Netflix A-Z: Everything Before Us (2015)

I’m going to go on record right now to say that I’ve been looking forward to watch this since I first saw the trailer last year. Of course, things got busy and it kept slipping my mind to get this online to watch earlier but things always work out and it landed on Netflix! I’m not going to lie that this was part of the reason why Indie films was the theme for this round of A-Z. If you haven’t seen any videos of Wong Fu Productions, its probably because you haven’t been following me for that long. Or you just don’t care for it or you just missed the post. Whichever the reason is, I’m a huge fan of their short videos. My fave still goes out to this one that I did a post in my early days of blogging HERE.

Everything Before Us (2015)

Everything Before Us

Director: Wesley Chan & Philip Wang

Cast: Aaron Yoo, Brittany Ishibashi, Brandon Soo Hoo, Victoria Park, Randall Park, Ki Hong Lee, Chris Riedell, Joanna Sotomura, Katie Savoy

The Department of Emotional Integrity (DEI) documents all relationship activity. A ‘relationship score’ is given to keep people accountable for their choices. The score is public for all to see, and affects various aspects of daily life. Two couples, teenagers and early 30s, face different but intersecting challenges in their relationships within the rules of the DEI.-IMDB

 Everything Before Us takes an original take on love and relationships. Can you imagine if a Department of Emotional Integrity actually existed? Love wouldn’t be exactly love because now, an individual may force themselves to be happy in a relationship or stay in one to raise their score in order to keep a job or sustain a certain level of lifestyle. Its almost like the privileges of being a part of a club or being rich. Our relationships would affect our score and that score can affect getting a better job. Everything in a relationship and seeing a person is not about the person but they turn into a number. You can’t take risks and you are judged because of a number. The feelings would be overly calculated and maybe even coerced. Its on this foundation that we should start this review. Everything Before Us sets up a feasible system for us to view the parallel stories of a young couple about to experience a long distance relationship and a broken up couple that is reuniting to sort our their issues and ends up finding something more perhaps.

Everything Before Us

Everything Before Us may be an incredibly small film. Wong Fu Productions is kind of a big deal if you know about them. In my circle of friends, only a few do talk about their work. For me, I’ve been following them for a while so its amazing to see them make a film. They are really great at building meaningful and fun short films/snippets/scenarios and I’ve always wondered how it would turn out as a full feature. Everything Before Us is one that makes me want to see what they have planned in the future.

Like I said, its a small independent film and probably a lot of you haven’t heard of it before. But it does have some familiar faces. One of the more popular would be Aaron Yoo who has been in a lot of movies I adore like Disturbia and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. He does a fine job here as Ben. We follow his character for a lot of the movie as he suffers from the low EI score and has to figure all this out. Right next to him in  popularity would be Ki Hong Lee who has a smaller role as a teacher’s assistant is known recently for The Maze Runner movies. This role might a little empty as it felt slightly as a buffer role to just keep the story rolling. Also known to me was Brandon Soo Hoo who plays Seth, the boyfriend in the younger couple and I know him from Ender’s Game and the Netflix series From Dusk Till Dawn. I personally think Brandon Soo Hoo has some acting chops that needs to be refined over time but definitely the potential is there. And its obvious that he does a fine job here.

Everything Before Us

However, no romantic drama is about just one angle. Its how the couple do together. Brandon Soo Hoo’s Seth was opposite of Victoria Park’s Haley. Their young love is cute and fun but also deteriorates with lack of communication and distance and different goals. They took a risk bravely and never thought they would see their love end when they registered naively. However, they also demonstrate the true essence of how relationships should be. Its a chance and a risk. Its genuine and honest and its takes hard work to maintain. All of this is shown extremely well through the script and the characters themselves.

On the other hand, crossing their paths is the other couple who once used to be like them but not anymore and have moved on, Aaron Yoo’s Ben and Brittany Ishibashi’s Sara. The standout of this story goes to them. The story seems to focus on them a lot and maybe because they are closer to my age that I can relate more to where they are after separating and both trying hard to rebuild their lives and follow their own dreams and then having to face their past again. They have learned to control their feelings better and make better choices for the sake of their future in terms of their EI score but it is also an inner struggle for them. The way their relationship is shown is beautiful and bittersweet and filled with all sorts of memorable moments that tugs at our heartstrings a little.

Everything Before Us

In the end, nothing quite wraps up Everything Before Us like this quote in one of the last bits:

…you guys – try to make love easier. But you’re missing the whole point. It’s not supposed to be – – easy. It’s supposed to test you. Break you down and hurt like hell. And who you choose to go through that with – that’s whats really important.” -Ben (Aaron Yoo), Everything Before Us

Overall, Everything Before Us is a pretty great romantic drama bringing up a very good message on relationships and loved delivered with some charming characters that are real enough for us to relate to, whether its the younger couple jumping optimistically into a relationship or the adult couple healing and moving on from a relationship that meant a lot to them. While there are certain roles that felt slightly meaningless, there are other roles that help push the story forward in this meaningful and heartfelt story about two people, further enforcing that there is no risk management in the world of love and relationships.

