Ultimate Decades Blogathon: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) by 18 Cinema Lane

Kicking off the second week of Ultimate Decades Blogathon is Sally Silverscreen of 18 Cinema Lane with her pick of 1971’s horror comedy The Abominable Dr. Phibes. 18 Cinema Lane is a fun movie blog where it offers a variety of movie reviews and movie news but also has a focus on Hallmark movies. Just like the pick for the blogathon is unique, there will always be something new to discover on 18 Cinema Lane as well. When you finish this review, remember to head over to her blog and check it out HERE.


Take 3: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

The Abominable Dr. Phibes was recommended by one of my readers named Michael. When I found out the movie was considered a horror-comedy, I thought it’d be a perfect entry for MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur, as horror-comedies are the theme for February. Then I discovered the film was released in 1971. Because Kim and Drew, from Tranquil Dreams and Drew’s Movie Reviews, are hosting the 6th Annual Ultimate Decades Blogathon, where the subject is movies premiering in years ending in 1, I decided to review The Abominable Dr. Phibes for both blogathons! As of early 2021, this is the fifth film of Vincent Price’s I’ve seen and written about. Most of these movies have either belonged in the horror genre or have been mysterious in nature. With The Abominable Dr. Phibes, this will be a little different, as part of the story is a comedy. Out of the movies of Vincent’s I have seen, none of them have featured a large amount of humor. So, by choosing this film for the aforementioned blogathons, I am given an opportunity to see Vincent work with slightly different material!

Things I liked about the film:

The mystery: In horror movies, there is usually a mysterious element that can come in a variety of forms. One of these forms is a mystery. Throughout The Abominable Dr. Phibes, the detectives at Scotland Yard are attempting to figure out why several doctors in their neighborhood are dying of mysterious causes. The way the mystery is presented allows the audience to solve it alongside the characters. This presents the idea of the audience sharing an experience with the detectives in the film. Even though we see what is making these doctors die, it doesn’t take away from the intrigue of the mystery. In fact, it keeps the audience invested in what is about to happen next. Seeing how all the pieces of the story connected was interesting to see. It definitely kept my attention as I watched the film!

The craftmanship: There were several items in this movie that caught my eye due to their quality and artistry. A frog mask is just one example. The head covering mask is covered in three different shades of green, allowing it to shine from many different angles. Gold piping can also be found on the mask, assisting in distinguishing its shape. Jewels add finishing touches as the mask features gold gems around the frog’s eyes and an emerald clasp in the back. Dr. Phibes’ mask also boasts incredible craftsmanship! The eye covering mask is shaped like a bird and is coated in shiny shades of green, bronze, and gold. Both masks were two of the beautiful I’ve ever seen!

The set design: The Abominable Dr. Phibes features several interesting set designs that are worth noting. Despite Dr. Phibe’s house only being shown at night and only part of its exterior could be seen, it was a magnificent structure! Its Victorian style brightened the night with its white frames and cherry wood doors. The house features a grand white marble staircase paired beautifully with chandeliers and crystal sconces. I wish more scenes had taken place by this staircase, as it is an impressive part of Dr. Phibes’ residence! Other locations in the story also displayed memorable set designs.  Dr. Vesalius’ apartment is a great example. Near the front door is a curved, frosted window. The door itself was covered in a light and dark wood that ending up complimenting the faded yellow walls. This location looked reflective of the late ‘60s to early ‘70s due to its color scheme and furniture selections.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The underutilization of Vincent Price: As I said in my introduction, this is the fifth film of Vincent Price’s I’ve seen. Therefore, I, as an audience member, know what he is capable of, talent wise. Despite being the top billed actor in The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Vincent wasn’t given much material to work with. He didn’t have any speaking lines in this movie. While there is an explanation given within the story, the only time we hear Vincent’s iconic voice is through recordings. It also doesn’t help that the different ways Dr. Phibes went after his victims overshadows Vincent’s performance. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the creative team behind this film cast Vincent Price simply to get more people to see the movie?

