TV Binge: Sugar Rush Christmas (Season 2, 2020)

Sugar Rush Christmas (Season 2, 2020)

Host: Hunter March
Judges: Adriano Zumbo, Candace Nelson
Guests: Adam Rippon, Chris Bosh, Valerie Gordon, Sasha Pieterse, Jordin Sparks, Abigail Breslin

Four sets of bakers compete in Christmas themed baking challenges. First round is cupcakes, second round confections, and final round cakes. After each challenge one group is eliminated and the winner of the final challenge gets $10,000. – IMDB

The second season of Sugar Rush Christmas is structured like the first season. At this point, Sugar Rush has pretty much set their structure in a well-polished way. The focus on time shows a lot of its effect when the different teams make decisions on how to balance between execution of their creative designs in the different stage and how detailed it needs to be to see how much time they save. Sometimes, it fails and sometimes it succeeds which usually makes the first part more interesting to watch then the third round of cakes.

Talking about the different rounds, the themes for each episode is similar to the first season. Christmas and holidays are fairly slim pickings playing around with Christmas trees, winter wonderlands, Santa Claus, etc. What did change a little was that certain episodes had some interesting challenges. One of the best ones had to be the White Elephant one which has the different teams picking a secret ingredient that had to be added to their confection. Some of those secret ingredients ended up having some interesting results. As for the cake challenge, one of the fun ones had to be the secret Santa challenge that had them hiding Santa in their cake designs. Aside from that, they sweetened the deal by having the winning team of first and second round also get a little prize and not only have the $10,000 prize for the final winner.

Sugar Rush Christmas is still hosted by Hunter March and judged by Candace Nelson and Adriano Zumbo which definitely have a great dynamic after so many seasons of working together. They all are very fun to watch. The guests this season definitely are people that I enjoy especially Abigail Breslin, Jordin Sparks and Sasha Pieterse. One of the fun ones are Jordin Sparks since it has singing bits and she has an upbeat personality while Sasha Pieterse shows off another side from what I’ve seen from Pretty Little Liars and is very professional in her judging.

Sugar Rush Christmas’s second season isn’t exactly making a lot of big differences but it already had established a good structure so its not needed for a lot of change. It fulfils the need of some fun and entertainment while watching a reality baking competition series. It brings a lot of holiday spirit. Every bit as enjoyable as previous seasons!

Check out the Sugar Rush Christmas Season 1 Review here.

TV Binge: Dash & Lily (Season 1, 2020)

Dash & Lily (Season 1, 2020)

dash & lily

Cast: Austin Abrams, Midori Francis, Dante Brown, Troy Iwata, James Saito, Leah Kreitz, Keana Marie, Glenn McCuen, Agneeta Thacker, Jodi Long, Diego Guevara

A whirlwind holiday romance builds as cynical Dash and optimistic Lily trade dares, dreams and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations all across New York City. – IMDB

Dash & Lily arrives at a suitable time in our current pabdemic landscape. Dash & Lily is a building connection between two young strangers as they exchange dares in a notebook stashed at a local bookstore all in an attempt to bring in some joy during this holidays by Lily whose normal family holidays plans have been thwarted due to a business trip. On the other hand, Dash despises the holidays especially without a girlfriend to smooth the situation between him and his father while fooling both his divorced parents about his wherebouts. The notebooks ends up being a new start as it takes them both to extend out of their circle and learn and try new things. A runaround New York doing all kinds of unique activities and meeting some a variety of people gives both of them a slight change in their original mindset.

Running at a swift 8 episodes, Dash & Lily is based on a book series called Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Leviathan and Rachel Cohn (which I haven’t read before). Running very much like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (based on a book also by David Leviathan), this is a journey through New York. Where it differs that this time, the story is about two separate characters and their own journeys that help them find themselves and find companion in each other and eventually, a stronger connection/romance. Dash and Lily are opposites. Lily sits in her comfort zone and doesn’t really get along with people her own age but remains close to her family and is somewhat of a brighter character where Dash has a more incomplete family and lives with less family guidance but also doesn’t have a friend circle in fear of mentioning his break-up and in turn both needs their own change in view to get back in touch with the space around them. What brings them both together is that this dare notebook turns into something of a tree hole where they can share their thoughts and find their own excitement in life.

