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).

Double Feature: Mary Poppins Returns (2018) & Tall Girl (2019)

DOUBLEFEATURE

The last double feature before the horror month is this one! As I try to work through some of the Disney movies on Netflix before it leaves, I managed to get in Mary Poppins Returns and then paired it up with something that I ended up watching as a multitasking film and it was the rather new Netflix Originals, Tall Girl.

Let’s check it out!

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

mary poppins returns

Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Pixie Davis, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Julie Walters, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Jeremy Swift, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury

Decades after her original visit, the magical nanny returns to help the Banks siblings and Michael’s children through a difficult time in their lives. – IMDB

Arguably, a lot of the Disney remakes or sequels feels unnecessary and the same goes for Mary Poppins Returns. However, while it is unnecessary, Mary Poppins Returns still achieves quite a fun family adventure. It follows a lot of the same formula as the original in terms of the events and even using some of the same lines in reference. It all helps link the two together even if the setting is decades apart and Mary Poppins isn’t the same actress and the children in the original are all grown up and the children in this one are the children of Michael Banks of the original. In all those elements, it does build a good bridge between the two and holds a lot of the essence of the original even if it still doesn’t have the same charm as the first one.

What does change in this one are the songs. All the songs are different from start to finish even if say what used to be the Chim Chimeree song is another sequence with streetlight leeries (is that what its called?) and they do the big dance number also . Then the bird lady is replaced by the balloon lady portrayed as cameo by Angela Lansbury. Dick Van Dyke comes back not as his original role but as another cameo role as well. Not to mention, Colin Firth comes in as a supporting role as well. Some of the other changes is adding in a bit of romance for its characters. Of course, the biggest change is Emily Blunt playing Mary Poppins which was always a question of how it would change. While she doesn’t have quite the same charm as Julie Andrews, she does hold up her own. In fact, this role is so different from other roles she’s done (that I’ve seen) that it actually surprised me in a good way and I really enjoyed her take of Mary Poppins plus they still gave her some sharp dialogue and replies.

Mary Poppins Returns might not be necessary but its still a fun family film with some decent music and characters that I wouldn’t mind watching a few times (not hard since I’ve already watched it one more time afterwards). All in all, a pleasant surprise!

Tall Girl (2019)

Tall Girl

Director: Nzingha Stewart

Cast: Ava Michelle, Griffin Gluck, Sabrina Carpenter, Paris Berelc, Luke Eisner, Clara Wilsey, Angela Kinsey, Steve Zahn, Rico Paris, Bria Condon

Jodi, the tallest girl in her high school, has always felt uncomfortable in her own skin. But after years of slouching, being made fun of, and avoiding attention at all costs, Jodi finally decides to find the confidence to stand tall. – IMDB

Netflix Originals teen movies are usually a big bet to take. So far, I’ve really only liked the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and was alright with Sierra Burgess is a Loser (which really doesn’t hold us as much when you think more about it). In many ways, the issues with Sierra Burgess are pretty much the same ones that apply here. Teen romances have that really big issue with making girls always question their own self-confidence when they want to get the attention of a guy they like when they should be confident about themselves and their physical appearances, in this case, its her height, which constantly gets mocked by the people in school.

In the case of Tall Girl, the characters go through a weird character arc that everyone ends up going through this segment in their story where they are very hard to root for and somehow find their way back, of course whether its too late is the question for whatever situation they are tackling. While Tall Girl does have a few okay things and the better ones is how it chooses to end and the more inspirational speech that the main character Jodi talks about as she embraces her confidence and feels confident with her height.

Tall Girl just feels shallow and hollow. All the characters aren’t too deep and the story is rather formulaic and predictable. Its a story about finding your self-confidence and facing your feelings sort of deal, which is pretty basic but has a few good messages to share. What its trying to share has good intentions but just the execution and the script and some of the acting left a lot to be desired.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen Mary Poppins Returns and/or Tall Girl?

Double Feature: The Boy Next Door (2015) & How It Ends (2018)

DOUBLEFEATURE (68)

Welcome to this week’s double feature! A very random combination, right? Its actually quite random in terms of how it all came to be as well. The Boy Next Door was really just because it looked like something that didn’t need a ton of energy to watch while How It Ends was a random Saturday night movie choice of my husband’s. Nothing deliberate but let’s just say both of these were at certain degrees…left a bit to be desired.

