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.

Double Feature: Go Back to China (2019) & The Farewell (2019)

Its the last week before the end of 2020 and I’m working on getting all the backlog on movie reviews and TV binges (more on the ones that were more memorable from my Top 10 TV series) to come out during this coming week! First up is a pairing of movies set in China with Go Back to China and The Farewell.

Let’s check it out!

Go Back To China (2019)

Director (and writer): Emily Ting

Cast: Anna Akana, Richard Ng, Lynn Chen, Kelly Hu, Aviva Wang, Tiger Ting, Jejie Esquerra, Ray Yumul

When spoiled rich girl Sasha Li blows through most of her trust fund, she is cut off by her father and forced to go back to China and work for the family toy business. – IMDB

As a follow-up feature film by Emily Ting, Go Back to China hits a little closer to home for the director as it is semi-autobiographical and relates to her own relationship with her father. Looking at how its categorized, the film does have a lot of elements that I do love whether its fish out of water or coming of age, its all my sort of film and the comedy elements also hit most of the time.

There’s a lot to love about it aside from the subgenre/genre that it sits in. The story itself is pretty fun for the most part about the culture clash and the rich spoiled girl finding her path a little more as she goes to China to get some work experience. At the same time, it helps her use the design skills a little and helps her find responsibility even if she ends up making some mistakes in the process. The sibling relationships and the world of stepsiblings as well as rekindling her relationship with her father all comes into play. Between all the comedy, there are more serious moments that anchor the film into those key elements of Chinese values and how things are done that emphasize on the East meets West. Plus, it features a key role from seasoned actor Richard Ng which only got a cameo in Emily Ting’s debut, Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong (which happens to be one of my favorite films). Plus, Anna Akana is very good in delivering those comedy moments as well as capturing the essence of her role.

Go Back to China does have some little missteps perhaps here and there and the story isn’t quite as captivating as that of Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong. There is a certain love for toy making in her movies especially since her first featured a female lead that switched from fashion design to toy design and the character of Sasha here also ends up following the same path except actually in the China factories (which Ruby in Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong also talks about). I’m not sure if its deliberate to have that link but to me, who has seen both of these movies definitely thought it was such a nice subconscious link between the two.

The Farewell (2019)

The Farewell

Director (and writer): Lulu Wang

Cast: Shuzhen Zhao, Awkwafina, X Mayo, Hong Lu, Hong Lin, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Yongbo Jiang, Han Chen, Aoi Mizuhara, Xiang Li

A Chinese family discovers their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather before she dies. – IMDB

Its already the second viewing of The Farewell and I honestly thought that I had reviewed it the first time around at the beginning of the year. Imagine the surprise of it not being reviewed yet so here we are! The Farewell is a fantastic movie and probably one of the movies that actually hit me a lot harder in the second viewing. Perhaps it has to do with the current pandemic situation we’re in that hits harder on the family element and being away and not being able to do anything when there’s anything that happens. The Farewell is very much a dramedy in many ways. It does stay in the field of being more in the drama element even if there are some of Awkwafina’s quirky remarks that makes it have a little humor to it.

The Farewell crafts the East meets West values really well especially in a family dynamic sort of scene. Its even more intriguing that its based on a true lie. The whole concept of the family suffering the pain and leaving the grandmother to live every day without the knowledge of her illness is portrayed so well as the family tension really starts to show in all the characters and revealed one by one in discussion and reactions. As Billi starts off being fairly resistant to this lie, she does join in at the end which creates this fantastic slow motion scene walking down the street. That shot was one of my absolute favorites. Plus, its a big emphasis on these little things in Chinese tradition and values and also on justifying why they choose to create these lies while also using a happy event as a reason for the family to gather together.

Awkwafina is truly crafting herself into a really great actress. She appears in a lot of different movies but no doubt The Farewell is a very memorable roles, probably my favorite of hers so far. Not to mention that the film is mostly in Mandarin and the grandmother only referred to as Nai Nai is such a cute old lady character but also tough as nails in some ways especially when she tries to arrange the wedding details with the restaurant and then how she deals with her family. There’s a few sides to her character.

Overall, The Farewell is an exceptional movie. There’s so much to love about it from how it structures the culture clash to highlighting the different Chinese values and beliefs to the acting and performances of the characters and the unbelievable fact that it is based on a true event and quirkily referred in the beginning as based on a true lie while also giving an update on the actual situation of Nai Nai in real life.

