Double Feature: The Kissing Booth (2018) & Sierra Burgess is a Loser (2018)

And we’re back with another Double Feature.

Let’s be clear that I originally wanted to do individual posts for each of these movies but one of these  is one, I really didn’t want to put to much time into writing up as I wasn’t a huge fan of it in the first place. Spoiler alert for my own views I guess. You can decide for yourselves which. Either way, both of them are Netflix Original, both films set in high school so they pair up really well also.

Let’s check it out!

The Kissing Booth (2018)

the kissing booth

Director (& screenplay): Vince Marcello

Cast: Joey King, Joel Courtney, Jacob Elordi, Carson White, Molly Ringwald

A high school student is forced to confront her secret crush at a kissing booth. – IMDB

I’m going to get straight to the point that I’m not a big fan of this movie. There’s a lot of stuff that didn’t work for me. The romance didn’t really work. The humor was a tad silly and at times dumb. There was a lot of ridiculous bits and I don’t know, it just didn’t really have much depth to it. Maybe it has to be the fact that I’m not the target audience. I still remember watching Joey King in Ramona and Beezus when she was younger and loving that one. This one just felt very been there done that aka predictable. There are some cute parts here and there but nothing that really connected with me.

The Kissing Booth

However, the one redeeming point of this film is the friendship between Elle (Joey King) and Lee (Joel Courtney) at least until a certain point. In some ways, this movie reminded me of a flip side of The Edge of Seventeen (review), a movie that is very much more superior to this one. Other than that, these two bond over dancing on the dance machine at the arcades and that is just super cool.

Sierra Burgess is a Loser (2018)

Sierra Burgess is a Loser

Director: Ian Samuels

Cast: Shannon Purser, Kristine Froseth, Noah Centineo, RJ Cyler, Loretta Devine, Lea Thompson, Alan Ruck

A case of mistaken identity results in unexpected romance when the most popular girl in high school and the biggest loser must come together to win over their crushes. – IMDB

Sierra Burgess is a Loser is one of those films that I wanted to watch the moment that it was announced. Whether its because I like Shannon Purser and the fact that I gained a liking for Noah Centineo lately, or simply the catchy title and the great premise is just all up my alley. The deal is, as much as this is somewhat of a teen romance between Sierra (Shannon Purser) and Jamey (Noah Centineo) and there are some seriously sweet parts between and cute little moments, even the catfishing bits were a lot of fun, there’s something else that shines out here and that is the emphasis on the friendship.

Sierra Burgess is a Loser

This story’s strength is in the teen coming of age for Sierra Burgess to know her worth and not questioning her worth because we can see how she was a lot more confident in the beginning and losing it as she started comparing herself when she started falling for Jamey. On the other hand, its in the friendship between Sierra and Veronica (Kristine Froseth), which I thought were actually the superior moments because its equally a film about the popular girl realizing there is more than these rather shallow things that she thought was so important. Their friendship helped both of them grow in some ways and to look at themselves in a different way.

With that said, Sierra Burgess is a Loser is a really good film. There’s so much strength in seeing friendships between girls and the support for each other especially in this friendship. I strikes a good balance between finding time to give depth to its characters and letting them grow.

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Halloween 2018: Goosebumps (2015)

Goosebumps (2015)

goosebumps

Director: Rob Letterman

Cast: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Amy Ryan, Jillian Bell, Halston Sage

A teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R. L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware. – IMDB

I’ve read a few Goosebumps books back in my elementary school days. It was always a fun time in my memory although I never found it to be scary. However, a series like this one getting a form of adaptation is always one to take notice and with Jack Black, one of my favorite comedic actors in the current day and age attached to the project, it was one that went straight to my to watch pile. Movies like this can border on dumb and silly but Goosebumps turned out to be a little over the top and a tad silly but it was a lot of fun.
This one lands in the same way that Monster Trucks (review) worked for me, maybe with slightly less appealing characters. I’m not exactly a Dylan Minnette fan and don’t quite care for his character here. It was the typical teenage romance thing with the girl next door. His humor along with his best friend are fairly common arcs for family friendly adventure films. A little fluff to add to the equation. Jack Black had an over the top accent that honestly, if it wasn’t him, I probably wouldn’t buy into but at the end, I got used to it so it didn’t feel as odd.

