Double Feature: Beyond The Lights (2014) & Yes God Yes (2019)

Welcome to the next double feature! This time, we’re looking at two films that feel like they don’t really have anything to do with each other except perhaps that they both feature a female lead as its main character and both also has female directors. The first is a 2014 romance-drama called Beyond the Lights and the second is 2019’s teen comedy-drama Yes God Yes.

Let’s check it out!

Beyond The Lights (2014)

Director (and writer): Gina Prince-Bythewood

Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver, Machine Gun Kelly, Danny Glover

The pressures of fame have superstar singer Noni on the edge, until she meets Kaz, a young cop who works to help her find the courage to develop her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be. – IMDB

Movies about singers who are trying to break out their set path to follow their own voice and setting it as a romantic drama isn’t exactly a unique premise. Beyond The Lights is very similar in that it sets out with a popular singer who goes back to her hotel room and ends up being found by a cop who is hired security sitting on the ledge of her balcony, seeming like she wants to jump. A cry for help that ends up being ignored except for the cop who reaches out to her and as they get closer, starts to give her to courage to be herself. In fact, Beyond The Lights is rather formulaic in the way that the whole story is executed. However, the whole beginning kickstarts the issue very quickly and is paced rather well to keep the two main characters to build in friendship and chemistry. At the same time also adding some more characters that are opposing to her new affections or choices like her manager and mother and a PR arranged relationship with a popular rapper. It creates enough conflict to pull the pieces together and build up a decent story.

Its really hard to discuss Beyond The Lights, mostly because this type of film is rather simplistic for the most part. The premise is rather formulaic and there is no doubt that the same formula is applied here. However, the standout point here is that they have a decent cast. The best one that holds the film together is the main actress playing Noni, the star of the show played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw who delivers a great performance. Playing opposite her is the cop Kaz played by Nate Parker, whom I haven’t seen anywhere before but has a decent chemistry with Noni even if his character does feel a little hollow in comparison. His main purpose is to be the motivation for Noni that sets her out of this breaking point and have the courage to set out on the path that she wants. Aside from that, playing manager mom is Minnie Driver who delivers a good performance as well. I sometimes feel that Minnie Driver is rather underrated especially as she shows up in some of the most unexpected movies every once in a while (at least on my watch list).

To be fair, I watched this movie because of Gugu Mbatha-Raw and because she delivers a strong performance, Beyond The Lights was a decent watch. It is a fairly predictable type of film and didn’t exactly feel like it landed in terms of being as touching as it should be but the movie does start off on the right foot especially on a scene so strong as being pushed to wanting to commit suicide despite all the attention around her but having no one really notice it. Because of that overall, the film is decent but the beginning is much stronger then the rest of the film. While there is some good chemistry and decent acting, it still feels familiar. Bottomline: if you like these types of movies, this one does a great job and is well worth of a watch and if you don’t, then just skip it as it probably won’t offer you anything too different in terms of premise.

Yes God Yes (2019)

Director (and writer): Karen Maine

Cast: Natalia Dyer, Timothy Simons, Wolfgang Novogratz, Francesca Reale, Susan Blackwell, Alisha Boe, Donna Lynne Champlin, Parker Wierling, Allison Shrum, Matt Lewis

After an innocent AOL chat turns racy, a Catholic teenager in the early 00s discovers masturbating and struggles to suppress her new urges in the face of eternal damnation. – IMDB

Yes God Yes is a fun comedy movie with a coming to age angle to it when a Catholic teenager is torn between her religious upbringings and her newly discovered sexual urges. From a good girl that everyone seems to blend in, she starts off being caught in a rumor that is a complete lie but tears apart some of her friendships before heading to church camp where she gets attracted to one of the camp counselors while being told how she should act in light of the religious belief. The whole concept is a lot of fun and a really great premise especially since it shows the shock of the first online encounter of someone sharing racy pictures as a teenager while at the same time, having that as a first step into something that no one around her talks about or when is talked about is considered to be wrong. However, the whole journey of the movie reveals that perhaps the people around her is rather hypocritical especially the people who emphasizes that sexual acts are wrong. Its a good end-game and message for the whole story that it wants to tell here.

There’s quite a lot to like about Yes God Yes. The first is, of course, the main actress who does carry a good part of the movie as it follows her character Alice and is from her point of view from the things she sees and showing the feelings that she has as well as the confusion of the things she encounters plus the dilemma of what is right and wrong when it comes to being faithful to her religious practice while following her own newly discovered urges. In that sense, Natalia Dyer does a fantastic job. To be fair, I did watch this movie because I wanted to see Natalia Dyer in something other than Nancy on Stranger Things (review) and it being a really different character from I Believe in Unicorns (review). The role feels really natural for her. There are some rather awkward moments but it is fittingly and believable for her character as well especially in her reactions and facial expressions.