TV Binge: The Romance of Tiger and Rose (传闻中的陈芊芊, 2020)

The Romance of Tiger and Rose (传闻中的陈芊芊, 2020)

Director: Cha Chuen Yee

Cast: Rosy  Zhao, Ryan Ding, Zixin Zhou, Yinghao Sheng, Xin Zhao, Patrick Quan, Smile Wei, Minghao Chen, Yijia Wu, Shuyuan Liu

Chen Xiao Qian has dedicated her entire life to making her dream of becoming a well-respected screenwriter come true. Proud of the effort she put into creating this epic tale, Xiao Qian expects things on-set to go quickly and smoothly. But all her high-hopes are soon crushed as her script falls under the critical scrutiny of both the cast and crew. Hurt by the harshness of her peers, Xiao Qian vows to prove herself but things don’t go the way she planned. Mysteriously transported into the pages of her own story, Xiao Qian has now become the Third Princess, Chen Qian Qian, an insignificant side character with a horrible reputation and a short lifespan. Desperate to change her fate, Xiao Qian vows to do whatever it takes to ensure her survival. But the journey ahead won’t be easy, especially not after she catches the attention of both the arrogant and manipulative prince, Han Shuo, and the impossibly perfect Minister of Education, Pei Heng. Wandering through a world of her own making, Xiao Qian is desperate, not only to survive, but to keep her heart intact as she tries to find her way back home. Will her efforts be enough or will she be stuck in this story forever? – MyDramaList

Episodes: 24
Where to watch: Tencent Youtube Channel

Meshing modern and ancient or fantasy is always a fun way as it plays with the fish out of water tale that usually creates a lot of comedy along the way (and one of my favorite sort of stories). What makes The Romance of Tiger and Rose stand out is that it twists it a little more. In this case, modern day screenwriter Xiao Qian is the creator of the story that she falls into so she knows the characters and settings more than the characters and because of that, she becomes the changing factor, a fact that she needs to realize and embrace that her character that she embodies now, Qian Qian is becoming a main female lead and no longer the short-lived supporting character. As she finds a way to manipulate the story back on the course its suppose to take, its really a story about following your heart and embracing change, that no one can play God even if its her own script especially with the unknown factor of how she escapes back into the reality in the end.

Fantasy or Ancient China settings for Chinese TV dramas that I usually watch are big productions and very dramatic. The refreshing part for Tiger and Rose is that it falls in the romantic comedy sort of story. That alone is a nice change especially since the characters themselves and the cast are all very fun as well. Even the more serious characters have this sort of humor to them that gradually is revealed. Plus the story takes a secret plot gone wrong by a neighboring city that is opposite in beliefs of this one. Xiao Qian’s original story was focused on a love story much like Romeo and Juliet’s that breaks the tension between two countries of opposing values, Qianqian’s which is a matriarchy where men have no say or power and patriarchy where its vice versa and brings up a point that no extreme in either way is good but rather should strike an equality. This is obviously hidden between the lines as the story is focused on the romance between Tiger and Rose and plays on a thing that Chinese stories always say about being the main lead in your own story ( not sure if that’s just a Chinese drama thing).

The characters are quite fun. Ryan Ding and Rosy Zhao are hilarious together. They also can be quite sweet. It all starts off as schemes and gradually grows over time. They both take their roles in this over the top moments and it really helps add that sense of comedy and not forced since it fits into the tone of the story. Both characters have rather good chemistry and there’s an air of drama between them which adds depth tontheir characters especially since Rosy Zhao’s Qianqian takes this bad reputation character that she writes and changes it to an honorable character despite the fact that her takeover doesn’t transfer the character’s skills to her so she needs to justify why she can’t fight anymore for example. Ryan Ding is an interesting actor because he does mold well in the different elements here and feels more genuine. The chenistry between the two leads are good especially with how its developed and executed. The silly servants for each of them also almost steal the show because of how comedic and clueless they are as well as some of the supporting characters even if the second male lead does feel like more seriously written than it should be.