As much as Dash and Lily’s characters are pretty fun, the supporting cast pulls in other factors like family and friends. Lily’s family is quite the amusing bunch especially with her grandfather played by James Saito and her great aunt played by Jodi Long, both colorful characters. Lily is also left with her brother who is spending a lot of time with his new boyfriend that makes for some fun moments as they help and encourage her to do the dares and step out of her comfort zone. Dash’s group is more focused on friends with his ex-girlfriend and her group of friends that he meets here and there but mostly his best friend Boomer (Dante Brown) who works at the local pizza place and ends up being a link between Dash and Lily secretly. There was even a little cameo with Nick Jonas which makes for a pretty fun scene.

Overall, Dash & Lily is pretty fun. It doesn’t take place over a long period of time but at the same time, it takes us for an adventures around New York while getting to know these two young characters. There are times and that they seem a little older than they should be but then, the little activities and dares they get sent on are rather unique. This time, its a lot of cutting between the two characters and flipping between them so its less their chemistry together but rather more like friends that builds into more. Its set around Christmas time so there’s a lot of inserts of Christmas themed elements and uses it as a foundation of the difference between the two: one that loves it and one that doesn’t and that’s all rooted from their view about how they view life at that point. Its a fun and bingeworthy Netflix series for sure!

Holidate (2020)

Holidate (2020)

Director: John Whitesell

Cast: Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, Kristin Chenoweth, Frances Fisher, Andrew Bachelor, Jessica Capshaw, Manish Dayal, Alex Moffat, Cynthy Wu

Fed up with being single on holidays, two strangers agree to be each other’s platonic plus-ones all year long, only to catch real feelings along the way. – IMDB

Netflix earliest Christmas/holiday themed romantic comedy was Holiday, released at the end of October. Bearing the talented Emma Roberts who has done quite a few quirky movies in her filmography, Holidate holds a decent premise revolving around the concept of being single during the holidays and the judging eyes of family and friends for not having someone in their life or simply life choices in general. Entering into a holiday contract plus these two people together. While the premise itself is fairly unique using the holiday angle, the whole concept of contractual relationships and the flow of the romantic comedy offers nothing too refreshing.

Romantic comedies aren’t exactly fresh nowadays and yet for those who like to watch it, a lot dwells on the chemistry between the main leads that at least give a reason to root for them. Here’s where some of the deepest issues do occur in the execution. The holiday premise causes the film to jump through the different holidays almost in montage speed giving them very little character build. The scenes that give these two characters the most backstory is in little pieces at the beginning for set-up before the contract, once or twice in the middle and then at the end, when they inevitably face up to their feelings. They have little moments like hooking up after a drunk rendez-vous or helping each other out of embarrassing situations or whatnot and yet, the connection between them is slightly lacking.

If we look at the comedy parts, that part might be a little more successful depending on what your comedy style is. For myself, some of the comedy does land. Embarrassing moments or some over the top bits are good. However, some of the over the top stuff mostly with Kristen Chenoweth’s character sometimes rides along the fine line between being funny and being too much. However, comedy is very subjective. In the comedy department though, Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey do land those moments fairly well.

With that said, Emma Roberts is a really good actress and with what she’s given here, her role is pretty fun. Holidate as a whole is a fairly lackluster and predictable sort of romantic comedy set up and yet, the premise here is fun. It makes sense that it didn’t go full Christmas movie selection since its more about the holidays than set solely during Christmas. Thing is, Holidate is somewhat of a middling viewing. If you enjoy romantic comedies, this one is okay and you can give it a shot. Its nothing super memorable but it has some fun and awkward moments.

TV Binge: Sugar Rush:Extra Sweet (Season 3, 2020) & Sugar High (2020)

Sugar Rush: Extra Sweet (Season 3, 2020)

sugar rush extra sweet

Host: Hunter March
Judges: Candace Nelson & Adriano Zumbo
Guest Judges: Fortune Feimster, Naya Rivera, Justin Willman, Tyler Posey, Garcelle Beauvais, Ron Ben-Israel

A baking competition with 4 teams, 3 rounds, 2 cakes and 1 winner of $10,000. – IMDB

Season 3 of Sugar Rush is pretty much the same as the previous seasons. They run in the general same structure of having 4 teams and 3 rounds which leads to two rounds of elimination and 2 final teams battling it out in the final round and saving up time for their final rounds. Season 3 is titled Extra Sweet. This adds in the new element of ingredients requirement matching with the theme of the episode. For each rounds, there is a different shelf of certain items that have a minimum required of items to incorporate into the dessert to elevate the theme that that round whether its cupcake, confection or cake.