Weak on comedy: The Abominable Dr. Phibes is classified as a horror-comedy. When I made this discovery, I was expecting the movie to be more like Young Frankenstein. Even though there were a few times I found myself giggling, the film didn’t contain much humor. The Abominable Dr. Phibes relies more on the horror genre. It also contains a mystery within the overall plot, which would make it a horror-mystery. I felt misled after these reveals.

Depiction of demises partially used for shock value: Strictly from a story-telling perspective, it was interesting to see how Dr. Phibes carried out his plan. But when the plan is put into practice, the depiction of his victims’ demises comes across as more gross than scary. Within a segment of the story involving rats, there was a brief shot of a rat chewing on what looks like a bloody bone. I won’t spoil The Abominable Dr. Phibes, in case any of my readers haven’t seen it. But parts of the film like the one I described feels like the movie’s creative team just wanted to shock their audience.

My overall impression:

When I think of the term “horror-comedy”, Young Frankenstein immediately comes to mind. Even though I haven’t seen this film, I am aware of its premise. Because of my expectations, I was somewhat let down by The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Sure, its mystery was intriguing and kept me invested in the overall story. But as I look back on this movie, I find myself expecting more. Despite its classification as a horror-comedy, it ended up being a horror-mystery, with very little comedy to be found. I was also disappointed to see Vincent Price underutilized in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. While he was given different material to work with, he didn’t have any speaking lines. The way Dr. Phibes’ victims met their demise overshadowed Vincent’s performance. These factors make his portrayal of the titular character feel like a part of an ensemble instead of someone leading a film. This is an interesting movie, but I can think of stories of this nature that are stronger than this one. I still prefer a picture like The Crow over The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

Overall score: 7-7.1 out of 10

Have you seen a horror-comedy? Which film of Vincent Price’s would you recommend? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen


A huge thanks to Sally Silverscreen at 18 Cinema Lane for joining us with this great review! Be sure to it out. For a full list of entries of this blogathon, you can check it out HERE.

Ultimate Decades Blogathon: The Maltese Falcon (1931) by MovieRob

The next entry in the Ultimate Decades Blogathon comes from MovieRob, a blogger with an amazing repertoire of reviewed movies to check out and also the host of his monthly segment Genre Grandeur plus a regular on this blogathon with always fantastic picks. This year, he dug deep and went way back to 1931 to look at the original film, The Maltese Falcon. Check out his review of The Maltese Falcon and remember to check out his blog.


“Good day, sir. I deeply regret that you are left without a fall guy. ” – Casper Gutman

Number of Times Seen – 1 (14 Feb 2021)

Brief Synopsis – A private detective is hired to find a valuable statue of a bird that is worth millions, but he gets in over his head when he finds out how many others are seeking the same prize.

My Take on it –When Drew and Kim announced this blogathon, I liked the challenge that they presented us to try and find films from the early years of film to watch and review.

This is a film that I came across in my research and was intrigued to watch since it is based on the same Dashiell Hammett story featuring Sam Spade that would eventually become a household name just a decade later.

I have always been an advocate that remakes are usually unnecessary, but this is among the few occasions where that is not true.

The 1941 version of this film which famously features Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor is so much better and more engaging than this film is despite following the same story.

This is further proof at how much the director and actors add to a particular film since John Huston’s version is so much grittier to look at, yet still works even better than the story does in this film.

The film stars Ricardo Cortez in the Bogart role and Bebe Daniels in the Astor role, yet neither helps find a way to make us care even more about their characters as the story unfolds.

Roy Del Ruth directs this film, but he is no Huston.

Yes, this film was made prior to the code and has some very intriguing references that were banned a decade later, but they don’t add enough to help make tings more intriguing to watch unfold.

The story itself is still told quite well, despite the fact that the cast and directing drag things down a bit along the way.

The noir atmosphere seems missing here and that might have helped make things more thrilling than the way it is all presented here.