Running at 24 episodes, its the best length for most dramas. Its well-paced while still having a decent story that doesn’t lose focus of the story that needs to be told. The love story remains rather prominent but at the same time, its a story about “Rose” which is Qianqian’s character and its mostly from her point of view while still having moments of behind the scenes with other characters. That’s a little odd considering this is her story and its her that fell into her dream which is the only little bit that I think should have been reworked. However, it shows that this fictional world is moving away from her written path. Its a good balance of everything and while I’m initially wasn’t completely convinced about Rosy Zhao’s acting, this drama does fit her really well. I still think she can work on her crying a little more since it seems very unconvincing but at the same time, the drama is mostly comedy and its done in an entertaining way and its surprisingly bingeworthy because of it.

The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020)

The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020)

Director: Mike Rohl

Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Sam Palladio, Mark Fleischmann, Nick Sagar, Mia Lloyd, Suanne Braun, Lachlan Nieboer, Ricky Norwood, Florence Hall

When Duchess Margaret unexpectedly inherits the throne to Montenaro and hits a rough patch with Kevin, it’s up to her double Stacy to save the day before a new lookalike, party girl Fiona foils their plans. – IMDB

The Princess Switch, while not exactly a fresh idea, was a fun one in its original release. Vanessa Hudgens is rather fun playing two different characters, playing around with accents and different background and identity swaps. Something like a version of It Takes Two for grown-ups. You can read my review of the first film HERE.

When Netflix announced that there was a sequel, it was hard to imagine what direction they would take. It didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of other stories to tell especially seeing as A Christmas Prince had already gone through 2 sequels by last year and each one feeling less and less entertaining. The Princess Switch: Switched Again hits much lower than the original. Its not exactly unexpected but having a third Vanessa Hudgens character, Fiona, a different sort of character of the prior two is still fun enough however, the plot as a whole is lacking. Because of so many Vanessa Hudgens, everyone becomes passing figures. The story falls really flat as this new scheme comes into play, there’s just more pieces that don’t fit together and its not exciting or entertaining to watch. Some of the new characters try to be funny but it all seems to miss a mark. Nothing seems to be out of the expected and just turns into a fairly disappointing sort of ordeal. Of course, like I said before, its not unexpected.

Much like the first film, Vanessa Hudgens holds up the movie and is definitely the highlight here. She plays these three characters with a different style and vibe. Margaret and Stacy both being different while Fiona is a much more outward character and brings a little more sass and silliness especially with her two minions. Adding into the equation a guy that wants to win over Margaret’s affections, it all boils down to a fairly predictable sort of movie and the characters all being rather one-dimensional. Not that anyone is expecting more (at least I hope not). Other than Vanessa Hudgens and some of the characters from the first film, the thing that gives this one a little more points is that it finally ties up the world that Netflix is building between A Christmas Prince and this one as the royal family from there makes a cameo appearance.

Overall, The Princess Switch: Switched Again is a fairly normal movie, nothing that’s unexpected and everything stays rather predictable. The whole three personalities for Vanessa Hudgens just feels like she works really hard. Everything else feels a little more normal like the relationship between Stacy and her prince while Margaret sorting out things with Kevin. In comparison, it seems to give more weight to Margaret’s character this time as its in her kingdom this time. The whole world that Netflix creates for their Christmas stories is pretty neat. As a finishing thought, seeing as I’ve had rather lackluster feelings to both A Christmas Prince 3 and this one, I really don’t know where Netflix plans to take these stories or this world.

TV Binge: Dash & Lily (Season 1, 2020)

Dash & Lily (Season 1, 2020)

dash & lily

Cast: Austin Abrams, Midori Francis, Dante Brown, Troy Iwata, James Saito, Leah Kreitz, Keana Marie, Glenn McCuen, Agneeta Thacker, Jodi Long, Diego Guevara

A whirlwind holiday romance builds as cynical Dash and optimistic Lily trade dares, dreams and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations all across New York City. – IMDB

Dash & Lily arrives at a suitable time in our current pabdemic landscape. Dash & Lily is a building connection between two young strangers as they exchange dares in a notebook stashed at a local bookstore all in an attempt to bring in some joy during this holidays by Lily whose normal family holidays plans have been thwarted due to a business trip. On the other hand, Dash despises the holidays especially without a girlfriend to smooth the situation between him and his father while fooling both his divorced parents about his wherebouts. The notebooks ends up being a new start as it takes them both to extend out of their circle and learn and try new things. A runaround New York doing all kinds of unique activities and meeting some a variety of people gives both of them a slight change in their original mindset.

