Double Feature: Over The Moon (2020) & Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Welcome to the next double feature! This time is something of a musical double feature as we look at Netflix animated film Over The Moon and the Mamma Mia sequel, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Let’s check it out!

Over The Moon (2020)

Directors: Glen Keane, John Kahrs

Voice Cast: Cathy Ang, John Cho, Edie Ichioka, Ruthie Ann Miles, Sandra Oh, Robert G. Chiu, Margaret Cho, Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong

In this animated musical, a girl builds a rocket ship and blasts off, hoping to meet a mythical moon goddess. – IMDB

Over The Moon tells the story of a Chinese girl Fei Fei who is told the story of the Moon Goddess who takes a potion of immortality and is sent to live on the moon with her Jade Rabbit and waits for her lover there. A story that has its own different versions but has its own set of life lessons. Living with her parents who make moon cakes for a living, her life eventually falls apart when her mother is sick and eventually leaves her and her father as well a little pet bunny Bungee. Years later on Moon Festival, her father introduces her to Mrs. Zhong, a woman that will be her stepmother and Chin, a weird little boy who thinks he has the superpower to run through walls to be his stepbrother. Her father and family judge her for her belief in Chang’e and she goes to build a rocket to go to the moon which takes her a crazy journey when Chang’e and the moon isn’t all that she imagined, especially when she finds that Chin has tagged along for the ride. 

Using the legend of the Moon Goddess and a quick look at the Moon Festival as a jumping point for the story, Over The Moon’s delivers a message about moving on and family. With some colorful imaginative parts especially from the part of building the rocket and flying to the moon and the whole sequence on the moon with Chang’e and all of the moon’s occupants, it’s a fun little adventure and the studio’s take on what the Moon Goddess is doing after being sent to the moon. The animation and creativity in those sequences are pretty good but perhaps the parts of the animation with the Fei Fei’s mom at the beginning with some watercolor/Chinese painting coming to life stands out even more just based on how beautiful those scenes are executed. 

Over The Moon also has a great voice cast with John Cho, Margaret Cho, Sandra Oh and Ken Jeong even if some of the roles might be a little smaller. Fei Fei is voiced by Cathy Ang and does a pretty good job much like Chang’e is voiced by Phillipa Soo. This is a musical so the songs are pretty fun for the most part. It’s not quite as memorable as other musicals but some of the scenes are pretty nice as well. Talking about voice casts and languages, the film actually took some time for the Mandarin voice casts and script to have little changes that cater to their own audience especially with the comedic elements, which is a cool little detail seeing as this is American-Chinese but it is based on an animated film set in China. 

Overall, Over The Moon is a fun little animated film. It might not be particularly as deep and probably caters more to children with its cute little elements of Bungee and the dog on the moon Gobi and other little colorful creatures on the moon. It is rather heartwarming.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Director (and co-writer): Ol Parker

Cast: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Andy Garcia, Alex Davies, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Dominic Cooper, Julie Walters, Christine Baranski, Hugh Skinner, Pierce Brosnan, Josh Dylan, Jeremy Irvine, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Cher, Meryl Streep

Five years after the events of Mamma Mia! (2008), Sophie prepares for the grand reopening of the Hotel Bella Donna as she learns more about her mother’s past. – IMDB

Being a fan of the first movie, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is released ten years after and its a rather good look as the characters have all gotten older as well just like Sophie and her return. In some ways, the movie does feel like a fun little jump back into the story especially for fans of the musical since they got back a lot (if not all) of the original cast of the first one and the sequel adds a little something as it fills in those pieces of the first movie, like how Donna met her three suitors and ended up with Sophie and staying on the island. For sure, its not exactly a needed story to tell but as much as I had my own doubts about it, it still has that feel-good vibe of the first film that left me really happy as I watched the musical and the musical numbers play out one by one.

With that said, one of the best things for sequels is having the original cast show up for this one. It shows the family essentially being separate but each on a different path in this future but the island and the family pulling them all back together. These characters are rather fun and charming. Fluctuating between the past and the present does add a lot of fun to it. The younger cast still manages to carry the film fairly well especially as Lily James plays the young Donna. It also comes with a cameo of Cher and Meryl Streep which is also pretty cool.

