Ultimate 2010s Blogathon Kick-Off: The Wandering Earth (流浪地球, 2019)

Welcome to the official kick-off of this year’s ultimate decades blogathon hosted by myself and Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews, Ultimate 2010s Blogathon! As we wave goodbye to the 2010s, its the best time to talk about the movies that defined it. Whether its a favorite or one that shows off  an element that represented the decade, both movie choices are good. With a lot of movies to choose from between 2010 to 2019, there are endless possibility.

Kicking off the first two days is myself and my fantastic co-host, Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews. Starting this off on day 1 as I take a look at one of the biggest trends and changes in the movie landscape is the power of the rise of streaming services opening up a variety of movies, giving a platform for distribution and creation of independent and international titles that may otherwise have remained unknown or less accessible.

The Wandering Earth (流浪地球, 2019)

The Wandering Earth

Director (and co-writer): Frant Gwo

Cast: Jing Wu, Chuxiao Qu, Guangjie Li, Man-Tat Ng, Jin Mai Jaho, Mike Kai Sui, Hongchen Li, Jingjing Qu, Yichi Zhang

As the sun is dying out, people all around the world build giant planet thrusters to move Earth out of its orbit and sail Earth to a new star system. Yet the 2500-year journey comes with unexpected dangers, and in order to save humanity, a group of young people in this age of a wandering Earth fight hard for the survival of humankind. – IMDB

Loosely adapted from a novella of the same name by Li Cixin, The Wandering Earth is not only China’s third highest grossing film of all time but also the third highest non-English film of all time. Taking a change in landscape from the normal Chinese New Year movie release, The Wandering Earth is set on Chinese New Year but isn’t the normal happy movie but rather a high budget science fiction film.

wandering earth 2

Set in a future where the sun has become a threat to Earth, the world has united into the United Earth Government and collectively has initiated The Wandering Earth Project, installing Earth Engines across the surface of the planet to propel Earth out of the Solar System 4.2 light years away to the Alpha Centauri to preserve human civilization. However, as they cross Jupiter, the gravitational pull of the bigger planet takes control of Earth and causes a possible collision while causing other side effects. As teams travel with their Lighter Cores to reignite the failed Earth Engines, the dangers that await them are numerous with the unexpected changes in the environment.

wandering earth

This premise alone of creating a future where Earth is being pushed in movement out of the solar system is unique to say the least and one that has so much room for exploration. The story uses its environment to its full potential as it shows off right from the get-go how the world has changed from its inhabitants living in various underground cities that have everything that you’d have when the world lived above ground to the current frozen above ground and its operations. The visuals of these are done with grandeur, showing off the technological advances in both this film but also in showing off slick cinematography and CGI used in the current Chinese filmmaking landscape which is pretty much  on par with the Hollywood blockbuster films at least delivers the same feeling, especially as the film’s story starts stepping into the dangerous elements.

wandering earth

The story is two-fold. On one hand, it takes place with the father and Chinese astronaut Liu Peiqiang (Jing Wu) who left at the initiation of the Wandering Earth Project 17 years ago and now is on the last day before retiring back to Earth but now is stuck on the space station. On the ground, his son, now a young man Liu Qi (Chuxiao Qu), decides to take his grandfather’s driving access card to show his sister, DuoDuo (Jin Miao Jaho) the world above ground, unknowing getting caught up in the mess as they get caught along with their grandfather (Man-Tat Ng) in the midst of the Earth crumbling as the side effects of crossing through Jupiter and as they try to escape, get commissioned to help transport the rescue mission lead by Wang Lei (Guangjie Li).