Aside from her character, the other character of focus would be the character of Father Murphy, played by Timothy Simons who pretty much tries to constantly lecture and nudge Alice onto the right path especially as he tiptoes around the whole rumor that he’s heard of. His character is really on point as it does have a turning point and the dialogue between Father Murphy and Alice does shift and develop over the course of the film. There are some other characters of note that come along and add to the same effect but some of them feel not as important or worth a mention.

Overall, Yes God Yes is a really fun movie. The overall message is great and the take it uses and execution works pretty well. The movie isn’t long so is well-paced also. There are some little issues especially with the interaction with some other characters but whether you find it comedic or not is going to depend on what type of humor you’re into. For myself, some of the comedic parts landed and some of it wasn’t so much that it was funny but the part still felt relevant to the whole story. I’d say that this one is definitely a fun one to watch.

Double Feature: Eighth Grade (2018) & Tramps (2016)

Welcome to the next double feature! This time, I’ve paired up the 2018 coming of age teen movie Eighth Grade and the 2016 romance/comedy Netflix film, Tramps. Let’s check it out!

Eighth Grade (2018)

Director (and writer): Bo Burnham

Cast: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan, Daniel Zolghadri, Fred Hechinger, Luke Prael, Catherine Oliviere

An introverted teenage girl tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth grade year before leaving to start high school. – IMDB

Being in high school is hard. Between feeling invisible and trying to fit in and still being yourself, Kayla (Elsie Fisher) runs her own Youtube channel where there aren’t a lot of viewers but she talks about how to fit in and the many issues of being a teenager in high school without actually really knowing what she’s talking about as her persona in her Youtube is rather opposite from her real life situation as the film fits those parallels rather well. Its how the story is executed using her real life and how she shares her thoughts on almost a textbook version of how to face issues in high school or teenager that builds up her character really well. Adding in the relationship that she has with her dad where she’s rather annoyed at times or reluctant to share her thoughts with him, the teenage girl character is very believable. What also works well is the subtlety of the teenage girl’s change as she encounters different situations that as a coming of age story, gives her a revelation but not before having some kind of emotional “meltdown”. That scene being probably one of the most powerful in the film.

With that said, Elsie Fisher delivers a wonderful role. Being able to carry a lot of the movie especially since her introverted personality does make this film centered a lot around her actions and decisions plus what she says to those around her in order to try to be more accepted or noticed. As she moves through being forced to go to parties that is invited by a parent or trying to get the attention of the boy that she likes by pretending or trying to open herself up more to the other girls in the grade to hopefully earn their friendship, her story is a lot more sad as the whole movie almost feels like not much happens and yet while nothing happens, Kayla goes through a lot of change from her reaction or her emotions and the way she talks or ever communicates with her dad. Its such a well-crafted character that I really connected with (especially since I was also an introverted teenage girl once).

Prior to this film, I’ve only seen a couple of Bo Burnham’s stand-up comedy show which I do enjoy his humor especially since he is younger so the bits are more related to a younger perspective. With Eighth Grade, the script and directing is pretty good overall. In many ways, it does capture the teenage life and to have it unravel over a week as Kayla gets ready to end eighth grade for high school, it almost is relatable to moving from high school to college for us as our middle school to high school didn’t include a graduation ceremony. It does have a rather satisfying ending especially as she starts being able to face up to those who don’t respect her and befriend those who seem to be more worth her time. In some ways, Eighth Grade does feel a little different to how a lot of coming of age films are and yet perhaps because it feels almost a little more subtle and quiet that the moments at the end do pack a punch.

Tramps (2016)

Director (and writer): Adam Leon

Cast: Callum Turner, Grace Van Patten, Michal Vondel, Mike Birbiglia, Margaret Colin, Louis Cancelmi

A young man and woman find love in an unlikely place while carrying out a shady deal. – IMDB

One day adventures (or even compact in a weekend) between two characters are probably one of my favorite types of films. The best example would be movies like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist which takes that concept and gives a great film that takes the audience for an adventure through a city. On one hand , it creates a simple human relationship and focuses on the “chemistry” between the two characters and doesn’t overcomplicate with too many side characters other than through other dialogue or quick scenes. On the other hand, it usually has a certain “travel” through a city element as it quickly moves from one location to the next.

The premise has these two characters, Danny and Ellie being caught chasing after a wrongly swapped briefcase after an unfamiliar task goes wrong when Danny helps his brother when he held at the police station. There are some scenes with the other characters which pads out the backstory of the importance of the briefcase. The areas they explore isn’t exactly a travel heavy premise as its not landmarks (or at least I’m unfamiliar with it). Of course, it does highlight the difference of lifestyles that these two are used to versus the person they followed to find back the suitcase which is in a more upper class suburban neighborhood.

Danny and Ellie couldn’t be more different however, they both learn about their “trapped” life and how this job means for them and slowly builds trust and coordination for each other as they face each obstacle.The way these two work together are actually quite funny especially Danny’s reaction when he realizes he swapped the wrong briefcase. The interaction between the two really being a big highlight in the film. There are some comedic points that land rather well which also helps the story plus the whole execution is decently paced.

