Double Feature: Pitch Perfect 3 (2017) & What A Girl Wants (2003)

Welcome to the next double feature! This time is a rather female character driven combo with the Barden Bellas final hurrah in Pitch Perfect 3 and Amanda Bynes in What A Girl Wants. It seems like a decent pairing, don’t you think?

Pitch Perfect 3 (2017)

pitch perfect3

Director: Trish Sie

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hailee Steinfeld, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, John Lithgow, Matt Lanter, Guy Burnet, DJ Khaled, Ruby Rose

Following their win at the world championship, the now separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices. – IMDB

Pitch Perfect 3 has really just been riding on the success of its first film (review) but for myself, it feels pretty much like the Step Up franchise. In Pitch Perfect’s case, its all about the acappella musical elements and the charming cast of Bellas that come with it. Pitch Perfect 3 is a farewell movie and while the story itself is rather disposable as its yet another competition that they need to try to win but this time, its a little different because its about finding closure for all of the main players: Becca, Chloe, Amber, Amy as they move on with their lives from this family to each seeing those problems that make them who they are. Its a bit messy and brushed over quickly for all those involved, mostly because for most of them they never had tackled personal problems for these characters.

Looking at the cast here, which retains itself from the Barden Bellas of Pitch Perfect 2 (review) but as they exit their lives after university and the many struggles of finding their own identity and purpose after their success, each have their own path right from the start and of course, their own issues that make them want to go on this final hurrah for them to compete again together. In many ways, Becca has gone full circle from the beginning to the end of this film where she finally finds success in what she wanted at the start in some form but now its her loyalty to the Bellas that holds her back, a bit of a reverse situation. Bellas is a wonderful little group of friends as they are unique in their different ways and different backgrounds, nothing more apparent than in this one, even if it does piece it together oddly.

Of course, aside from the Bellas, we still have the supporting characters including the staple characters of Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins characters who have that additional comedic relief. On top of that adding in some other talent from DJ Khaled playing himself and a few side characters with Matt Lanter as the Bellas military guide and something of a bodyguard. The other groups competing for that one spot include Ruby Rose playing the lead singer of Evermoist. I remember that year, Ruby Rose ended up in three different movie sequels which was pretty fantastic as I love her style even if the Bellas were the main focus here. Of course, you also had John Lithgow sporting an Australian accent as Amy’s dad who “isn’t a very nice man”(quoting the line she uses to describe him).

Overall, Pitch Perfect 3 is quite a mixed basket but the musical elements are still there if you like these movies. The Bellas are still quite fun to watch and they get themselves into some serious trouble and Amy really steps up. At the same time, Its the right time to wrap this whole thing up and they do it really well in the credits with what looks like bloopers and extras from the production of the three movies together which is a nice path down memory lane.

What A Girl Wants (2003)

what a girl wants

Director: Dennie Gordon

Cast: Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, Kelly Preston, Eileen Atkins, Anna Chancellor, Jonathan Pryce, Oliver James, Christina Cole

An American teenager learns that her father is a wealthy British politician running for office. Although she is eager to find him, she realizes it could cause a scandal and cost him the election. – IMDB

If you put together a dash of Mamma Mia (review) and then adds in a dose of The Princess Diaries, you will get something like What A Girl Wants but maybe a little less refined. Rightfully so because this was movie before Lovewrecked (review) earlier than the movie that I knew Amanda Bynes from, She’s All That. However, it does feel that Amanda Bynes always has that same type of character that she played really well in the 2000s teen movies that just seemed to work for her. Along with that, she did have Colin Firth playing her father with does boost this movie a little despite its rather run of the mill story.

With that said, Amanda Bynes plays Daphne, an American teenager who ends up reaching out to his British wealthy politician father who doesn’t know he exists. While she doesn’t want to lose her unique personality and herself in this new world, she soon realizes that to exist in her father’s world, she may have to in this part fish out of water story as well with adapting to some of the British terms and upper class etiquette. Colin Firth playing her father actually is an opposite type of character who is more reserved and contains his feelings and affection as well but soon also shows the side of him that Daphne’s mother loved, especially as the whole secret of who broke apart her parents in the first place comes to light and a few secret motives, that are actually quite obvious reveals itself.

There’s not a whole lot to say about What A Girl Wants. For people who like Amanada Bynes, this should fit the bill as its an earlier roles of more popular roles like She’s The Man but its still very much her style of humor and acting. At the same time, there are some very predictable moments and the script isn’t that great but it has some fun moments and Amanda Bynes’ character Daphne has some good empowering characteristics that I did like. Some good, some bad, I’d say its somewhere in the middle: pretty much one to save for a rainy day.

Thats it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films?

TV Binge: Put Your Head on My Shoulder (致我们暖暖的小时光, 2019)

Put Your Head on My Shoulder (致我们暖暖的小时光, 2019)

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

Cast: Fair Xing, Lin Yi, Daddi Tang, Zheng Ying Chen, Zhou Zi Xin, Yi Sha, Zhou Jun Wei, Zhang Hao Lun, Jie Bing

As Si Tu Mo’s graduation is nearing, she is confused about her future plans. She tries out all sorts of things all the time and is unable to make her own decisions. Her ordinary days are suddenly shaken up when the genius Physics student Gu Wei Yi appears in her life. The two accidentally end up living together and chaos begins. – MyDramaList

Watch on YouTube or Netflix (as of December 11, 2019):

QUOTES/SCENE

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

STORY

Set in the same universe as A Love So Beautiful (review) with some characters that actually overlap as they get mentioned in the little details here and there, Put Your Head on My Shoulder is an adaptation of a novel written by the same author as the previous one.

This world of stories is all about quick and light-hearted romance whether its boy chases girl or girl chases boy, more so the former in this case, which adds a lot of fun tidbits here because we have a genius scientist who doesn’t know much about the whole outside who ends up meeting a girl who is almost the opposite of him but bubbly and positive. Just as she learns how to face up to her own future, her appearance changes him as he starts doing the silliest of things to get her attention including a lot of searches for weird tips from the internet. While the story itself is fairly generic as most of these TV dramas tend to be, this one has some fun surprises in simply highlighting the awkward mind of a scientist when met with love. It also is a step further into the future as this one sees the two in their final year of university and getting ready to head into the work life or pursuing higher education.

LENGTH/PACING

Episodes: 24
Episode length: 45 mins approx.

Put Your Head On My Shoulder has the perfect formula for being a good length in episodes and series length. Its one that has enough episodes to create good pacing for both its leads and still have time for the supporting characters to have their stories and adds enough depth to care but never drags on with any element of their life as the scenes progress just like the relationships and the feelings for each other.

