Tranquil Dreams Podcast #11: What’s Up 2021 Week 18

Welcome to the next episode of Tranquil Dreams Podcast as we cover What’s Up 2021 Week 18. It’s a really quick one as this lands on the last week of April and coincidentally, the last week of work rush, meaning not a whole lot was done. Every section had a quick overview of the one or two things that that I managed to check out or currently doing. Nothing too special to discuss but some potential plans for some of the sections to talk about and an update on the binging situation. Hope you enjoy!

Related Links

Freaks – Film Review

Music in the Episode:
There It Is by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4519-there-it-is
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Listen to the Show:
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Tranquil Dreams Podcast #10: What’s Up 2021 Week 17

Welcome to the next episode of Tranquil Dreams Podcast! This week’s What’s Up 2021 is covering Week 17. We are officially back to weekly format.

In this episode, I take a look at what I’ve been reading, watching, playing and binging on Week 17 of 2021. Reading is a little uneventful however among the many things talked about in the other sections, some of the highlights are talking about what makes Dumplin’ a worthy rewatch, a capsule review of Oscar-nominated Chinese film Better Days as well a dive into the wrap-up of Chinese idol survival competition Produce Camp 2021 and their new temporary boy group INTO1. I also share some upcoming plans on new discussion topics on my mind lately to add some variety.

Hope you enjoy!

Related Links

Room – Game Review
Dumplin’ – Film Review
Paradise Hills – Film Review
Paradise Hills – Movies and Tea Podcast
Better Days – Film Review

Music in the Episode:
There It Is by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4519-there-it-is
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Listen to the Show:
Anchor
Spotify
Google Podcasts
Breaker
RadioPublic

Tranquil Dreams Podcast #9 What’s Up 2021 Week 16

Welcome to the next episode of Tranquil Dreams Podcast! Its time to go back to a weekly recap for the What’s Up segment as I discuss what I’ve been currently reading, playing, watching and binging. This past week had a few film rewatches and a discussion of my love for Netflix guilty pleasure TV as well as my thoughts on some Chinese TV series that I wrapped up: A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower and The Sword and the Brocade. Some of the few things that I discussed in this episode along with a touch on the lesser categories this week in reading and playing. 

Hope you enjoy!

Related Links

Enola Holmes – Film Review
Anna and the Apocalypse – Film Review
The Circle (Season 1) – TV Binge
Too Hot To Handle (Season 1) – TV Binge

Music in the Episode:
There It Is by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4519-there-it-is
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Listen to the Show:
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Better Days (少年的你, 2019)

Better Days (少年的你, 2019)

Director: Derek Tsang

Cast: Dongyu Zhou, Jackson Yee, Fang Yin, Ye Zhou, Yue Wu, Jue Huang, Yifan Zhang, Xinyi Zhang, Xuanming Gao, Xintong Xie

A bullied teenage girl forms an unlikely friendship with a mysterious young man who protects her from her assailants, all while she copes with the pressures of her final examinations. – IMDB

*Originally posted on Movies and Tea for Friday Film Club*

Perhaps one of the more surprising titles to be nominated in the best International feature category at the upcoming Oscars is 2019’s Chinese romantic crime film, Better Days. Better Days is based on a Chinese YA novel called In His Youth, In Her Beauty. Faced with difficulty to release due to censorship in China, Better Days focuses on school bullying while looking at the stressful and demanding environment of preparing for the National Exam which determines the future of a student and where they end up in university while also looking at the reality of family situations in China. It takes a snapshot of Chinese society, call it a social commentary if you will but the movie does end with a discussion of the progress that’s been made with the different ministry departments of creating laws to protect against school bullying. With that said, the movie rather lengthy running at 2 hours 15 minutes, which is structured fairly well as it starts off right away highlighting the school issue and building up those tensions while moving to a second act which is focused on the relationship between Chen Nian and Xiao Bei as he protects her in the shadows. A lot of their relationship is built through actions more than words which thanks to a good direction of director Derek Tsang makes it work. Making the third act one that tugs at heartstrings despite all that’s happening and question the morals of who is right and wrong as well as bringing up how much teens believe in the adults surrounding them and how much they can help.