Running at a swift 8 episodes, Dash & Lily is based on a book series called Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Leviathan and Rachel Cohn (which I haven’t read before). Running very much like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (based on a book also by David Leviathan), this is a journey through New York. Where it differs that this time, the story is about two separate characters and their own journeys that help them find themselves and find companion in each other and eventually, a stronger connection/romance. Dash and Lily are opposites. Lily sits in her comfort zone and doesn’t really get along with people her own age but remains close to her family and is somewhat of a brighter character where Dash has a more incomplete family and lives with less family guidance but also doesn’t have a friend circle in fear of mentioning his break-up and in turn both needs their own change in view to get back in touch with the space around them. What brings them both together is that this dare notebook turns into something of a tree hole where they can share their thoughts and find their own excitement in life.

As much as Dash and Lily’s characters are pretty fun, the supporting cast pulls in other factors like family and friends. Lily’s family is quite the amusing bunch especially with her grandfather played by James Saito and her great aunt played by Jodi Long, both colorful characters. Lily is also left with her brother who is spending a lot of time with his new boyfriend that makes for some fun moments as they help and encourage her to do the dares and step out of her comfort zone. Dash’s group is more focused on friends with his ex-girlfriend and her group of friends that he meets here and there but mostly his best friend Boomer (Dante Brown) who works at the local pizza place and ends up being a link between Dash and Lily secretly. There was even a little cameo with Nick Jonas which makes for a pretty fun scene.

Overall, Dash & Lily is pretty fun. It doesn’t take place over a long period of time but at the same time, it takes us for an adventures around New York while getting to know these two young characters. There are times and that they seem a little older than they should be but then, the little activities and dares they get sent on are rather unique. This time, its a lot of cutting between the two characters and flipping between them so its less their chemistry together but rather more like friends that builds into more. Its set around Christmas time so there’s a lot of inserts of Christmas themed elements and uses it as a foundation of the difference between the two: one that loves it and one that doesn’t and that’s all rooted from their view about how they view life at that point. Its a fun and bingeworthy Netflix series for sure!

Holidate (2020)

Holidate (2020)

Director: John Whitesell

Cast: Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, Kristin Chenoweth, Frances Fisher, Andrew Bachelor, Jessica Capshaw, Manish Dayal, Alex Moffat, Cynthy Wu

Fed up with being single on holidays, two strangers agree to be each other’s platonic plus-ones all year long, only to catch real feelings along the way. – IMDB

Netflix earliest Christmas/holiday themed romantic comedy was Holiday, released at the end of October. Bearing the talented Emma Roberts who has done quite a few quirky movies in her filmography, Holidate holds a decent premise revolving around the concept of being single during the holidays and the judging eyes of family and friends for not having someone in their life or simply life choices in general. Entering into a holiday contract plus these two people together. While the premise itself is fairly unique using the holiday angle, the whole concept of contractual relationships and the flow of the romantic comedy offers nothing too refreshing.

Romantic comedies aren’t exactly fresh nowadays and yet for those who like to watch it, a lot dwells on the chemistry between the main leads that at least give a reason to root for them. Here’s where some of the deepest issues do occur in the execution. The holiday premise causes the film to jump through the different holidays almost in montage speed giving them very little character build. The scenes that give these two characters the most backstory is in little pieces at the beginning for set-up before the contract, once or twice in the middle and then at the end, when they inevitably face up to their feelings. They have little moments like hooking up after a drunk rendez-vous or helping each other out of embarrassing situations or whatnot and yet, the connection between them is slightly lacking.

If we look at the comedy parts, that part might be a little more successful depending on what your comedy style is. For myself, some of the comedy does land. Embarrassing moments or some over the top bits are good. However, some of the over the top stuff mostly with Kristen Chenoweth’s character sometimes rides along the fine line between being funny and being too much. However, comedy is very subjective. In the comedy department though, Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey do land those moments fairly well.

With that said, Emma Roberts is a really good actress and with what she’s given here, her role is pretty fun. Holidate as a whole is a fairly lackluster and predictable sort of romantic comedy set up and yet, the premise here is fun. It makes sense that it didn’t go full Christmas movie selection since its more about the holidays than set solely during Christmas. Thing is, Holidate is somewhat of a middling viewing. If you enjoy romantic comedies, this one is okay and you can give it a shot. Its nothing super memorable but it has some fun and awkward moments.

