TV Binge: On My Block (Season 3, 2020)

Check out TV binge for previous 2 seasons below:

Season 1
Season 2

On My Block (Season 3, 2020)

on my block s3

Creators: Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft, Lauren Iungerich

Cast: Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Brett Gray, Diego Tinoco, Jessica Marie Garcia, Peggy Blow, Julio Macias, Paula Garces, Reggie Austin, Ada Luz Pla

A coming-of-age story about four bright, street-savvy friends navigating their way through high school in the gritty inner city of South Central Los Angeles. Dealing with the danger of getting their friend out of a gang and friends turning into romance, danger is constant. – IMDB

Picking up right after the shocking ending of the four friends getting kidnapped off the streets, On My Block Season 3 starts off with them kidnapped to see Cuchillos, the head of the Santos, who end up thanking them for getting rid of The Prophets and then of course, just like expected, sending them on a much more dangerous task: finding Ricky who is probably not dead (contrary to what is believed). This mission is one that they not only have a time limit with some serious consequences if they don’t achieve it but at the same time, one that they must tackle without anyone else knowing but having to find somewhere to start despite their own arguments among themselves and get back together to face it together with the help of Spooky and Jasmine.

on my block

The writers of this show actually did a really great choice at this point as while the four friends, Cesar (Diego Tinoco), Monse (Sierra Capri), Ruby (Jason Genao) and Jamal (Brett Gray), are all still our main set of characters, they decided to write in much more depth continuing on from Season 2 for Spooky (Julio Macias) and more importantly, Jasmine (Jessica Marie Garcia) who turns out to be so much more than where she started in Season 1. Its knowing when their problems can’t be the only things in the picture that it gives the show a lot more boost with those two as it turns into a team of five tackling this with a little outside/family help from Spooky. There are still a lot of the familiar problems carrying forward between the four. Monse and Cesar are tackling their relationship and whether they should be together because of bad decisions and other factors as well as family issues; Ruby still has a lot of inner troubles from the trauma he experienced but in this one, he’s also realizing his problems has caused real financial problems for his parents while Jamal tackles girl problems and figuring out his priorities. While Monse used to be the glue for the group, surprisingly, everyone has some healing and Jasmine ends up really getting them straight on what’s more important and how to set their problems aside and work together, even if by the end, things don’t quite work out as intended, which will make Season 4 an interesting change in events for these characters, if it happens. The new group dynamic did give a good boost.

on my block season 3

Another great writing is really giving a lot of balance to the characters. Its a quick 8 episodes every season but getting to see equal doses of these characters for their own quirks and problems is the first step to lead to a realization that this group is not as solid as it used to be in Season 1 especially as they grow up and face more problems. In this one, this mission takes them on some crazy locations and meets some funny and at times, over the top, people that truly give this season a lot of charm. Its the process of this mission that makes more of a bang than how it ends, very in tune with how this show does manage to give it a humorous mostly because of not understanding the seriousness of the situation right from the first season. In that sense, the tone here is darker but still has that balance of light-hearted and awkward humor to make it a fun watch especially in the case of Jamal and Ruby who come together in this one a lot and really come up with some crazy ideas. Together they can make all kinds of bad logic work out in their minds that its okay and that is rather incredible despite things usually not going the way they expected.

On My Block S3

With that said, while the whole series does move fairly quickly and is overall, a fun trip with roles like Jamal, Jasmine, Ruby really having some shining moments as well as giving a lot more for Spooky to do that makes him such a deeper character that would be nice see further how it all plays out in the next season. While its not exactly a downfall, the more lackluster characters do go to Cesar and Monse mostly because they seem to always revolve in the same problems since end of Season 1 to this season and they  have the same struggles, which gives them less character development than before. With 8 episodes though, its definitely a bingeworthy show for fans of the show.

Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not To Steal (2020)

Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not To Steal (2020)

Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not To Steal

Director: Jos Humphrey & Kenny Park

Voice Cast: Gina Rodriguez, Finn Wolfhard, Abby Trott, Michael Hawley, Liam O’Brien, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Toks Olagundoye, Sharon Muthu, Kari Wahlgren, Charlet Takahashi Chung

You drive the action in this interactive adventure, helping Carmen save Ivy and Zack when V.I.L.E. captures them during a heist in Shanghai. –IMDB

Running at 30 minutes per run through, Carmen Sandiego is a bite-size animated Netflix game/movie. While I’ve never gotten around to watching the actual Netflix series for Carmen Sandiego, the red-coated long hair sleuth marks a lot of nostalgia and its why it seems like a fun idea to use animated film into a little interactive game type of movie.

With each run being 30 minutes or less, seeing as you could reach an unfortunate ending before its actual end and have to take a step back to make another choice, which I had to do a few times, leading to a total of eight endings (which I managed to get 5). The interactive elements of it are decent and come up frequent enough for it to feel immersive. In essence, this is an interactive additional episode for the show which is directed to kids unlike the previous two interactive movies which were more directed towards an older audience. Despite the choices, it does feel rather on rails. Its this or that situation. However, it feels smooth enough and the step back to the previous one is already made for you as a choice to restart the movie or to start from the previous step. In the end, it is an animated film so it still has to be fairly simple to comprehend and stay fun.

The voice acting here is done pretty nice. Perhaps not something to talk too much about since they are generally the same cast as the TV series (but I haven’t seen it). Carmen Sandiego is a fun character to watch and keeps to her character and well voiced by Gina Rodriguez. Finn Wolfhard voices Player, the offsite technical support for Carmen. The characters in general from Carmen’s crew, ACME agent and VILE villains are all fairly entertaining. What does take the cake for being entertaining is the ending sequence that you get to choose to watch or not as a bonus which is an addictive and really awesome song for Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.

Overall, while a little more geared towards kids and has that straight forward simplicity in its story that comes with it, Carmen Sandiego: To Steal or Not To Steal is a fun interactive game/movie. I’ve probably said fun a billion times in this review and honestly, I don’t have any other word to describe it. It did its job to entertain while keeping the choices consistent and frequent enough to make it feel immersive enough. There’s not a whole lot of revival of animated characters that I like (My Little Pony for example..not a fan of the new ones) but Carmen Sandiego works for me. Definitely going to find some time to catch up with the series!

TV Binge: Love is Blind (Season 1, 2020)

Love is Blind (Season 1, 2020)

love is blind

Hosts: Nick Lachey, Vanessa Lachey

Singles who want to be loved for who they are, rather than what they look like, have signed up for a less conventional approach to modern dating. – IMDB

Hosted by Nick and Vanessa Lachey, Love is Blind is a dating series and social experiment that aims to prove whether love is blind. How it all works is that a group of men and women who live separately date through these pods separated by an opaque glass over 10 days. During the process, they get to know each other without any physical contact or seeing each other and if and when they fall in love, they can propose. If agreed, they can see each other the next day. After the course of 10 days, the successful engaged couples move onto the next phase to a Mexico resort trip to further their relationship before moving onto the next phase of meeting reality as they move in together into a complex and share the news of their upcoming marriage to family and friends as well as prepare for their marriage in a few weeks. On the day they get married, they get to decide at the altar whether to say I do or I don’t. All this happens over a course of 6 or 8 weeks or something like that. I can’t remember the exact time frame.

In some ways, Love is Blind is kind of taking the dating experience and doing it backwards while taking a blind date for its literal meaning. In that sense, the most intriguing part of this entire experiment is the interaction in the pods. After the couples meet each other, it turns back into a dating reality show where the love is blind element is put more in the background as it starts to depend on the physical attraction as well as the personality of each of these people whether they are ready for marriage. The love developed in the pods might not be enough to get them to the next phase. Watching couples and reality TV, if its your thing, is all about the drama and dilemma and such that the people go through and for this, the couple they have here have them in spades and its riveting TV to say the least, if not for some nice fluffy guilty pleasure TV.