Talking about the director, Derek Tsang brings in some interesting direction choices whether its how he uses the lighting or moving through a montage of how time passes or just how he chooses to use the cinematography and camera pans to structure the scene to create a great effect and capture what he wants and leaving some mystery, its done pretty well. Of course, the other surprise for most familiar with Chinese pop culture is seeing Jackson Yee do rather well in his role as Xiao Bei especially since he started out at a young age in a youth boy band TF Boys. Taking up this powerful role and delivering on a decent level and especially being able to act at the pace of Dongyu Zhou who is a much more seasoned actress with a lot of great and diverse roles under her belt, a few of them previously Friday Film Club picks, Us and Them and This Is Not What I Expected. Being the central role here, Chen Nian under Dongyu Zhou is done incredibly well. She is able to bring it to a good level of tension and connection especially with a character that doesn’t say a lot and the ability to play a high school senior while being in her mid-20s and making it believable to follow her devastating experience but still in all the bad still wanting to “protect the world” and points out how no one’s taught them about how to be an adult. The most touching line in the movie between Chen Nian and Xiao Bei when he says: “It’s a deal. You protect the world. I’ll protect you.”

Sure, Better Days has its issues especially for those not too familiar with Chinese films, it might bring in the elements of losing traction and shifting focus of the film and having some melodramatic moments as it loves to bring romance in any type of film. However, what Better Days does remind me a lot of is a 2004 Taiwanese series called The Outsiders (currently on Netflix if you want to check it out) which has a similar romantic arc. While it might not be for everyone, Better Days has its heart at the right place, shares an important topic of teen bullying in China and what has been done so far while also having a decent crime story to wrap up the whole thing. Definitely one to check out if you get a chance!

A Week Away (2021)

A Week Away (2021)

Director: Roman White

Cast: Kevin Quinn, Bailee Madison, Jahbril Cook, Kat Conner Sterling, Sherri Shepherd, David Koechner, Iain Tucker

Nowhere left to go, Will Hawkins finds himself at camp for the first time. His instinct is to run, but he finds a friend, a father figure and even a girl who awakens his heart. Most of all, he finally finds a home. – IMDB

It sure seems like Netflix has been getting in on the musicals sort of film and TV. Whether we talk about The Prom (review) or Julie and the Phantoms, its been releasing some decent ones. A Week Away is a Christian musical which sets its story a week away at church camp for a runaway guy who has landed in his latest foster home after stealing a police car and faces with possibly juvenile prison if it doesn’t pan out. As he finds more friends and a sense of belonging and guidance, he starts to reconnect with himself and with his faith.

Having not known beforehand that this is considered a Christian musical and not exactly the religious type myself, A Week Away actually was better than I expected as the addition of its religion and faith wasn’t pushing too hard and the story and music does blend into the scenario, making it feel more like a coming of age teen story very similar to High School Musical right down to the music. Plus, the story gets right down to the plot and kicking off both the camp and the characters with an musical number. The music and the choreography is pretty good overall. The story is a tad predictable and very basic and straightforwars but still acceptable.

Where A Week Away starts to have most of its issues are with the script and acting. While musicals do tend to have a level of overacting, the script here sometimes feels a tad choppy. It focuses a lot on the different activities at this camp and the different teams as well as the different friendships and relationships which is unfolding over the course of one week only. On one side, its fun because of the different activities but it sometimes feels like its missing some depth as well. The younger cast definitely is missing a little something in their roles where sometimes it seems to fit with their character and sometimes, its still not quite there.