Overall, I honestly feel that Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is for the fans of the original film. If you didn’t care of it, this sequel probably will do nothing for you. While its story is fairly straight forward that you don’t really need to know the first film to catch on to the story (maybe it will hinder the relationships of the characters in the present time), its still just a feel-good musical with those fun ABBA songs. Its just a fun time for those who enjoy musicals. Plus, I really liked the Waterloo performance in those outfits at the end of the first film and they did it again for this one in a slightly different way which was also entertaining.

Double Feature: Work It (2020) & The Prom (2020)

Today’s double feature is a rather musical pairing and both are Netflix films released in 2020. The first is a dance film called Work It and the second is the recently released musical The Prom. Let’s check it out!

Work It (2020)

Director: Laura Terruso

Cast: Sabrina Carpenter, Jordan Fisher, Kalliane Bremault, Briana Andrade-Gomes, Liza Koshy, Julliard Pembroke, Michelle Buteau, Drew Ray Tanner, Sabrina Snieckus

When Quinn Ackerman’s admission to the college of her dreams depends on her performance at a dance competition, she forms a ragtag group of dancers to take on the best squad in school…now she just needs to learn how to dance. – IMDB

Work It is mostly a dance film and yet its a comedy about a girl with perfect grades who realize that its not enough to get into college and as an extracurricular decides to go to her best friend’s dance troupe which doesn’t take her so she tries to put together her own group of misfits. The group itself has all different styles of dance and yet the biggest problem is that she can’t dance and needs to start from zero and its zero like finding her music flow and rhythm. That is the comedy part.

With any of these films, you need to throw in a little romantic flare and that’s when Quinn and Jake come into a picture: a girl who can’t dance and a renowned dancer that disappeared off the dance competition circuit after an injury. Its hard to talk about Work It without criticizing its issues but then that is usually the case for dance films, much like Step Up franchise, and yet, Step Up is one that I can see the flaws and still like it for exactly what it is. The same applies for Work It, except it suffers from coming later than a wave of better executed films. What is good is that it adds in those comedy moments and changes the vibe of the film a little. Simply put, its a lot of the same when it comes to these sorts of movies and it is fairly predictable especially when there doesn’t even feel like there’s a lot of dance sequences.

Other predictability, the execution is fairly unbalanced. The movie seems to want to do everything so its structured to go through the motions. Starting off with the characters and then what they need to achieve, the tear in the friendship and struggle to get their act together and then the big win at the end. Other than that, it adds in a little unpolished romantic flare here and then some bad dancing from Sabrina Carpenter’s character to her finally getting it. While the cast itself does what they need to do whether its Sabrina Carpenter or Jordan Fisher and even the sassy other team’s leader Julliard Pembroke, played by Keiynan Lonsdale or the best friend Jasmine, played by Liza Koshy, the script itself does have some lacking moments as well.

Work It is one of those films that is really for the soundtrack or some light entertainment. Its not meant to be reviewed in depth. Its a simple movie and a familiar sort of dance movie storyline. While I did have some cons more than pros, I do enjoy dance films so this one is just some harmless entertainment that you can leave for a rainy day keeping in mind that you do enjoy dance movies. If you don’t, then this one won’t do anything for you.

The Prom (2020)

Director: Ryan Murphy

Cast: Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Jo Ellen Pellman, Ariana DeBose, Andrew Rannells

A troupe of hilariously self-obsessed theater stars swarm into a small conservative Indiana town in support of a high school girl who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom. – IMDB

Looking at the cast, The Prom is absolutely star studded with some big names and most of them, I do quite enjoy so the movie popped onto Netflix and I didn’t know about it in advance but I saw those stars, that it was a musical and it was an immediate play. Adapted from a Broadway musical of the same name, The Prom does come at a good time when the world is talking about LGBT rights a lot. I haven’t heard of The Prom before but at first glance, The Prom’s story almost feels like Footloose where that one is about not being allowed to dance, The Prom is about the PTA trying to stop one of the students to take her girlfriend to prom and wanting to cancel prom altogether. In the face of this serious matter, a bunch of theater stars comes in to try to fight for a cause to help themselves get back some positive press. Its hard to determine whether the journey for the film is for the girl, Emma or the troupe as both of them do have their moments of growth.