What defines Goosebumps has always been R.L. Stine’s monsters and its nice to see that they pull out all the cards here in one shot. It makes for the fun as they run around town trying to stop catastrophe and encounter a few of them face to face which always turns into a funny and hectic moment. The heart of the movie is in these moments as chaos shapes these characters a little.

Goosebumps is not masterpiece but its a family adventure film that delivers on being entertaining and fun. It shows off the creativity of R.L. Stine for a new generation to respark the childhood horror adventures that many kids went through. There’s really not a whole lot of depth  here to talk more about it. Its a fun time and great for some family fun even if some elements fall a little short.

Halloween 2018: The Babysitter (2017)

The first movie to kick off the Halloween month is Netflix Original’s The Babysitter!

The Babysitter (2017)

The Babysitter

Director: McG

Cast: Judah Lewis, Samara Weaving, Robbie Amell, Hana Mae Lee, Bella Thorne, Emily Alyn Lind, Andrew Bachelor, Doug Haley

The events of one evening take an unexpected turn for the worst for a young boy trying to spy on his babysitter. – IMDB

Its undeniable that we’ve seen this formula quite a bit in the last few years. Rewind back to something like Better Watch Out (review) or this year’s Knuckleball (review), both having their individual twist on the “Home Alone” set in a horror concept. Except this one adds in one more twist that makes it a much bloodier affair while also keeping in the horror comedy subgenre. Netflix Originals have been iffy at best if we look back at the averages, but then I’ve only watched the romance and teen stuff so perhaps horror fares a little better. The Babysitter may have its flaws but it still is a satisfying comedic, over the top, horror affair. Hear me out!

THE BABYSITTER

First of all, if you haven’t seen Samara Weaving in Mayhem (review), then you need to add it to your to-watch pile pronto! That movie proves that she can take the bad-ass chick role in an exceptional way and add in some humor in the process. Its actually one of the reasons that I decided to watch The Babysitter. And being the leading lady here, lethal as heck may I add, she does a stellar job. In fact, she is one of the top reasons that The Babysitter is worth the watch. Not to mention, you need to take a look at the boy here played by Judah Lewis who also has some great tricks written for his character up his sleeve. We see him toughen up throughout the film and get over the obvious crush that he has over his hot babysitter. Aside from these two main leads, Samara Weaving’s character Bee takes on a high school crew consisting of some very familiar faces. The first being the constant Netflix appearing face, Bella Thorne playing a cheerleader who honestly plays a very weird and rather insignificant role for the most part. There is also Hana Mae Lee who plays the odd chick, similar vibes to her role in the Pitch Perfect movies. I do like her odd and awkward style. She falls really well into this role so it works with the balance of these characters. The last familiar face is Robbie Amell who is in so many things now including The Duff (review) who plays the tough and psychotic bad boy. There’s a charm to Robbie Amell that makes what he does work although I do have to say, he is lucky that this is a horror comedy which makes it easy to not take him seriously because that’s how his character is meant to be.

The Babysitter

I’m a big fan of this concept of horror. The Home Alone twist and the confined and limited space as a film setting. At the same time, it adds in some over the top elements as well as a little bit of blood and violence and tension. To be fair, this movie did pull off some decent tension for the most part of it. It goes a little off rails at the end and the only thing I disliked about it was how they chose to end it. To avoid any spoilers here, let’s just say, horror movies like to do that and I hate it because most of the time, its unnecessary. Is The Babysitter an exceptional film? It probably isn’t. Many compare it as the lesser version of Green Room. I’ve never seen Green Room but that is on the watch list this month. Keep an eye out for my thoughts on that.

That’s it for the kick-off film. 
The Babysitter is a horror comedy so a nice way to break into the horror month.
There will be some more intense horror as we move along, that I can promise you.

Have you seen The Babysitter? Thoughts?