And if you think that this 24 episodes isn’t enough, you can even watch an extra story here (which isn’t available on the Netflix version):

CHARACTER/CHEMISTRY

Situ Mo & Gu Wei Yi

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

The main focus for the show is the two main leads, Mo Situ (Fair Xing) and Wei Yi Gu (Yi Lin). These two steal the show because of not only their chemistry with each other but the fact that they both are peculiar but also very fun characters that stand well alone and makes things even more sweet or hilarious whenever they are together. In many ways, they are the typical opposites attract because Gu Wei Yi is just an introvert scientist/researcher who is very set in his own ways whereas faced with Fair Xing’s more direct and noisy attitude and completely not interested in his scientific knowledge that it becomes this curious discovery that brings a lot of joy into his life and it challenges the side of him that wants to keep learning more about her and the way she acts. It brings in a lot of funny awkward moments in after episode snippets (just like A Love So Beautiful) and also more and more cute and sweet moments as they start finding their rhythm together.

Wang Shan & Fu Pei

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

Being roommates and best friends of the previous couple, this relationship became the aftermath of the beginning of Fu Pei and Mo Situ’s friendship and possible relationship that never happened and in the process brought forth this friendship and eventual feelings for each other. The supporting relationship is very much in the background but these two characters actually are the one that is the bridge to A Love So Beautiful and builds the link together. These two have a different type and style of relationship and while its not completely necessary, it has its fun moments.

Parents, Friends and Love Interests

As with more dramas and their relationships, the use of their parents and the various personalities is a staple. In this case, they both have a very opposite type of personality while each of them both hoping that they could both be together, a rather open-minded concept for Chinese parents to let single young adults (boy and girl) but its a nice change in times sort of parents which is pretty fun most of the time to watch as they aren’t that frequently used here.

Put Your Head on My Shoulder

However, the funniest bits of the show does go to the other scientists at the lab, Lei Zhou (Hao Lun Zhang) & Professor Jiang (Jie Bing) helping Wei Yi Gu with his romantic problems as they usually just make it worse and think too alike for Mo Situ to understand their intentions. The three become this bromance bond that truly has so many comedic moments that adds into the fun.

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

Of course, what drama would be complete without even the slightest form of someone trying to come between the relationship even if its only at the literal slightest level of interest as Mo Situ starts her internship and ends up being the main assistant on set for any advertisement related by this growing star, ZhiCun Lin (Jun Wei Zhou). He never becomes quite the intrusion and was relatively underused but still the scenes with him were still rather fun.  On the side note, I really do like Jun Wei Zhou quite a bit from this first acting gig and really hope that he will have more of this although he’s more in the psychological analysis (as that’s his academic forte and his part in Dream Space) as well as singing or songwriting or something of the sort.

OVERALL

Much like its previous series set in the same world, Put Your Head On My Shoulder is a feel-good series. Its positive and down to earth. Its not exactly doing anything too different but the writers who put together the character of Wei Yi Gu really did try to get into a mind of being the awkward scientist who sees the world in a new light because of this girl that suddenly ends up housing with him and awakening some feelings and learning about a world other than one where he runs his own life. Its fun and sweet and comedic and well-balanced. Its one that can be watched over and over again and just feel all happy to see these two whether together or apart or as friends as well as those supporting roles around them, who all add a little something.

MAIN THEME

Double Feature: Lady Bird (2017) & A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (2019)

DOUBLEFEATURE (76)

Welcome back to Double Features! Its been a crazy 2 months or so of festival season so double features has been tucked in the back. Its December so also time for the festive films to start. Slim pickings most of the time so this time, we’ll be having a little mix and mash of festive films, Marvel/Disney/Pixar last hurrah before they leave Netflix month in December. The first taste of Christmas films, A Cinderalla Story: Christmas Wish is paired with Lady Bird, a movie that I saw was expiring on Netflix this month as well.

Let’s check it out!

Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird

Director (and writer): Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedge, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Lois Smith, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Odeya Rush, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott

In 2002, an artistically inclined seventeen-year-old girl comes of age in Sacramento, California. – IMDB

I always wonder why I put off watching movies for so long because Lady Bird had been on Netflix for quite a while. Being a huge fan of Saoirse Ronan (and I have a few more of her films to catch up on), there’s something truly fun about this one. I love coming of age films especially with girls and then 2002 was also my graduating year in high school so all the things from posters to style to lingo all became very nostalgic especially with all the feelings of finding the path and future, romance and friends.

Lady Bird, as her character calls herself instead of her given name Christine, tackles all of these things with her somewhat of a drama queen personality and a determination to do whatever she can to get what she wants regardless of the consequences which she will deal with afterwards. She’s a bit of a reckless character without actually realizing that she is in many cases. In the struggle between trying to break free from Sacramento and get to the East coast much to her mother’s disagreement and always being inconsiderate on how much she dislikes her current situation whether the place or constantly thinking that her mother doesn’t like her, its a bit sad to watch this character try to find love and care. Saoirse Ronan takes on this role with so much charisma. There’s this over the top and bizarre sort of character that Lady Bird is that no one else understands who she is and she tries to act very confident about who she is and yet there’s this extremity to her and it starts right off the bat when an argument with her mother in the car results in her plunging out of the moving car. That sets the tone of this mother and daughter relationship right from that moment between these strong characters.

Lady Bird focuses primarily on the family dynamic of Christine and her family especially the mother and daughter relationship and the desire of breaking free from a place to pursue her dreams and wanting to be acknowledged that she can be more than she is and the acceptance and having someone to share those grand dreams. In the process of finding who are her true friends and what the value of love is in her mind (or how little it matters to others). There’s this greatness of how her character is presented that makes those genuine moments even easier to connect with. Everyone on this part of her last year of senior high sets her in the right direction to her future and finding the confidence to be herself and mending or expressing herself .

Lady Bird is a really great movie. All the pieces from performances to the time to the different experiences she goes through and the coming of age moment when she finally embraces who she is is a journey and one that is a mix of drama and comedy that connects really well.

A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (2019)

A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish

Director (and co-writer): Michelle Johnston

Cast: Laura Marano, Gregg Sulkin, Isabella Gomez, Lilian Doucet-Hope, Johannah Newmarch, Chanelle Peloso, Barclay Hope, Garfield Wilson

Its really hard to believe that A Cinderella Story is a film franchise at this point with this latest film, A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish as its fifth film. While I completely am behind the first one original A Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray which is a fun one to watch even now, and can relatively get into its second one with Selena Gomez. Skipped the third one mostly because it wasn’t available and I didn’t want to buy it and then watched the fourth one (review) which was very disappointing and now we get to this one…and I ask myself why I put myself through these things. I didn’t think it could get worse than the last one but it really is.