Being a fan of musical films, The Prom is the type of movie that I’d like and it is quite enjoyable. Most of the stars here have been part of musicals before so the talent is there. Perhaps what stands out more is some of the awkward moments between characters. It definitely is scripted to be awkward and was delivered pretty well. The Prom has a decent storyline even if sometimes the events feel slightly disjointed like its being pushed along so its forced to progress faster. What makes this film shine is truly some of the stars here delivering some great performances. Other than Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, they are joined by Andrew Rannells as this performer that’s wants to hang with them and adds comedy. There’s a lot of characters so its hard to say whether anyone had enough time for their characters to develop enough but Kerry Washington’s parent character against the whole prom situation and Keegan-Michael Key’s principal character were also done really well. In all honestly, the younger characters also did fairly well and Emma’s character is a much quieter one despite the unfair situation that she’s part of.

The Prom is an alright musical. Everyone does a good job and the story is pretty nice as well as how the characters develop throughout. It is structured well and the scenes are executed pretty good as well. Where I have issues with it is that it feels like it lacks the uniqueness to make it more memorable. None of the songs stuck in my head even if they were rather fun to listen and watch the choreography/performances in the moment. I know that I had fun watching it the first time and yet, it doesn’t make me want to go back to watch it a second time and yet, I can’t quite pinpoint where its lacking as everything seems to done good, just put together, it seems to not quite get that excitement of a musical for myself.

Double Feature: Operation Santa Drop (2020) & Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

I’m super behind on these Christmas reviews going out so I figured that I’d double down to get all of them out. Back to the double feature reviews, we’re in for a Netflix Original double feature for holiday films.

Hope everyone’s having a Merry Christmas Eve and lets check out these two movies!

Operation Santa Drop (2020)

Director: Martin Wood

Cast: Kat Graham, Alexander Ludwig, Trezzo Mahoro, Bethany Brown, Rohan Campbell, Virginia Madsen, Jeff Joseph, Janet Kidder

Congressional aide Erica (Kat Graham) forgoes family Christmas to travel at her boss’s behest. At a beachside Air Force base, she clashes with Capt. Andrew Jantz (Alexander Ludwig), who knows her assignment is finding reasons to defund the facility. – IMDB

Operation Christmas Drop takes a tropic setting for Christmas, much like last year’s Holiday in the Wild (review). In this case, its about the Air Force base doing a good deed on their own means but the facility being on the verge of possibility defunded because of it. Its pretty much a holiday romantic comedy with a bigger cause at heart which has all the right intentions however also feels very familiar. Of course, if these types of movies are your cup of tea, its definitely going to work other than perhaps the computer animated gecko sitting on the wall that looks the most out of place. In the current state of pandemic across the world, it perhaps helps that this sort of destination is one to look forward to in the future when things get back to some form of normal.

Its hard to criticize Operation Christmas Drop. In many ways, the meaning of Christmas and the good deed makes this a rather feel good movie. However, putting it in the context of the romance at heart, it feels a little light. The chemistry is on and off between the two main leads and yet, the whole exploring the place and mostly the character Erica, played by Kat Graham does change her heart as she would have to for to movie to have to fight against her boss, the congresswoman played by Virginia Madsen. The charm is really in how it portrays the villagers and the people in it, plus the setting gives it a lot of extra points. The whole Christmas Drop scene might be the most fun to watch.

Operation Christmas Drop is an alright movie. Its pretty harmless overall and has a decent story to tell especially since its based on a true situation which it makes a point to highlight at the end of the movie. Nameless heroes are the best ones to talk about and possibly the most heartwarming stories. Its very fitting for a holiday film, even if it doesn’t hit all the notes for the romantic arc.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

Director (and writer): David E. Talbert

Cast: Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Bonneville, Anika Noni Rose, Madalen Mills, Phylicia Rashad, Ricky Martin, Justin Cornwell, Sharon Rose, Lisa Davina Phillip, Kieron L. Dyer

An imaginary world comes to life in a holiday tale of an eccentric toymaker, his adventurous granddaughter, and a magical invention that has the power to change their lives forever. – IMDB

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is a musical fantasy film. I’m all about Netflix putting together these musical films. I also caught up with The Prom shortly after this one but that’s for another post. While its not exactly a Christmas movie in the conventional way, it is one that’s full of magic: the magic of creation especially in terms of toy creations. Its about family and making peace. There’s a bit of silliness to the whole situation as well and some imagination elements but its a fun journey to say the least.

There’s a lot to love about Jingle Jangle even if there are some small pacing issues perhaps and the story is rather predictable in where it will go. However, the musical numbers are really fun and I’m also a sucker for those big musical scenes which almost feels like flash mob. The music itself is good as well. The cast performs it very well. There are some memorable songs in the mix.