Thing is, my biggest issue with Love is Blind is that in the back of my mind, its a show that somehow sits on the fence of being good and bad. Sure, its guilty pleasure TV and dating reality shows tend to have that. In some ways, its also more grounded because its not like a bunch of girls or a bunch of guys going after one person. Its concept works to a certain extend if not a backwards dating process where they commit to engagement before heading towards marriage. On the dating reality show element, it ticks a lot of the boxes but as the social experiment that it claims to be, I’m not sure it actually proves anything because love may be blind but whether it all works out depends on each individual and each couple.

As a final note, to myself, the last episode being the reunion episode may have turned me off the show and was slightly unnecessary. It felt to a certain extent a lesson on what each one of them learned and then resolving conflicts on the show and bringing up certain conflicts. Some made sense to resolve and some just felt petty to dissect even more. Overall, Love is Blind is fun as a dating reality series but there are some elements here in execution and tagging on the social experiment that felt like it missed the mark. Pushing all that aside, for what it is, its still decent enough entertainment if you are into these kind of shows. What I am curious to see is whether this manages to land itself a second season.

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020)

You can check out my review of the book that this film is adapted from HERE.
You can also read the review of the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before HERE.

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020)

To All The Boys P.S. I Still Love You

Director: Michael Fimognari

Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Jordan Fisher, Ross Butler, Madeleine Arthur, Holland Taylor, John Corbett, Sarayu Blue, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart

Lara Jean and Peter have just taken their relationship from pretend to officially official when another recipient of one of her old love letters enters the picture. – IMDB

Being a rather big fan of the books as well as absolutely adoring the movie, To All The Boys 2 has some big shoes to fill. And just like how I felt about the book sequel, I feel pretty much the same about this sequel. While the pink hearts and feel good moments are created rather well, what happens here in exchange for a more focused and fun coming of age teen romance in the first one is one that adds in a few too many tangents that never gets explored giving the characters not enough time to truly have more impact. For viewers like myself, the immense love for Lara Jean and Peter is memorable from the first film and can move onto the second film, but the second movie isn’t self-contained.

P.S. I Still Love You is supposed to dive into the growing up and insecurities of a relationship and while Lara Jean has those moments, it gets a little buried in her meeting John Ambrose and having some sweet moments and then Peter’s character falling into the background, which is supposed to be because of underlying issues with his ex-girlfriend Gen and then his obligations with school in preparation for college applications which never truly gets elaborated enough and what we get are just some sweet moment together with the two, and then some arguments as well. Adding in the plot with Stormy, which was a really great supporting character in the book, she also gets very little screen time here but still has that quirk and romance guidance element for Lara Jean. Then, there’s the dad finding his romance and squeeze all of this stuff into 100 minutes and it gets a little rushed.

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

While execution of the story and possibly how the adapted screenplay might be a little lacking here, the characters are really charming. The cast from the first film, Lara Jean and Peter still have that chemistry that they have and for viewers and people like myself who loved the first movie, its great to see their relationship move from being fake to real and navigating through certain insecurities and awkwardness of facing this in a more serious way. Adding in the love interest reappearance and choosing Jordan Fisher to be John Ambrose is definitely a good choice. John Ambrose is a different kind of charming boy that enters into Lara Jean’s life. He is something of a clean slate that creates a comparison for Lara Jean. While some of the decisions she makes approaching John Ambrose might not be all that correct, her character is a teenage student in her first relationship and the reality and expectations and comparing the two comes into play as all kinds of factors come into play as she tries to figure out her feelings towards these two boys. It does fit her character design as in the first film, its already obvious that Lara Jean isn’t someone who takes risks easily and doesn’t quite understand her feelings too well.