The performances are completely wooden. The story has nothing new to it and simply predictable. Even the whole evil stepmother and stepsisters were really uninspiring like it didn’t really matter to whoever made this one either. Not to mention, not much of it logically made sense even in how a girl becomes unidentifiable with a pink wig and pointy elf ears and an elf costume and not some kind of special makeup or anything.

Its really hard to get behind this one. I’m trying to find something good about it but I don’t know what to say. It is set during Christmas so the Christmas setting is nice, I guess. These just need to stop (and I don’t say this very often about the worst of franchises).  Maybe the pretty leads and some of their musical numbers (there is one that was okay) could appeal to someone maybe younger than myself. Sometimes, we just outgrow these things I guess.

That’s it for this double feature!
We kick off the Christmas month with a rather lacking movie but hey, its only going to go up from here (probably just jinxed myself). 

Have you seen any of these movies? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Mary Poppins Returns (2018) & Tall Girl (2019)

DOUBLEFEATURE

The last double feature before the horror month is this one! As I try to work through some of the Disney movies on Netflix before it leaves, I managed to get in Mary Poppins Returns and then paired it up with something that I ended up watching as a multitasking film and it was the rather new Netflix Originals, Tall Girl.

Let’s check it out!

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

mary poppins returns

Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Pixie Davis, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Julie Walters, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Jeremy Swift, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury

Decades after her original visit, the magical nanny returns to help the Banks siblings and Michael’s children through a difficult time in their lives. – IMDB

Arguably, a lot of the Disney remakes or sequels feels unnecessary and the same goes for Mary Poppins Returns. However, while it is unnecessary, Mary Poppins Returns still achieves quite a fun family adventure. It follows a lot of the same formula as the original in terms of the events and even using some of the same lines in reference. It all helps link the two together even if the setting is decades apart and Mary Poppins isn’t the same actress and the children in the original are all grown up and the children in this one are the children of Michael Banks of the original. In all those elements, it does build a good bridge between the two and holds a lot of the essence of the original even if it still doesn’t have the same charm as the first one.

What does change in this one are the songs. All the songs are different from start to finish even if say what used to be the Chim Chimeree song is another sequence with streetlight leeries (is that what its called?) and they do the big dance number also . Then the bird lady is replaced by the balloon lady portrayed as cameo by Angela Lansbury. Dick Van Dyke comes back not as his original role but as another cameo role as well. Not to mention, Colin Firth comes in as a supporting role as well. Some of the other changes is adding in a bit of romance for its characters. Of course, the biggest change is Emily Blunt playing Mary Poppins which was always a question of how it would change. While she doesn’t have quite the same charm as Julie Andrews, she does hold up her own. In fact, this role is so different from other roles she’s done (that I’ve seen) that it actually surprised me in a good way and I really enjoyed her take of Mary Poppins plus they still gave her some sharp dialogue and replies.

Mary Poppins Returns might not be necessary but its still a fun family film with some decent music and characters that I wouldn’t mind watching a few times (not hard since I’ve already watched it one more time afterwards). All in all, a pleasant surprise!

Tall Girl (2019)

Tall Girl

Director: Nzingha Stewart

Cast: Ava Michelle, Griffin Gluck, Sabrina Carpenter, Paris Berelc, Luke Eisner, Clara Wilsey, Angela Kinsey, Steve Zahn, Rico Paris, Bria Condon

Jodi, the tallest girl in her high school, has always felt uncomfortable in her own skin. But after years of slouching, being made fun of, and avoiding attention at all costs, Jodi finally decides to find the confidence to stand tall. – IMDB

Netflix Originals teen movies are usually a big bet to take. So far, I’ve really only liked the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and was alright with Sierra Burgess is a Loser (which really doesn’t hold us as much when you think more about it). In many ways, the issues with Sierra Burgess are pretty much the same ones that apply here. Teen romances have that really big issue with making girls always question their own self-confidence when they want to get the attention of a guy they like when they should be confident about themselves and their physical appearances, in this case, its her height, which constantly gets mocked by the people in school.

In the case of Tall Girl, the characters go through a weird character arc that everyone ends up going through this segment in their story where they are very hard to root for and somehow find their way back, of course whether its too late is the question for whatever situation they are tackling. While Tall Girl does have a few okay things and the better ones is how it chooses to end and the more inspirational speech that the main character Jodi talks about as she embraces her confidence and feels confident with her height.

Tall Girl just feels shallow and hollow. All the characters aren’t too deep and the story is rather formulaic and predictable. Its a story about finding your self-confidence and facing your feelings sort of deal, which is pretty basic but has a few good messages to share. What its trying to share has good intentions but just the execution and the script and some of the acting left a lot to be desired.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen Mary Poppins Returns and/or Tall Girl?

Fantasia Festival 2019: Shorts

Fantasia Festival 2019 is over but as per usual, there were a lot of shorts showcased whether before feature film screenings (which is where all of these two segments of shorts were seen) or as a compilation (which I missed all of due to schedule conflicts). Regardless, there’s a lot of interesting selections to say the least.

Below are six shorts that I saw as opening during screenings.

Bar Fight (World Premiere, 2019)

Bar Fight

Director (and writer): Benjamin R. Moody

Cast: Aaron D. Alexander, Donald Brooks, Hector Gonzales, Nelson Nathaniel

When a machete-wielding cult walks into a bar, one bartender is in for the longest night of his life. – IMDB

Paired with The Prey (review) as a the opening short film, Bar Fight is 5 minutes of non-stop action. The premise of the story makes it feel like the world has fallen apart due to this cult as the constant pounding on the door above ends up with three thugs come into the bar. While the bar owner seems meek at first, he quickly fights his way brutally out of the situation. From the series of moves to how the short is done, its an impressive 5 minutes that is very entertaining to watch especially because its in a closed off space resulting in close hand to hand battles with some limited choices in weapons as defense and combat.

Bedtime Story (El Cuento, 2019)

El Cuento

Director (and writer): Lucas Paulino & Angel Torres

Cast: Nerea Barros, Miguel Galbin, Ismael Palacios, Alberto Sanchez

Opening for The Wretched (review) is this Spanish horror short about a family of three being observed by a witch living in an apartment across the street. As the kids settle into to bed, their mother comes in to tell them a bedtime story except it seems very similar to their current situation and bigger brother Lucas who is sleeping on the top bunk doesn’t know whether to look or not at who is telling the story.