Triple Feature: Look Out, Officer! & Doubles Cause Troubles & The Mad Monk

We’ve been doing double features for a while and I just couldn’t figure out how to break up these three films so I decided to keep them together. Welcome to the very long ago but finally revisited for now Triple Feature. A long description for just a sporadic segment to say the least. However, Stephen Chow and 80s/90s Hong Kong Comedy is what I like. It had a lot of charm and is witty and fun for the most part. Other than Look Out, Officer!, the other two are first time viewings. All of them can be found on Netflix (Canada), if you have another version of Netflix then you will have to see if its there.

Its a longer post so let’s check it out!

Look Out, Officer (1990)

look out officer

Director: Sze Yu Lau

Cast: Stephen Chow, Bill Tung, Stanley Sui-Fan Fung, Vivian Chen, Kong Fong, Siu-Wai Mui

After police officer Biao is murdered, his soul cannot be at rest for his murder has been written off as a suicide. Therefore the heavens send him back to Earth as a spirit to find his ‘savior’ who will help him clear his name. Sing, a rookie officer, is the savior and in return for finding Biao’s killer, Biao must get him a girlfriend and a promotion. – IMDB

Look Out Officer is one of the earlier films in Stephen Chow’s filmography coming right after 1989’s Saint of Gamblers that gave him the main character and revealing that he was able to be funny. This is one of the rare few movies where he carries the movie with other comedic actors instead of his partner of crime, Man-Tat Ng. However, it delivers so well. In some ways, its absolutely absurd and silly but there are some great moments that land well. Plus, it adds in a supernatural and crime element to the story. The effects are pretty much dated and fairly laughable but being a comedy, it just adds in to the great moments. To be honest, I actually forgot about some of the supporting and cameo roles here and how they were part of this movie but has gone through the years to bigger and better things in different areas of entertainment.

Perhaps because this was one of the handful of Stephen Chow movies that I watched when I was young that there is a nostalgic love that I have for it. However, something here works well although it does merge itself well with having a decent knowledge of the Hong Kong society especially with their emphasis on the crimes and the undercover part. Its not a perfect movie but a truly entertaining one as it works something like the spirit helping him, Biao is something like the genie to Aladdin who has the ability to destroy his plans if he so wishes. Bill Tung and Stanley Fung are both incredible actors on their own and both have a decent career so their presence definitely adds onto the overall success of the film to help some of the jokes here land and for Stephen Chow to work together with.

Doubles Cause Troubles (1989)

doubles cause troubles

Director (and writer): Jing Wong

Cast: Carol DoDo Cheng, Maggie Cheung, Wilson Lam, Pak-Cheung Chan

When the tenant in their flat dies under suspicious circumstances, two bickering cousins are forced to navigate both sides of the law. – Netflix

Before Maggie Cheung got all serious with her acting role choices, she did a lot of comedic acting roles in the 80s and 90s films. On the topic of Stephen Chow from before, she did actually play a love interest for Stephen Chow in All’s Well That Ends Well. In Doubles Cause Troubles, we have Maggie Cheung playing opposite talented actress Dodo Cheng who honestly is known for her humor and her overall empowering presence. Both of these ladies held their own as they played cousins bickering and eventually having to work together, realizing that they have a pretty good connection. In all the random silliness they get caught into for this, the focus here may be the crime elements and the other characters all hilarious to watch as well, especially Pak-Cheung Chan, however, they are the stars here as their presence is undeniable. They are the show.

Doubles Cause Troubles is a little over the top but the movie is a typical Jing Wong with a lot of signature comedic style that Stephen Chow films have also. His writing and directing is incredibly on point. There are so many familiar faces in this film, especially if you are familiar with the Hong Kong film industry. Especially Wilson Lam, who I’ve heard has been recently spotted coming back out of the woodwork to acting again. He was the non-comedic element that kept the film grounded in the crime element. The plot is a little everywhere as it masks the bickering for love and the crime elements of who is trustworthy. Its saving grace is how easily its two leading ladies can deliver all the jokes and make it an overall enjoyable experience packed with laugh out loud moments.