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – When originally sold to television in the 1950s, the title was changed to “Dangerous Female” in order to avoid confusion with its illustrious remake, The Maltese Falcon (1941). Fifty years later, Turner Classic Movies restored its original title card. However, as recently as April 27, 2017, the service used by cable companies to provide data for their viewing guides used the “Dangerous Female” title for TCM’s showing of the movie on that date. (From IMDB)

Rating – BAFTA Worthy (6/10)

_______________________________________

Check out my *updated* movie stats here

To see my reviews of Oscar Winning Performances check out this link

To see my reviews of all Oscar Best Picture Winners click here (now complete)

Here is a link to my movie index A-Z


Thanks to MovieRob for his fantastic post on The Maltese Falcon! You can check out the full list of entries updated daily HERE.

Ultimate Decades Blogathon Kick-off: Spirited Away (2001)

Welcome to the sixth annual Ultimate Decades Blogathon..well, the part 2 of it. Yesterday, my fantastic co-host Drew kicked off the Ultimate Decades Blogathon with his kick-off review of Bridesmaids. Today, its my turn to share my first pick as we kick off this blogathon with a slightly new format working with the decades ending in a different digit than an entire decade. As the first one, it suitably starts with years ending in 1. There’s a lot to look forward to for the upcoming entries.

First, let’s get this part 2 released as I share my review of Studio Ghibli’s 2001 Academy Award winning animated film, Spirited Away.

Spirited Away (2001)

Director (and writer): Hayao Miyazaki

Voice Cast (English Dub): Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers, Susan Egan, Paul Eiding, John Ratzenberger, Bob Bergen, Tara Strong, Rodger Bumpass

During her family’s move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits, and where humans are changed into beasts. – IMDB

After much consideration, Spirited Away is an animated movie well worth a mention as it is the movie held onto the highest grossing film in Japan until 2020. It also won the Academy Awards as the only non-English and first handdrawn animation to win the Best Animated Feature award. For someone like myself that grew up with Hayo Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, it almost feels like the movie that acted as the perfect stepping stone for the world, especially those unfamiliar with anime, to finally get to know Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki.

There’s a lot to love about Spirited Away. It really does embody a lot of the trademarks and drawing style of Hayao Miyazaki as all the characters are drawn in a familiar way especially when it comes to the old lady roles, they always feel fairly similar to each other. Spirited Away is about a little girl who wanders into a world of spirits and basically goes on an adventure to rescue her parents and escape this world. This world can be mistakenly wandered in during the day but at night, the river floods the path and what they thought was an amusement park turned out to be something completely different. With a huge bathhouse as the main building and streets with stall after stall of food that spirits busily chomp away along with the colorful and odd world of the interior of the bathhouse from its boiler room to the bathhouse rooms and the big boss’s headquarters plus so much more, Spirited Away is a beautifully constructed world with so much to explore that offers a glimpse at the fantasy imagination and creativity that Hayao Miyazaki has to offer. As we follow Chihiro (or later known as Sen) go through the building looking for the job, there’s a sense of how big this world is which makes it rather impressive plus the clientele of the bathhouse are unique types of spirits.

There is an array of interesting little creatures and spirits to meet and a story that actually surfaces later on as a little twist. There’s no doubt that other than the story itself, the characters are a real star here whether its Chihiro who has to remember her name after she turns into Sen in this world or the witch Yubaba that runs this bathhouse right down to Kamaji in the boiler room and Sen’s friend Lin who works with her and especially Haku, a dragon that is Yubaba’s henchman. No Miyazaki film’s fantasy world is without its fair share of odd creatures whether its a giant baby or heads hopping around right down to another form of soot monsters (we saw them first in 1988’s My Neighbor Totoro) and so much more. Plus, the spirits themselves also have some interesting encounters that design especially for the two big parts with the Stink Spirit and another spirit No-Face who grows to have a liking for Sen.