Overall, Tramps is a feel-good movie. Its simple in story, characters and execution but the two characters are charming to follow along and they do have their own sort of adventure which brings them closer together. Danny and Ellie played by Callum Turner and Grace Van Patten respectively, are definitely enjoyable. I’d definitely say that this is a hidden gem in terms of Netflix films.

Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2021 Wrap-Up: The Cannonball Run (1981) by Drew’s Movie Reviews

After 2 weeks of entries and my final review over at Drew’s Movie Reviews yesterday, its time for Drew to wrap up with his second pick and the last entry for this year’s blogathon! He chose to revisit 1981’s The Cannonball Run.


Synopsis 
An eclectic group of racers take part in The Cannonball Run, a race from Connecticut to California.

Review 
Look, I know The Cannonball Run might not have the best reviews out there, but you know what? I enjoy the hell out of it. Maybe it’s because this was one of the first films I had available on DVD so I regularly watched when I was younger. As a result, I might be tainted by nostalgia but there’s something about this film that keeps me coming back to it and laughing all these years later.

There are quite a few characters in The Cannonball Run and the movie tries to focus on as many of them as possible. These characters are varied and entertaining but because the film tries to focus on all of them, the first half of the film’s breezy hour and a half run time is spent before the titular race even begins as it introduces them all. Also because of the large cast, they get barely any development. Now unfortunately, this also applies to the main core of JJ (Burt Reynolds), Victor (Dom DeLuise), and Pamela (Farrah Fawcett). We do get to know more about them than those around them but it’s still the bare minimum. Given the caliber of the cast list, many of the actors and actresses are wasted, providing little more than what feel like extended cameos.

Given that the film centers around racing, it’s odd (or should it be no surprise?) that the pace is disjointed. As I said before, about half of the film is consumed on the setup. Then the next portion is spent jumping from racer to racer as they make their way across the country. Some of these segments are fantastic while others can be removed completely and it wouldn’t change the film in any way. Then it really slows down before (spoiler alert) becoming a foot race towards the finish line. The movie was shot quickly (it was filmed in 36 days and many of the actors only worked for two or three days) and it feels like much around the production was rushed as well.

Now, so far I have given only criticisms of the film but now I’m going to contradict myself. I said earlier that one of the negatives of this film was that the main characters barely receive any development. The Cannonball Run isn’t about its characters, it’s about the race. The race is an excuse to have a diverse cast characters, played by a who’s who of actors and actresses of the time. This variety is one of the film’s aspects that I enjoy the most. Not all of the actors bring their A-game but regardless, nearly all of them are loads of fun and I find their humor entertaining. And when the characters are being introduced, there are some truly memorable setups.

The gags continue all through the film. Some land spectacularly while others spectacularly miss. As I’ve said before about comedies, humor is very subjective. Meaning that if this isn’t your style of humor, you aren’t going to enjoy The Cannonball Run very much, especially since it doesn’t offer much else. But for me, the slapstick and gags throughout the movie is the kind of humor I enjoy, especially from this era of comedies.

I thought The Cannonball Run was GREAT 😀 Although this film came out a little before my time, I usurped my dad’s DVD of the film into my own collection when I was younger and watched it often; I couldn’t get enough of it! As I have watched this film more and more without the lens of youth and blissful ignorance, the flaws have become more apparent over time. Nonetheless, I still find myself coming back to The Cannonball Run and finding it good for some quick, cheap entertainment. Because of my relationship with this movie , I have come to sincerely understand that sometimes it isn’t about the quality of the film but your experience with it that makes it meaningful to you.

Trailer 

Cast & Crew 
Hal Needham – Director
Brock Yates – Writer
Al Capps – Composer

Burt Reynolds – JJ McClure
Dom DeLuise – Victor Prinzim
Farrah Fawcett – Pamela
Jack Elam – Doctor Nikolas Van Helsing
Roger Moore – Seymour
Dean Martin – Jamie Black
Sammy Davis Jr. – Fenderbaum
Adrienne Barbeau – Marcie
Tara Buckman – Jill
Terry Bradshaw – Terry
Mel Tillis – Mel
Bert Convy – Brad
Warren Berlinger – Shakey Finch
Jamie Farr – Sheik
Rick Aviles – Mad Dog
Alfie Wise – Batman
Jackie Chan – Subaru Driver #1
Michael Hui – Subaru Driver #2
Joe Klecko – Polish Racing Driver
Norman Grabowski – Petoski
George Furth – Arthur Foyt
Peter Fonda – Chief Biker


To see the full of entries for Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2021, please go HERE.

