Double Feature: A Monster Calls (2016) & Battleship (2012)

Call this a little Netflix alphabet marathon again but a more relaxed and random one with no specific theme but just to get through some of those films sitting in My List. I’m going to have random movies not in the alphabet happening but I’ll try to keep to it as much as possible. The first to kick off this second round in 2019 is 2016’s A Monster Calls paired oddly, almost like a Liam Neeson double feature with 2012’s Battleship. The first I don’t know much about and the second, I’ve been extremely skeptical to see so the expectations are low.

Let’s check it out!

A Monster Calls (2016)

a monster calls

Director: J.A. Bayona

Cast: Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson (voice)

A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mother’s terminal illness. – IMDB

A Monster Calls is a stylistic fantasy drama. It works for the most part but has some bits that get a little annoying. The boy Connor, played by Lewis MacDougall is pretty decent. He matches his character quite a bit. On the surface story, A Monster Calls has a pretty generic and dramatic story when dealing with Connor and his mother and how his relationship with his grandmother, played by Sigourney Weaver. A lot of it has to do with how he deals with the situation. When the tree monster, voiced by Liam Neeson appears and decides to tell him three stories before he can help him or something (I’m a bit fuzzy on the details since its been a month or so), the stories itself and the animations used to portray them is the true heart of the movie. Its these moments between Connor and the Monster that give it depth because each story wraps up a few lessons on morals. What is right from wrong and the gray area that most kids grow up to learn about and how Connor is thrust into the situation because of his problems at home. Its also these stories which are structured with more

I’m okay with everything about A Monster Calls. It actually had more depth than I had expected it. What didn’t work so well was the pacing. It had style and some decent performances. As expected when seeing Sigourney Weaver and Felicity Jones as part of the cast. They were able to show the different relationships that Connor had with each of them. Because of that, the story gave a lot of depth to Connor and everyone else became more of backdrop and felt less fleshed out. The best part of the film does go to how they chose to end it and giving it a little twist that somehow brings together the tree monster and the stories in a clever way.

Battleship (2012)

battleship

Director: Peter Berg

Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Alexander Skarsgard, Tadanobu Asano, Hamish Linklater, Liam Neeson

A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals. – IMDB

The idea of making a classic game into a movie is a pretty good idea. Battleship did have a pretty open canvas to work with seeing as the game itself doesn’t have a backstory or anything but just to set it in some kind of battle. The idea of bringing aliens in doesn’t seem like a bad thing because it can give a lot of fantasy and science fiction creative elements as well. However, its hard to pinpoint where Battleship falls apart. Everything had its issues: the story, the characters, the action, the logic behind it all. Probably its because I recently looked at Pacific Rim that the whole electromagnetic and analog thing stood out to me more than usual when I watch these films and how probably things don’t quite work that way even if on the surface, you could accept that it does (especially since I don’t know a whole lot about that anyways). Fact is, Battleship is long and repetitive. It adds too much drama and the action is very predictable. The fun element is not quite there either.

In terms of character, they were really what I was skeptical about going in. Taylor Kitsch is an actor thats been really rocky (to me). There hasn’t been one role that stood out and Battleship is the same. Its nothing special and his character is a bit irritating and shallow and the fact that he’s the main character and gets the most character development says a whole lot about that. Not that a movie like this needs a ton of character depth to be honest. On top of that, some characters that were less annoying had too short of role. The surprise of this was that Rihanna’s character was actually quite decent. I’m starting to feel like I need to re-evaluate her roles a little more. Battleship had more cons than pros and it was a predictable and forgettable movie. But hey, I didn’t have high expectations to start so it felt like it was everything I expected.

That’s it for this double feature!
A&B selection was a little good and a little bad so it kind of balanced itself out!
Have you seen A Monster Calls and/or Battleship? Thoughts?

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TV Binge: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 3, 2019)

You can find the previous season TV Binges post below:

Season 1
Season 2

A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 3, 2019)

a series of unfortunate events

Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith, K. Todd Freeman, Lucy Punch, Dylan Kingwell, Allison Williams, Kitana Turnbull, Max Greenfield

After the loss of their parents in a mysterious fire, the three Baudelaire children face trials and tribulations attempting to uncover dark family secrets. – IMDB

The third and final season of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events has now progressed to be the most dark of the three seasons. Rightfully so because the books also get quite dark in the last 4 stories. Its adapted well to the novels in a similar timeline. As with the previous few seasons, small changes have been made in each story but essentially to work up to an ending which feels much more exact than the one presented in the novels. Whether that is a good or bad thing is truly up for debate at this point based on your preference.  It keeps up with the vocabulary focus and the educational element and the clever puns used as well as keeping our narrator by Patrick Warburton ever so interesting and quirky to watch.