Overall, A Week Away is an okay musical. There are some fun moments and the whole musical elements are done well enough however the story itself is a little lacking and familiar. The story itself falls into formulaic territory even though the story does have a heartwarming message in the end especially when it doesn’t push the religion and faith part too hard and actually does have a decent flow.

Despite all this, on a personal level, this worked probably better because it reminded myself of a summer when I did join church fellowship with my cousin when I was younger and that was pretty fun. It was able to bring the themes of friendships and sense of belonging alive which is something that I do like about the film.

Tranquil Dreams Podcast #8: What’s Up 2021 Week 14 & 15

Welcome to the next episode of Tranquil Dreams Podcast! We’re technically supposed to be back to a weekly recap but a change in my schddule and setting a routine has causes it to be a little delayed! So, here we are! One more biweekly and then we will be back on track completely instead of the am entire week behind. I think it actually works better. Isn’t that great? Plus, I realized that it landed on a week that I pretty much was focusing so much on catch up and other things that I didn’t do a whole lot of things in each category so these two weeks has actually quite a bit to offer combined together.

With that said, this week, I may go a little deeper in what I’ve done from what I’ve finished to new additions on what I’ve been playing, watching and binging! And you know what? All segments are back in action. Pretty much…kind of…

Thanks for listening and hope you enjoy!

Related links:

Toronto Comics: Yonge at Heart – Book Review
Toronto Comics: Osgoode as Gold – Book Review
Ted Talks: Cornelia Geppert
Searching (2018) – Film review
Run (2020) – Film review
An Inspector Calls (2015) – Film review
A Home With A View (2019) – Film review
Nailed It! – TV Binge
Put Your Head On My Shoulder – TV Binge

Music in the Episode:
There It Is by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4519-there-it-is
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Listen to the Show:
Anchor
Spotify
Google Podcasts
Breaker
RadioPublic

Double Feature: Bigfoot Family (2020) & Flushed Away (2006)

Time for the next double feature! This time its an animated film double with a 2020 sequel Bigfoot Family and a 2006’s Flushed Away! Let’s check it out!

Bigfoot Family (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Jeremy Degruson & Ben Stassen

Voice Cast: Jules Wojciechowski, Roger Craig Smith, Grant George, David Lodge, Lindsey Alena, Sandy Fox, Joey Lotsko

Follow up to Son of Bigfoot: Father uses his new fame to fight against an Alaska oil company but when he disappears the son, the mother, a raccoon and a bear head North to rescue him. – IMDB

Having no idea that it was a sequel when started up Bigfoot Family, the good thing is that it didn’t really need the first movie to understand what was going on however, I also never heard of the first film so I guess that’s why I didn’t draw the connection. With that said, Bigfoot Family is rather straightforward and fun type of animated adventure film. It is a bit wild and imaginative especially since it starts off with Bigfoot being quite the man of fame and in the spotlight and decides in his busy schedule to use his popularity to do some good and decides to head to Alaska to protest against some oil company for doing harm to the environment leading him to get caught. His family finds it odd and heads up on a road trip with the two of the animals, a raccoon and a bear to go with them. Like I said, imaginative and fun.

The premise is pretty fun and definitely geared towards a younger audience however, the sense of adventure is there as it jumps between the different members of the family and what’s going on. The only issue with it probably would be that the beginning is more exciting to watching than the ending which felt a little predictable but then this is a family film and most of the time, it is pretty easy to figure out which is I’d expect is great for kids as its more straight-forward in plot. The ending is pretty fast-paced and action-packed but the plot feels a little empty even if it does highlight family and environment messages.

There’s not a whole lot to say about this one. Overall, the voice acting and premise is pretty good. It also delivers a decent message. I’m going to look out to see whether the first film, Son of Bigfoot gets added on Netflix at some point so that I can check it out.