Wandering Earth

The story here, while isn’t quite as fresh as its premise, managing to add some little comedic moments through some goofy elements and characters and adding in the expected Chinese drama, in this case, mostly within the family drama with the main characters as well as the hardships and loss of hope through the rescue mission and its possibility of failure. However, where the film shines is in its emphasis on keeping on track with the action and giving this movie in its science fiction a certain level of disaster film quality as well that keeps the film propelling forward. The movie runs for over 2 hours and while some of the slower dramatic moments might drag out a little, the film does focus heavily on the concept of being united and keeps itself focused on these everyday realistic characters but never let them be heroes but rather to let them fight for mankind’s survival together. There’s something so precious and touching about this story as it works up to its endgame and reveals a little more about the state of the United Earth Government and adds in the internationalism with the different languages and authorities working together that makes this future feel hopeful and even utopic.

wandering earth 5

The Wandering Earth might not be the best film of the decade (although it definitely is pretty close to at least the Top 20 for myself), but it does achieve a lot and defines a lot of the 2010s. While I would have loved to pick a movie that was also created by Netflix (or some other studio), the global distribution rights for Netflix shows off the change in landscape and how international films are more visible especially as they manage to reach platforms globally and become more accessible especially in the Chinese film market which has its many restrictions and is less openly advertised than other Asian films. As the world moves closer together, these channels give a chance to have access to more international films and especially, those that are as significant as The Wandering Earth with all the success its had in its own country. Its definitely worth a watch to see how far and competent Chinese film are especially great with one that is pretty much a sci-fi blockbuster.


You can check out the full archive of Ultimate 2010s blogathon posts as they go up, updated daily HERE.

Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews to check out my co-host’s kick-off movie review!

Double Feature: The Marshes (2018) & Short Term 12 (2013)

Time for the next double feature! This time, its somewhat of an odd pairing as we quickly catch up on some movies

The Marshes (2018)

The Marshes

Director (and writer): Roger Scott

Cast: Dafna Kronental, Sam Delich, Matthew Cooper, Eddie Baroo

Deep in a remote marshland, three young biologists conduct research but when they encounter evil, science ends and survival begins. – IMDB

Australian horror films have definitely been more abundant in the last few years. The Marshes is an alright look into the survival horror in a remote area as it creates something of a legend that wanders this land that these three take as a campfire story in the first part as they stay longer in this area to conduct the research. However, there seems to be a lot of fluff in the beginning between the three at the start before any of the horror starts that makes it a little harder to first get into. However, once the horror does start, the setting allows for a good atmosphere to build. 

The wilderness, isolation and the outdoors marshlands is where The Marshes is at its most unique and most effective horror parts. It creates a lot of thrills as the cannibalistic threat hunts down the three biologists. There is a good amount of stealth and hiding and makes for some tension. Visually, the setting also is appealing along with some of the more gruesome death scenes are well executed as well. However, the characters themselves and the flow of events are fairly predictable. It lacks a bit of surprise and the characters and situation always feel slightly underdeveloped that its hard to truly care of the three characters as well. 

The Marshes is an okay horror thriller. It has its gruesome scenes and creates a human/monstrous threat which has its creepy elements. However, a lot of it feels like it falls flat whether because it follows some expected motions in horror films or simply that it takes a little long to introduce its threat and start the hiding. If anything, The Marshes does prove that marshlands are a great horror setting perhaps with a slightly better script. 

Short Term 12 (2013)

Short Term 12
Director (and writer): Destin Daniel Cretton

Cast: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek, Alex Calloway, Kevin Balmore, LaKeith Stanfield, Kaitlyn Dever

A 20-something supervising staff member of a residential treatment facility navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend. – IMDB

Short Term 12 is a little indie hidden gem that shines out because of its cast of characters. While its central focal point is between two of the supervising staff members Grace and Mason, played by Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr respectively, as they embrace the next step in their life, the past troubles for Grace and her inability to talk about them ends up creating a wall in their relationship especially as her troubled past reveals itself slowly as she deals with a new teenager that lives at the facility, Jayden played by Kaitlyn Dever. 

There’s so much to love as Short Term 12 remembers to keep its story focused on its characters. While it can’t give stories for all its youths, it focuses on a few. As for the supervisors, it also gives a few characters that make for a fresh pair of eyes especially as Rami Malek is the new supervisor that enters this residential treatment facility and learns how to maneuver and find his purpose here. On the other hand, the more interesting story is the next youth that is getting ready to be released from the facility and transition back to the real world Marcus, played incredibly well by LaKeith Stanfield. Marcus might be somewhat of a supporting story here for the youths facing transition while on the other hand, another youth looks at his dependence on his objects that is taken away suddenly. 