No doubt that Spanish horror does really well. In the case of Bedtime Story, its satisfying horror experience. How its filmed and gloomy and darkness of the nighttime setup along with the mom’s unsettling behavior gives it a nice tinge of horror that blends well together. The whole element of being watched also is done very well with a decent twist at the end. Its a fairly complete horror experience for a short film.

Le Blizzard (2019)

le blizzard

Director (and writer): Alvaro Rodriguez Areny

Cast: Aida Folch

Le Blizzard is a 2018 horror short that paired with The Father’s Shadow (review) which tells the story of a woman waking up in the middle of World War II in a blizzard and goes looking for her daughter that has separated from her in the forest. Le Blizzard is not a bad concept to start with. It just feels a bit dragged out because it turns around in a circle. Somehow, it does have a fairly bizarre turn in events and has something of a loop element to it. There is an attempt of adding in a twist in there which does give it some intrigue but its an odd one.

Right Place, Wrong Tim (2018)

Right Place Wrong Tim

Director: Eros Vlahos

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Adam Buxton, Ella Purnell

A 90’s British sitcom is taken over by clones of the lead actor and descends into chaos. – IMDB

Perfectly paired with Daniel Isn’t Real (review), Right Place Wrong Tim is a horror comedy where a on-screen . Its bloody and funny and so over the top that it just fits together in the oddest way and still works. It also lingers on the part of how much of it is reality and how much of it is part of the effects of the show so the audience is still laughing as the scene gets more and more bloody and absurd and yet that just adds to the humor. Of course, this type of humor might be very unique to its audience and might not land for everyone but perhaps its the charm and talent of Asa Butterfield that I’d always enjoyed his acting and roles that this one worked for myself.

Lone Wolf (2019)

Lone Wolf

Director (and writer): January Jones

Cast: Joanne Booth, Charlotte Cook, Karla Hillam, Mackenzie Mazur, Izabella Measham-Park, Freya Van Dyke-Goodman

Opening for Riot Girls screening (review), Lone Wolf is a 2019 Australian horror short about a 15 year old social misfit called Sam who gets invited to a classmate Willow’s party and tries to blend in with her new classmates who happen to be a bunch of mean girls who are Willow’s best friends. However, she starts to go through some kind of inexplicable change and it just starts going out of control. Without ruining anything, that’s the best that I have for this short. Its tries to make fun a little of the situation because its really odd what happens. Sam’s transformation from a little decision of being accepted changes her as well. There’s not a ton to say about this. Its fairly on rails as to how the story progresses with what she gets made fun of as well as who comes to her defense and then we get a twist which explains her transformation. Lone Wolf tackles one of the horror subgenres that I feel is still fairly underused with a lot of potential to explore further so that was a great angle.

Cliché (2018)

Cliche

Director (and writer): Miguel De Plante

Cast: Anne-Justine Guestier, Lilie-Rachel Morin, Josian Neveu

Three young friends, a dark cabin, a wandering killer… You think you’ve already seen this movie ? You’re probably right… – Fantasia Festival

Cliché was the opening short for Aquaslash (review). I’m a huge fan of any concept that can make fun of itself. There’s a lot of really absurd moments here and it feels like the goal is to be over the top in presenting all the cliché moments in horror films and diving into those horror tropes that usually serious horror films would be criticized. Its not meant to be taken seriously and because of that, it dives into a lot of fun territory. It has some ridiculous ideas but then also embraces the idea of the final girl and challenging breaking away from the cliché moment. Its pretty silly and the comedy might not work for everyone but its not a bad guilty pleasure idea and really suitable for a short film.

That’s it for these 6 Fantasia Shorts!
A bit heavy and probably should have broken into two posts, but its what it is.

Thoughts? Which appeals to you more?

Fantasia Festival 2019: Riot Girls (2019)

Riot Girls (2019)

Riot Girls

Director: Jovanka Vuckovic

Cast: Madison Iseman, Paloma Kwiatkowski, Alexandre Bourgeois, Munro Chambers, Ajay Friese, Evan Marsh, Jenny Raven

Riot Girls is a 2019 Canadian action coming of age story where adults have been wiped out by a mysterious disease leaving two groups of kids in one area to fight against each other over territory, resources and survival.

Set in an alternate 1995, it zeros in on a town now divided by West and East side, named exactly as that, Westsiders and Eastsiders respectively, these two groups are run very different. The Eastsiders are run by big brother Jack (Alexandre Bourgeois) along with his girlfriend and younger sister Nat (Madison Iseman) and her girlfriend Scratch (Paloma Kwiatkowski). When Jack goes for a resource run and ends up saving Westsiders escapee Sony (Ajay Friese) and consequently, taken by the Westsiders, Nat, Scratch and Sony set out to rescue him from the Westsiders turf in the center of operations at a high school from the hands of jock leader Jeremy (Munro Chambers).

Right off the bat, there is a lot of style in the execution. Riot Girls uses a comic strip set up to present its story. Using this, it also helps with scene transitions and location swaps as well as switching the narratives from one side to the other in a fluid way. There’s a lot of charm in using this form of execution but also helps keep the tone in check of having something a little wild and fun but also comedic and cool. The cool punk elements are elevated because of the hard rock soundtrack that plays in its scenes especially the chase scenes or fighting scenes. As a fun little trivia, the school used as the base for Westsiders is also where Degrassi: The Next Generation was filmed, so a little throwback of familiarity as well for Munro Chambers who is the baddie in here.

Talking about the story itself, there is a gnawing feeling that a film called Riot Girls lacks a little of the girls element at first. It spends a lot of time in the first act following Jack and his kidnapping to the Westsiders area then it dives a lot on the Jeremy and how he runs his side of town with only snippets of Nat and Scratch as they make it there and little establishment bits for them. However, the story does converge itself as the girls reach their main objective, they show up much more frequently and the dynamic slowly switches over to their heroism and cooperation as they work together to successfully rescue Jack while surviving the more brutal Westsiders. Its a change in a pace because usually we have boys saving girls but in this situation, the girls are saving the boy especially as they go into a very male-dominant area with Jeremy and his jock buddies in the lead.