Ultimate Decades Blogathon: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) by 18 Cinema Lane

Kicking off the second week of Ultimate Decades Blogathon is Sally Silverscreen of 18 Cinema Lane with her pick of 1971’s horror comedy The Abominable Dr. Phibes. 18 Cinema Lane is a fun movie blog where it offers a variety of movie reviews and movie news but also has a focus on Hallmark movies. Just like the pick for the blogathon is unique, there will always be something new to discover on 18 Cinema Lane as well. When you finish this review, remember to head over to her blog and check it out HERE.


Take 3: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

The Abominable Dr. Phibes was recommended by one of my readers named Michael. When I found out the movie was considered a horror-comedy, I thought it’d be a perfect entry for MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur, as horror-comedies are the theme for February. Then I discovered the film was released in 1971. Because Kim and Drew, from Tranquil Dreams and Drew’s Movie Reviews, are hosting the 6th Annual Ultimate Decades Blogathon, where the subject is movies premiering in years ending in 1, I decided to review The Abominable Dr. Phibes for both blogathons! As of early 2021, this is the fifth film of Vincent Price’s I’ve seen and written about. Most of these movies have either belonged in the horror genre or have been mysterious in nature. With The Abominable Dr. Phibes, this will be a little different, as part of the story is a comedy. Out of the movies of Vincent’s I have seen, none of them have featured a large amount of humor. So, by choosing this film for the aforementioned blogathons, I am given an opportunity to see Vincent work with slightly different material!

Things I liked about the film:

The mystery: In horror movies, there is usually a mysterious element that can come in a variety of forms. One of these forms is a mystery. Throughout The Abominable Dr. Phibes, the detectives at Scotland Yard are attempting to figure out why several doctors in their neighborhood are dying of mysterious causes. The way the mystery is presented allows the audience to solve it alongside the characters. This presents the idea of the audience sharing an experience with the detectives in the film. Even though we see what is making these doctors die, it doesn’t take away from the intrigue of the mystery. In fact, it keeps the audience invested in what is about to happen next. Seeing how all the pieces of the story connected was interesting to see. It definitely kept my attention as I watched the film!

The craftmanship: There were several items in this movie that caught my eye due to their quality and artistry. A frog mask is just one example. The head covering mask is covered in three different shades of green, allowing it to shine from many different angles. Gold piping can also be found on the mask, assisting in distinguishing its shape. Jewels add finishing touches as the mask features gold gems around the frog’s eyes and an emerald clasp in the back. Dr. Phibes’ mask also boasts incredible craftsmanship! The eye covering mask is shaped like a bird and is coated in shiny shades of green, bronze, and gold. Both masks were two of the beautiful I’ve ever seen!

The set design: The Abominable Dr. Phibes features several interesting set designs that are worth noting. Despite Dr. Phibe’s house only being shown at night and only part of its exterior could be seen, it was a magnificent structure! Its Victorian style brightened the night with its white frames and cherry wood doors. The house features a grand white marble staircase paired beautifully with chandeliers and crystal sconces. I wish more scenes had taken place by this staircase, as it is an impressive part of Dr. Phibes’ residence! Other locations in the story also displayed memorable set designs.  Dr. Vesalius’ apartment is a great example. Near the front door is a curved, frosted window. The door itself was covered in a light and dark wood that ending up complimenting the faded yellow walls. This location looked reflective of the late ‘60s to early ‘70s due to its color scheme and furniture selections.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The underutilization of Vincent Price: As I said in my introduction, this is the fifth film of Vincent Price’s I’ve seen. Therefore, I, as an audience member, know what he is capable of, talent wise. Despite being the top billed actor in The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Vincent wasn’t given much material to work with. He didn’t have any speaking lines in this movie. While there is an explanation given within the story, the only time we hear Vincent’s iconic voice is through recordings. It also doesn’t help that the different ways Dr. Phibes went after his victims overshadows Vincent’s performance. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the creative team behind this film cast Vincent Price simply to get more people to see the movie?

Weak on comedy: The Abominable Dr. Phibes is classified as a horror-comedy. When I made this discovery, I was expecting the movie to be more like Young Frankenstein. Even though there were a few times I found myself giggling, the film didn’t contain much humor. The Abominable Dr. Phibes relies more on the horror genre. It also contains a mystery within the overall plot, which would make it a horror-mystery. I felt misled after these reveals.

Depiction of demises partially used for shock value: Strictly from a story-telling perspective, it was interesting to see how Dr. Phibes carried out his plan. But when the plan is put into practice, the depiction of his victims’ demises comes across as more gross than scary. Within a segment of the story involving rats, there was a brief shot of a rat chewing on what looks like a bloody bone. I won’t spoil The Abominable Dr. Phibes, in case any of my readers haven’t seen it. But parts of the film like the one I described feels like the movie’s creative team just wanted to shock their audience.