Its nice to see that Sugar Rush is changing up its formula a little. Sugar Rush has a decent concept and it runs at only six episodes a season, which makes it fairly binge-able as long as you are into this type of baking reality competition series. Its a serious and professional baking competition so its good in smaller doses (I usually watch an episode or two and stop). They find some fairly good guest judges. In this case, they had a few judges that was previously on Nailed It!, I believe and then also adds (sadly) the last reality show appearance for Naya Rivera. They all are rather fun and give some decent feedback for the most part about the desserts. The “Extra Sweet” addition to this season does add a little challenge and it usually can see how daring the teams are and their creativity.

Sugar Rush is at its third season. If baking reality competition series are your thing, this one is pretty good. I don’t think its quite as bingeable because its a lot more of a serious baking competition but I do enjoy the interaction of the judges, Candace Nelson and Adriano Zumbo as well as most of the guest judges here. They had some nice fancy baked creations that was quite fun to watch. The time element feels like the tension from the first few seasons has worn itself down where that’s no longer something that feels like its not doable. All the competitors just make it work 100% of the time and things that happen is more technical issues that they run out of time to fix. Its still fairly entertaining to watch overall.

Sugar High (2020)

sugar high 2020

Host: Hunter March
Judges: Jackie Sorkin, Rebecca DeAngelis, Stéphane Tréand

Contestants compete in two rounds of sugar sculpting challenges for a prize of $10,000. – IMDB

Sugar High is a one episode spin-off of Sugar Rush except with a focus on sugar sculptures and sugar confections. With that said, other than the host Hunter March remaining the same, the judges have all changed who are knowledgeable about this area of expertise.

Sugar High is separated into two rounds. The first round is about making confections to fit the criteria set out. Its meant to be a feast for the mouth and the eyes in many ways. The second round is about making these beautiful sculptures that also fit another set of criteria. In this case, it was the height, which is a challenge for desserts as we know from Sugar Rush challenges but with sugar sculptures, its even more fragile.

Its only one episode. I’m not sure whether this is just testing the waters to see how many people will be interested and the feedback or just a one off deal to add some variety to show off sugar work. I honestly think its like watching an art work come to life which is a nice change in pace. Sugar work is something that doesn’t seem to have that much emphasis but from this one episode, it seems like there’s quite a bit to discover and learn. Different way to work with sugar and the challenges that comes with working with something that sensitive to heat and craftsmanship. One episode isn’t enough to say much but I’d be down to at least watch a few more episodes of this.

TV Binge: Twogether (Season 1, 2020)

Twogether (Season 1, 2020)

twogether

Cast: Jasper Liu, Seung-gi Lee

Paired together for an unforgettable trip across Asia, stars Lee Seung Gi and Jasper Liu become buddies as they connect with fans and local cultures. – IMDB

For fans of Jasper Liu and Seung-Gi Lee, both stars now having their own Netflix Original series, this pair-up for the travel reality show with a little bit of challenges and games added in is a fairly fun adventure. Essentially, the concept is that these two go to different Asian countries, they land at night and choose which location to go that their fan from that country has recommended. At each location, if they beat their challenge, they get a clue which narrows down the location of where the fan lives. As they move through one location to the next, its a strategy to see where to go to maximize their time since before a certain time if they don’t find their fan, they need to catch the plane to the next location. Most of the fans don’t know that they are going to find them so its a surprise and the other surprise is that, they don’t know whose fan it is.

In the current world of when this is released, we can only find travel on Netflix. Yet again, a show that releases at a good time. To be fair, the travel element is there as a unique backdrop for the reality game show element. There is some education on the different places they visit and the landmarks in those countries from a local. However, the game show element is where the show has the most fun as the show’s structure: challenges, travel allowance budget and language barriers between the two at the beginning, plus any Asian game show viewers knows that the director/crew always has it out for the people involved to make things harder.

To be fair, I’m not a Jasper Liu or Seung-gi Lee fan mostly because I haven’t watched anything of theirs (but Jasper Liu’s Triad Princess is on my to-watch list). Call this Netflix’s big scheme to give their show some extra promotion, which it probably is but it worked for me since I definitely did bump up my priority to watch their works. Its mostly entertaining in a very Korean variety show style with the comments made in post-editing to the scene (at least from my memory since its been more than a decade that I haven’t watched Korean shows). These two get together well and they both are fairly chill people who have a lot of fun with each of their challenges. At the same time, this is a good concept to have and more places should implement it (when this whole pandemic hopefully/eventually ends) to give fans an opportunity to meet their idols. There are some moments that it is rather touching to watch. Especially with the global presence of Netflix, its great to see that shows like this has an outlet to combine these stars from different countries together and in reality, its really cross-promotion but still achieves its entertainment element while promoting some of these beautiful locations in Asia.