Perhaps one of the things that also stand out is that the cast is exceptional, at least to me. Forest Whitaker takes on the main inventor role Jeronicus that has lost his magic after his creation ideas are stolen from his apprentice and at the verge of losing his store that has now turned into a pawnshop, his granddaughter is sent over with the same type of inventive bone as him to warm his life up and also bring back his magic. With a new young boy that wants to be his apprentice in the mix and the postal service lady that wants to win his heart in the most entertaining way and so much personality, it also brings into the mix of Keegan-Michael Key as Gustafson, his apprentice that was actually mislead by Jeronicus’ invention Don Juan Diego who has so much of a human conscious that it doesn’t want to be replicated. Don Juan Diego is animated and voiced by Ricky Martin who does a fantastic job as well. Not to mention that the young stars including the main lead of the granddaughter Journey by Madalen Mills.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is really quite the fun spectacle. The magic and the music and the characters all are quite the charming. Not to mention the setting of the village is nice as well as the toy design that is in the making turns out to be this uber cute Wall-E-esque looking robot. There may be some flaws with this and it has some overacting here and there but then musicals always seem to have that sort of feeling to it and its those moments that blend well with the musical numbers and boosting the story elements.

Double Feature: Pitch Perfect 3 (2017) & What A Girl Wants (2003)

Welcome to the next double feature! This time is a rather female character driven combo with the Barden Bellas final hurrah in Pitch Perfect 3 and Amanda Bynes in What A Girl Wants. It seems like a decent pairing, don’t you think?

Pitch Perfect 3 (2017)

pitch perfect3

Director: Trish Sie

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hailee Steinfeld, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, John Lithgow, Matt Lanter, Guy Burnet, DJ Khaled, Ruby Rose

Following their win at the world championship, the now separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices. – IMDB

Pitch Perfect 3 has really just been riding on the success of its first film (review) but for myself, it feels pretty much like the Step Up franchise. In Pitch Perfect’s case, its all about the acappella musical elements and the charming cast of Bellas that come with it. Pitch Perfect 3 is a farewell movie and while the story itself is rather disposable as its yet another competition that they need to try to win but this time, its a little different because its about finding closure for all of the main players: Becca, Chloe, Amber, Amy as they move on with their lives from this family to each seeing those problems that make them who they are. Its a bit messy and brushed over quickly for all those involved, mostly because for most of them they never had tackled personal problems for these characters.

Looking at the cast here, which retains itself from the Barden Bellas of Pitch Perfect 2 (review) but as they exit their lives after university and the many struggles of finding their own identity and purpose after their success, each have their own path right from the start and of course, their own issues that make them want to go on this final hurrah for them to compete again together. In many ways, Becca has gone full circle from the beginning to the end of this film where she finally finds success in what she wanted at the start in some form but now its her loyalty to the Bellas that holds her back, a bit of a reverse situation. Bellas is a wonderful little group of friends as they are unique in their different ways and different backgrounds, nothing more apparent than in this one, even if it does piece it together oddly.

Of course, aside from the Bellas, we still have the supporting characters including the staple characters of Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins characters who have that additional comedic relief. On top of that adding in some other talent from DJ Khaled playing himself and a few side characters with Matt Lanter as the Bellas military guide and something of a bodyguard. The other groups competing for that one spot include Ruby Rose playing the lead singer of Evermoist. I remember that year, Ruby Rose ended up in three different movie sequels which was pretty fantastic as I love her style even if the Bellas were the main focus here. Of course, you also had John Lithgow sporting an Australian accent as Amy’s dad who “isn’t a very nice man”(quoting the line she uses to describe him).

Overall, Pitch Perfect 3 is quite a mixed basket but the musical elements are still there if you like these movies. The Bellas are still quite fun to watch and they get themselves into some serious trouble and Amy really steps up. At the same time, Its the right time to wrap this whole thing up and they do it really well in the credits with what looks like bloopers and extras from the production of the three movies together which is a nice path down memory lane.