My overall impression:

When I think of the term “horror-comedy”, Young Frankenstein immediately comes to mind. Even though I haven’t seen this film, I am aware of its premise. Because of my expectations, I was somewhat let down by The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Sure, its mystery was intriguing and kept me invested in the overall story. But as I look back on this movie, I find myself expecting more. Despite its classification as a horror-comedy, it ended up being a horror-mystery, with very little comedy to be found. I was also disappointed to see Vincent Price underutilized in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. While he was given different material to work with, he didn’t have any speaking lines. The way Dr. Phibes’ victims met their demise overshadowed Vincent’s performance. These factors make his portrayal of the titular character feel like a part of an ensemble instead of someone leading a film. This is an interesting movie, but I can think of stories of this nature that are stronger than this one. I still prefer a picture like The Crow over The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

Overall score: 7-7.1 out of 10

Have you seen a horror-comedy? Which film of Vincent Price’s would you recommend? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen


A huge thanks to Sally Silverscreen at 18 Cinema Lane for joining us with this great review! Be sure to it out. For a full list of entries of this blogathon, you can check it out HERE.

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: The Uncanny Counter (Season 1, 2020)

The Uncanny Counter (Season 1, 2020)

Cast: Byeong-kyu cho, Jun-Sang Yu, Se-Jeong Kim, Hye-ran Yeom, Seok-hwan Ahn, Hong Nae Lee, Sook Moon, Kwang-il Choi

Noodle shop employees by day and demon hunters by night, the Counters use special abilities to chase down malevolent spirits that prey on humans. – IMDB

Watch on: Netflix

Its been a while since I’ve seen any Korean series. The last series I watched was probably some romantic drama in early 2000s, whenever the Korean series phase hit with Autumn Sonata and then I watched the Korean remake of Meteor Garden which in my opinion is the worst remake of all of them made so far so that was equally not very appealing so consider me a little hesitant about Korean series. The Uncanny Counter gets a whole new perspective though because its not a romantic drama and its an action comedy about a ragtag team of demon hunters called Counters who with their special abilities hunt down evil spirits embedded in humans to send them and the souls their trapped to Yung, which I assume is something like a gateway to afterlife whether to Heaven or Hell. As the team starts hunting down, they end up reaching one case to the next that links to their own past and want to investigate and chase down the truth behind what happened as the danger level increases as they encounter the rarely seen highest level of evil spirits.

The Uncanny Counter does a great job because of its balance between the tones. Even in its most dangerous scenes, it manages to give time for the characters to still have their personality show which adds in some humor and vice versa. The story itself has a lot of funny little moments especially with the new addition of So Mun (Byeong-kyu Cho), an eighteen year old high school student which gets pulled into this unexpectedly. The progression and pacing of the story over the 16 episode season is pretty decent as well. The story starts off with the basics and slowly draws connections to Ga Mo-Tak (Jun-sang Yu), who has amnesia from his accident to So Mun’s past. The investigation spirals into something more complex pulling in supernatural elements along with politics and crime. It gets rather intriguing as the Counters characters have more depth throughout and their characters start to connect whether its Ms. Chu’s motherly care for everyone and her touching backstory or Ha-na’s slowly warming up to So Mun as her abilities prevents her from wanting others to be in contact with her physically. These four deliver some great moments together and their chemistry and balance is their characters’ personality develops rather well also. The team actually has one more member who is the monetary sponsor for their operation who is also a Counter but mostly not on the field who is a rich man with a big corporation called Jang-mul (Seok-hwan Ahn) who is a whacky character and brings a ton of laughs whenever he appears.

Talking about the characters, the show has a good deal of them. Whether its the criminal and bad guys involved especially in the second half when its focused on investigating the past of Mo-Tak or the other people involved from So Mun’s grandparents and his best friends, they all have their own place. Especially in terms of So Mun’s best friends, Woong-min (Eun-soo Kim) and Joo-yeon Im (Ji-won Lee) who are truly supporting characters but makes everyone wish that they had friends like those. Plus, they have some hilarious dramatic moments. At the same time, the bad guys are pretty great especially in the depth of how it goes behind the dirty doings and how the evil spirit hides in one of them and that story arc really gets taken for a crazy ride. I do have to say that while the evil spirit being pulled out of the body is meant to be scary, a lot of times, its rather goofy except for a few times especially when with the higher level evil spirit that gets revealed and the body it has taken over. Some of it is a little over the top but still, there are some unpredictable paths that it takes.

Overall, The Uncanny Counter is a great South Korean series. Its a lot of fun and a ton of good action sequences. The characters are done really well and the whole story is rather unique. The series is based on a webtoon called Amazing Rumor by Jang Yi and according to MyDramaList is set for Season 2 expected to release in 2022 which should be awesome and definitely looking forward to that if that is true. The show was a blast even if it only released 2 episodes per week on Netflix. Its done now so if you haven’t seen it now, you can binge through it as quickly or slowly as you want.

Double Feature: Crazy Rich Asians (2018) & Line Walker (2016)

I’m having this sudden urge to get through these Asian films. Crazy Rich Asians kind of counts, I guess which happens to be one of the double feature picks and just for the comedy element, I paired it up with Line Walker which is something of a crime action thriller with comedy elements. Let’s check it out!