Each of the stories for its youth as well as the connections to the supervisors shows both sides of the characters in this facility called Short Term 12. Adapted from a short film of the same name, this indie film definitely tells a great story with a good deal of character depth and development. Plus, a handful of the cast has gone a long way since their roles here: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., LaKeith Stanfield, Rami Malek. Short Term is a fantastic movie and well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it yet. 

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen either of these films?

Double Feature: La La Land (2016) & In My Dreams (2014)

Welcome to the next double feature! Its also the second (and probably last) Valentine’s romance film double feature. This time, we’re looking at romantic musical drama La La Land and then, pairing with it romantic drama In My Dreams. Let’s it check!

La La Land (2016)

La La Land

Director (and writer): Damien Chazelle

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Finn Wittrock, John Legend, Callie Hernandez, Jessica Rothe, Sonoya Mizuno, J.K. Simmons

While navigating their careers in Los Angeles, a pianist and an actress fall in love while attempting to reconcile their aspirations for the future. – IMDB

Its taken a few years to catch up with La La Land and with Oscar-nominated films, I always hesitate to believe all the hype, especially when it comes to musical and romantic drama type of films. La La Land is a fun little movie. Its not completely about romance but its definitely present throughout as these two find being with each other to find the courage to be themselves and pursue their own dreams. At the same time, its fun because it has a lot of the right elements lined up, whether its Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling being cast as the two main leads and deliver some charismatic performances, a lot of great choreography for their dance numbers and a beautiful soundtrack as well as how the whole film has some wonderful cinematography. It all adds to the whole viewing experience.

If I had to be a little picky, because I do watch a lot of these types of things, albeit lower budget and not with all the other elements, the story of inspiration and romance and succeeding in your dream and the whole journey sort of story line is always rather similar and the same applies to La La Land. The script is absolutely not the standout point here. What helps a familiar script, because I think being familiar isn’t always a problem, is that the other elements done well above, makes the script find its unique elements. Perhaps the best thing about the script is the beautiful bittersweet ending add-in that actually rounds up the film so well.

In My Dreams (2014)

In My Dreams

Director: Kenny Leon

Cast: Katharine McPhee, Mike Vogel, JoBeth Williams, Joe Massingill, Rachel Skarsten, Antonio Cupo, Jessalyn Wanlim

Natalie and Nick are frustrated with their luck in romance. After tossing coins into a fountain, the two then begin dreaming about each other. But, according to fountain mythology, they only have a week to turn those dreams into reality. – IMDB

I think the best way to describe In My Dreams is that it has its heart in the right place. The story itself is not a bad one at all. We have movies like In Your Eyes which is about two people seeing through each other’s eyes (review) and then we have movies like The Lake House which is two people at different times, just as examples. In My Dreams success would lie heavily on the mechanics of how these two manage to meet in their dreams and then afterwards, how they end up realizing that they are actual people and not figments of their imagination and end up connecting in real life. For this point, it works and then it doesn’t.

In My Dreams is a TV movie so right away, the quality is probably more along the Hallmark movies kind of deal. And it does have that feel-good and inevitable happy ending. Its an okay movie in terms of those little elements of character building and making Nick and Natalie, played by Mike Vogel and Katharine McPhee respectively, rather decent characters. They don’t have a huge amount of depths, just like they only had a few conversations about not a lot that makes them feel like they would work with each other. However, they do have some fun supporting characters that make for some nice moments as these two characters work towards their own dreams.

Where this falls apart is in letting Nick and Natalie have this frustratingly slow way of connecting the dots of their little details in the conversations in their dreams to the events of themselves in reality as they had those missing each other moments (which is also rather expected in romance films). Those little cues that weren’t connected actually felt like it was ignored deliberately, making the script slightly inconsistent with these two characters who aren’t dumb especially as their conversations together is about deeper feelings and such.

In My Dreams is probably one that is okay for a rainy day but there are some plot holes and then its still a rather predictable movie.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen either of these movies?