The Mad Monk (1993)

the mad monk

Director: Siu-Tung Ching & Johnnie To

Cast: Stephen Chow, Maggie Cheung, Man-Tat Ng, Anita Mui, Michael Wai-Man Chan

Internationally proclaimed comic genius Stephen Chow must change the lives of radiant prostitute Maggie Cheung Man-yuk, filthy beggar Anthony Wong, and a killer in this heavenly comedy directed by masterful new wave filmmaker Johnnie To. – IMDB

A double feature for Stephen Chow and Maggie Cheung in this segment, what are the chances, right? Suffice to say that I’m a big fan of Stephen Chow but even he has films that I don’t quite like so much and The Mad Monk definitely falls into that one. Its not exactly the jokes or the acting that I don’t like but rather the overall sillier and dumber approach here that gives off this off-hilter humor that I’m not a big fan of. There are some too over the top moments than preferred. The Mad Monk lacks in terms of being more unique.

I feel bad saying that mostly because the talented Siu-Tung Ching and Johnnie To paired up to co-direct this film. Siu-Tung Ching comes off making 3 movies each for The Swordsman and A Chinese Ghost Story, which I have a little memory of but have never revisited. While Johnnie To had come off of working on Justice My Foot with Stephen Chow, which happens to be one of my faves as well, its shocking to think that maybe this film might have worked if I was younger or discovered it when I was younger. It does have some strong cast here aside from the ones mentioned before like Anthony Wong who played one of the three people he need to save. Anthony Wong can be a funny man but he has some dramatic roles as well and is a very well-rounded actor.

Its hard to fault anything here because I think the movie delivered as it had wanted to. Everything fit together except my mindset and comedy preference and that usually is the most subjective element to making comedies.

Book Review: Annie’s 1st Break by Willee Amsden

Getting back into some light easy reading to clear stuff off my Kindle before jumping back into some books that I had gotten over the past year. I’m pretty horrible after the whole PC debacle earlier this year so things get pushed back. Trust me when I say that I’m working hard for the rest of the year.

Annie’s 1st Break (Annie McCauley #1)
by: Willee Amsden

annie's 1st break

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Look out New York City! Ms. Rayanne “Annie” McCauley from little old Mesa View, Texas has set her sights on being a high fashion model. Despite her humble beginnings in the Mesa View Mobile Home Park, hot tempered Annie thinks she can make it all the way to the cover of Women’s Wear Daily (as long as she follows her own rules).  She may also snag the heart of sexy Tomi Di Ponti, the CEO of Di Ponti Cosmetics and Fashions, but not without a lot of trouble from her arch rival, Brittany Carstairs, another alumnus of the trailer park and a woman who never met a nasty trick she didn’t use. When it looks like things can’t get any worse, along comes Luther Grolsch, handsome, dangerous and possibly the most annoying man Annie ever met. – Goodreads

Its been a while that I’ve felt such indifference for a book or a story before. Annie’s 1st Break is pretty average. It stomps itself a little worse for being a very predictable and generic romantic comedy. Its like watching a Hollywood romantic comedy that lacks the charms and goes through the motions. That might sound harsh but I also have been in a romantic mood of sorts and this should tug at my heart strings. The deal with this one is that nothing exactly is wrong other than that in some ways. For one, the writing is adequate. Its decent enough. There’s nothing flawed with that. There are some parts that felt a little weird as I was reading it but nothing bad.

I can’t say whether its just the story layout and the execution that was the main fault. However, this also lead to the characters being a little ridiculous. For myself, it feels like I say this with every story now that while this one isn’t erotic (which is a nice change in pace), Annie McCauley’s character never makes me want to be behind her actions. She makes some pretty odd choices. While I get the appeal of this handsome rich guy that would break her own set of rules, she is also presented with the bodyguard option who seems to be more caring even if more un-serious. Perhaps its because I’ve never made the conventional choices in my love life that I can’t seem to relate to why she has this fascination over her boss Tomi that I thought wasn’t a great guy to begin with, who has his own character flaws and much of it has to do with the fact that her trust in his values stand on shaky grounds to begin with. But then, her feelings for Tomi is what constantly makes her character on the verge of breaking her rules and turns her into a victim of her situation, essentially mostly created by herself if not facilitated by someone else.