A series of unfortunate events s3

The final season takes us for some dangerous rides through some odd locations as the Baudelaires now approach the whereabouts of VFD and what it is about. While previous seasons have been quite dangerous already, this one definitely takes a turn as all the characters: the Baudelaires and Count Olaf and his crew all have a decent amount of development. Its been a long time waiting to see how his minions play in the story because they have only been supporting characters at this point. As the story winds together, its good to see that the final season takes into account all these characters and gives them some resolution and ending, making sure that they were not disposable and had a key part (whether small or big) to the entire story. What works even better is how it makes sure to now pull in why Lemony Snicket decided to do all this and while we’ve already seen Jacques Snicket, here the mystery unravels further. All this works to round out what has already been presented as over the last 2 seasons, there has been a lot of questions and so few answers. The writing and storytelling has always been the strength of the show and it maintains it here.

a series of unfortunate events s3

Moving on to the characters, The Baudelaires have all grown comfortably into their roles, whether it is Malina Weissman or Louis Hynes as they are the older kids who pass their characters’ birthday during this and the last season giving us a perspective of time for the series especially for the maturity and development of their characters, Violet and Klaus respectively. This story giving them somewhat of a love angle as well, inevitable with the amount of people that they do end up meeting along this series of unfortunate events. However, nothing quite beats having a much more understandable Sunny who is still a toddler but now we can get a good idea that she has some great linguistic skills as if you read the subtitles and whatnot, its another languages version in some cases (or maybe I’m hearing things). With that said, Count Olaf has had the darker development as each season progressed and in this season, he is the smartest that we have seen him and we start seeing his own motives which are more than just for the money. On top of that, as we would expect, some new characters appear and they include Kit Snicket (Allison Williams), the Denouement Brothers (Max Greenfield) as well a lot of familiar faces reappearing as well.

The third and final season of A Series of Unfortunate Events does a great job at wrapping up the series. It makes some choices especially in the ending that might not sit well with some people however, I thought it was pretty clever to add their own twist. Plus, its nice to see that they thought about all the characters that came into the Baudelaires lives that mattered and did a little mention for them.

TV Binge: The Big Family Cooking Showdown (Season 2, 2018)

You can find the TV Binge for previous season below:

Season 1

The Big Family Cooking Showdown (Season 2, 2018)

the big family cooking showdown s2

Judges: Tommy Banks & Angellica Bell

If you had been following The Big Family Cooking Showdown, you would already know that they had announced a lot of changes in Season 2 prior to its airing. I’m not quite sure if it aired before it became a Netflix Original or not, but I believe its a BBC 2 show. Either way, other than just having the judges change, the show took away its hosts and let the judges take over that job as well. The structure of the competition has also changed. It still has some of the same challenges. This season, it separates into two parts essentially. The first 5 episodes is for two group of 4 families, where they end up having 2 families going into the play-offs, then the next 5 episodes is the second two groups of 4 families to fight for the two spots to the play-offs. Then the remaining is playoffs for the 4 families with 1 family eliminated, 1 family getting fast-track to the finals and the next last two fighting for the last finals spot.

big family cooking showdown s2

In terms of challenge, the 10 pound challenge remains as the kick-off challenge but with the added surprise element of doing the shopping on the spot and having to do their calculations and then if over, to give up whichever items. The first day wraps up with a known challenge of national dishes with a twist. After that, one family is eliminated. Day 2 has the 3 families in their next challenge where they choose one member to bake a dessert that they can choose the difficulty level which leads to a second challenge pre-known to make a two course meal (main dish and dessert). The playoffs are also structured over 2 days with the first having one spontaneous challenge called the pick ‘n mix challenge where the judges have one set ingredient and one member of each family chooses an ingredient from what is provided and they have to incorporate all the  ingredients into their dish with a minimal selection of spices, etc and wraps up the day with an indulgent treat meal (known in advance). There are following challenges of zero-waste (or as close to it as possible) meals and then the finale is essentially the same challenges as season one with a cooking spontaneous challenge followed by a 3 course meal.