Blog Tour: Drowning by Steven M Cross (Spotlight/Excerpt)

Drowning
By: Steven M. Cross

Drowning

Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
Publisher: Liminal Books

SYNOPSIS

Dean knows being different isn’t always a good thing.

Trapped by the voices and visits from the dead, Dean is drowning. His father, allegedly drowned, and the friend who took his own life taunt like the school bullies he can’t seem to get away from.

A sliver of hope breaks through when his mother announces they are moving. A chance for a fresh start for all of them. So why does she move them to the cottage near the river his father drowned in?

The water begins to envelop him, threatening to pull him under, when Dean discovers nothing changes and the bullies find not only him, but his twin sister, Dee, as favorite targets. Dean’s personal struggles worsen as his tentative grasp on reality weakens.

An unexpected hand plunges through the water toward him, bringing with it questions and a family secret that haunts them all.

Add to Goodreads

EXCERPT

My dad looks up at me, “I’ll catch you.”

I know he probably won’t, but that doesn’t scare me, not today. What scares me is knowing that this day—this perfect day—one of the few my family ever has will end soon, and it will be back to yelling and screaming and being slapped for saying the wrong thing even when I don’t know what is wrong.

I turn to Dee and ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I don’t ever want to grow up,” she says.

And I realize I don’t want to either. I back away from the cliff.

Dee says, “Finally. Don’t kill yourself.”

“I don’t want to grow up either.”

I run to the edge of the cliff, but this time I don’t jump feet first. I dive. I think as I sail through the air and hit the water that it’s the perfect day to die.

My dad jerks me out of the water. “What the hell are you doing? You could have killed yourself.”

I just look at him and say, “I didn’t.” Then, I swim toward the beach.

Dee yells, “Holy shit, brother! Way to go.”

Buy at Amazon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steven M Cross

Steven Cross remembers his first literary success, a play about a wolfman that his English class read. His first publication was a Haiku about hearing wolves at sunset one evening as he sat on his back deck with Luke his faithful mutt by his side. He also published a horror story about mutant moles whose taste buds begin to crave human flesh.

Cross, born in Missouri, has published plays, novels, and poetry and done well in some screenwriting competitions, most recently as a quarterfinalist in The Bluecat Screenwriting competition, considered one of the best in the country.

Cross often writes about mental illness. He is an example of how a person can overcome mental illness and succeed. His young adult book Drowning covers bullying and mental illness and is a must-read for teenagers, parents, and teachers.

An educator for over 30 years, he is now semi-retired. Right now he and his wife Jean live in Poplar Bluff, MO, where they spend a lot of time spoiling their grandchildren. Cross is a St. Louis Cardinals fan and has been ever since he was old enough to hold a baseball card. He also enjoys music, reading, and of course writing.

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BLOG SCHEDULE

January 27th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com
B is for Book Review (Spotlight) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com
I Love Books and Stuff (Spotlight) https://ilovebooksandstuffblog.wordpress.com
The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

January 28th

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Interview) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com
Tranquil Dreams (Spotlight) https://klling.wordpress.com/
Banshee Irish Horror Blog (Spotlight) http://www.bansheeirishhorrorblog.com

January 29th

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com
Misty’s Book Space (Spotlight) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com
My Bookish Bliss (Review) http://www.mybookishbliss.com

January 30th

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Spotlight) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/
J Bronder Book Reviews (Review) https://jbronderbookreviews.com/

January 31st

Entertainingly Nerdy (Review) https://www.entertaininglynerdy.com
Phantom of the Library (Review) https://phantomofthelibrary.com/
Crossroad Reviews (Spotlight) http://www.crossroadreviews.com

Blog Tour Organized By:

 

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: A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby (2019) & The Greatest Showman (2017)

Welcome to the next double feature! Half 2010s decade catch-up effort and half holidays viewings meshed together. I’m expecting that to be something of a trend for this month since I have a lot of movies to watch and don’t want to put the reviews on hold for too long in fear that I’ll just forget about what I watched in general. So here we are!