Despite the fact that there is a big storyline focused on the Westsiders, its not a huge problem because the entire cast delivers on their performances well. No doubt that Westsiders is strong because of Munro Chambers as Jeremy who also delivers on his bad guy roles. In this case, he shines quite a bit especially with the fact that Jeremy also delivers on showing that there is never a forever leadership in this world because kids will grow up to be adults and the inevitable will happen. Nat and Scratch is rightfully the stars of the show with  Madison Iseman and Paloma Kwiatkowski as the actresses behind it respectively. The friendship and relationship behind Nat and Scratch is a fairly positive one that doesn’t need to be explained. Its just there and its accepted for exactly what it is. They have each other’s backs and they love each other through these hard times and they are both empowering roles as they fight with their girl power against a band of boys. What is viewed as the less competent are actually the most competent and that goes not only for the Riot Girls Nat and Scratch but also their help Sony who is somewhat of the awkward yet comic relief. Not to mention Scratch and Nat have incredible style especially Scratch sporting a fantastic mohawk.

Its not like the movie is very heavy to begin with. Its both fast paced and a lot of action with some nice sarcastic humor to pair with it all. Riot Girls is a fun movie. Perhaps it betrays its title a little with having more boy times and a lot more male roles than females but Nat and Scratch are the most memorable characters in this no matter how little they may be, its all big moments which give their characters their own natural spotlight. Sure, its a flaw perhaps in the script but in terms of everything else from execution to soundtrack to pacing to the Riot Girls and the baddie, everything falls into place and works really well together.

Riot Girls hits theatres on September 13, 2019.

TV Binge: Rush to the Dead Summer (夏至未至, 2017)

After the massive love for A Love So Beautiful (review), I went backwards to check out Hu Yitian’s previous role, which is a fairly smaller supporting role which was probably only about half of the series in very small doses in Rush to the Dead Summer, adapted from a 2006 romance novel originally called 1995-2005 Rush to the Dead Summer written by Guo Jingming . The ending was changed in the version. I haven’t read the story but after the ending felt the need to hunt down the actual ending to draw some comparisons and I will touch on that as well.

RUSH TO THE DEAD SUMMER (夏至未至, 2017)

rush to the dead summer

Cast: Cheney Chen, Shuang Zheng, Jingting Bai, Biyun Chai, Zitong Xia, Hehuizi Zheng, Hanchen Pang, Uvin Wang, Jingyang Ni

The love and growth of a group of young people from the same high school. – IMDB

QUOTE

People say we meet seven versions of ourselves during our youth. One bright and beautiful, one laden with grief, one is gorgeous, one that takes risks, one that is stubborn, one that is soft, and the last one is in the middle of maturing. On the road to maturity, we would experience rain and wind, encounter thistles and thorns. We will swallow our anger and we would also strongly retaliate. Of course, we hadn’t anticipated that there is a price to pay for this so-called maturity. Sometimes, even if we know that we’ll be punished, we’ll still bravely step forward because these are our true selves. Before we are polished to shine, we carry sharp edges and thorns all over, and fearless confidence and determination so we can be dashing heroes for a brief moment. – Li Xia, Rush to the Dead Summer, Episode 5.

You can watch the series with English subtitles on Youtube below:

STORY

Rush to the Dead Summer focuses on 5 different characters over the course of 10 years of their life from their senior high years to their adult life. There are a few supporting characters that also get a voice however, those primary five are the main focal points where these other characters pop up for whichever duration. While not as defined as the source material structure, there is a very accurate focus on various characters. It focuses on friendships and romantic relationships as well as each characters hurdles from family, school and their career choices.

The series can be split into various acts. The first building the foundation of the characters and relationships set during the senior high years that has a much longer focus of over 20 episodes. The second act is the post secondary education phase which looks at seeking career dreams, university and finding their path into setting into the real world which could be considered the shorter act because it sets up for the third act which is the real world. Because of this shift in different stages of their life, the story ends up having a decent pacing and also brings up a very real draw in these characters where different primary characters will fall to the background accordingly when some other characters will have their own moments and their stories, just as in real life when friends will each have their own moments to celebrate or experience and the others become their support and audience.

The story tone also has those shifts because of these different stages accordingly. The first act is more innocent high school moments with a focus on Li Xia (Shuang Zheng) and Xiaosi Fu (Cheney Chen) and their romance while also focusing on the bromance between Xiaosi Fu and Zhi-ang Lu (Jingting Bai) and the friendships between Li Xia and Qiqi Cheng (Biyun Chai) as well as Li Xia and Yu Jian (Zitong Xia). Its a building of new friends, maintaining of old friendships and learning about romances and the coming of age of embracing the things that we truly desire and knowing when to fight for them. In the second act, it becomes fairly shorter as everyone splits up into their own segments. The romance between Li Xia and Xiaosi become more developed while the pursuing of their own dreams become a big focal point for both Qiqi and Yu Jian in their own ways defined by their own values while Zhi-ang chooses a new path completely that takes him into a new environment. In the last act, its the final bits as a lot of secrets get revealed, different personalities and motives get revealed and the adult world proves to be one with much more serious consequences for their actions bring dilemmas and challenges and all kinds of conflicts at every turn.

Rush of the Dead Summer’s story sounds like a very familiar teen coming of age kind of drama. In many ways, its hard to argue that it isn’t. The uniqueness of it is how it executes its through changing the different voices and giving the story a moment to move around flexibly while making sure that each of these five characters are ones that we care about to a certain degree.

LENGTH/PACING

Rush to the Dead Summer clocks in at 46 episodes. Odd number? I know it is. With these series, they fall into the borderline of having pacing issues because it can very well go into the pacing a little too different. However, this series uses different characters and point of views, experiences and perpetual stories  that it makes it never feel like it drags on for too long. The only issue here is that some characters fall into the background and the main issues do lie with accepting when the characters we love more may flip around in the end and fall behind the scenes more or the story loses that focus and it gets more dramatic as these characters get older. In terms of length and pacing, Rush of the Dead Summer does a relatively good job. If anything drags along, it can very well be because the character story that its focusing on is getting too much screen time and the other character in preference doesn’t, but there is a good amount of care in executing it so that the different characters or different pairs all get their due time whether the audience agrees with it or not.

CHARACTER/CHEMISTRY

Rush of the Dead Summer focuses on these 5 characters: Li Xia, Xiaosi Fu, Zhi-ang Lu, Yu Jian  and Cici Cheng. In the previous sections, I’ve already mentioned some of the romance relationships here and some of the friendships in focus. Before we look at the effectiveness of these relationships, lets take a quick look at the characters.

Li Xia plays a focal character. She is a mild-tempered, hard working and shy girl who has a specific set of values and makes sure that everyone she cares about will be taken care of and respected. Because of this, she is good friends with every one of the other characters. Her junior high friend is Qiqi, her love interesting in senior high is Xiaosi, Zhi-ang has a crush on her but also enjoys being her good friend, and Yu Jian became her friend because she did little things in senior high that made her feel warm. Li Xia is a likable character even if at times, her indecisiveness and her meek personality will make it hard to not feel bad or feel frustrated with her not learning more to protect herself.