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Director: Jon M. Chu

Cast: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang, Jimmy O. Yang, Ronny Chieng, Remy Hii

This contemporary romantic comedy, based on a global bestseller, follows native New Yorker Rachel Chu to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family. – IMDB

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan (which I haven’t read), Crazy Rich Asians is romantic comedy with a really great cast. The movie itself should be looked at from two parts: Romance and Comedy. The romantic parts are exactly funny and actually to me, they are a bit weak whereas the comedy elements is what stands out. Of course, comedy is also very subjective so the best way may be to see whether the many comedians involved in this are ones that you normally enjoy or the cast itself. Not to mention, Crazy Rich Asians highlights the beauty of Singapore so much from the food to the scenery and captures the upper class society glamor as well as the Asian prejudices between each other whether its Asian-born or American-born which brings in the East versus West differences/culture clash.

Looking at the cast, its absolutely stunning. Its the first time watching Constance Wu for myself and while I have certain issues with her, she is rather decent in capturing that roles especially in the beginning and the ending parts where her character Rachel really gets a nice development. I can’t say her chemistry or the focus on the romance between her and Henry Golding’s character stands out a lot but her interaction with some of the other characters especially Peik Lin played by Awkwafina is absolutely awesome. Awkwafina carries a good part of the film every time she shows up especially when she first talks about the Youngs and how rich they are. Hands down my favorite part. Comedians involved have Ken Jeong, Ronny Chieng and I think Jimmy O.Yang also counts (even though I haven’t seen any stand-up shows of his). They each have very different types of character bringing in a different sort of comedy and they do a decent job. However, while not there for the comedy, Michelle Yeoh is fantastic and a stunning actress that I love to watch on screen. This role seems a little different from what I’ve seen of hers before however she still delivers.

I was a little hesitant to watch Crazy Rich Asians but I’m pretty happy that I did. There’s a lot to love about it. The way that its filmed and the little execution that they use even from the first scene that highlights how rich the Youngs are to the end where Rachel shows how she isn’t how the family sees her as despite where she grew up. Overall, its a fun time and earned quite a few good laughs even if the romantic elements were fairly flat.

Line Walker (2016)

Director: Jazz Boon

Cast: Nick Cheung, Louis Koo, Francis Ng, Charmaine Sheh, Shiu Hung Hui, Moses Chan

Several cops went undercover. Due to some issues, all undercover identities were wiped clean from the police database. – IMDB

Done as a spin-off from the Hong Kong TV series of the same name (that I haven’t had a chance to watch yet but recently found uploaded to Youtube so will catch up very soon), Line Walker is something of a comedy crime thriller. For what I see, it doesn’t require a whole lot of knowledge of the actual series to understand but its a little loopy as well as the network of undercover cops is quite extensive as the plot reveals itself throughout. In reality, the biggest issue is what the movie wants to be. At times, its comedic and over the top and then it will change in the next scene to a crime thriller serious sequence. It makes the film feel out of balance and maybe even disjointed. The moving parts of everything work as an individual sequence but together, it just doesn’t seem to work that well.

The highlight of Line Walker definitely has to be the stellar cast. With some names like Charmaine Sheh and Moses Chan, the latter in a cameo role rather popular names in Hong Kong series and bigger movie thriller actors like Nick Cheung, Louis Koo, Francis Ng and Shiu Hung Hui, its full of renowned actors who are well-known for their work in movies in similar genre. In reality, its quite a great thing to see Charmain Sheh being the only female lead here and paired up with Francis Ng as one side as the obvious undercover pairing and an undefined relationship between the two while having the much more intriguing pairing between Nick Cheung and Louis Koo’s characters as its a question about which one of them is actually an undercover cop that has lost his file and police status in the police system. Its the main focus for these two as they start questioning each other’s loyalty. At the same time, the movie is full of undercovers as one after the other gets revealed. The standout definitely has to go to Louis Koo and Nick Cheung’s characters as they do bring in the most balanced roles as well as their little bit of dark/sarcastic humor dialogue injected in the performance. It contrasts that of Charmaine Sheh and Francis Ng which adds a more comedic element.

Line Walker is an odd one. The cast makes it worth a watch but the script and the execution of the whole undercover and double crossing and whatnot in the crime world of who is on which side and all the undercover cops that scatter over the crime world almost feels like it doesn’t make that much sense. There are some clever bits but overall, it feels like the movie does fall short. On the other hand, its given me the boost to go catch up with the TV series since its garnered quite a bit of popularity.

Double Feature: Work It (2020) & The Prom (2020)

Today’s double feature is a rather musical pairing and both are Netflix films released in 2020. The first is a dance film called Work It and the second is the recently released musical The Prom. Let’s check it out!