Paired up with Joe Hisaishi’s music, Spirited Away is definitely a fun little adventure. Fantasy, magic, spirits all wrapped up into one. What makes it stand out is not only the colorful art and design and world building but the characters that they meet. While the bathhouse is a starting spot and has its own story as a foundation but the story that stems from there also adds a sense of mystery. Is it the best Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli film out there? That’s definitely debatable however, it is the movie that takes the first step for the world to know this amazing film studio with an creative director Hayao Miyazaki.

For further reading, you can check out my list ranking of Hayao Miyazaki’s work HERE.


That’s it for the kick-off post! Tomorrow we start off over at Drew’s Movie Reviews with the first guest entry. For the full list of entries, updated daily during the blogathon, you can find it HERE.

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

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

Over The Moon (2020)

Directors: Glen Keane, John Kahrs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Director (and co-writer): Ol Parker

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

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

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

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

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

Tranquil Dreams Podcast #4: What’s Up 2021 Week 7 Recap + Highlights

Its FINALLY time for the next Tranquil Dreams Podcast!

After a few weeks off from the podcast due to work reasons, its time to get back on track. While the past 3 weeks of What’s Up had reverted back to the written format, this episode will not only cover the Week 7 recap but also mention some highlights of the last few weeks!

With that said, Week 7 had some signs of getting back on track. I talk a little bit about some of the future plans coming up as things slow down for next month or in the near future at least in each of the categories. There is some new little things and ideas that I had talked about before but haven’t had time to work on.

One thing that I do apologize for mostly in the second half of the podcast is that I’m having some minor sinus issues so I had to clear my throat here and there and then take a little break in the second half as it was starting to really bother me.

Links mentioned in podcast:
What’s Up 2021 Week 4
What’s Up 2021 Week 5
What’s Up 2021 Week 6
Glass Masquerade – Game Review
BrandelSavage – Twitch Channel
Isn’t It Romantic – Movie Review
To All The Boys: Always and Forever – Movie Review
The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity – Movie Review
Ashes of Love – TV Binge
Eternal Love – TV Binge
Ultimate Decades Blogathon
The Uncanny Counter – TV Binge
Sweet Home – TV Binge

Music in the Episode:
There It Is by Kevin MacLeod
Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/4519-there-it-is
License: https://filmmusic.io/standard-license

Listen to the Show:
Anchor
Spotify
Google Podcasts
Breaker
RadioPublic




Double Feature: An Affair To Die For (2019) & Tears of Steel (2012)

Next double feature is here with two movies that were relatively spontaneous choices. The first being a thriller called An Affair to Die For and the second is a short film called Tears of Steel. Let’s check it out!

An Affair To Die For (2019)

Director: Victor Garcia

Cast: Claire Forlani, Jake Abel, Titus Welliver, Nathan Cooper, Melina Matthews

A secret rendezvous. A man cheats on his wife. A woman cheats on her husband. And then everything goes bad, quickly. – IMDB

It seems like January is the peak time when I successfully hunt down some really lackluster movies in the Netflix list. Honestly, I don’t even rememeber putting this movie on the list as this genre of film generally hasn’t bode well. With that said, An Affair to Die For was a fairly below average experience.

The deal with An Affair to Die For isn’t so much the plot. In fact, after some thought, it does land on that twist element to a certain extent but the execution and timing left the pacing feeling a little unbalanced to the ending. At a certain point, the body count really dies narrow down who else is left for the big “mastermind” at the end who pulls a Saw-like ending. The other part is the dialogue and the characters themselves. In this case, I do have to say that while I do think there’s some overacting, its how the main female actress Claire Forlani delivers her dialogue that bothers me. It feels almost like the combination of a flawed script and oddly constructed characters pulls this film down as well.

An Affair To Die For is really quite a lackluster experience overall. The movie starts off feeling like an erotic thriller and takes a turn into a much more focused thriller element is not a bad idea, its just that anything like that also takes some careful pacing and this one lacked in that department.