FNC 2020: Sin La Habana (2020) & Poissonsexe (2020)

Its taken a while to wrap up the Festival du Nouveau Cinema coverage but we’re in the final double feature. Both a romance in their own regards is a Canadian film, Sin La Habana and a French movie, Poissonsexe. Both having a romance wrapped up in highlighting a bigger plot and both carrying a different tone and atmosphere.

Sin La Habana (2020)

Director (and writer): Kaveh Nabatian

Cast: Yonah Acosta Gonzalez, Aki Yaghoubi, Evelyn Castroda O’Farrill, Julio Cesar Hong Oritz, Ahlam Gholami

Set in Cuba and Montreal, Sin La Habana tells the story of a love triangle that grows from a desire to find a better life in another country. A big plan for the main character Leonardo to find a better future in another country that can’t be found in a closed country in Cuba by charming a Montreal traveler Nasim into a relationship in the goal of having her bring him over and eventually get married to immigrate to Canada. When settled, he needs to find a way to bring his girlfriend Sara in Cuba to Montreal so that they can find a way to be together again. However, the issues are piled up when their relationship takes a turn for a more complex when the new country brings on its own problems, not only for Leonardo and Sara but also Nasim who being an immigrant herself has her own issues to deal with.

Looking at the issues of relationships, immigration, assimilating in a new country, Sin La Habana covers quite a few topics. Immigration and how its not as great as people imagine it plus the story of these great ploys at going to no lengths to achieve their goals for a better life to find that things don’t ever go as planned. One in the dark (kind of) and one that isn’t and yet dreams aren’t easier to achieve in another country, its something that is from within as Leonardo goes through from his first moments as a ballet dancer to a roundout point of trying to get a position in a dance group in Montreal. On the other side, Nasim’s character might seem a softer character at first but soon to realize that she knows exactly what is going on and stays cautious but she is fighting her own fight with her family and her future. These two’s story comes in the front that the love triange element falls in the backdrop along with the character of Sara after the Cuba side of things shifts over to the Montreal setting.

Its always nice to see Montreal as a location in movies as a personal little highlight for myself. Montreal is a diverse location but a harder place to fit in because of its language barrier as a French-speaking province in Canada along with the cold winters and it makes for a fitting location for this story. Sin La Habana talks about an issue and perhaps loopholes of the immigration system. A story that probably someone has heard of about one person or another or the news however its the characters that are crafted and their journey that gives Sin La Habana an interesting angle. They each have their good and bad character traits that make them believable and real people and each chasing some form of their own dream and life.

Poissonsexe (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Olivier Babinet

Cast:  Gustave Kervern, India Hair, Ellen Dorrit Peterson, Okinawa Valerie Guerard, Alexis Manenti

Daniel, a biologist studying the disappearance of fish, is haunted by paternity. It is by looking for a woman who could be the mother of his children that he will come across a strange fish and discover what he really lacks: love. – IMDB

Poissonsexe, called both as Fishlove or Fishsex on FNC site and IMDB respectively, is a peculiar little story. The characters are peculiar and they find a strange fish and altogether it has this unique take on the environment especially on a biological marine/aquatic side. Its about love and sex and babies but in the end, its also about these fairly lonely people who do the same things everyday and want to find companionship. A bit of a comedy and a little of drama pulls this story together in a charming way.

The story’s focal character is Daniel, played by Gustave Kervern. He is a rather routine and boring sort of fellow. He has everything planned out for an upcoming baby room without even having a girlfriend and then he gets set up by his friend for online dating. When he meets a woman who finds him parked on the beach, they end up finding a strange fish with legs. This brings their connection together and he slowly realizes that he wants love and not just a child. The whole movie is a little quirky and moments of comedy and awkwardness and yet it manages to find its own balance to make the whole thing fairly charming.

Other than the leading roles standing out, the little strange fish creature adds this almost psychedelic nature to it. Sometimes it feels like it overdoes some of it a little but then, it feels deliberate to make this fish have its own pull for Daniel. However, what is a big theme that pulls the story together is about the environment and how its being wasted away does to the smallest fish which grow extinct because they no longer can reproduce despite the best scientific effort. Yet what goes on this lab almost reflects the story line that Daniel’s character goes through right down to the most entertaining part which its finale.