After a huge description, we can go and break it down a little. Let’s start with the host/judges. Tommy Banks and Angellica Bell are really fun to watch. They work together well to create a nice dynamic. They have some puns and in general are a warmer experience and share a good knowledge of food and cooking throughout. They add in little discussions between and it makes for a nice idea of where they stand. As for the candidates, this is where the colors are. Its in the families that join who bring in the playfulness and spontaneous elements. Each of the families of 3 bring a different style and cooking mentality and its because of this and it brings in a lot of fun little moments. What works better in Season 2 is making it more focused on 4 families each time instead of doing them 2 families at a time like in the first season.

big family cooking showdown s2

In any cooking competition, its all about the challenges and the food. Its a good idea to put each day of the challenge with two of them where one is spontaneous and one is known before. Its a good bit to see which family works well even without practice and shows off some true creativity and skill. The spontaneous challenges are the ones that bring a lot more interesting elements to the competition. Its the ones that truly have that surprise factor also and have more issues that come up and chaos. Let’s be honest that perfect shows aren’t fun to watch and instead the chaos and overcoming those obstacles in whatever way is usually an enjoyable bit to see. Nothing works like a little bit of drama, right? In that sense, I think that might be where I’ve pinpointed the bits that don’t work so well here as the show at times feels a little bland. It might have to be that some parts, go by too long and then some go too fast and then there is a balance that sometimes isn’t balanced properly to make the show completely bingeworthy. Why I say that is that some food competitions like Zumbo’s Just Desserts, I can go back and watch it over and over again knowing the results but for The Big Family Cooking Showdown, I was lukewarm with Season 1 and didn’t rewatch it and then this Season 2 although I have some families that I really liked and the elements technically all work together, something never made me want to watch more than an episode or two and stop, nor do I have that urge to go back and watch it again. There’s something missing and I can’t quite pinpoint what it is. Perhaps its the same home footages of the families that repeat itself over and over again as well. Its definitely heading in the right direction though. If Season 3 happens, I’m hoping that there are some additional changes to make it even better.

Have you seen The Big Family Cooking Showdown?

Valentine’s Double Feature: All I See Is You (2016) & The Big Wedding (2013)

Double Feature

Welcome everyone to the beginning of February! To those unfamiliar, and well, this is an informal announcement for the Valentine’s Marathon. I decided instead of using some specific feature franchise (which I didn’t even finish last year’s), I decided to keep up with the double feature, cut through some of those films sitting forever on my list on Netflix and catch up on a much of romance genre films. With that said, I’m doing my favorite thing: Alphabet Netflix… You will see that I will pair up films going through the alphabet. So we kick off with A & B: All I See Is You and The Big Wedding.

Let’s just say its kind of a rocky start… but we have to start somewhere…

All I See Is You (2016)

All I See Is You

Director (& co-writer): Marc Forster

Cast: Blake Lively, Jason Clarke, Ahna O’Reilly, Miquel Fernandez, Wes Chatham, Danny Huston

A blind woman’s relationship with her husband changes when she regains her sight and discovers disturbing details about themselves. – IMDB

All I See is You isn’t particularly a bad film but more a film that seems to want to be more than it actually achieved. It seems to want to go the indie route of making some obscure film with a little art house style and then add in some psychological factors but nothing actually gets executed properly. It feels like nothing reaches the potential of what it might be. I’m not sure if its just that I never quite got the plot or it didn’t get delivered to me so that I got the bigger plot here. My point being that it felt like the plot was going somewhere  and then it took a turn and the movie didn’t seem to know how to end.

Whenever I watch movies like this, its hard to be particularly excited about it because for someone like me that stretches the meaning a lot, I failed to find the point of watching this. It gave me a feeling wanting to go somewhere and it reminded me of a bunch of films that executed these different ideas better. I like Blake Lively but All I See Is You just didn’t work.

The Big Wedding (2013)

The Big Wedding

Director (& writer): Justin Zackham

Cast: Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Ben Barnes, Patricia Rae, Ana Ayora, Robin Williams

A long-divorced couple fakes being married as their family unites for a wedding. – IMDB

A star-studded cast to say the least for The Big Wedding. Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried and of course, Robin Williams also gets a role here as the priest. Many times with movies like this with a family melodrama in the background, it crosses through a lot of plot with both family drama and conflicts which build up the connection to each of the family members and then its the romance line which has a much smaller line here. The wedding premise is where this movie fits in this little Valentine’s theme. Putting aside the romance, this movie was really disjointed. It had a few funny bits here and there but its not anything to be excited about.