Tears of Steel (short 2012)

Director (and writer): Ian Hubert

Cast: Derek de Lint, Sergio Hasselbaink, Rogier Schippers, Vanja Rukavina, Denise Rebergen

He just wanted to be awesome in space. – IMDB

Running as a swift 12 minutes short, Tears of Steel is rather interesting in concept. It plays a little with time travel or time manipulation. The world is a future where its being dominated by robots because of what leads back to one interaction in the past between a boy and girl. The whole concept is done rather well especially with the world building. Even in the little bit of the time, the destruction and the state of the world is shown really well. The effects in particular definitely look polished.

For a short film, this one does stand out a lot and really has a great concept and world building and it would be interesting to see perhaps a full story on this world. Whether its the technology or the ability to change the past that is used or even how the world came to be seems like such a good angle to dive further into the content.

What does make me wonder a little more is that this short film on Netflix is set as a season where there’s the original movie and then a 2 hour loop and an 8 hour loop of the movie. I’m just thinking about who is sitting around looping this short film and where this desire to do this came from. Its just something I wouldn’t do so I find it rather curious.

What’s Up 2021: Week 6

As I consistently fall back to the original written format and also a few days late, this is the last week where this is the case as I was catching up with sleep and regaining my mental energy, I have a new game plan for next week and its going to get that next podcast episode out. For now, let’s keep with this format.

I promise to do a quick highlight of the past 3 weeks that were in written format since there are some little thoughts of a various things. This week might be a little different as I looked back and realized that I got confused with my weekly recap timeline so maybe this week might be a little less to make up for the mistakes.

READING

Currently reading:  The Visitor

As I fall behind on reading, I made zero progress on The Visitor. The hope is to get back to reading and finishing it in the coming week so fingers crossed 😉

PLAYING

Steam Game Festival Demos

  • Lunark
  • Rain on your Parade
  • Tiny Room Stories: Town Mystery
  • Lost Words: Beyond The Page
  • Children of Silentown
  • A Perfect Day
  • The Companion
  • Ghost On The Shore
  • Beacon Pines
  • Cats and Other Lives

As I put together this week, I realize that I forgot to wrap up the Game Warp post for the Steam Game Festival. Tossing that onto the to-do pile. However, I did play some solid demos. One of them had a funky bug that shut off my PC but if they fix that bug, that game might be the ones with more potential. Of course, being a backer for Lunark also makes me a little bias but at the same time, the demo did not disappoint as in the world building while the controls needed a little polishing. Aside from that, Ghost on the Shore, Lost Words and Children of Silentown definitely are ones that I added to my wishlist after the demo as well.

WATCHING

  • Hustlers (2019)

As I get things back on track, movie watching has been on a low. Hustlers being the only film that I watched in the previous week (as I mentioned before that I’m behind so its like more than 1 week ago). I’ve heard good things about it. I do tend to stay away from films with Jennifer Lopez as the ones I’ve seen were pretty meh however, this one is alright. Everyones does a good job. Where I had issues with it definitely was not the acting but more the execution and pacing. I will discuss it more in a review post.

BINGING

  • Beauty From Heart (2021)
  • Sweet Home (Season 1, 2020 Review)

Currently binging: Who’s The Murderer S6, Shine! Super Brothers, Fourtry S2, Share Life, A Journey For Love, When We Write Love Story

With the wild workload thats been hanging over my life in general, its the first week that I have kept everything fairly stable and not a whole lot of new shows. The only one thats new is A Journey For Love is actually not that new except that I forgot to mention it before.

Beauty From Heart finished up and I’m working on the TV binge right now. So many thoughts for that one especially with the message its portraying and the character development. The husband and I finished up Sweet Home as well. The TV binge for that was released yesterday so you can check that out. In a nutshell, its pretty good and I like post-apocalypse films and creature features so right up my alley. There are some little issues here and there but overall, I’m hoping that it gets a second season.

Shows like Fourtry Season 2 and Shine! Super Brothers is at its last few episodes. Good thing because next one has some new things and the next season of Produce Camp and Youth With You is coming up so its going to be kind of wild soon.

Thats it for this What’s Up!
What have you been reading/playing/watching/binging?