What A Girl Wants (2003)

what a girl wants

Director: Dennie Gordon

Cast: Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, Kelly Preston, Eileen Atkins, Anna Chancellor, Jonathan Pryce, Oliver James, Christina Cole

An American teenager learns that her father is a wealthy British politician running for office. Although she is eager to find him, she realizes it could cause a scandal and cost him the election. – IMDB

If you put together a dash of Mamma Mia (review) and then adds in a dose of The Princess Diaries, you will get something like What A Girl Wants but maybe a little less refined. Rightfully so because this was movie before Lovewrecked (review) earlier than the movie that I knew Amanda Bynes from, She’s All That. However, it does feel that Amanda Bynes always has that same type of character that she played really well in the 2000s teen movies that just seemed to work for her. Along with that, she did have Colin Firth playing her father with does boost this movie a little despite its rather run of the mill story.

With that said, Amanda Bynes plays Daphne, an American teenager who ends up reaching out to his British wealthy politician father who doesn’t know he exists. While she doesn’t want to lose her unique personality and herself in this new world, she soon realizes that to exist in her father’s world, she may have to in this part fish out of water story as well with adapting to some of the British terms and upper class etiquette. Colin Firth playing her father actually is an opposite type of character who is more reserved and contains his feelings and affection as well but soon also shows the side of him that Daphne’s mother loved, especially as the whole secret of who broke apart her parents in the first place comes to light and a few secret motives, that are actually quite obvious reveals itself.

There’s not a whole lot to say about What A Girl Wants. For people who like Amanada Bynes, this should fit the bill as its an earlier roles of more popular roles like She’s The Man but its still very much her style of humor and acting. At the same time, there are some very predictable moments and the script isn’t that great but it has some fun moments and Amanda Bynes’ character Daphne has some good empowering characteristics that I did like. Some good, some bad, I’d say its somewhere in the middle: pretty much one to save for a rainy day.

Thats it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two 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?

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: Lady Bird (2017) & A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (2019)

DOUBLEFEATURE (76)

Welcome back to Double Features! Its been a crazy 2 months or so of festival season so double features has been tucked in the back. Its December so also time for the festive films to start. Slim pickings most of the time so this time, we’ll be having a little mix and mash of festive films, Marvel/Disney/Pixar last hurrah before they leave Netflix month in December. The first taste of Christmas films, A Cinderalla Story: Christmas Wish is paired with Lady Bird, a movie that I saw was expiring on Netflix this month as well.

Let’s check it out!

Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird

Director (and writer): Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedge, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Lois Smith, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Odeya Rush, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott

In 2002, an artistically inclined seventeen-year-old girl comes of age in Sacramento, California. – IMDB

I always wonder why I put off watching movies for so long because Lady Bird had been on Netflix for quite a while. Being a huge fan of Saoirse Ronan (and I have a few more of her films to catch up on), there’s something truly fun about this one. I love coming of age films especially with girls and then 2002 was also my graduating year in high school so all the things from posters to style to lingo all became very nostalgic especially with all the feelings of finding the path and future, romance and friends.

Lady Bird, as her character calls herself instead of her given name Christine, tackles all of these things with her somewhat of a drama queen personality and a determination to do whatever she can to get what she wants regardless of the consequences which she will deal with afterwards. She’s a bit of a reckless character without actually realizing that she is in many cases. In the struggle between trying to break free from Sacramento and get to the East coast much to her mother’s disagreement and always being inconsiderate on how much she dislikes her current situation whether the place or constantly thinking that her mother doesn’t like her, its a bit sad to watch this character try to find love and care. Saoirse Ronan takes on this role with so much charisma. There’s this over the top and bizarre sort of character that Lady Bird is that no one else understands who she is and she tries to act very confident about who she is and yet there’s this extremity to her and it starts right off the bat when an argument with her mother in the car results in her plunging out of the moving car. That sets the tone of this mother and daughter relationship right from that moment between these strong characters.

Lady Bird focuses primarily on the family dynamic of Christine and her family especially the mother and daughter relationship and the desire of breaking free from a place to pursue her dreams and wanting to be acknowledged that she can be more than she is and the acceptance and having someone to share those grand dreams. In the process of finding who are her true friends and what the value of love is in her mind (or how little it matters to others). There’s this greatness of how her character is presented that makes those genuine moments even easier to connect with. Everyone on this part of her last year of senior high sets her in the right direction to her future and finding the confidence to be herself and mending or expressing herself .

Lady Bird is a really great movie. All the pieces from performances to the time to the different experiences she goes through and the coming of age moment when she finally embraces who she is is a journey and one that is a mix of drama and comedy that connects really well.