In a movie like this, its hard to fault the actors themselves. Yes, even Topher Grace that I can’t seem to like was alright here although his role was a little silly and probably still one of my least favorite characters here. However, the problem is the script and the execution.

That’s it for the first Valentine’s double feature for A&B!
Have you seen either of these films? Thoughts?

My Weekly Adventures: Holiday Celebrations

weekly adventures

The last Weekly Adventures of this year everyone!

It is going to be a really happy one full of holiday celebrations and food and family. Its hard to imagine that its New Year’s Eve and I’m sure not a ton of you are sitting around looking at blogs but still, I’m keeping to my normal routine to share this. I have something to get done hopefully today as well if New Year’s Eve cleaning and dinner party prep doesn’t take up too much of my time.

Winter Solstice Festival

Dinner

Winter Solstice Festival was celebrated a day later so it was just the day before our Christmas Eve gathering meaning that we had a few days of lots of eating. This festival is more of a Chinese celebration between family. My mom made some turkey and as usual made more food than the amount of people since she also invited one of her friends as well. It was delicious and fun. My husband was occupied with watching NFL football match while I chatted with my mom and her friend. It was really nice.

Christmas Eve Family Gathering

Our annual Christmas Eve gathering was at my in-laws this year. The whole taking turns to celebrate is a pretty nice. Everyone showed up as well as some close family friends and their loved ones. Its always a fun time to see everyone and just have a good laugh, eat lots of food and do some gift exchange. The adults are usually just simple little things so we actually brought a bunch of stuff that I had bought from the haul in the previous weekly adventures and did a little pick your prize style so everyone got to just close their eyes and put their hands in the big christmas bag and see what they got. It saves me the trouble from figuring who wants what and they have a little surprise element. I just hope that everyone liked their little sweets.

Friends Holiday Gathering

I forgot to take a picture of the food at this gathering. However, this is part of what I brought. I also brought dessert, pumpkin cookies. (recipe HERE). My meal though was finally putting the many goodfood boxes to use and added my own little twist from something I had learned from those recipes in their one pan recipe. This had squash, brussel sprouts, nantes carrots and chicken thighs and some garlic. Lots of fun with my girl friends and their other halves. This year did make our gatherings less frequent than previous years so we have agreed to try and make things happen more frequently in 2019.

Game Warp Podcast – Year in Review 2018 (plus new audio format)

Gatherings and family is a big deal but in between all that, I did manage to get our big year end episode for Game Warp edited. These episodes are usually mammoth tasks so I did procrastinate a little and pulled two evenings of working hard and got this one done. Hopefully you have time to check it out and enjoy. On better news, Year in Review 2018 is also available audio on Himalaya FM now. I can’t figure out how to embed the player but you can find it HERE. I’m still exploring this Himalaya thing so hopefully things will get better.

Cute Kitty Pic

Kitty Cat

This wraps up the last 2018 Weekly Adventures!
Hopefully I’ll be back with an overview of 2018, if not, I’ll talk about 2019 plans tomorrow.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVE CELEBRATIONS!
(and Happy New Year if you already have past midnight)

Christmas 2018: The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Christmas Chronicles

Director: Clay Kaytis

Cast: Kurt Russell, Judah Lewis, Darby Camp, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Oliver Hudson, Lamorne Morris, Martin Roach

The story of sister and brother, Kate and Teddy Pierce, whose Christmas Eve plan to catch Santa Claus on camera turns into an unexpected journey that most kids could only dream about. – IMDB

An adventure this one definitely is. The Christmas Chronicles is a fun little adventure full of everything that we love. I have to say that Kurt Russell as Santa is a pop of difference. Judah Lewis and Darby Camp are great as kids. It gave me this whole vibe of what great Christmas movies that we love had especially when tackling the power of to believe in Santa. The story is a bit generic and expected but the enthusiasm and the pure humor of the whole thing along with all the fun action-packed bits definitely set it apart whether its racing down the streets in flashy race cars or commandeering a sleigh ride and the different aspects that gives it some fun moments makes it never forget what it is and stays true to its purpose.

Christmas Chronicles

The highlight of The Christmas Chronicles definitely hands down goes to Kurt Russell who truly takes us for a fun little Christmas ride as after the kids scare him and make him crash land in Chicago, to chase down his Santa hat, his reindeers and his bag of toys. With the help of Teddy (Judah Lewis) and Kate (Darby Camp), this adventure is kind of an interesting way to see Santa portrayed in a rather non-traditional way. Its refreshing and Kurt Russell’s version is so memorable.

