those beyond the lines moment that make it so meaningful to watch.

Angela’s Christmas Wish is a fun and heartwarming story. One that has all the right values and such charming characters in a cute little town. The ending bit was so touching also that I got a little teary. Its one definitely worth a watch, especially since its less than 50 minutes in length.

The Grinch (2018)

Director: Yarrow Cheney & Scott Mosier

Voice cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones, Pharrell Williams, Tristan O’Hare, Kenan Thompson, Sam Lavagnino, Ramone Hamilton, Angela Lansbury, Scarlett Estevez

A grumpy Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) plots to ruin Christmas for the village of Whoville. – IMDB

*Originally posted on Movies and Tea Friday Film Club*

Based on the 1957 Dr. Seuss book How The Grinch Stole Christmas and the third screen adaptation following the 1966 classic TV adaptation and the 2000 live action film, The Grinch is a computer animated film and the second Dr. Seuss by Illumination following The Lorax. Illumination is rather on point with these adaptation. For those who are unfamiliar of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, its about a green-furred Grinch who was born with two hearts too small who lives alone in the mountains with his dog Max above Whoville. The Whos are festive and love Christmas a lot which rubs The Grinch the wrong way that he decides to put a stop to it by disguising as Santa on Christmas Eve and stealing all their decorations, gifts and foods to stop them from celebrating Christmas however, he soon realizes that Christmas is more than the material things and that its all about the Christmas spirit which lives in them and ends up with this revelation making his heart grow two sizes and deciding to give back all that he stole to the Whos who in turn, take him in for their Christmas holiday.

While the first adaptation in 1966 is the one that most interprets the original story, these adaptations all add their own twists to fluff up the full length. In this adaptation, it gives the Grinch a backstory that makes him less of the disagreeable character but one where he grows up suffering from being alone that he doesn’t know how it feels to have companionship whether as friends or family. At the same time, giving a lot of life to certain characters in Whoville and not just focusing on Cindy Lou Who. She still plays a big element but giving her more of a backstory, a ploy to meet Santa with her friends and a connection with her mom. Sure, maybe it does stretch far from the original but all this does add a lot of fun characters. Cindy Lou Who and her friends are very adorable in design just like Max and the addition of a buffalo and then there’s the very fun neighbor Mr. Bricklebaum.

Plus, there’s a decent cast of voice actors from Grinch by Benedict Cumberbatch, Cindy Lou’s mom by Rashida Jones, Cindy Lou by Cameron Seely and Mr. Bricklebaum voiced by Kenan Thompson. Of course, a big part of Dr. Seuss story is the Narrator. In this case, its narrated by Pharrell Williams who actually has some narration that strays away from the original text but still keeps the rhyming and creative elements.

This adaptation of The Grinch still has a lot of heart. Its light and fun and fairly entertaining. There’s no doubt that The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is its best without all the extra bits but as its straightforward story like the 1966 TV movie, however this version does an exceptional job at making it very entertaining. Its still full of the Christmas spirit and its a great effort as an adaptation plus in my opinion, its much more redeeming than the 2000 live action adaptation. This one might have some slight pacing issues but it still delivers as a family holiday animated film.