With that said, her main relationship chemistry is with Xiaosi Fu. Xiaosi is a more introvert and perfectionist character. He is the first in their grade, he has incredible artistic skills and doesn’t know how to express himself a lot and is very straight-forward with his words. However, his care is in his actions and its because of these things that Li Xia and him has quite a good bit of chemistry. Every series has a guy that is like this and they always end up having this awkward moments that make for some cute and sweet moments.

While it seems like Zhi-ang Lu is the best friend of Xiaosi and has this love triangle, it never quite goes into fruition because he never really pursues her but chooses to be the happy character in the series that goes from the positive and social outgoing personality who flirts with other girls and has one of the biggest changes where he becomes more focused on his dreams and finding a different path while also in the final act, the story suddenly shifts its voice into having a heavier focus on him and a new girl character that enters the picture called Yan Mo (He Hui Zhi Zheng). I’m not going to talk about Yan Mo’s character but its one that brings on a lot of changes and also delivers a lot of sweeter moments in the final act especially when the relationship and career of the first primary couple enters a much of dramatic turn of events affected by a lot of outside factors that this new relationship and pursuit gives off a new comedic angle.

At the same time, its at this time that we can talk about Yu Jian, Qiqi and the different friendships because as great as the chemistry of the relationships here. Perhaps some of the better moments are how the different friendships develop. Yu Jian has a more set goals and has the opposite personality of Li Xia and stands up for her constantly which makes their friendship solid in their own way in a more reliable way where we soon learn, some friendships will change because of the change in perspective and that happens with Qiqi and Li Xia where they may know each other longer but their friendship slowly also has its cracks. Qiqi also is designed to be a more “bad” sort of character and while I never found her good. Her parts and self-destruction and other bits usually prove be more frustrating to watch and probably one of the not so well written characters. While Yu Jian remains one of the better written ones.

OVERALL

Rush of the Dead Summer is unique because it takes on the different voices of five characters and creates a tree of stories for each of them throughout 10 years of their life. There are a lot of quotable moments and share a lot of different sides of life between all of them as they encounter different happy, sad, frustrating and angry moments. Its one very much worth watching. Some people complain about the fact that the main male lead is very rigid in his role but to be fair, his role is meant to be that way and his character because of the initial way changes over the time as a development angle and probably was done deliberately. There are little details in the series that I caught on the second viewing which actually makes these characters and gives them signs on how their character and nature will develop over the course of the series. My only issue is how it chooses to end the series which is hard to decide whether its a better ending or a worse one that the original one in the source material. Its a whole end game issue of which version and type of viewer you are. For myself, it felt a bit rushed and a bit lazy to not have expanded at least a little further on it. The ending few episodes could have definitely used a little more symmetry to the beginning act to give it a more well-rounded feeling.

Main Theme

TV Binge: A Love So Beautiful (致我们单纯的小美好, 2017)

The first to show up is one accessible to most because on Netflix. International stuff, yay! I probably should have written the Meteor Garden one up first since that was how I landed on watching this one. Oh well, that one is coming up just it is a whole lot more work for that one so here we are at A Love So Beautiful. Its also perfectly timed because another story from the same author was also adapted called Put Your Head On My Shoulder (致我们暖暖的小时光) is currently playing on WeTV channel on Youtube.

While I’ve been reviewing a lot of Chinese variety shows, this is the first drama that I’ll be talking about and after some thought, I’m going to work on a few points that I think should be discussed as a general outline for future TV binge posts to make it easier to write up, especially for the Chinese series.

A Love So Beautiful (2017)

A Love So Beautiful

Creator: Yang Long

Cast: Shen Yue, Hu Yi Tian, Gao Zhi Ting, Sun Ning, Wang Zi Wei, Monica Lv

It starts off with high school classmates Chen Xiao Xi and Jiang Chen who are also neighbors. Xiao Xi, a cheerful girl who doesn’t study much, is expressive about her admiration towards Jiang Chen, the popular guy known for his looks and high grades. Together with their fellow classmates the funny Lu Yang, athletic but loyal Jingjing, and cool swimming team member Wu Bo Song, they embark on high school life to university until their adult life. – MyDramaList

STORY

A Love So Beautiful is adapted from To Our Pure Little Beauty by Qianqian Zhao. The story revolves around the very outwardly Chen Xiao Xi (Shen Yue) who professes her love directly to Jiang Chen (Hu Yitian) at the beginning of her senior high year, which kicks off the ton of the film. She tries to impress him and in turn be a better version of herself to match up to him. The story itself is cute and hilarious because she does a lot of little things that most of the time backfire or becomes very awkward. However, there is this heartwarming element of coming to age and finding herself especially as she grows up. Its this lightheartedness of the story and how its delivered that makes the few years in high school and their step into university and then adulthood become such a fun experience (most of the time, because this is still a drama). The tone of the series sets itself up right at the beginning and it maintains it. At the same time, what helps it in the storytelling is filling in those little moments at the end of every episode to give a hidden moment or just the inner thoughts of a character (mostly used by Jiang Chen since he talks less). At the same time, the story focuses on the friendship of five friends that also gets sparked from the first episode onwards.

LENGTH/PACING

A Love So Beautiful clocks in at 23 episodes with shorter 20 minutes special to make total 24 episodes. Each episode is about 40 minutes long. Those are one of the most fun to watch as the episode lengths are very reasonable and episode count is also very restricted giving it the space to be paced fairly quickly with enough development to give all the characters space to grow but never linger on anything too long.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

A LOVE SO BEAUTIFUL

The main focus of A Love So Beautiful is on five characters. Billed as the main leads is Shen Yue playing Chen Xiao Xi and Hu Yi Tian playing Jiang Chen who both star in their first main roles here. Fighting for Shen Yue’s love and attention is Wu Bosong, played by Gao Zhi Ting. On the other hand is Chen Xiao Xi’s good friends, Lu Yang played by Wang Zi Wei and Lin Jingxiao played by Sun Ning who also have a love tangent as Lu admires Lin and sets out to chase her also. Looking at the characters, each of these five have their differences in their personality and make them mesh together really well. Chen Xiao Xi works with her cute and silly personality but not as invested in school and the more serious things at school, while her best friend Lin, is more of a strong and smart character. Their friendship starts at the beginning of the series and sees it become very strong to almost being sisters. While at the same time, the boys in the series are held together by Lu, who is not so much invested in school who plays almost a male version of Chen Xiao Xi and explains how they always share the same general interests but also argue with each other a lot and its these friendly bickering moments that make for a lot of comedic moments. However, the love triangle is presented as a very skewed one because we know that Chen Xiao Xi likes Jiang Chen and Wu Bosong likes her while we eventually know that Jiang Chen, while always acts cold and indifferent actually can see in his small movements that he does care about Chen Xiao Xi also.

