Netflix A-Z: Grace Unplugged (2013)

We’re back with the letter G in our Netflix selection.  I had to make a little switch because the original choice was The Great Gatsby and I’m trying to not have overlapping genre and The Great Gatsby is very much a romance which I just did in The Fault in Our Stars.  I don’t frequently make these changes and they shouldn’t occur again since I gave a quick look over the first round of Netflix A-Z remaining.  G had some choices, but I ended up choosing a smaller movie because The Fault in our Stars was a pretty known and popular choice.  Netflix has a lot of hidden gems so part of this is to try and dig those out.  My choice is Grace Unplugged. No idea what its about but it said inspirational and music and I like both of these sorts of movies.  I’m kind of a sucker for them.

Let’s check it out!

Grace Unplugged (2013)

Grace Unplugged

Director: Brad J. Silverman

Cast: AJ Michalka, James Denton, Kevin Pollak, Shawnee Smith, Michael Welch, Zane Holtz

Grace Trey is the ideal Christian teen who is also a phenomenal singer. But at the tender age of eighteen, after she gets the music break of a lifetime and is thrust into the “real world” – her faith is put to the test. – IMDB

Just in case you happened to land on my blog and reading this and I don’t dive in my religious beliefs, I’m not Christian.  I have no religion but I believe that there is a higher force.  What it is, I don’t know yet.  But I respect different religions and I have family that are Christians.  But to me, religion is really a belief and putting your faith in someone.  You can disagree, its fine.  I’m not here to disagree but that is what I’m saying is that even if you aren’t Christian, you can understand a movie like this one, Grace Unplugged.  There is not other way than to make these movies formulaic but for whatever reason, not even Grace discovering that she really was just lost in her faith and beliefs, it touched me.  Grace UnpluggedOne of the contributing factors of what makes Grace Unplugged engaging to watch is the very good cast.  I don’t know a whole lot of the cast in other movies, except for Kevin Pollak and Zane Holtz who both play a supporting role and Shawnee Smith and James Denton look incredibly familiar.  Oh, and who can forget Michael Welch who was in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.  Regardless, they all held cliche but convincingly good roles.  AJ Michalka plays Grace Trey who wants to be more than just the sidekick of her father in their church band.  She wants the world to know her ability and that she is more than the shadow under her father who was a one hit wonder who lost his path to drugs and alcohol back in the days and then fell out of the music business.  She wants to prove that she can do more and share her talent with the world.  Its a journey to like Grace’s character and that is all because of how the character is developed.  Like I said, it is a very formulaic sort of inspirational story for her but Grace starts off as a girl who is naive and doesn’t know much in the world and somewhat spoiled and stubborn is anything and she can be frustrating to watch but as you watch her character grow, even if it might be a little rushed and the turnpoint is not even complicated, she does grow and becomes someone we want to root for.

Grace Unplugged

As her parents roles, we have her father, John played by James Denton who plays a much more important supporting role.  Mom, Michelle is played by Shawnee Smith.  Mom plays a much smaller role in this movie than the father figure and just his influence to Grace.  In a way, I think this movie meant a little more to me because of the father-daughter relationship it had. I guess it brought back some feelings I had as I was growing up.  Let me tell you, the father daughter chemistry here is done pretty well and it convinced me enough that it made me a little emotional about the whole thing and I even got a little misty, no tears but just watery eyes, you know.

Aside from the characters being formed by a strong cast, Grace Unplugged has many good themes embedded in it. While it looks like a movie about belief and faith (for Christians) and its about being inspirational, there are themes of a family, authority and just dealing with all the issues we have in a coming of age story.  It forces in a little side story about love and the values of the music business.  Deal is: its about finding yourself and that is the true message in this movie.  Its finding who you are and not the value that other perceive you as and being true to who you want to be regardless of anything else.

Am I saying Grace Unplugged is perfect? No.  I’m just saying that its a decent inspirational movie with some good music that carries an effective message. Plus, its about finding where you belong in many ways and having the courage to face who you are and where your beliefs/faith lie. For me, the family angle was the most inspirational part of Grace Unplugged.  Sure, its a little cliche and follows a very simple formula that most inspirational/music/religious movies might follow but this one carries very good and believable performances that worked for me. I definitely think its worth a chance 🙂

Have you seen Grace Unplugged? Do you enjoy watching music-related and/or inspirational movies?