The Boy Next Door (2015)

The Boy Next Door

Director: Rob Cohen

Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Ian Nelson, John Corbett, Kristin Chenoweth, Lexi Atkins

A woman, separated from her unfaithful husband, falls for a younger man who has moved in next door, but their torrid affair soon takes a dangerous turn. – IMDB

Call me crazy but I’ve been meaning to watching this one for a while, of course, knowing that its been rated pretty poorly. Honestly, its not too surprising. After all, there are few factors here that have almost always failed me in films. The first being my constant search for an erotic thriller that works well, the second being that I don’t find Jennifer Lopez as a good actress and third, these movies always have bad dialogue and predictable execution. I’m going to say right away that The Boy Next Door fell into exactly what I expected of it. So I guess, it can’t disappoint but at the same time, it was kind of a waste of time, luckily, I had it on for a multitasking moment so that kind of worked out.

Where to start with this, right? The Boy Next Door is a predictable erotic thriller. Its erotic bits are really just based on that one scene between Ryan Guzman’s Noah and Jennifer Lopez’s Claire. Granted, that scene was pretty steamy and sexy so I’m not going to take that away from it. It does help that these two are pretty people and the chemistry there was pretty on point. The majority before and after it: the dialogue, the start of the film, the ending, the overacting was just ridiculous. Its the usual thing you’d expect. Its a been there done that sort of thriller which doesn’t offer much of anything new.

I gave this movie one star on Letterboxd and that was based on the fact that there was that one steamy scene that was done well and Ryan Guzman and Jennifer Lopez are pretty-looking people to look at.

How It Ends (2018)

How It Ends

Director: David M. Rosenthal

Cast: Theo James, Forest Whitaker, Kat Graham, Grace Dove, Nicole Ari Parker

A desperate man tries to return home to his pregnant fiancée after a mysterious apocalyptic event turns everything to chaos. – IMDB

How It Ends is categorized as an action disaster film. I can see how it would fit into there but then its more of a road trip film if anything and the disaster happens but then remains the background mystery that hinders the road trip. Looking at the ratings for the movie right now, its really low. Thing is, Netflix movies are a lot like this its strong at the beginning and then as the movie goes along, it just falls apart. The same can be said about How It Ends. The beginning and the set-up does work as it sets the stage for how the characters involved are in terms of relationship and gives them a basis of their personality and where everyone stands before setting up the turning point which is the mysterious event that breaks connection to one of the characters and uniting the other two, the fiance and the father together to go through all obstacles to reach her.

On many levels, How It Ends isn’t really that bad. In fact, Forest Whitaker does a good job as the father and Theo James also did a decent job as well. Together in their roles together, as with a lot of road trip movies, their issues get sorted out as their deeper personalities do start showing as they get through one obstacle to the next. The story gets a little awkward when more elements move into the picture like picking up a third person to join into the road trip, which has its good and bad points to it. At the same time, some of the events that happen do help pad out the situation at hand and start piecing together what has happened while keeping the big reveal for the the ending. If we talk about the “big reveal”, its never fully explained what happens and only hints at the possibilities, making the ending in some ways open-ended, possibly giving it space for a sequel (maybe?).

Its always hard to talk about movies like these where it starts off with all the premise and elements that do it a lot of favors and then as the movie goes along, more things get added in and it just seems to break away those good points. The way its set up still works in a way but it would be more of like a prequel to a TV series or something. At the same time, the movie is not for those who dislike coincidences, for example, you drive by a ash-filled location and coincidentally a fire truck was abandoned there with the one gas mask to use. They can definitely be ignored or admired as forethought but deal is, are there that many coincidences to make it believable to a certain extent or is every event set to create obstacles and feels very deliberate? That’s an issue with How It Ends. If you don’t mind all that, this movie is alright.

That’s it for this Double Feature!
Have you seen The Boy Next Door and/or How It Ends? Thoughts?

After Hours – Love, Death + Robots (Season #1)

Season 2 officially wraps up with our final After Hours pick. This time, Elwood picks our first anthology series, Netflix Originals, Love Death + Robots. We try to touch on all the little stories here as well as talk about the ones that impressed us the most.

As Season 2 wraps up, you can already see that the banner on Movies and Tea has already changed with our next feature director, Sofia Coppola for Season 3. With that said, guests are always welcomed to join us if any of the movies interests you. Just drop me or Elwood an email or leave us a comment. Its almost completely unfamiliar territory for myself so it’ll be a fun dive into her filmography as we change not only film genre and our first female director highlight.

With that said, head over to Movies and Tea to check out our latest episode and share your thoughts on Love Death + Robots!