Poissonsexe is a little odd and the strange fish is a quirky little addition and putting together the parallels of extending the next generation whether in the fish world or human world, the story is about love and feelings instead of the science. There are some disjointed moments and some supporting characters do feel a little one dimensional but its a lot of fun. French humor always seems to have this interesting charm when balanced well and this one definitely.has those charming elements. The love story is a fairly basic element here but what makes it different are the other elements all combined together.

Thats it for this double feature and it wraps up my FNC 2020 coverage! (FINALLY!) Hopefully there were some smaller films that caught your eye. These two were okay for me alhough Sin La Habana did win one of the festival awards.

Double Feature: Happy Death Day (2017) & Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

A sudden change in plans brings another double feature before we start the Blood in the Snow Festival coverage. A lot going on right now. Either way, 31 days of Horror is in the final few days and this pairing is Happy Death Day and its sequel Happy Death Day 2U. Let’s check it out!

Happy Death Day (2017)

Happy Death Day

Director: Christopher Landon

Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken, Laura Clifton, Rachel Matthews, Jason Bayle, Rob Mello

A college student must relive the day of her murder over and over again, in a loop that will end only when she discovers her killer’s identity. – IMDB

Riding between science fiction, slasher and dark comedy, Happy Death Day is quite the entertaining romp that its meant to be. Playing with the concept of an unknown time loop that takes our main character Theresa, mostly known as Tree who is a sorority girl with her own issues and a whole lot of enemies that keeps dying and waking up on her birthday as she tries to figure out who is her killer. It becomes quite a fun ride as she makes friend with Carter, the guy that lives in the dorm that she keeps waking up in and then starts connecting with how bitchy of a person she is to the people around her as well as embracing how avoiding her past has made her into this miserable person.

While the time loop isn’t really explained in the movie, it never really feels like it needs to either. Happy Death Day is at its best because of the humor that it delivers and the many different ways that Theresa changes throughout. With that said, Jessica Rothe captures her role as Theresa incredibly well. She has this charm and charisma that really adds so much to how she portrays the character. It also is rather comedic how she is the only one with the memory of all this and wakes up being different every time.

In reality, Happy Death Day is a really straight forward sort of movie. It delivers a few twists in her time loop and leaving the suspense in the air of whether she will escape her time loop or not. Its not so much that its scary but more that its a lot of fun to watch. Sure, the slasher bits can get a few jumps at the beginning but the threat of her being able to loop really does take away the horror of it. Still, its a different a type of horror film riding the line of horror comedy but a nice palate cleanser and really why I do love films that mix genres/subgenres so much.

Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

Happy Death Day 2U

Director (and co-writer): Christopher Landon

Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Rachel Matthews, Ruby Modine, Steve Zissis, Charles Aitken, Laura Clifton

Tree Gelbman discovers that dying over and over was surprisingly easier than the dangers that lie ahead. – IMDB

While Happy Death Day should have been probably been a one movie deal and let it end at where it is, it was expected that with how well Happy Death Day did that it would get a sequel. Add it onto another unnecessary sequel. What the sequel aims to do now is give us the cause of Tree’s time loop in the first movie but this time, the equation has changed because that loop has caused a parallel dimension which brings in the help of the science students that caused in the first place who happen to be Carter’s roommate, Ryan and his friends. Tree needs to work with them to stop it and its a lot of the same as the first film with a lot of trial and error dying except this time mostly on her own terms instead of by the baby face killer.

The heart of Happy Death Day 2U is really on how charming Jessica Rothe’s character Tree is. The parallel dimension gives her another sort of revelation about her life. Personally, it brings in a little bit more seriousness to what should be more comedic but they do make it up with this montage of how she chooses to kill herself for each trial by the team to end the loop. Its a bigger cast to say the least and I do enjoy the dynamic of the science crew. They bring their own sort of humor.

The sequel is a lot of the same with some other stakes at hand but it feels pretty much the same and if anything, a little more silly than the first one but its just a fun little romp. Its definitely more sci-fi than horror in this more and more drama than comedy. Still, it was fairly entertaining. Not quite as good as the first one and not a necessary sequel by any means but its still pretty fun for my own standards. I just really hope they don’t do a third one because it really doesn’t need to dive even further.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen Happy Death Day and the sequel? Thoughts?