Have you seen Everything Before Us?
Can you guess what movie is for F selection. Hint: Netflix Original Movie

TV Binge & Netflix A-Z: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt [Season 2, 2016]

In true TV Binge glory is the next Netflix A-Z selection for U.  You got it! The newly released Season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  In case you missed it, I was a huge fan of the first season. You can read the review HERE.  I was literally counting down the days to when this would be available on Netflix and I started it up right when I got home from work that Friday night.  I know its already a month or something since its been out but I’ve been working on this new system of having a lot of backlog ready to be written so it gives me time to give whatever I watch a chance to sink in and think about before writing about it.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt [Season 2, 2016]

unbreakable kimmy schmidt

Creator: Robert Carlock & Tina Fey

Cast: Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Jane Krakowski, Carol Kane, Sara Chase, Ki Hong Lee, Mike Carlsen, Tina Fey, Lauren Adams, Amy Sedaris

Its hard to not fall in love with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  The characters are too lovable in their silly and outrageous way.  Its fantastic to open up the show with the same theme song that caught me in the first season.  It really shows the tone this series is aiming for.  I just absolutely love it from its hilarious characters to Netflix letting us Kimmy-fy the page which makes it all sparkly and awesome.  I’m not a pink person but Kimmy Schmidt and its characters are all just sparkly and infectiously fun! 🙂

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

In Season 2, we pretty much pick up from where we left off in the first one.  Titus is still dreaming about pursuing his career in singing on Broadway or something along those lines.  Kimmy is adapting to her new life in New York and the modern technology and getting over Dong who married to an older lady to not get deported.  Titus and Kimmy’s landlord, Lillian is still awkward and hilarious and this season, she’s all about saving the change in her neighborhood. While, the ex-Mrs. Voorhees goes back home to live with her parents and embrace her roots but that is a whole new life to her also, while avoiding her divorcee life of having not been split with more money and scared with the reality she will have to face if she returns to New York.  Of course, she eventually does and with Kimmy’s encouragement, tries to be independent instead of a gold digger.  While this is Kimmy growing up from her 15 year old mentality to a grown-up and her adventures, its equally about the people around her and their adventures because in a way, even if they have been living in this reality all their lives, they still each have their own delusions and live in their own fantasy and they are each growing as a person as well.  Each is as naive as Kimmy is and its funny to watch their endeavors.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt always seems to surprise us with some popular cast, just like Tina Fey who is the show creator takes on a much more involved role this season and no one delivers her content quite like she does. I’m a huge fan of Tina Fey so it was a welcome addition to see her as a psychiatrist that helps Kimmy Schmidt but also has her own issues.  At the same time, we have Lisa Kudrow that comes in as Kimmy’s mom that the season trickles with information that its building to her facing her eventually.  At the same time, we have Anna Camp drop in for a few episodes.  If you don’t know who she is, she’s in one of my favorite movies, Pitch Perfect. And there’s Jeff Goldblum who plays a Dr. Phil-esque type of guy.  Funny how he’s gone such a long way from what I remember him in Jurassic Park. Then, there’s David Cross.  While I haven’t seen a whole lot of movies that I remember him profoundly other than maybe Alvin and the Chipmunks, I know I’ve seen in other stuff that has made me laugh.

unbreakable kimmy schmidt 3

You know what? I don’t want to ruin Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and let you just have fun! If you haven’t checked it out, you should! Overall, Season 2 was a ton of fun.  The cast is still as fun and charming as always.  The comedy works (for me).  Yet, there’s still a lot of good things that we can learn from this series.  Plus, it has a ton of really great cameo roles.  Maybe some of them will return. Who knows, right? Right now, I just can’t wait for the next season, which is going to feel so long!

Have you seen Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? 

The Maze Runner (2014)

Last night, I finally made my way to the theatres again.  This time its with my girl friends.  We gathered to go see The Maze Runner.  3 of us (myself included) are avid readers so we’ve heard or read the book.  I actually reviewed it right HERE if you’d like to check it out. I actually liked it so much that I went to look for the trailer and was pretty intrigued by it so I went off and did a post in my other blog, Days Nights and Daydreams for my Out of This World Travels (which unfortunately hasn’t had a new location yet) but that post is right HERE!

Now that I’m shamelessly linked up all that I could, its time to head over to one of the book to big screen adaptation that I’ve been desperately anticipating (and hoping that gets it right) since I finished reading that book, while holding back from reading the next one because I don’t know how the movie will end.  Keep in mind that despite the anticipation, I really didn’t know what to expect.