Flushed Away (2006)

Directors: David Bowers & Sam Fell

Voice Cast: Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellan, Jean Reno, Bill Nighy, Andy Serkis, Shane Richie

The story of an uptown rat that gets flushed down the toilet from his penthouse apartment, ending in the sewers of London, where he has to learn a whole new and different way of life. – IMDB

*Originally posted on Movies and Tea for Friday Film Club*

Following two stop-motion projects for Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit between Aardman Animations and Dreamworks Animations, their third and final project together was Flushed Away, an all-CGI animated film due to the story being focused around water which would affect the stop-motion elements.

Flushed Away tells the story of a pet rat, Roddy St-James (Hugh Jackman) living in a high-end Kensington home when he gets flushed down the toilet by a sewer rat Sid who decides to live his luxurious life especially with the World Cup Finals around the corner. Following the sewers and pipes, he ends up at Ratropolis which resembles a sewer version of the city of London where he meets Rita (Kate Winslet), a rat being chased down by Toad (Ian McKellan) for stealing a ruby and in the getaway runs off with an important cable which leads Toad and his French cousin Le Frog (Jean Reno) to go in a chase to retrieve it before the World Cup Finals in order to undergo a plan. Between going back to his luxurious life and protecting these new friends that he’s made, Roddy has to make a decision about whether being on the surface is better than the sewers while also trying to save Ratropolis for Toad’s plans.

Flushed Away is a charming film. Very much so when it was first released and still manages to keep its charm in this rewatch especially as it has a lot of pun jokes and movie puns added into the script which makes for quite an entertaining viewing. At the same time, there’s also a decent soundtrack which cues up in certain scenarios with the slugs that are all over the place singing which is both cute and very fitting. Plus, the art is really nice even if it does resemble the design of Wallace & Gromit character styling but the story keeps these characters in check especially with the actors involved doing the voices.

With that said, the cast is pretty good. Probably not as famous for some as they are now since they’ve moved on bigger projects since 2006 which gained them a lot more fame however, they are deliver pretty great voice acting. With Hugh Jackman as Roddy and Kate Winslet as Rita, two actor and actress that are really great in their own regard especially Kate Winslet which makes such a wonderful Rita (but then I do like Kate Winslet a lot). Toad and Le Frog, as the villains are voiced by Ian McKellan and Jean Reno respectively which are also veteran actors while Toad’s henchmen are voiced by Andy Serkis and Bill Nighy also two known names. Its a great cast of actors put together for this animated film that makes these characters so dynamic and fun to watch come to life even if some of the moments are both ridiculous but still very entertaining to watch.

In some ways, Flushed Away almost feels like a hidden gem. Not a lot of talk about it in general and yet there’s a lot of greatness to it both in cast and the animation as a whole. The story is pretty simple and straightforward and rather suitable for kids especially with the cute slugs and their singing however the dialogue is pretty clever overall. Lots of things done right in this one that makes it worth a watch!

Double Feature: Beyond The Lights (2014) & Yes God Yes (2019)

Welcome to the next double feature! This time, we’re looking at two films that feel like they don’t really have anything to do with each other except perhaps that they both feature a female lead as its main character and both also has female directors. The first is a 2014 romance-drama called Beyond the Lights and the second is 2019’s teen comedy-drama Yes God Yes.

Let’s check it out!

Beyond The Lights (2014)

Director (and writer): Gina Prince-Bythewood

Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver, Machine Gun Kelly, Danny Glover

The pressures of fame have superstar singer Noni on the edge, until she meets Kaz, a young cop who works to help her find the courage to develop her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be. – IMDB

Movies about singers who are trying to break out their set path to follow their own voice and setting it as a romantic drama isn’t exactly a unique premise. Beyond The Lights is very similar in that it sets out with a popular singer who goes back to her hotel room and ends up being found by a cop who is hired security sitting on the ledge of her balcony, seeming like she wants to jump. A cry for help that ends up being ignored except for the cop who reaches out to her and as they get closer, starts to give her to courage to be herself. In fact, Beyond The Lights is rather formulaic in the way that the whole story is executed. However, the whole beginning kickstarts the issue very quickly and is paced rather well to keep the two main characters to build in friendship and chemistry. At the same time also adding some more characters that are opposing to her new affections or choices like her manager and mother and a PR arranged relationship with a popular rapper. It creates enough conflict to pull the pieces together and build up a decent story.