A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (2019)

A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish

Director (and co-writer): Michelle Johnston

Cast: Laura Marano, Gregg Sulkin, Isabella Gomez, Lilian Doucet-Hope, Johannah Newmarch, Chanelle Peloso, Barclay Hope, Garfield Wilson

Its really hard to believe that A Cinderella Story is a film franchise at this point with this latest film, A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish as its fifth film. While I completely am behind the first one original A Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray which is a fun one to watch even now, and can relatively get into its second one with Selena Gomez. Skipped the third one mostly because it wasn’t available and I didn’t want to buy it and then watched the fourth one (review) which was very disappointing and now we get to this one…and I ask myself why I put myself through these things. I didn’t think it could get worse than the last one but it really is.

The performances are completely wooden. The story has nothing new to it and simply predictable. Even the whole evil stepmother and stepsisters were really uninspiring like it didn’t really matter to whoever made this one either. Not to mention, not much of it logically made sense even in how a girl becomes unidentifiable with a pink wig and pointy elf ears and an elf costume and not some kind of special makeup or anything.

Its really hard to get behind this one. I’m trying to find something good about it but I don’t know what to say. It is set during Christmas so the Christmas setting is nice, I guess. These just need to stop (and I don’t say this very often about the worst of franchises).  Maybe the pretty leads and some of their musical numbers (there is one that was okay) could appeal to someone maybe younger than myself. Sometimes, we just outgrow these things I guess.

That’s it for this double feature!
We kick off the Christmas month with a rather lacking movie but hey, its only going to go up from here (probably just jinxed myself). 

Have you seen any of these movies? Thoughts?

Halloween Double Feature: Anna and the Apocalypse (2017) & The Babadook (2014)

DOUBLEFEATURE (69)

Welcome to the 2019 Halloween Horror Marathon! I’m keeping with this year’s change to double features even for the marathon! Hopefully you will enjoy it as well! The goal is to get about 3 double features up a week. It might not all work out since that does requiring watching a lot of movies. Regardless, there will be other things going on from more thriller/horror books and TV as well so we’ll see how it all goes. Main focus is on movies from  Netflix Canada and Shudder.

First pairing probably should have been more research but it still works out as a Netflix pairing with horror comedy musical Anna and the Apocalypse followed by 2014’s indie horror hit The Babadook.

Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

Anna and the Apocalypse

Director: John McPhail

Cast: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Marli Siu, Ben Wiggins

A zombie apocalypse threatens the sleepy town of Little Haven – at Christmas – forcing Anna and her friends to fight, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the undead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. But they soon discover that no one is safe in this new world, and with civilization falling apart around them, the only people they can truly rely on are each other. – IMDB

I only realized this is a Christmas zombie movie after I started it up but I’m sticking with it for a light start to the Halloween horror marathon, plus Netflix listed it as a Halloween Netflix and Chills category so why not. It does have zombies after all. To call this would be a stretch since its not really categorized as horror. However, as a start and a little mix genre type of movie to kick off the Halloween marathon, I’m pretty happy with it. Zombies and musicals are quite a nice little mash-up and Anna and the Apocalypse delivers some really fun tunes. I’d say, perhaps one song didn’t land well for me but overall, it was all catchy.

In terms of characters, Ella Hunt playing Anna does a great job. Probably one of the wittier characters which I really did like was Steph played by Sarah Swire. Its a fun little movie. There’s some little story between everyone but its really just a group of friends that rely on each other to go back to find their loved ones and survive through this zombie apocalypse. Its deliberately over the top and sarcastic humor throughout and its the type of humor that I love. Musicals are all about breaking out in random singing and dancing numbers and while the songs weren’t directly about the zombie apocalypse, it was immersed in it so the background was sometimes as fun to watch as watching the singing going on. Some of the bits reminded me of various other musicals. All the friends had a different kind of personality and brought something to the group which is always fun as it creates balance.

There are zombies and bloody and guts but Anna and the Apocalypse is a fun Christmas movie that still fits into Halloween because of the apocalypse elements. A light-hearted start to the marathon but more intense movies to come, I’m pretty sure. Now, if more people would do movies like this, I’d be down for a sequel or some other horror comedy musical.