One of the strengths of A Love So Beautiful is in its characters. The way that they focus on the friendships here and the strength of it no matter what happens between them. At the same time, the love triangle is also not frustrating but rather one that its easy to get wrapped up in who is better for Xiao Xi, despite the fact that there is no doubt that she does like Jiang the most from the beginning and her perseverance is one that is admirable to say the least. However, as she gets over and gives more than she gets back (from what she knows), its hard to not feel bad for her when Jiang’s resistance to sharing his feelings eventually becomes to get in his way. Its the moments that we see them together that we also learn a little more about a lot of actions is stronger than talk and their chemistry works because of that. However, a lot of praise has to go to Wu because he really is a great person here as he is the role of ultimate unrequited love but is so great because despite everything he is not only loyal to everyone in the friends group, he also is one of the more simple characters as he has big dreams. What works here is that whether who it is, the differences in each of the characters here give each of their interactions something different and depth and it works in the show’s favor so much.

OVERALL

a love so beautiful

A Love So Beautiful is a fun little TV series in the landscape of Chinese TV dramas. In its high school crushes to romances and friendship, it highlights the emphasizes a lot of positive themes other than its cute romance but it embodies a coming of age for all these characters in each of their own ways, having the courage to step forward to follow their own dreams as well as the importance of family and friends. It takes a more lighthearted, well-paced and cute/fun and heartwarming angle and it works so very well. Its one of my favorite TV dramas so far. One that I willingly rewatch. While I do like all the characters, this series really fortified my love for Shen Yue and her acting and looking at the different role she takes in Meteor Garden (will be discussed soon) and her upcoming roles which also go in different characters, it’ll be interesting to see where she takes her career especially since she keeps a down to earth attitude when in variety shows which gives her a uniqueness to her as an actress. My only real criticism for A Love So Beautiful is how it ends because it feels so random to end that way. In its way, it seems to go full circle but then it felt a little awkward to cut it off where it did.

That’s it for this TV binge!
The first Chinese TV drama binge finally crossed off the list!

A Love So Beautiful is available on Netflix with all kinds of subtitles so its one to check out if this type of series if up your alley.

TV Binge: On My Block (Season 2, 2019)

You can find the first season HERE.

***If you haven’t watched the first season and intend to, spoiler alert!!!***

On My Block (Season 2, 2019)

On My Block s2

Creators: Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft, Lauren Iungerich

Cast: Sierra Capri, Brett Gray, Diego Tinoco, Jason Genao, Jessica Marie Garcia, Peggy Blow, Julio Macias, Danny Ramirez, Paula Garcés, Lisa Marcos, Reggie Austin

A coming-of-age story about four bright, street-savvy friends navigating their way through high school in the gritty inner city of South Central Los Angeles. Dealing with the danger of getting their friend out of a gang and friends turning into romance, danger is constant. – IMDB

Picking up after a cliffhanger ending in Season 1, Season 2 of On My Block resumes in the aftermath of the shooting that went on at Olivia’s Quincinera party. Suffice to say that On My Block lost one of the characters. The second season of On My Block is much more serious than the first one. It is about healing and picking up the pieces for everyone whether physically and mentally. Some like Monse (Sierra Capri) is trying to hold the group together as they all heal from the trauma; Ruben (Jason Genao) is healing physically and mentally in dealing with the event and losing someone he loves; Cesar (Diego Tinoco) is healing from guilt and the fact that he is dead to his brother (Julio Macias) and have no home while Jamal (Brett Gray), in his nervous personality, is stressing out how to share the news of finding the RollerWorld money and then, as a group, how to wash the money so they can now split it among the friends and use it.

On My Block

The second season of On My Block takes a shift in tone. While it still keeps the essence of each of these characters, the events of the first season has changed them. However, its a good thing because it was an inevitable stage of development that each of the characters needed to go through. In reality, its easy to see how each of their change makes sense. Each of them have their own burdens and have their own story. What  makes this season very bingeworthy is the fact that the show remembers to zoom into how certain relationships (friendship, love, bromance) is emphasized on further because its hard to not find that one person that is there or understands more than the next. The group is still a unit and they find their way back to each other all the time one way or another. Its that extra focus that adds a lot of depth to each of these characters.

The strength of the show is in how it treats each of these 4 young characters and Sierra Capri, Diego Tinoco, Jason Genao and Brett Gray bring them to life exceptionally. They give them each of their unique characteristics and they are characters that we want to see survive through all the difficult situations and choices they need to make. However, what makes them beautiful is that they remember that these are still teenagers and still give them some shenanigans that make them reflect their age and lack of experience in the real world. What makes it also very special is that its hard to tell who does a better job because as much as the story seems to focus on Cesar’s carryforward situation and he goes through possibly some of the biggest struggles here, his situation affects Monse’s decisions also while she struggles with her personal choices. At the same time, we can ignore that Ruben is also going through a lot and he has a whirlwind of situation as he tries to heal and move on which is much more inner process and we can’t forget Jamal, who doesn’t seem to be grounded in the other struggles but as the one that creates a lot of the comedic moments, has his share of glue that brings together the group because of these things that don’t feel as important.

On My Block

While the story remains strongly focused on these four friends, this season gives a lot more room for other supporting characters. The first season spent a lot of time for Olivia (who we now know is not part of the show) and Ruben’s grandmother played by Peggy Blow, who still has a focus and remains one of the most entertaining characters of the show. What did get a lot of attention this time and that gave her a new angle is Jasmine, played by Jessica Marie Garcia. There is a lot of potential for this character to grow because we’ve only seen one side of her in the first season and this season, she is given a whole new area to develop as she finds her bond in Ruben as she has a more positive outlook and happiness to her character that we see is one of her unique traits and makes her have something to teach these four as well. Other than that, we also see some more of the family members as they get extended appearances from Ruben’s mom to Monse’s father and of course, carrying from the first season, Cesar’s brother.