TV Binge: Crazy Delicious (Season 1, 2020)

Crazy Delicious (Season 1, 2020)

crazy delicious s1

Host: Jayde Adams

Judge: Heston Blumenthal, Carla Hall, Niklas Ekstedt

Carla Hall, Niklas Ekstedt and Heston Blumenthal will judge as three cooks will battle it out to create the best feast.The set will be entirely edible and will contain edible blossom, chocolate soil, and a drinkable babbling brook. – IMDB

Joining the Netflix competition series in June was Crazy Delicious, a British cooking competition hosted by Jayde Adams and judged by three “gods”, Carla Hall, Heston Blumenthal and Niklas Ekstedt. The structure of the competition works with 3 new contestants every episode. Each episode is separated into 3 challenges. The first challenge is called The Magic Ingredient where each contestant has to make that ingredient (mostly everyday things) into some hopefully crazy and delicious and highlights its flavors. The winner of the first challenge wins 10 minutes head start in the second challenge. The second challenge is The Reinvention where the contestants need to reinvent a popular food like burgers and pizza for example. The one of comes up last in after the first two challenges will be eliminated. The next two battle it out in the third challenge called The Final Feast where its themed like brunch. Being the final challenge, whoever wins this one (evaluating overall performance usually) will win for that episode/round.

The structure itself is pretty solid. Its a good set of parameters and usually the everyday things that we encounter are good because its so familiar and yet, its hard for most to think out of the box. Of course, the show proves that tons of people do think out of the box. The reinvention is probably the best part of episode as it still maintains the three contestants and usually has some rather wild meals prepared. The structure does work and keeps it very fun. Different from other cooking competition, this one is a new batch of contestants (just like the expert cooking version of the amateur baking show Nailed it, right?). The food and cooking is much more sophisticated and its about being creative and different so its rather interesting to see all these concepts and ideas come to life (or at least partially in some cases).

As much as we can talk about the rather charming host Jayde Adams, the judges are pretty good. They are well-rounded as the different places they are from form their different areas of expertise. They are fairly entertaining although I’m not quite sure why they had to call them “gods” and then do some lame lightning and thunder when they descended to give the final winner. Its a bit odd on both of those choices but I guess its for the entertainment value. However, aside from those elements, the truly enchanting part of this competition might be the edible garden that its set up in where the contestants can walk around the forage whatever they need. Its a unique way to approach looking for ingredients.

Overall, Crazy Delicious has a lot of elements that work in the realm of whats it trying to achieve. It has a common structure that works for its cooking competition format. The judges themselves are fairly good and have some rather dynamic moments. Jayde Adams is pretty fun to watch especially the silly segments in the opening when she introduces the show and takes a bite into the different props, setting the show up for a quirky adventure. Its definitely quirky from its variety of contestants and the different angles they take. But there’s this element of this Crazy Delicious that feels like its missing a spark somewhere, maybe its all a very common route to take and doesn’t have that unique twist that makes it stand out more than an edible garden that lowers the rewatchability of the show and even the bingeworthiness of the show (although its only 6 episodes, so its easy to get through).

TV Binge: Ugly Delicious (Season 2, 2020)

Check out the TV binge for the first season HERE.

Ugly Delicious (Season 2, 2020)

ugly delicious

With only half the length of the first season, Ugly Delicious is a quick binge to say the least. That being said, it still lives up to what it has built in its first season, bringing food and culture and views together. Its a bit more of a personal journey as David Chang sets out in the first episode looking at kids menu in anticipation of his child. Its a good look at exploring the kids menu at schools around the world and finding the balance of being a chef and family. In the following three episodes, David Chang and friends reunite to look at curry, steak and the turning meat.

While each of these episodes have a lot to offer and to learn, the best episode would be the steak episode which has amazing structure as it divides its discussion into a four course meal and having this central discussion on the different doneness of steaks and why (or why not) its a big deal to ask for a well-done steak. It leads to how steaks are done from fine dining to chain restaurants to little restaurant concepts as well as the different types of steaks including some that I’ve never heard about. Its quite the eye-opening episode especially as it uses this to go into politics, society, etc.