The story is meant to be odd in the screwball comedy and in the beginning, it works well enough but the story falls apart so fast and grows so thin that its hard to give it a better rating or in this case, want to keep reading more of the series.

Goodreads rating: 2.5 (rounded to 2) out of 5

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

Check out the book review HERE.

Its not a secret that I’m not a huge fan of adaptations because a lot of times they lack the beauty what the words portray. However, I loved To All The Boys I’ve Love Before and you can see the review in the link above that I went and bought the second book full price (something I don’t do often so its a big deal). When Netflix showed off their trailer for it, I was pretty much sold. A part of me wondered how it would turn out but then, it had some a great premise that I thought there was no way that they could destroy it, especially when they even cast an Asian-American as their lead just like the book. Consider me happy just with that sole point.

However, let’s be objective, as much as I can and check it out!

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Director: Susan Johnson

Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Israel Broussard, John Corbett

A teenage girl’s secret love letters are exposed and wreak havoc on her love life. – IMDB

Its not surprise that I was a little skeptical as much as I wanted to be objective and not assume too much going in. To be honest, I was a little worried. Why? Well, the teen movies they’ve had on Netflix has been worryingly bad. F the Prom, #RealityHigh are just two very bad examples of how much I hated watching those two movies a lot. But then, To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved is based on a really solid novel. Its a simple premise with charming characters. Its pretty hard to mess up. And you know what? Netflix delivered all the way!

I loved the tone of the trailer and when we saw the actual outcome of the entire movie, it worked so well together. It took a moment or two to embrace some of the characters are the beginning and get into it but it really captured the essence of the novel itself, especially when I was feeling every bit the feelings I had when I was reading the book. So great job on that, Netflix! Its nice to see a well done adaptation, even with a detail or two changed around. I’m not really bothered a lot by changes in details as long as they work in the realm of films because some things works well in books and they don’t translate as well into movies. However, there is one thing that was changed around which made me wonder what the point was because it affected probably one other scene and didn’t make much of a difference whether it was shown or not. I’m avoiding spoilers here so if you read the book, you may know what I’m talking about.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before

 

For one and probably the most important, the Song sisters play a big role in the film in whichever presence they have. Lana Condor does a great job at being our main lead here as she takes on this clueless teen who has these fantasy notions of romance in her imaginary world and scared to actually fall in love. There’s a good deal of humor and clumsiness as you would seem in the teenage world from her unconfident driving to her desire to take over the role of her older sister and the fictional romantic world that gives her these more “behind the times” sort of love concepts. At the same time, this makes her letters being sent out every bit as amusing as the two main guys are the main contenders on her mind. The first being her sister’s recently ex-boyfriend Josh (Israel Broussard) and the most popular boy in her grade, Peter (Noah Centineo) who she ends up making a deal with to not let Josh think that she likes him anymore. I have to say that Noah Centineo casted as Peter was a little out of the left field for me. I didn’t quite picture him like that but his character did grow on me. Especially in his scenes with Lara Jean and watching how their characters developed and then their relationship also grew as their chemistry and connection was more apparent. It works because they are quite the clueless first love teenage characters who make bad decisions and have their own reasons for justifying it. Its this cluelessness especially in Lara Jean (who reminded me of one of my friends at that age) that makes it so charming and fun to watch.

to all the boys i've loved before

Aside from the fun romance bits, which does take up a decent amount of screentime, it also emphasizes on the family aspect. The three sisters are quite the presence. While Janel Parrish’s older sister Margot role is quickly disappeared into the background as more of a mental presence with everyone, her scenes are very much the big sister role who takes care of her family very well but also trying to find herself as she spreads her wings and leaves the comfortable protection of her home. At the same time, the physical charming and smart-aleck younger sister Kitty played by  Anna Cathcart is incredibly comedic as she pokes fun at her lame older sister who lacks the basic social skills and driving skills (and other things) but when the end of the day, they all do things for each other. That sisterly bond is shown so well also. John Corbett plays the father of these girls who is a widower trying to make things work amidst his busy job. His role wasn’t huge but at the same time, these girls along with their dad is living up to mom’s memories and her words as they try embrace those memories in each of their own way to be more courageous about their life decisions. Its a touching subplot in what feels like a teen romance but has a little more than just that which is what makes it also a great watch that has some heart string tugging moments outside of those romantic parts.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before