To All The Boys 2 is not as strong as the first film, as expected with sequels. I’m still not decided whether having a script like this is good or whether they could have committed more to the love triangle at hand here. In the end, there were a lot of great and sweet moments whether its John Ambrose or Peter and Lara Jean and it does give space for other characters to have their own little developments but its both a good and bad thing. It doesn’t give time for too many unnecessary things to happen because it just doesn’t have time for it but at the same time, the story jumping through so many characters and giving them their own little developments also seems to be nice to see but also doesn’t give more time for their main leads. Good and bad, right? The good thing though is despite all that, they manage to wrap up the whole thing in a meaningful way and giving the whole sequel some substance. In the end though, To All The Boys has some nice chemistry and some good revelations for Lara Jean and in reality, it makes sure that the audience knows one thing: whether you are team Peter or team John Ambrose, its not really about them but the story is all about Lara Jean.

Double Feature: Let It Snow (2019) & Holiday Joy (2016)

Christmas is less than two weeks away and we’re working hard on these holiday viewings.  Netflix does have a nice selection of new movies and some that aren’t as new but still new additions.

Here we go!

Let It Snow (2019)

Let it snow

Director: Luke Snellin

Cast: Isabela Merced, Shameik Moore, Odeya Rush, Liv Hewson, Mitchell Hope, Kiernan Shipka, Matthew Noszka, Jacob Batalon, Miles Robbins, Joan Cusack, Anna Akana

In a small town on Christmas Eve, a snowstorm brings together a group of young people. – IMDB

Based on the novel of the same name with 3 stories by 3 authors (which I haven’t read), Let It Snow is a surprisingly fun little film intertwining the three stories together to make one movie. Its style is in the style of Love Actually. It doesn’t land quite as well as Love Actually does but the three stories depending on which one you like more works more or less in the context of the story. Its main groupings goes to the childhood friends Angie “The Duke” (Kiernan Shipka) and Tobin (Mitchell Hope) and JP (Matthew Noszka); Dorrie (Liv Hewson), her best friend Addie (Odeya Rush) and Dorrie’s crush Kerry (Anna Akana); and lastly, Julie (Isabela Merced, previously known as Isabela Moner) and Stuart (Shameik Moore). All of these characters eventually end up, along with some friends and other supporting characters end up because of being snowed in during Christmas Eve at this local restaurant called Waffle Town.

Let It Snow is rather basic and simple and yet with the snowscape background and its interesting characters and stories about different types of friendships and relationships and a variety of different issues, these characters all end up having a Christmas Eve that becomes rather memorable and changes some of their things in life as they figure out how to be honest to themselves about their feelings and their future. It has the rather feel good elements present that makes it a decent watch. Is it something that is spectacular or very stand-out as a holiday film? Probably not. But to satisfy a simple little holiday watch, this one does deserve a chance. And that’s coming from myself who isn’t really much of a John Green fan (which explain why his segment of relationship is the one I liked the least) whereas my fave with genuinely fun moments although a few wooden acting moments between Julie and Stuart however the story itself is fairly charming.

Kiernan Shipka has definitely found herself an actress with a few Netflix films at this point. She does have quite a nice fun element to her characters. At the same time, the start of this one that plays a rather funky character, the Tin Foil Woman and the narrator is Joan Cusack who while a little odd somehow has this glue effect to the three stories.

Holiday Joy (2016)

holiday joy

Director: Kirk D’Amico

Cast: Bailee Madison, Jennifer Robertson, Sandy Jobin-Bevans, French Stewart, Ethan Pugiotto, Luke Bilyk, Natalie Ganzhorn, Darren Eisnor, Kolton Stewart, Jeni Ross

A shy high school student’s Christmas wish comes true only it isn’t exactly as wonderful as she’d hoped. – IMDB

Take a little of changing identities and the holidays and we have this film Holiday Joy where Bailee Madison’s character Joy becomes a member of the next door neighbor’s  family, a wish that she has of breaking away from her lacking family. The grass is greener on the other side is definitely used here as comparison and literally but it also gives the valuable lesson that what you see on the surface of the beautiful appearances sometimes aren’t really as you expected. The whole reality vs. expectations is the main basis as everything that Joy believes is better all turns out to be very much the opposite. It also emphasizes on everyone’s part having a crucial effect despite her feeling of insignificance and such. Holiday Joy is more about the message it carries but has a rather lacking execution with some questionable acting and some plot points that might not make a ton of sense as with such plots that bring in the whole identity change and incoherent things that just leaves it one that shouldn’t really be questioned to begin with.