Movies and Tea

Wrapping up season #2 our final bonus episode has us looking at Love, Death + Robots for our first boxset binge.

A project from David Fincher and Tim Miller whose initial plans to
remake Heavy Metal were mophed instead into this anthology of short
animated tales with seemingly limitless scope for the stories which can
be told as we discover from this first season.

So get ready for alternative histories, monsters, shocking twists and of course love, death + robots!!

Music on this episode

Keith Mansfield – Funky Fanfare

Listen to the Show

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Double Feature: I Am Mother (2019) & Tau (2018)

Its time for the next double feature! This time we have a double Netflix Original sci-fi films. The first being 2018’s Tau and paired with the recently released I Am Mother.

Let’s check it out!

Tau (2018)

Tau

Director: Federico D’Alessandro

Cast: Maika Monroe, Ed Skrein, Gary Oldman

A woman is held captive by a scientist in a futuristic smart house, and hopes to escape by reasoning with the Artificial Intelligence that controls the house. – IMDB

One location films are always quite alluring to watch. It needs to set its space and utilize its surroundings. While Tau is mostly set in one location or at least in one building for the majority of the film, the film doesn’t only manage to use its environment to its advantage but rather it uses the main character’s relationship with an AI. Its about the future where a scientist tries kidnaps disposable people for his experiments to test his technology. In the process, this woman ends up destroying a part of his lab and ends up in his living quarters which is controlled by this AI called Tau who manages the entire house from the scientist’s needs to being the security system and so on. However, it taps into the desire for higher intelligence to learn and their desire to become human. The need for more knowledge and the curiosity builds a connection is what ends up manipulating Tau into falling for the charms of this woman.

Tau lies heavily on its characters. While it stumbles a little in its set-up and even some of the logic, its not a bad film. Maika Monroe takes up the main female protagonist role and does a fairly decent job as she uses her observation to connect with Tau, voiced by Gary Oldman, using his desires as his weaknesses. Gary Oldman takes up the voice work for Tau in a very impressive way. In some ways, Tau is resembled to a child and his bonds and loyalties also become altered as he learns more information and of the “deception” around him. Ed Skrein takes up the role of the scientist who is in a time crunch to prove that his new technology works and of course, with the resistant subject, it becomes harder and ends up causing him a lot of trouble.

Tau plays around with not only the concept of control between the different characters as well as manipulation. At the same time, one of the downfalls is overusing the emphasis of how creepy the scientist is. Ed Skrein spends a lot of time simply observing Maika Monroe’s character from afar and it highlights on her playing on his desires to be close to her and being reluctant, which seems pretty unnecessary in the spectrum of things and feels like its done only for one purpose, making some of the scenes feel a little force in the flow of events rather than it being a more natural evolution. Overall, Tau has its better and weaker elements.

I Am Mother (2019)

I am Mother

Director: Grant Sputore

Cast: Luke Hawker, Rose Byrne, Tahlia Sturzaker, Clara Rugaard, Hilary Swank

A teenage girl is raised underground by a kindly robot “Mother” — designed to repopulate the earth following the extinction of mankind. But their unique bond is threatened when an inexplicable stranger arrives with alarming news. – IMDB

Almost set in a one location throughout the entire film, I Am Mother uses the concept of a post-apocalyptic future where a robot is tasked with repopulating mankind starting with a girl. However, as the girl gets older, she starts suspecting what is outside the bunker especially after a stranger starts telling her that the robots are not what they seem. I Am Mother manages to drive its suspicions quite deep even with its tight cast revolving three characters, two humans and one robot. The thrills are quite good and to be honest, one of the most outstanding parts of the film is Mother, voiced by Rose Byrne, who not only grasps the tone very well to control the atmosphere in the bunker but also the robot design itself in its movements particularly is rather creepy especially in how it captures its speed.

While robot design and atmosphere takes a lot of credit for this film’s great execution, young actress Clara Rugaard and seasoned actress Hilary Swank does put in great performances. At the same time, the story itself is also quite clever. Its one that keeps its audience wondering along with the young girl who is telling the truth and who is lying and if so, what is the bigger plot behind it all. While questioning, what the outside world is like in this version of the post-apocalypse. Even the ending is well thought out and gives a good wrap-up to the story that addresses its many questions set out and even ties up some loose ends.

I Am Mother is definitely one of the excellent Netflix Originals to have been made. While I’m not quite a sci-fi fan, this one delivers on almost every element.