Its really hard to discuss Beyond The Lights, mostly because this type of film is rather simplistic for the most part. The premise is rather formulaic and there is no doubt that the same formula is applied here. However, the standout point here is that they have a decent cast. The best one that holds the film together is the main actress playing Noni, the star of the show played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw who delivers a great performance. Playing opposite her is the cop Kaz played by Nate Parker, whom I haven’t seen anywhere before but has a decent chemistry with Noni even if his character does feel a little hollow in comparison. His main purpose is to be the motivation for Noni that sets her out of this breaking point and have the courage to set out on the path that she wants. Aside from that, playing manager mom is Minnie Driver who delivers a good performance as well. I sometimes feel that Minnie Driver is rather underrated especially as she shows up in some of the most unexpected movies every once in a while (at least on my watch list).

To be fair, I watched this movie because of Gugu Mbatha-Raw and because she delivers a strong performance, Beyond The Lights was a decent watch. It is a fairly predictable type of film and didn’t exactly feel like it landed in terms of being as touching as it should be but the movie does start off on the right foot especially on a scene so strong as being pushed to wanting to commit suicide despite all the attention around her but having no one really notice it. Because of that overall, the film is decent but the beginning is much stronger then the rest of the film. While there is some good chemistry and decent acting, it still feels familiar. Bottomline: if you like these types of movies, this one does a great job and is well worth of a watch and if you don’t, then just skip it as it probably won’t offer you anything too different in terms of premise.

Yes God Yes (2019)

Director (and writer): Karen Maine

Cast: Natalia Dyer, Timothy Simons, Wolfgang Novogratz, Francesca Reale, Susan Blackwell, Alisha Boe, Donna Lynne Champlin, Parker Wierling, Allison Shrum, Matt Lewis

After an innocent AOL chat turns racy, a Catholic teenager in the early 00s discovers masturbating and struggles to suppress her new urges in the face of eternal damnation. – IMDB

Yes God Yes is a fun comedy movie with a coming to age angle to it when a Catholic teenager is torn between her religious upbringings and her newly discovered sexual urges. From a good girl that everyone seems to blend in, she starts off being caught in a rumor that is a complete lie but tears apart some of her friendships before heading to church camp where she gets attracted to one of the camp counselors while being told how she should act in light of the religious belief. The whole concept is a lot of fun and a really great premise especially since it shows the shock of the first online encounter of someone sharing racy pictures as a teenager while at the same time, having that as a first step into something that no one around her talks about or when is talked about is considered to be wrong. However, the whole journey of the movie reveals that perhaps the people around her is rather hypocritical especially the people who emphasizes that sexual acts are wrong. Its a good end-game and message for the whole story that it wants to tell here.

There’s quite a lot to like about Yes God Yes. The first is, of course, the main actress who does carry a good part of the movie as it follows her character Alice and is from her point of view from the things she sees and showing the feelings that she has as well as the confusion of the things she encounters plus the dilemma of what is right and wrong when it comes to being faithful to her religious practice while following her own newly discovered urges. In that sense, Natalia Dyer does a fantastic job. To be fair, I did watch this movie because I wanted to see Natalia Dyer in something other than Nancy on Stranger Things (review) and it being a really different character from I Believe in Unicorns (review). The role feels really natural for her. There are some rather awkward moments but it is fittingly and believable for her character as well especially in her reactions and facial expressions.