Holiday Joy is a rather simple sort of story. Its not exactly a Christmas story but is set during the holiday season. There’s some nice elements of using “change” as its main focus and then takes a fun little play on how the accident that makes Joy’s reality change also eventually finds her figuring out how to change it back but not really at the same time. Its a nice little change on the usual formula. Its not an outstanding movie but for people okay with some simple and straight-forward type of TV movie, its an alright choice. For myself, I do enjoy Baileee Madison (mostly when she was in younger roles) so it had an appeal for me but a lot of performances here left a little bit to be desired.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films? What are your thoughts?

Double Feature: Holiday in the Wild (2019) & The Knight Before Christmas (2019)

And we’re off! Officially in the Christmas double features phase with some holiday movies and such. The first one, Holiday in the Wild is more set passing through Christmas and is more about a literal holiday vacation instead of actual holiday but its paired with The Knight Before Christmas because the first movie is playing on TV in this one. Its a very Netflix movies promo experience in the second film with Holiday Calender also getting a scene playing as well.

Holiday in the Wild (2019)

Holiday in the Wild

Director: Ernie Barbarash

Cast: Kristin Davis, Rob Lowe, Fezile Mpela, John Owen Lowe, Colin Moss

Jilted by her husband on the eve of embarking on an African safari, a woman travels to the continent alone where she meets an elephant conservationist. – IMDB

Holiday in the Wild isn’t exactly a Christmas holiday movie but I thought it was so it ended up being part of the line-up. Luckily, it did have some overlapping Christmas scenes in Africa. These types of Hallmark style movies that Netflix is tackling in their originals usually is something of a hit and miss deal. Holiday in the Wild is a bit awkward to watch. Its definitely featuring an older couple and probably aiming to get the more mature audience than its normal audience. For that, its also a lot more serious and drama oriented with some jokes here and there. The script is a bit all over the place but with the right heart of focusing not only on romance between the characters Derek and Kate but also on the importance of the conservation work for elephants. Some people choose to bring awareness through documentaries (like Virunga) and they choose to deliver it this way. It works all the same and its the good intentions that matter.

The best parts of the film actually are with the elephant conservation and this whole location which is rarely used. I think the last time I saw anything about animals and Africa was maybe in the TV series Zoo and I can’t remember if that was Africa or not. Point being, the exotic location does this movie some wonders and it is delivering an honorable message which they take the effort to share some statistics at the end of the movie. There are a lot of flaws in the romance and some really bad dialogue but with what they had, Rob Lowe and Kristin Davis had some decent chemistry but its easy to feel like the movie wasn’t really about them and it wasn’t about family but more about Kate finding her way back to being herself and living the life that she wants.

The Knight Before Christmas (2019)

The Knight Before Christmas

Director: Monika Mitchell

Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Josh Whitehouse, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Ella Kenion, Isabella Franca

A medieval English knight is magically transported to the present day where he falls for a high school science teacher who is disillusioned by love. – IMDB

The Knight Before Christmas is something of a fish out of water story and for anyone thats been here for a while, you know that I’m a sucker for those types of stories because they can bring in a ton of humor. Humor isn’t the same for everyone but for me, it works for me. The Knight Before Christmas actually surprised me quite a bit but that might be because I sometimes wonder about Vanessa Hudgens movies. I don’t know why I do it because a lot of stuff that I’ve seen her do has been pretty good.

With that said, a lot of the normal holiday romance Hallmark-like films that Netflix has been getting on does have some of the normal trademarks that a lot of people don’t like which is cringe-worthy dialogue and fairly predictable and formulaic story. This movie definitely suffers from some rather subpar dialogue and its not hard to imagine where things end up but it has this positivity to the Christmas message that its trying to deliver and also it has some nice chemistry and romantic elements between Vanessa Hudgens and Josh Whitehouse’s characters, Brooke and Cole.