Work It (2020)

Director: Laura Terruso

Cast: Sabrina Carpenter, Jordan Fisher, Kalliane Bremault, Briana Andrade-Gomes, Liza Koshy, Julliard Pembroke, Michelle Buteau, Drew Ray Tanner, Sabrina Snieckus

When Quinn Ackerman’s admission to the college of her dreams depends on her performance at a dance competition, she forms a ragtag group of dancers to take on the best squad in school…now she just needs to learn how to dance. – IMDB

Work It is mostly a dance film and yet its a comedy about a girl with perfect grades who realize that its not enough to get into college and as an extracurricular decides to go to her best friend’s dance troupe which doesn’t take her so she tries to put together her own group of misfits. The group itself has all different styles of dance and yet the biggest problem is that she can’t dance and needs to start from zero and its zero like finding her music flow and rhythm. That is the comedy part.

With any of these films, you need to throw in a little romantic flare and that’s when Quinn and Jake come into a picture: a girl who can’t dance and a renowned dancer that disappeared off the dance competition circuit after an injury. Its hard to talk about Work It without criticizing its issues but then that is usually the case for dance films, much like Step Up franchise, and yet, Step Up is one that I can see the flaws and still like it for exactly what it is. The same applies for Work It, except it suffers from coming later than a wave of better executed films. What is good is that it adds in those comedy moments and changes the vibe of the film a little. Simply put, its a lot of the same when it comes to these sorts of movies and it is fairly predictable especially when there doesn’t even feel like there’s a lot of dance sequences.

Other predictability, the execution is fairly unbalanced. The movie seems to want to do everything so its structured to go through the motions. Starting off with the characters and then what they need to achieve, the tear in the friendship and struggle to get their act together and then the big win at the end. Other than that, it adds in a little unpolished romantic flare here and then some bad dancing from Sabrina Carpenter’s character to her finally getting it. While the cast itself does what they need to do whether its Sabrina Carpenter or Jordan Fisher and even the sassy other team’s leader Julliard Pembroke, played by Keiynan Lonsdale or the best friend Jasmine, played by Liza Koshy, the script itself does have some lacking moments as well.

Work It is one of those films that is really for the soundtrack or some light entertainment. Its not meant to be reviewed in depth. Its a simple movie and a familiar sort of dance movie storyline. While I did have some cons more than pros, I do enjoy dance films so this one is just some harmless entertainment that you can leave for a rainy day keeping in mind that you do enjoy dance movies. If you don’t, then this one won’t do anything for you.

The Prom (2020)

Director: Ryan Murphy

Cast: Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Jo Ellen Pellman, Ariana DeBose, Andrew Rannells

A troupe of hilariously self-obsessed theater stars swarm into a small conservative Indiana town in support of a high school girl who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom. – IMDB

Looking at the cast, The Prom is absolutely star studded with some big names and most of them, I do quite enjoy so the movie popped onto Netflix and I didn’t know about it in advance but I saw those stars, that it was a musical and it was an immediate play. Adapted from a Broadway musical of the same name, The Prom does come at a good time when the world is talking about LGBT rights a lot. I haven’t heard of The Prom before but at first glance, The Prom’s story almost feels like Footloose where that one is about not being allowed to dance, The Prom is about the PTA trying to stop one of the students to take her girlfriend to prom and wanting to cancel prom altogether. In the face of this serious matter, a bunch of theater stars comes in to try to fight for a cause to help themselves get back some positive press. Its hard to determine whether the journey for the film is for the girl, Emma or the troupe as both of them do have their moments of growth.

Being a fan of musical films, The Prom is the type of movie that I’d like and it is quite enjoyable. Most of the stars here have been part of musicals before so the talent is there. Perhaps what stands out more is some of the awkward moments between characters. It definitely is scripted to be awkward and was delivered pretty well. The Prom has a decent storyline even if sometimes the events feel slightly disjointed like its being pushed along so its forced to progress faster. What makes this film shine is truly some of the stars here delivering some great performances. Other than Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, they are joined by Andrew Rannells as this performer that’s wants to hang with them and adds comedy. There’s a lot of characters so its hard to say whether anyone had enough time for their characters to develop enough but Kerry Washington’s parent character against the whole prom situation and Keegan-Michael Key’s principal character were also done really well. In all honestly, the younger characters also did fairly well and Emma’s character is a much quieter one despite the unfair situation that she’s part of.

The Prom is an alright musical. Everyone does a good job and the story is pretty nice as well as how the characters develop throughout. It is structured well and the scenes are executed pretty good as well. Where I have issues with it is that it feels like it lacks the uniqueness to make it more memorable. None of the songs stuck in my head even if they were rather fun to listen and watch the choreography/performances in the moment. I know that I had fun watching it the first time and yet, it doesn’t make me want to go back to watch it a second time and yet, I can’t quite pinpoint where its lacking as everything seems to done good, just put together, it seems to not quite get that excitement of a musical for myself.

Double Feature: A Simple Favor (2018) & Dumplin’ (2018)

Next double feature is here and we’re doing a 2018 film double feature. Honestly, it was fairly unplanned since this one was more for the focused on the female cast on hand. The first is a dark comedy thriller A Simple Favor and the second is Netflix coming of age comedy Dumplin’.