The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook

Director: Jennifer Kent

Cast: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney, Daniel Henshall, Barbara West, Benjamin Winspear

A widowed mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her. – IMDB

The Babadook is a fairly slow-burn psychological horror film. Usually, slow films aren’t normally an issue and with something so highly regarded as The Babadook, its nice to see where it all takes it. In many ways, when The Babadook finally makes its “appearance”, it starts becoming an anxious sort of deal, mostly because of how the characters act. The beginning of The Babadook is honestly just a lot of set-up where we see where the main characters are from how they became the situation of only the mom and son and the oddities of the character that make them fairly unwelcome or unaccepted.

A lot contributes to The Babadook’s atmosphere as well. The quietness of the film in general as well the setting itself being in a gloomy blue and black painted home which gives it a naturally darker tone that especially helps blend both the creature as well as giving the red Mister Babadook book to standout especially as both these things give off the related sort of feeling whether its depression or fear. With that said, the characters themselves being in their own rather odd ways do also give the movie an unsettling feeling. Does a child screaming or throwing a fit always instil  fear? Not really. Some of the bits of the kid was annoying and some did also land well in being slightly creepy. Essie Davis as the mom probably did a lot more of the effective acting as her character went into the change and fell into this different character that was pretty frightening to watching unfold.

Honestly, The Babadook is not too scary. The idea of itself is a lot scarier about the creepy story that comes alive. The Mister Babadook story has a dark twist to it that was scary to watch. The execution of The Babadook was also done well because it was mostly in the shadows and has the same effect of giving the viewers a way to imagine it  whether than letting it all show up. As well as a stellar performance by Essie Davis as the mother and just setting up the gloomy atmosphere really well. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of the ending but it works.

The first Halloween double feature in 2019 is done!
Have you seen Anna and the Apocalypse and/or The Babadook? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Varsity Blues (1999) & A Cinderella Story: If the Shoe Fits (2016)

It feels like quite a while since I did a double feature but that might be because I’ve been taking a little movie watching break and binging some more TV that I never happen to write about (but I will, I promise). A bit of a mixed bag here although you could call this a young adult/adolescent pairing? I don’t know when A Cinderella Story for this one takes place. Its usually around the high school phase as well.

Varsity Blues (1999)

varsity blues

Director: Brian Robbins

Cast: James Van Der Beek, Jon Voight, Paul Walker, Ron Lester, Scott Caan, Amy Smart, Eliel Swinton, Ali Larter

A back-up quarterback is chosen to lead a Texas football team to victory after the star quarterback is injured. – IMDB

Those who know me know that I’m a huge fan of Paul Walker, as a human being and truly do miss his presence since he had done some fantastic work in Fast and the Furious as well as other movies. I’m sure that I’ll be doing something in the Sunday Lists very soon. With that said, I haven’t seen Varsity Blues before where he plays the supporting role of Lance Harbor, the injured star quarterback mentioned in the plot summary above. The main character here is played by James Van Der Beek. Going into Varsity Blues blind did give me quite the shock because it is quite an intense film especially in the sense, of how Jon Voight’s character as the coach of the team.

Varsity Blues is quite generic in the coming of age sports film but it shines in its performances and the cast member. The movie also has some pacing issues particularly in the beginning however the second half of the film does redeem itself quite a bit as that is where I was truly invested into the movies. It touches a lot on say the future of the dreams but also brings into other realities of say race and prejudices as well as unreasonable ambitions and doing/fighting for what is right and following your heart instead of what others perceive as your future or the path you should take.

I was a little underwhelmed by the film as its fairly average but the decent performances does make it worth a watch.

A Cinderella Story: If the Shoe Fits (2016)

a cinderella story if the shoe fits

Director: Michelle Johnston

Cast: Sofia Carson, Jennifer Tilly, Amy Louise Wilson, Jazzara Jaslyn, Thomas Law, David Ury, Sven Ruygrok

A contemporary musical version of the classic Cinderella story in which the servant step daughter hope to compete in a musical competition for a famous pop star. – IMDB

I have no idea how these A Cinderella Story is still going on. I think I’m missing like the third one if this one is the fourth one. I do like the Hillary Duff one with Chad Michael Murray which started it all. Its one I watch every once in a while for the obvious reasons that the cast is spectacular with Jennifer Coolidge as the absurd mean stepmother role. The next one after that was Another Cinderella Story with Selena Gomez which I didn’t love but enjoyed since it had some cute moments and lovely dancing and singing moments. I didn’t bother with the third one since I figured this stuff wasn’t worth my spending money on it so to fill up some background noise and uninvested movie viewing, I put this on because I saw it on Netflix. I know no one in this one and its all quite rinse and repeat. There’s some dancing and the opening thing of singing and dancing seems like this female replica of Grease’s Grease Lightning part. However, this one is just bad. The humor is not funny. The acting is meh. The singing and dancing is okay. The story is generic.