Other than that, what I did like a lot also has to go to the computer graphics and how it makes up for all the cute designs here and just how everything comes to life. For one, the reindeers are done so lively and the expressions in their eyes are fantastic. Just like when we get to see these North Pole elves who have their fantastical language but all so unique in their design just like how they look so cute but have this very hilarious ugly side when the situation is needed. They are so cute and charming.

Overall, The Christmas Chronicles is a fun Christmas adventure. It has a lot of the Polar Express feels, especially because a few parts takes the music from that movie, especially with the same concept of believing in Santa and the power of this belief and trying to get someone (in this case Teddy) to regain belief. At the same time, it also has these musical moments where Kurt Russell has a singing moment. There are a ton of elements here. Its festive and fun and honestly, its been a while that I’ve felt like any holiday films released in the last few years has made it onto our annual holiday movie marathon, but this one definitely fits all our criteria.

Double Feature: Pete’s Dragon (2016) & Peter Rabbit (2018)

double feature

Its been a while since we’ve done a double feature, right? Things are back on track and as much as I wanted to start this whole all same year movies get full reviews. Meaning Peter Rabbit should have its own full review, I just decided to keep with this formula. I guess that kind of hints on how I feel about Peter Rabbit but oh well, we’ll see, right? A nice little pairing that worked out because of my procrastination, may I add? An animated double feature seems like its a rarity around here nowadays plus it has similar names, Pete and Peter. Let’s put it out there right now that I really like watching movies that blend animation with live action, like Mary Poppins. Obviously, these two are more CG and live action but it still counts just in a modernized way.

Let’s check it out!

Pete’s Dragon (2016)

Pete's Dragon

Director: David Lowery

Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Oakes Fegley, Oona Laurence, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban

The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon. – IMDB

I only watched the original Pete’s Dragon recently. You can see the review HERE. This remake or reboot (whatever you want to call it) is still good for what it is. It had adventure and the acting was good. The atmosphere was nice and a lot of the key elements were there while replacing it with a more environmental sort of idea. It creates a lot of drama and less of a musical like the original. Some of the differences are really the point here which truly depends on how much the audience buys into and how it all works out. Like I mentioned, one of the main elements is the more drama and less musical. To me, that kind of takes away from the charm of the original. I’m into adventure and drama and they work well in family movies and that part does work well but it gives off a different vibe from the original. Of course, we should look at this film as how it stands on its own and there is still a lot of magic in Elliot. Without its pink tuff of hair and more alive thanks to computer graphics and less hand drawn animation gives him a more real feeling but still has its magical moments and he is still very cute with his little movements but Elliot is huge and massive compared to Pete, which is also normal.

I watched Pete’s Dragon a good while ago so if you asked me the details, I probably won’t remember a lot of it but I do remember the emphasis on environment which is a nice theme along with the family and just how to not touch the differences in nature and let them be. At the same time, the film’s charm goes to bringing Elliot to life. I still think the original is more fun to watch and its more colorful and all that happy stuff but this one is a different vibe and beast and has its charm. Shame is that its a reboot and not an original property because its hard to not compare the two which makes it feel less of the original concept but each has its strengths.

Peter Rabbit (2018)

peter rabbit

Director: Will Gluck

Cast & Voice Cast: Rose Byrne, Domhnall Gleeson, James Corden, Colin Moody, Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Daisy Ridley, Sia, Fayssal Bazzi

Feature adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s classic tale of a rebellious rabbit trying to sneak into a farmer’s vegetable garden. – IMDB

Peter Rabbit is pretty much the expected route of things. For myself, I don’t have a whole lot of nostalgia in regards of Peter Rabbit and honestly, it was so long ago that I read it that I don’t even remember any part of it. My knowledge of it is so little of the source material that this is something of an adventure. Rose Byrne is always a pleasure to watch. Seeing as I just saw Domhnall Gleeson in Goodbye Christopher Robin, there is this odd feeling that he keeps getting into these adaptation projects. He is a pretty good actor in the sense that he nails these roles down really well. While I wasn’t totally buying the romance between these two, it worked in a fun way as he silently fought with the rabbits over their affection of Rose Byrne.

I have fairly mixed feelings. On one hand, I don’t think that the material was as memorable as it could have been. But its harmless fun. There’s a bit of music and dancing bits. There’s some over the top comedy. There is some silly humor. There is also family themes and drama but I can’t help but think that for myself, some of the comedy didn’t land so much but then its not exactly for my age group especially without the nostalgia factor.