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby (2019)

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby

Director: John Schultz

Cast: Rose McIver, Ben Lamb, Alice Krige, Honor Kneafsey, Kevin Shen, Momo Yeung, Sarah Douglas, Theo Devaney, Richard Ashton, Crystal Yu, Tahirah Sharif

It’s Christmastime in Aldovia, and a royal baby is on the way. Amber and Richard host royals from a distant kingdom to renew a sacred truce, but when the treaty vanishes, peace is jeopardized and an ancient curse threatens their family. – IMDB

You can find my reviews of the first two movies below:

A Christmas Prince
A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding

Other than the first movie that was a rather fun little holiday romance story albeit all its formulaic tendencies, the follow-up last year was rather lackluster. It had some of those fun elements but felt like a lot of the chemistry in the first one fell apart. Third movie now and we’re talking about babies because that’s the obvious next step. I don’t have an issue with it going in this direction but rather, its a step into the whodunnit deal where they await the introduction of Penglia and even shows a map highlighting the ficitional universe that Netflix has created with mentions of Belgravia (aka The Princess Switch). Its very clever to pull it all together and I maintain that point however, the chemistry isn’t quite there. Everyone seems rather wooden and there’s a good deal of overacting.

It falls short but somehow comes up a little bit ahead of last year’s The Royal Wedding to me at least because it feels less about the romance and focuses on some fun elements, as improbably as it is for it to happen if a precious treaty had gone missing. There’s a ton of plot holes in this one but then, other than reviewers, I’m not exactly sure who goes into this one to just relax with a simple and uncomplicated movie is really looking for these things (as glaring as it all is).

Movies are to its audiences so unless you review these things for the holiday season, there is no reason to go into it if you believe that you dislike these films in the first place. That’s my warning for you. A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby is the third movie in its franchise so you know what is coming and it doesn’t pull any funny tricks and is as formulaic as you’d expect it to be. If you like these films, you’ll enjoy this one and if you don’t, then don’t watch it to save yourself the misery.

On a side note, I ended this movie and started thinking about where I can find that Christmas Tree game because that sounds like a fun party game perfect for Christmas.

The Greatest Showman (2017)

The Greatest Showman

Director: Michael Gracey

Cast: Hugh Jackson, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Austyn Johnson, Cameron Seely, Keala Settle, Sam Humphrey, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eric Anderson

Celebrates the birth of show business and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. – IMDB

Being a huge fan of musical, The Greatest Showman was one of the first movies to add to the catch-up roster for the 2010s decade. Its one that had a lot of hype and a soundtrack that is well-known even without the context of the film. There’s a lot of grandeur and big production scenes and splendour in its set.

The Greatest Showman is a biopic and perhaps because of that, it has the burden of giving Hugh Jackman’s role as P.T. Barnum a more ambitious turn of events that highlights his thirst of success and to make something of himself to not be looked down by the others around him and being able to immerse himself in the upper class society where he forgets the most basic reason that he does all this: for love and his wife and turns it into a more selfish ordeal. This type of success story is actually rather familiar and frequently scene whether its as a biopic or in fictional stories about finding the way and seeing what’s important so on so forth.

Deal is, put those things aside and The Greatest Showman is a wonderful musical that stays true to its genre because while it has its drama, it is a great big show with a lot of musical pieces that comes in frequently. The singing is done well and some of the set and choreography are wonderful to look at like Zendaya and Zac Efron’s scene together or the whole This Is Me or The Greatest Show. There is one that is particularly sweet with Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams as they go through the years together which is a neat little way to move time forward quickly without having to add a lot of extra dialogue and content.

There’s a lot of technicalities that work in The Greatest Showman that makes it a fun musical to watch. For musical fans, it does fit the bill relatively well and its one that shows that a familiar story, even though its based on a real life story, with good execution of its elements can be very entertaining and engaging to watch.

 

Double Feature: Holiday in the Wild (2019) & The Knight Before Christmas (2019)

And we’re off! Officially in the Christmas double features phase with some holiday movies and such. The first one, Holiday in the Wild is more set passing through Christmas and is more about a literal holiday vacation instead of actual holiday but its paired with The Knight Before Christmas because the first movie is playing on TV in this one. Its a very Netflix movies promo experience in the second film with Holiday Calender also getting a scene playing as well.