It was something of a waste of time but then I mean, as background noise, I guess it fit the bill but I wouldn’t watch it again.

Double Feature: Annie (1982) & Annie (2014)

double feature

Welcome to another double feature!

This time we are looking at adaptations and how well the 1982 Annie and the 2014 Annie compares. I have never seen the Broadway musical so I can’t compare to that experience.

Annie (1982)

Annie

Director: John Huston

Cast: Aileen Quinn, Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Ann Reinking, Tim Curry, Bernadette Peters

A young orphan girl’s adventures in finding a family that will take her. – IMDB

Annie is a movie that hear of a lot but never got around to seeing. Its quite weird since I love musicals a lot and watch and rewatch them throughout the year. Annie is a really fun movie especially with the subject it deals with like an orphan waiting for her parents to get her at the orphanage run by a mean woman. However, Annie is never a sad movie buy rather a very charming one although sometimes the long runtime might be where it suffers a little. The songs are fun and catchy which is pretty important since this is a musical.

Aileen Quinn as Annie is a great choice. She truly comes alive on screen and makes us believe in Annie who is a positively bright ray of sunshine to everyone around her. She appreciates what she has and fights to protect those in need and knows how to find a way to stay hopeful no matter what. Her fascination with the world around her under Warbucks care is really cool to watch. However, the orphanage kids are all very fun to watch. My favorite two songs are the scenes with them for Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile and Its a Hard Knock Life.

The 1982 Annie is almost destined for success as it does have quite the brilliant cast. Albert Finney plays as Warbucks, a billionaire who believes in making money and capitalism until he meets Annie who opens his eyes to what he is missing. Daddy Warbucks is great and it goes all the way to creating memorable characters in his bodyguards, Punjab and The Asp. While I haven’t seen Ann Reinking in anything else, she also has such a wonderful role with Grace Farrell, who plays the private secretary/assistant and really forms a bond with Annie.

There was the surprise of seeing Tim Curry as Rooster. I absolutely love Tim Curry because he has an art of naturally capturing all the roles he does so incredibly well. The same applies for Rooster who really doesn’t have much depth other than being the greedy brother. Of course, we can’t forget the mean and yet very entertaining Miss Hannigan played by Carol Burnett, whose voice reminded me that I hadn’t seen Horton Hears a Who in forever and should soon.

Overall, I love Annie. I’m not a fan of the length and some of the songs I didn’t really care for but overall, it was a lot of fun.

Annie (2014)

Annie

Director: Will Gluck

Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale

A foster kid, who lives with her mean foster mom, sees her life change when business tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks makes a thinly-veiled campaign move and takes her in. – IMDB

The 2014 modernized remake of Annie was a shorter affair than the original. While it still held some nice songs and changed the orphan to foster kid and even readapted the songs to work with that. They took out some songs and added some new ones. However, the songs are still decent and delivered for the most part alright.

Other than still liking the kids and wishing their role still was more, Quvenzhane Wallis truly does stand out as Annie. I haven’t seen Beasts in the Southern Wild yet so this is the first movie I have seen her in. Her modern parallel to Annie and Sandy being a beautiful Hachi dog was really great and possibly the best part in the movie. At the same time, while Rose Byrne and Jamie Foxx are both great actors. I can’t say that I particularly loved or hated them. They were okay however, also at moments felt awkward.

While Cameron Diaz has had some comedic roles in her career and even as someone who doesn’t always like the roles she plays, her role as Miss Hannigan was just way over the top and just too much that many times, it felt annoying. The same goes to the shallow character that is the equivalent of Rooster in the 1983 version but now is the PR guy for Warbucks to help him become the New York mayor which is played by Bobby Cannavale. I remember watching this guy before and him doing some other movies where I did like him but I honestly can’t remember anymore what they are.

Something about this remake felt like it was lacking some charm that the original had. Even if we put the comparison apart, there were some great moments in this movie and some nice choreography however, it did have a lot of moments that didn’t work well either.