Overall, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a fun and charming teen coming of age romance drama/comedy all mixed up in a lovely package. Its a great adaptation of the novel albeit its slight changes because it captures the characters, their heartbreak, their fears and insecurities and gives them enough back story to make their relationships, whether friendship, family or romance, enough space to grow but paced properly to make it always have something meaningful. There are some over the top moments but to be honest, the book had some of those moments as well. The charm and charisma of the film comes not only in the fun source material but also how this young cast gave it life especially when we look at Anna Cathcart, Lana Condor and Noa Centineo. If you like teen romance drama/comedy type films, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is an awesome choice.

Fantasia Festival 2018: Laplace’s Witch (2018)

Laplace’s Witch (2018)

laplace's witch

Director: Takashi Miike

Cast: Sho Sakurai, Suzu Hirose, Sota Fukushi, Mirai Shida, Hiroshi Tamaki, Lily Franky, Etsushi Toyokawa

An environmental analyst is asked by the police to determine if two deaths by hydrogen sulfide poisoning are an accident – or a murder. But when he meets a young woman at both sites, a scientific mystery begins. – IMDB

Based on the 2015 novel by Keigo Higashino, Laplace’s Witch takes its audience for a fantasy and scientific journey. With Takashi Miike at the helm, the accomplishment from his experience is the beautiful setting and the mood that the entire mood sets. The atmosphere and the shots are done incredibly well. It makes some slick moments that create the tension needed for the mystery. The rural Japan setting works great and many of the other backdrops used work beautifully to elevate the scenes even more. As with most Japanese movies, the humor they execute is still very familiar here with some comedic breaks in simple dialogues and expressions in the different characters. Its slightly dark and sarcastic but works with the tone of Laplace’s Witch.

Laplace's Witch

There is a certain charm to this novel adaptation. I have never read this novel before and know nothing about it. However, assuming its faithful to its novel as the screenplay writer is the author himself, this story has a lot of great elements. It has a strong scientific angle and also wraps in some supernatural aspect also. There’s a crime to solve which honestly is quite the head-scratcher seeing as any possibility has a near-zero chance of happening making it hard to determine. However, the introduction of the young woman who calls herself Laplace’s Witch aka Madoka (Suzu Hirose) is where the story brings in a lot of charisma. While her character feels rather simple and one-note whether in her expressions or her actions, Suzu Hirose ignites a convincing role which makes Madoka’s plight feels honorable and genuine and its makes us root for her. Paired along with the professor Shusuke Aoe (Sho Sakurai), they become quite the team especially since the professor is an oddball who shows genuine passion in his rare field of earth science that no one else seems interested in. There is some great charisma between these two characters. They are familiar characterizations but somehow work for this premise. In the spectrum of these two characters, a lot of scientific theories are put into the story including the main foundation of this movie being French mathematician Pierre Simon Laplace’s articulation called Laplace’s Demon.

Laplace's Witch

Disappointingly, where Laplace’s Witch starts to fall apart is in its pacing. The story while had its unique elements with the scientific aspects and discovering the root of the special abilities that Madoka possesses which leads to unveiling why she feels the urge to be involved in helping with the investigation alongside the professor. While the story itself has some nice twists and turns which are slightly fantastical and far-fetched, the fact that it is a Japanese film somehow makes these elements easily forgivable.  However, where this suffers is in its lengthy runtime of 2 hours and having its reveals set too early, making the final half feel dragged out. This lead to the well-developed first half to lose its intrigue quickly in the second half. There are some serious execution issues here that make the final thoughts of this movie feel simply bland and lackluster.

This review is also published on That Moment In.