As usual, David Chang is really a great host for this. The guests he invites on each of these episodes or friends that go to the different locations to explore the food all have their own rapport and knowledge that it adds a lot to the series itself. However, carrying forward from the previous season, David Choe has to be one of the most hilarious additions to the friends. A little odd and does a lot of unexpected things but its why it makes it so entertaining. That being said, there are some fantastic travels here as they head to different locations as well like Mumbai and Instanbul just for starters.

Four episodes might seem like something of a short season and it definitely is, but each of these episodes do pack their own punch. Each having their own journey, whether its a journey to understand a cuisine better (Curry) or its a look at the different variations and how people view how certain foods are cooked and its impact on society itself and even expanding to feminism (steak) and finally how immigrants and people moving from one place to the next has brought over their food culture to a new place and the variety that its given (turning meat). Ugly Delicious is much more than just a food docuseries but rather one of the things I like the most about the show is how it manages to tie some societal elements using food as the bridge to talk about these issues.

TV Binge: Next in Fashion (Season 1, 2020)

Next in Fashion (Season 1, 2020)

Next in Fashion

Hosts & Judges: Tan France & Alexa Chung

Guest Judges: Elizabeth Stewart, Jason Bolden, Monique Lhuillier, Prabal Gurung, Phillip Lim, Kerby Jean-Raymond, Adriana Lima, Christopher Kane, Josefine Aberg, Maxwell Osborne, Dao-Yi Chow, Tommy Hilfiger, Eva Chen, Elizabeth von der Goltz

18 budding fashion designers compete for a $250,000 prize and the opportunity to launch a clothing line with Net-a-Porter. – IMDB

Next in Fashion is the the latest global competition that takes on finding the best upcoming fashion designers around the world with a huge prize to help their fashion business grow while giving them a chance to also launch their line online. Its a pretty big deal and one of the best parts of these shows is seeing that there is an international participation with the fashion designers coming from different countries and with different backgrounds. Just like any competition, each week’s task is a different type of clothing to challenge them and to help them break out of their comfort zone.

To be honest, most Netflix competitions (as with most competitions) are structured very similarly. What makes it exciting is the race against the clock to make something that embodies the designers vision. At the same time, the show starts off with pairing the designers into twos and it varies between some duos who have worked together before and some who are completely strangers and need to find their balance in the work up until a certain point where the teams are separated and they compete as individuals up to the finals. This is pretty much the most similar to the Netflix global cooking competition, The Final Table (review). This structure works well for this style of show as you see the idea of cooperation and the new ideas that push through each other’s comfort zones so when they break apart, it also helps give them that individual ideas and direction. I think it happens a little late in the show and I wonder whether it has to do with one of the episodes that result in a dilemma that ends up with no team being eliminated. We will come back to talk about this issue later.

If we look at the hosts, participants and judges, its a pretty nice group. I’m not into the fashion world so I know very little of where these judges come from other than Tommy Hilfiger because his clothing is pretty much a household name and widely available and like Adidas or other big name brands. The hosts are Tan France and Alexa Chung and they are a fun pairing. I’m a big fan of Tan France, even on Queer Eye so its great to see him do this show because he does have a more grounded fashion sense and one that can be elevated. Pairing with Alexa Chung, they both balance each other out pretty well. As for the participants, its nice to see that they are from many different countries: South Korea, UK, China, Mexico, North America, etc. It gives a different vibe as you can see each stylist and their different vision that they bring to the table especially as each challenge always is at least one of their fortes while others will find it challenging. Its a good way to give them a more well-rounded way to attack different challenges and break through the comfort zone. I think those challenges and the teams that can get through it really are the most fun to watch.

Overall, Next in Fashion is a pretty good competition. I’d say that its one entirely bingeworthy. I think I watched it over 2 to 3 days. Its nice to see different fashion and ideas in different types of interpretations. If there was anything to criticize based on that one incident they had (which bothered me a little) is that there isn’t a strong enough system of elimination. Its a competition and sometimes tough choices need to be made. While I can understand that fashion is subjective, there has to be some way where even when its not unanimous to be able to keep with the system of elimination whether giving the guest judge who has the expertise the tie breaker or get some odd number of judges or whatnot. I’m not a competition expert but it just seemed a little unprofessional how the whole thing went down when the editing showed a favor of who was supposed to leave. Either way, its just a thought. I still think its very entertaining as a competition and I’d be down for another season.