Aside from her character, the other character of focus would be the character of Father Murphy, played by Timothy Simons who pretty much tries to constantly lecture and nudge Alice onto the right path especially as he tiptoes around the whole rumor that he’s heard of. His character is really on point as it does have a turning point and the dialogue between Father Murphy and Alice does shift and develop over the course of the film. There are some other characters of note that come along and add to the same effect but some of them feel not as important or worth a mention.

Overall, Yes God Yes is a really fun movie. The overall message is great and the take it uses and execution works pretty well. The movie isn’t long so is well-paced also. There are some little issues especially with the interaction with some other characters but whether you find it comedic or not is going to depend on what type of humor you’re into. For myself, some of the comedic parts landed and some of it wasn’t so much that it was funny but the part still felt relevant to the whole story. I’d say that this one is definitely a fun one to watch.

Run (2020)

Run (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Aneesh Chaganty

Cast: Sarah Paulson, Kiera Allen, Pat Healy, Erik Athavale, Sara Sohn, BJ Harrison

A homeschooled teenager begins to suspect her mother is keeping a dark secret from her. – IMDB

There always seems to be this focus on mother-daughter relationships and a fascination on these movies being chosen by Netflix (thinking back to the sci-fi Netflix film, I Am Mother (review)). Run focuses its main premise around a teenager, Chloe and her mom, Diane. Chloe is a girl that survived at birth but is ridden with a full bill of medical issues from asthma to being paralyzed in her legs. Despite that, she looks forward to her freedom when she gets to finally leave home and go to college however, its then that she starts something suspicious of her mom and starts to look deeper into it.

The movies focus on the two main characters and the build-up of how their relationship evolves over the course of the film is done fairly well. Plus, it also sees each of these characters’ development. All these are definitely strengths of the film especially when it gives the mom character played by the talented Sarah Paulson, who showed us how creepy she can be when she was in Netflix show, Ratched. Paired up with a younger actress Keira Allen, who does hold her own. The two play well off of each other. The scope of the film really is a focus on 2 characters and their confined life and routine that it actually makes it all the more engaging to watch how Chloe will react when she realizes the secrets and the changes she goes through.

The script isn’t exactly completely original as the twist doesn’t feel as shocking as it probably could be. There are some subtle creepy moments which was probably given away if you saw the trailer, and that’s something that I dislike about Netflix when its a highlighted film and just plays the trailer on its own. The trailer gives a lot of the movie away perhaps that’s why it feels not as exciting as it should be. However, thanks to these two characters and how they are scripted, the movie does have its own tension especially as things do ramp up in a decently-paced manner. Actually the movie sets up the norm of this family rather quickly and then sets up the suspicion and kicks things off from that point on rather quickly. It all comes to a rather intense ending especially when we look at the final ending which is one that is pretty good and has decent shock value.

Overall, as I think back to Run, the movie is at its best when the characters are playing off each other. There is no doubt that Sarah Paulson’s acting and grasp of her character is fantastic. It creates this dreading feeling that she is always watching which makes everything Chloe does to figure out the mystery feel even more tense especially with all her medical issues. Despite some of these ideas feeling slightly familiar, Run is still a decent well-paced psychological thriller that is still well worth a watch.

Tranquil Dreams Podcast #7: What’s Up 2021 Week 12 & 13

Welcome to the next episode of Tranquil Dreams Podcast!

This episode, I continue with the What’s Up 2021 as we dive into a double week recap for Weeks 12 & 13. No reading this week as there hasn’t been any progress in general however some fun bit to talk about as I discuss Little Nightmares 2, some horror movies from Shudder as well as a new Chinese series that has lived up to my anticipation so far. Theoretically the last double week recap as we get caught up with What’s Up! 

Thanks for listening! Hope you enjoy!

Related Links:

Little Nightmares 2 – Game Warp Podcast
Flushed Away – Friday Film Club

Music in the Episode:
There It Is by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4519-there-it-is
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Listen to the Show:
Anchor
Spotify
Google Podcasts
Breaker
RadioPublic