Let’s check it out!

A Simple Favor (2018)

Director: Paul Feig

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Ian Ho, Joshua Satine, Henry Golding, Dustin Milligan

Stephanie is a single mother with a parenting vlog who befriends Emily, a secretive upper-class woman who has a child at the same elementary school. When Emily goes missing, Stephanie takes it upon herself to investigate. – IMDB

* Originally published on Movies and Tea – Friday Film Club*

Based on the 2017 novel of the same name by Darcey Bell, A Simple Favor is a dark comedy thriller about a mommy vlogger who befriends one of the other moms who ends up mysteriously disappearing after asking her to pick her son after school. Using the power of her followers and as a form of journal, she tries to track down her friend and eventually find out what happened to her. 

Starring in the main roles as the mommy vlogger Stephanie is Anna Kendrick while her elegant friend Emily is portrayed by Blake Lively. A lot of the charm of the movie is how it is executed as a fluctuation between the past interactions and the context of their friendship and how their conversations expose their characters, especially that of Stephanie, both having elements that break out of how they are perceived by the people around them while contrasting it with the present search after her disappearance and eventual death which leads to Stephanie trying to figure out what happened while being caught up in it herself. 

Anna Kendrick has always been quite a flexible character as she started off in Pitch Perfect and takes up comedic roles like Mr. Right and now, this one takes it one step further as she catches those dark comedy points really great especially in her dialogue which brings in a bit of embarrassment and unexpected elements that brings out some laugh but still keeps the movie fairly suspenseful. Blake Lively’s Emily is a blunt character, not the conventional polite mom but a powerhouse elegant girl who says what comes to mind and feels secretive but also manipulative which makes her disappearance feel not unexpected but rather more of a mystery of what secrets she is hiding. 

A Simple Favor has the same feeling and tells the kind of story like Gone Girl but perhaps a different angle as it takes a more dark comedy angle while the other is more of a pure thriller. The twist and the story/script all work pretty well as it watches a character feel like she is a naive small town girl just trying to do the best mom she can be even though in reality, both female characters are really  not as perfect as they seem to be whether in their perspectives or the people around them. Not to mention that it has a lovely soundtrack. Its not exactly very complex but it has a good balance between having a decent twist and mystery to fulfill the thriller element while also delivering some great dark comedy. A Simple Favor is simply entertaining and fun. 

Dumplin’ (2018)

Director: Anne Fletcher

Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Jennifer Aniston, Odeya Rush, Maddie Baillio, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Luke Benward, Harold Perrineau, Ginger Minj, Sam Pancake, Hilliary Begley

Willowdean (‘Dumplin’), the plus-size teenage daughter of a former beauty queen, signs up for her mom’s Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town. – IMDB

A true Netflix gem is what Dumplin’ is. I can’t say how many times that I’ve watched it and rewatched this film at this point. There’s so much to love from the coming of age story to hitting those comedy points really well and even giving me that extra push from the Hideaway location with Dolly Parton drag queens that made me go and watch Rupaul’s Drag Queen because I’ve never seen it before. Of course, that’s besides the point. On that note, I don’t listen to Dolly Parton a lot nor am I mega knowledgeable about her music except for the really popular ones but I love the Dolly Parton soundtrack that it uses. Even though I don’t know about her sayings either, the movie puts a lot of focus on all the positive message that she delivers which becomes an encouraging element for Willowdean’s character.

What makes coming of age films great are usually the different types of relationships including that with facing up to yourself. For Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald), the story is from her point of view as she deals with a feeling that her mother (Jennifer Aniston) is ashamed of her body because she prides herself on being the 1991 Miss Teen Bluebonnet and her beauty pageant which makes her make fun of the pageant girls. At the same time, it brings in the element of friendship as she ends up having an argument with her best friend Ellen (Odeya Rush) that leads her to making friends with 2 other girls, Hannah (Bex Taylor-Klaus) and Millie (Maddie Baillio) that are not the typical pageant girls in the heart of breaking the norm. Its all about finding the courage and doing the impossible for them as they realize all the work that goes into participating in the pageant and the shining points of the pageant as they describe is a “team sport”. Then there’s the extension to finding courage and committing to being different much like Willowdean’s Aunt Lucy taught her and the friends she makes at the Hideaway help her remember. The whole Hideaway segments and the pageant segments are some of the best parts of the film.

If there was one thing that seemed to not fit so well was probably the love interest character that didn’t seem to be needed. It was there to emphasize her discomfort with herself and that she had to come to terms with herself. At the same time, while the character of Bo (Luke Benward) was okay overall, he didn’t exactly add a whole lot to the film itself. The movie was much more about the girls and ladies than anything else. Plus, its a different sort of movie that shows this pageant being filled with girls who don’t have it out for each other but are actually rather nice about the whole thing.