Overall, On My Block might not be quite the light and fun bingeworthy season that the first season one as its heavier in its themes. However, what makes it still be as great as the first one is that it takes the step to give these characters a lot of depth and growth from the things they have gone through and create bonds between each of them. I didn’t mention a lot of the bonds but a few fun ones do pop up and they also give the series a nice change in pace. If you have been watching this series, Season 2 will not disappoint and it’ll leave you looking forward to (hopefully) Season 3 (as I am right now..and waiting for the new that there will be one).

Festival du Nouveau Cinema Wrap-up: Triple Feature

I don’t usually do double features for any movies that I see at Festivals, let alone triple features, however after having a hard time really fleshing out my thoughts and the festival already behind us almost 2 weeks, I decided that these three films that I saw at Festival du Nouveau Cinema actually is a great fit together as it looks at teens and friendships and coming of age in one way or another. All of them have a snippet of the lives of these characters in all three stories.

Sticks and Stones (2018)

Brakland Sticks and Stones

Director: Martin Skovbjerg

Cast: Jonas Bjerril, Vilmer Trier Brogger, Natalia Reyes, Patricia Schumann, Emma Sehested Hoeg, Benjamin Kitter, Laufey Eliasdottir

Simon arrives in Vesterby from Copenhagen. He is an outsider in a brand new place and alone until he meets Bjarke – Vesterby’s alpha male and heir to the local speaker factory. The two start challenging each other in intimate and transgressive actions as they forge a friendship. But when embezzlement forces Vesterby’s speaker factory to close, the town is bereaved of its livelihood, and Bjarke’s family is blamed. The anger thrust upon him by the locals triggers the beast in Bjarke, and Simon is faced with either having to turn away or save his friend from self-destruction. – IMDB

Its hard to put into words why I felt that Sticks and Stones is a really great film. In fact, I had such a blast being captivated by this friendship that started quite abruptly through being paired up for a project. Comparing everyday lives of grown-ups and the people around them to apes. At the same time, boys will be boys and these two definitely had their share of shenanigans as they go from a creative angle to going overboard in their video project. At the same time, reflecting possibly their feelings and contained emotions in their personal life. The two characters draw a parallel to what is going on in their lives and explains why their friendship works but it also highlights the differences in some friends cross our lives for a moment but can’t stay because of whatever reason and in this case, its a toxicity. Everyone sees it but themselves and you choose to put them behind or wait for them to constantly hurt you. Everyone has gone through friends like this, and its probably because of that, it resounds to me.

In the end, Sticks and Stones was able to channel some very intense feelings in whichever endeavors they were portraying. There is a lot of thought in using their documentary style filming for class and meshing it with the traditional filming as we watched the film unfold. There’s a lot of youth experiences and emotions especially with teens that go through sudden loss and other hard times. The acting is raw and it has to go to these young main actors, Jonas Bjerril and Vilmer Trier Brogger. There are situations of being a newcomer, being an alpha male, young love, family issues and so many conflicting issues that take these two for such a ride and in the end, one of  them needs to make a decision. Let me tell you, this film was a subtle hit for me. I didn’t really think I connected with these two so much as some of the things were over the top but in the final scenes, there was so much there that did hit me really hard emotionally.

Tourism (2018)

tourism

Director (and writer): Daisuke Miyazaki

Cast: Nina Endo, Sumire

Fun fact is that after I saw this movie, I have talked and tried to summarize this film to at least two other people and it turns out sounding so basic that it doesn’t quite seem to work as a movie.

During the opening message to the audience, Daisuke Miyazaki hoped that his film will make the viewers want to go on a trip or an adventure (I can’t remember the exact word). Tourism falls into this fun like day adventure. Just like how we see Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is very fun to watch, Tourism sees Nina, one of the girls on this trip to Singapore who loses her friend and her cellphone and ends up wandering around the city and meeting interesting characters but also being immersed in the culture and everyday lives. The way Miyazaki brings to life the characters is to take some time in the beginning to highlight these roommates and how the trip came out.

tourism

One of the best moments which hooked me in completely was how they chose their destination. There’s a joy in travelling with a companion (that you get along with) and seeing the landmarks but also another one when you wander the city alone and see the beauty and detail of the culture. That is the power of travelling and the adventure of communicating and meeting new people and learning more about the world around us. Sure, the story doesn’t sound like its anything intriguing but sometimes with all the technology and everything available at our fingertips, we forget the rush of beauty of the simple things in life. The hours Nina spends searching to get back to her friend or the hotel is not only a message about our reliance on technology but also the most entertaining parts of the film.

The premise might be simple but sometimes its in the simple joys that do pack in a lot of genuine feelings. This one is a pleasant surprise.

Firecrackers (2018)

firecrackers

Director (and writer): Jasmin Mozaffari

Cast: Michaela Kurimsky, Karena Evans, Callum Thompson, David Kingston, Tamara Leclaire, Scott Cleland, Dylan Mask

Lou and her best friend Chantal plan to get out of their isolated, run-down town and move to a city far, far away. When Chantal’s unstable and possessive ex violates her during a night of partying, the girls decide to exact their revenge on him through a night of vandalism and debauchery. The consequences of their actions are devastating, threatening the girls’ chances of ever leaving. The more Lou fights tooth-and-nail to save her friendship and hold onto her dreams, the more she spins out of control as she begins to realize that freedom will come at a high cost. – IMDB

I still remember the reason why I added this movie into my viewings despite its late hour and knowing that I had to run home in a hurry to catch the last bus home as it was compared to Fish Tank which is one of the movies that I like a lot. To be honest, there are some parallels to the film but in some ways, this one is a different movie. In fact, if you took something like Sticks and Stones and used it in a friendship between girls, you might arrive at this one. However, this one is about two best friends who want to leave behind their messed up lives in this small town. What turns out to be a perfect plan ends up having these bad turn of events. Lou is the main character here and we follow a lot of her character development with each road block that occurs and we see this coming of age development as she sees clearer the consequences of what she is leaving behind as well as the tough decisions between her friendship and also the teen angst as well as the sudden aggression or lack of thought in her actions.

Firecrackers takes on this snippet of Lou and Chantal’s life and their friendship in a genuine and raw way. It never feels over dramatic and honestly, makes us truly feel for these two girls on screen. It can remind us of the hurdles of growing up and wanting more and fighting for everything you can to make things better. There are bad decisions and bad life choices but its all part of growing up and these girls have it particularly hard but at least, they have their friendship.

This wraps up this triple feature and the Festival du Nouveau Cinema’s last three films I saw.
In some ways, this was the best way to talk about them as there isn’t much to say but rather its a movie experience.
There’s a lot to love about these films for both their similarities and their differences as it embraces this true and genuine snippet in each of these stories.