Lets check it out!

maze runner posterDirector: Wes Ball

Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, Blake Cooper, Will Poulter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster

Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) wakes up going up a dark elevator and at the top is welcomed by a bunch of boys called The Gladers and a enclosed area surrounded by a maze.  Every boy went through the same thing: they have no idea what this place is, how they got there or anything else except their names.  For the last 3 years, the only ones allowed are the Runners and they explore the maze outside between sunrise and sunset when the doors are open to find a way out, except they haven’t had any luck.  Thomas’s arrival changes a lot when things start happening out of order and a few days after, a girl, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) sent up saying that she is the last one ever and wakes up calling Thomas’s name.   Together with Alby (Aml Ameen), the leader of the pack; Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) the second in command; Minho (Ki Hong Lee), the keeper of the Runners; the maze and the Glades dynamics start changing and Thomas convinces the boys that the only hope for them now is to find a way out and maybe get some answers along the way.

Maze Runner

The Maze Runner, as mentioned before, is based on the book with the same name written by James Dashner.  It is part of a trilogy and from my research of the director and actors, they seem to be in pre-production for the sequel.  Movie adaptations of books are pretty tricky especially since you are trying to appeal to the reader’s imagination of what they have interpreted.  The Maze Runner does shift a few details around to help the story flow better as a movie and also the ending has a few changes.  I’m really bad with remembering details so if you remember something differently that was changed, you can always share that with me. I never expect a movie to be a carbon copy of the book so to be honest, I really enjoyed The Maze Runner.  The changes they made, the cast and the whole set-up of The Glades and even the Griever may not have been reflected exactly as I had expected but it all worked well together. I read the book only 2 months before and still I was still feeling the danger in the situation even if I knew where all this was headed. That is a very good thing.

Maze Runner

One of the best points of the movie is The Glades.  If anything, that should fulfill the imagination of the readers because its fairly close to the book (at least how I interpreted it).  The Glades is simple and the mechanics of it all.  It really gives a good idea of how things are.  As Thomas goes into the maze (because you know he will or The Maze Runner wouldn’t exist), the maze also matches a lot of how the book describes it.  Pat on the back to the production team for having this set because for me, when you adapt any source material, the one thing that should stay the same is where it was set.  You can swap anything around but at the very least, keep that. The Glades were gloomy but simple and self-sustaining while the maze was dark and mysterious.  Those are the feelings you should have when you see it.

Maze Runner

The cast are fairly unknown to me, with the exception of Will Poulter. Everyone does fairly well and falls into believable characters.  The main guy is Thomas played by Dylan O’Brien and he does a great job.  For some guy that I’ve never seen before, he picks up this role, doesn’t exaggerate and delivers a pretty good character.  Thomas is the key to the puzzle and we watch as he mans up to the unknown that he’s tossed in but he also knows that somehow he is connected to the whole situation along with Teresa, the leading girl played by Kaya Scodelario, who is also unknown to me.  Funny enough, I think that Kaya Scodelario’s Teresa still needs a little work because her character didn’t do much for me, just like something was missing.  It could also be that she was introduced fairly later in the movie.  However, thanks to the rest of the boys especially Minho (played by Ki Hong Lee), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Chuck (Blake Cooper), who are fantastic characters both on screen and in the book, they all bring a touch of something different to balance out the whole story.  And then we have Will Poulter who is something of the opposition/resistance of change (some would say the antagonist) of the story and he does a fine job as well. In this whole crowd, I think the best performance goes to Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Dylan O’Brien followed closely by Ki Hong Lee.

Maze Runner

The Maze Runner is another dystopian story set in the future when the world has literally collapsed.  However, it also holds a dangerous and thrilling premise that has been adapted quite well onto the big screen.  With a good adaptation, strong performances and a dark and mysterious setting and a handful of unanswered questions plus an ending ripe for a sequel, it proves to be one of the better adaptations I’ve seen in the recent years.  It shows a lot of promise (despite some minor flaws) and it was a pretty thrilling movie experience to be absorbed into this story.  I definitely hope that the sequel does happen because I look forward to it.  Meanwhile, I’m going to be getting that sequel in the trilogy to read 😉

As a closing thought, one we discussed with the girls, if our world were to be completely in dystopia in the future, doesn’t the future of teens look so grim? They always get thrown into this life-threatening ordeals from The Hunger Games, Divergent and now the Maze Runner.  They never catch a break, eh? But then, I guess it is the target market, right? Its helps young adults bond with the characters more. Maybe?

Have you seen or read The Maze Runner? What did you think about it? If you haven’t seen it, does it sound appealing to you?