Double Feature: Shazam! (2019) & Klaus (2019)

The next double feature is here! While an unlikely pair (to those who haven’t seen Shazam!), its actually both films set at Christmas time. Imagine my surprise when I went to watch a superhero movie (in the last remaining hours of the rental, might I add) to find that I had opened one fitting to the current movie theme this month. Catching up to 2019 movies while watching some holiday films, here we go!

Shazam! (2019)

shazam!

Director: David F. Sandberg

Cast: Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Adam Brody, Djimon Hounsou, Faithe Herman, Meagan Goode, Grace Fulton, Michelle Borth, Ian Chen, Ross Butler, Jovan Armand, D. J. Cotrona

A newly fostered young boy in search of his mother instead finds unexpected super powers and soon gains a powerful enemy. – IMDB

I don’t really know the different superheroes and I’ve already mentioned it before too much. Shazam is one that I’m actually not familiar at all and when I realized that it was from DC, I kind of got a little worried. So far, my favorite movie experience has been Wonder Woman as everything else is a little bit of a mixed bag. Shazam got some pretty good reviews when it was released in theatres so I had it on my list since then to check it out.

Shazam is something of a breath of fresh air. It has some nice moments that feel parallel to some of the Marvel film scenes but, it also has a really nice comedy element to it that works really well with the age of the actors here and just really nailing that age difference and superhero responsibilities and all that fun bits about family and whatnot. It embraces the whole being a child and wanting to be someone different, bigger or stronger or whatnot and somehow as Shazam gets thrown this responsibility out of nowhere, its all a bond with his new foster brother to figure out what is the best way to approach this and all the fame that he has gotten because of it and how to find the balance of his real life. Zachary Levi as Shazam definitely takes it on with so much style and fun. At the same time, his foster brother is played by Jack Dylan Grazer who does a great job (just like he did in IT Chapter 1 & Chapter 2).

Mark Strong plays the villain here which does work. Superhero movies always have the not too threatening villain and here as Black Adam, he does have quite a nice overall appearance and vibe although he never feels like his threats are present enough since its more the second half of the film that the two collide together and then fight it through until the end.

Shazam! does follow the superhero formula but probably because it has that comedic twist and the whole age change between reality and superhero form that it adds a little more charm to the whole experience. There is this innocence and simplicity to Shazam and that works its wonders here. Plus, I’m a sucker for movies set during Christmas, giving it a somewhat alternate Christmas movie vibe, which gives it extra points.

Klaus (2019)

Klaus

Director: Sergio Pablos, Carlos Martinez Lopez

Voice Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Rashida Jones, J.K. Simmons, Joan Cusack, Norm Macdonald, Will Sasso, Sergio Pablos, Neda Margrethe Labba

A simple act of kindness always sparks another, even in a frozen, faraway place. When Smeerensburg’s new postman, Jesper, befriends toymaker Klaus, their gifts melt an age-old feud and deliver a sleigh full of holiday traditions. – IMDB

Netflix has had its hit and misses but it really needs to get more of these Netflix Originals where its animated. So far, they have picked up some really nice projects with this one and of course, French-animation I Lost My Body (Review). I’m sure there are others but I still have a lot of Netflix Originals to catch up with other than you know, Super Monsters or something that I happen to keep watching during some kind of holiday. With that said, Klaus is a family animation which goes back to creating an original story of how the concept of Santa Claus started out in the middle of nowhere with a feud tradition between two families and a rich boy of the postal company getting sent to the middle of nowhere by  his father to find some worth. A scheme to boost the almost non-existent need and desire for the postal service  through the kids turns into something of a kind act leading to the quote and powers this movie: “A true selfless act always sparks another.”

Klaus might not sound very special or different as it piles on some rather similar plot points together but no one has really done the origins of Santa Claus (at least from what I know) and that in itself is rather fun and the story itself becomes a heartwarming experience of finding purpose and bringing together the society that was previously filled with hate that had no other reasoning than to keep up a tradition. It is filled with a lot of positive messages and the animation itself is absolutely beautiful to watch with a lot of charming and/or cute characters. Plus, there is some really great voice acting with Klaus voiced by the talent J.K. Simmons and one of the opposing families is lead by Mrs. Krum who is voiced by Joan Cusack, who has been frequently seen in Netflix Originals and very talented as well.

Klaus is a charming little Christmas movie addition for sure that will make it onto my annual line-up in coming years because its so fun to watch. If nothing else charms you, the little girl Margu voiced by Neda Margrethe Labba and there is one scene that always makes me so happy. A surprisingly wonderful film that you should definitely check out if you haven’t yet.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two? Thoughts?

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.