There are some really nice Christmas sets here whether its the winter and snowy weather or the whole Christmas decor inside and outside the house along  with the Christmas village and the Christmas decorating and baking, etc. Its a movie that sets its Christmas setting very well and uses it in a nice way with two pretty decent performances from both Vanessa Hudgens and Josh Whitehouse.

Plus, Netflix is taking this year’s holiday films to really cross-promote all its projects especially with this one as it shows movies playing on Netflix for the characters like last year’s The Holiday Calendar (review) and the movie we reviewed above, Holiday in the Wild. At the same time, it mentions A Christmas Prince’s kingdom, Aldovia and how the parents went to get ornament that they have there to tie in the universe together. Its pretty neat to see Netflix as such a giant that it can link its projects together like this. They just now need to remember to not mesh The Knight Before Christmas’s sequel if they have one to vacation in Belgravia where Vanessa Hudgens’ character is now Queen since the events of last year’s The Princess Switch (review).

On that note, I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel for The Knight Before Christmas or maybe its already hinted at with how they did the post-credits scene..

That’s it for this first Christmas Double Feature!
Have you caught up with these new Netflix holiday movies?

FNC 2019: J’ai Perdu Mon Corps (I Lost My Body, 2019)

J’ai Perdu Mon Corps (I Lost My Body, 2019)

J'ai Perdu Mon corps

Director (and co-screenplay): Jeremy Clapin

Voice Cast: Hakim Faris, Victoire Du Bois, Patrick D’Assumcao

A story of Naoufel, a young man who is in love with Gabrielle. In another part of town, a severed hand escapes from a dissection lab, determined to find its body again. – IMDB

French animated features always seem to have a darkness to its overall premise. In this case, this upcoming Netflix France Original film (according to this poster is set to release in the end of November) follows two sides of a story. The first is the story of Nafouel, a pizza delivery boy having a bad day that ends up having a random conversation with a girl through a building intercom during a rain storm outside and is intrigued by this stranger and finds a way to approach her while on the other side, it follows a severed hand trying to go through the city to reunite with the body it belongs to. Its easy to see that these two stories are linked together and who this severed hand belongs to and yet, alternating between the two and having it converge at the end gives this film so much charm. Perhaps of the timeline jumping back and forth between the two that the story sometimes does have moments of disjointedness.

Somehow French animated films have such good grasp hitting those bizarre themes and finding just the right balance of humor to make it work. J’ai Perdu Mon Corps is a fine example of this. While Naoufel’s side of the story feels a bit awkward and maybe a tad sketchy if you think about the almost stalker-ish way he chooses to approach this girl. At the same time, he is somewhat of a rather unpleasant character or simply flawed and fairly shallow which is where this film falls short slightly. It all depends on how his character is viewed although there are some believable moments of clumsiness and his trying to work hard to get her attention and some missteps that he does which makes some funny moments. As I always like to mention, flawed characters to begin with makes for the better development characters as they have so much more room to grow and that definitely applies in this story.

Where it does shine right from the beginning is starting with how the severed hand is introduced and the moments of how it goes from location to location. There’s a lot of dark humor to be had, especially as it meets all kinds of things and dangers along the way and is essentially defenceless. Some come out with mostly unexpected outcomes and that just makes each step of its way back to the body that it belongs to even more rewarding in the end.

Overall, J’ai Perdu Mon Corps is exactly as its title hints at. The winning factor here is how it uses the whole concept of a severed hand and can create a rather charming and humorous story out of it. It fits into the whole charm of French animation that is a tad odd but still works out overall to have those dramatic moments as well. As a feature-length directorial debut for Jeremy Clapin, its definitely one that lands very well and has a unique premise.

J’ai Perdu Mon Corps will be hitting theatres for a limited release in US (November 15) and UK (November 22) and also hitting Netflix (for most countries) on November 29th (all based on research on the Internet, so please check or correct me in the comments if you have other more accurate info).