Any guesses for the H selection? Think adaptations from a novel.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane took forever to arrive in North America.  I think it finally got its US theatrical release two years ago? I can’t remember.  Of course, it didn’t hit a lot of theatres near me or I was incredibly busy, either/or, I can’t remember.  But some blogging buddies in UK were raving about this back then so I was really intrigued by this.  It finally  hit Netflix a few months ago and I had planned on seeing it a little earlier but it didn’t make the highest votes back in October for the Halloween marathon and then I typically take months of break from horror afterwards so that’s what I did.  I have no idea what happened to me during the cruise but I started craving watching horror movies while on vacation so here we are…I have a review for Honeymoon coming up as well.

Enough rambling, let’s check this out!!!

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)

all the boys love mandy lane

Director: Jonathan Levine

Cast: Amber Heard, Michael Welch, Anson Mount, Whitney Able, Edwin Hodge, Aaron Himelstein, Luke Grimes, Melissa Price, Adam Powell

 Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) is an orphan and the pretty teenage girl and a virgin that all the guys want but she avoids them and hangs out with the not so popular, Emmet (Michael Welch).  However, after an accident at a party, she stops talking to Emmet and befriends Red, Chloe, Marlin, Jake and Bird. When they all decide to head out to Red’s family ranch for a weekend away, they meet the ranch hand Garth (Anson Mount).  As the night progresses and the boys want to get Mandy’s attention, things start falling apart as their group starts dropping one by one.

all the boys love mandy lane

I don’t have quite the same good vibes as I’ve read about All the Boys Love Mandy Lane.  Its a little mixed.  The question I keep asking myself between finishing the movie and writing this up is: Does a really good finale make up for a not so enjoyable beginning? That’s a valid question, right? While I try to decide on how I feel, let’s take a deeper look at this.

There is no doubt that Amber Heard has a sweet and sexy look, I guess.  I have girl crushes and she’s not one of them but her role as Mandy Lane was pretty good.  She definitely was a plus in this one.  My biggest issue with All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is the fact that it exaggerates (at least I hope) the high school/teen phase stupidity.  I didn’t like any of the characters and pretty much all the deaths were well-deserved because A) stupid choices and B) asshole, jerk, douchebag, bitch component. I’m not being mean and I normally don’t have an evil heart that wishes for bad things to even the worst people.  These characters were downright annoying and the fact that it bothered my boyfriend a whole lot made it even worse because I had a whiny viewer right next to me who was complaining about the stupidity even more.  Its hard to like a movie where it works so hard to make these characters horrible and well, Mandy Lane just so sensible, in contrast?

Although, I think I’m getting the purpose of that right now as I write this. Hmmm….

all the boys love mandy lane

But, the film doesn’t trick us.  Fairly soon in this, we start seeing the plot unravel.  The first reveal is definitely no surprise and there’s even one creepy moment that might take some creepiness, even though it was expected if you watch enough teen slashers or slasher in general.  One thing, I do really like is the location itself.  The secluded ranch location might not be completely original but the way its filmed and the tone is done rather well. There is no denying that I enjoyed that aspect.

Now, the ending.  It was unexpected and if you think back, you’ll see that the questions you might have asked as to why certain characters made certain decisions suddenly seemed to piece together.  Much like, how I liked the contrast in the characters developed here, as shallow as they are and ridiculously illogical at times but isn’t that the essence of slasher flicks? While I’m talking about character development, the pacing of the movie was done pretty well also as to how they set up the whole movie to help us connect a little more with who Mandy Lane is and this girl that all the boys are obsessing over. Another aspect of slasher flicks are the kills.  While I thought there were some creative ideas here, some of them are still rather predictable.

Overall, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane comes up right down the middle for me.  On one hand, I didn’t like the characters in the beginning and it kind of made me dislike the movie.  Luckily, I made it through the first half, as the plot started revealing clues to build up to that final reveal, it started to get better and the best part of this movie was how they chose to end it.  That ending was unexpected and just out of the world good.  However, conclusion in this is that: while I didn’t dislike All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, just for an epic plot twist ending, I probably wouldn’t visit this a second time.  But, it is worth it to check out for that ending, at least once 😉

Have you seen All the Boys Love Mandy Lane? Thoughts? Did you like or dislike it?