Holiday in the Wild (2019)

Holiday in the Wild

Director: Ernie Barbarash

Cast: Kristin Davis, Rob Lowe, Fezile Mpela, John Owen Lowe, Colin Moss

Jilted by her husband on the eve of embarking on an African safari, a woman travels to the continent alone where she meets an elephant conservationist. – IMDB

Holiday in the Wild isn’t exactly a Christmas holiday movie but I thought it was so it ended up being part of the line-up. Luckily, it did have some overlapping Christmas scenes in Africa. These types of Hallmark style movies that Netflix is tackling in their originals usually is something of a hit and miss deal. Holiday in the Wild is a bit awkward to watch. Its definitely featuring an older couple and probably aiming to get the more mature audience than its normal audience. For that, its also a lot more serious and drama oriented with some jokes here and there. The script is a bit all over the place but with the right heart of focusing not only on romance between the characters Derek and Kate but also on the importance of the conservation work for elephants. Some people choose to bring awareness through documentaries (like Virunga) and they choose to deliver it this way. It works all the same and its the good intentions that matter.

The best parts of the film actually are with the elephant conservation and this whole location which is rarely used. I think the last time I saw anything about animals and Africa was maybe in the TV series Zoo and I can’t remember if that was Africa or not. Point being, the exotic location does this movie some wonders and it is delivering an honorable message which they take the effort to share some statistics at the end of the movie. There are a lot of flaws in the romance and some really bad dialogue but with what they had, Rob Lowe and Kristin Davis had some decent chemistry but its easy to feel like the movie wasn’t really about them and it wasn’t about family but more about Kate finding her way back to being herself and living the life that she wants.

The Knight Before Christmas (2019)

The Knight Before Christmas

Director: Monika Mitchell

Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Josh Whitehouse, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Ella Kenion, Isabella Franca

A medieval English knight is magically transported to the present day where he falls for a high school science teacher who is disillusioned by love. – IMDB

The Knight Before Christmas is something of a fish out of water story and for anyone thats been here for a while, you know that I’m a sucker for those types of stories because they can bring in a ton of humor. Humor isn’t the same for everyone but for me, it works for me. The Knight Before Christmas actually surprised me quite a bit but that might be because I sometimes wonder about Vanessa Hudgens movies. I don’t know why I do it because a lot of stuff that I’ve seen her do has been pretty good.

With that said, a lot of the normal holiday romance Hallmark-like films that Netflix has been getting on does have some of the normal trademarks that a lot of people don’t like which is cringe-worthy dialogue and fairly predictable and formulaic story. This movie definitely suffers from some rather subpar dialogue and its not hard to imagine where things end up but it has this positivity to the Christmas message that its trying to deliver and also it has some nice chemistry and romantic elements between Vanessa Hudgens and Josh Whitehouse’s characters, Brooke and Cole.

There are some really nice Christmas sets here whether its the winter and snowy weather or the whole Christmas decor inside and outside the house along  with the Christmas village and the Christmas decorating and baking, etc. Its a movie that sets its Christmas setting very well and uses it in a nice way with two pretty decent performances from both Vanessa Hudgens and Josh Whitehouse.

Plus, Netflix is taking this year’s holiday films to really cross-promote all its projects especially with this one as it shows movies playing on Netflix for the characters like last year’s The Holiday Calendar (review) and the movie we reviewed above, Holiday in the Wild. At the same time, it mentions A Christmas Prince’s kingdom, Aldovia and how the parents went to get ornament that they have there to tie in the universe together. Its pretty neat to see Netflix as such a giant that it can link its projects together like this. They just now need to remember to not mesh The Knight Before Christmas’s sequel if they have one to vacation in Belgravia where Vanessa Hudgens’ character is now Queen since the events of last year’s The Princess Switch (review).

On that note, I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel for The Knight Before Christmas or maybe its already hinted at with how they did the post-credits scene..

That’s it for this first Christmas Double Feature!
Have you caught up with these new Netflix holiday movies?