TV Binge: Sweet Home (Season 1, 2020)

Sweet Home (Season 1, 2020)

Creators: Lee Eung-bok, Hong So-ri, jan Young-woo, Kim Hyeong-min, Park So-hyeon

Cast: Song Kang, Lee Jin-uk, Lee Si-young, Lee Do-hyun, Kim Nam-hee, Ko Min-si, Park Kyo-young, Go Youn-jung, Kim Gap-soo, Kim Sang-ho

Following the death of his family in an accident, loner Cha Hyun Soo moves to a new apartment. His quiet life is soon disturbed by strange incidents that start occurring in his new building. As people turn into monsters, Hyun Soo and other residents try to survive. – MyDramaList

Based on the webtoon of the same name, Sweet Home takes place as the world heads into an apocalypse where humans are turning into monsters. In an apartment building, the residents suddenly are locked in and soon realize why. As they hatch their plans of defense, its not whats outside but what is trapped inside that is their concern as well as who is infected and will turn. Being at a well-paced 10 episodes, the series moves through the characters foundation and the main characters slowly have their own story unravel whether in flashbacks or in conversation. The story also progresses in the sense that survival brings out the best and worst of people, making them at times the real danger as is the desires turning into these monsters. It makes you wonder whether its based a little on Buddhism and the concept of desire making someone unable to achieve happiness and in this sense, the infected will turn into monsters, some lethal and some harmless. With that said, there are two elements at least to look at Sweet Home: the characters and the monster design.

Sweet Home’s monsters are rather varied. There isn’t an expansive understanding of how someone gets infected but the symptoms are outlined fairly clearly. The change can be rather subtle unless someone is sitting around when someone’s nose fountains with a huge nosebleed. The monsters are rather varied and at one part, it stems from desire so there are many different types of monsters whether its one that is super fast with centaur legs or a giant eye or a gooey monster or a spider looking creature and so on so forth. They all are done fairly well. There are obvious moments of CGI use and its not as smooth as it should be but overall, it does look pretty nice. The only issue I had was one of the monsters was meant to be hulking and giant with this sinister grin and to me, it felt rather hilarious. Probably not the effect that the series was looking for but the monster itself was scary for its strength and relentlessness.

There are quite a few characters in Sweet Home. A decent bunch of ragtag supporting characters which bring some comedic relief and add some uselessness that usually causes more problems plus adds to the potential body count. The few main characters go more to Hyun-so, an eighteen year old that lives alone as a playtester and constantly thinks about suicide, a medical school student brother Eun-hyeok and an aspiring ballet dancer with a foot injury sister Eun-Yoo who is in disagreement with each other, a firefighter lady Yi-Kyeong, a musician girl Ji-soo and a mystery man with burnt scars on his face Jin-wook. The story revolves around these characters as their backstories get revealed one by one. What works well here is that these characters do slowly grow as they start to differ and show their worth as the situation gets more and more dire.

Sweet Home is an interesting first season to say the least. While I have little issues with the computer effects, the monster design, the atmosphere and especially those awesome fight scenes paired with “Warrior” by Imagine Dragons really does it all great favors. At the same time, the cast of characters and their development does work really well as they form their alliances and friendships and it all comes to a decent twist by the end. If there was any issue, its that the first season sets up for a second season and yet, if it doesn’t happen, that ending might be quite a pity. Fingers crossed that it will get a second season!

To All The Boys: Always and Forever (2021)

You can check out the review of the first 2 movies of this trilogy below:

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

To All The Boys: Always and Forever (2021)

Director: Michael Fimognari

Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Ross Butler, Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Trezzo Mahoro, Sarayu Blue, John Corbett, Henry Thomas

Continuing the romantic life of the teenage girl and facing her good and hard times with her friends and family. – IMDB

As we reach the last movie of the To All The Boys trilogy on Netflix, this is based on the third book of the trilogy of the same name. The third book is focused around Lara Jean but this time, unlike the first one where its about facing up to her feelings despite making herself vulnerable or the second book that its about choosing between two guys, this one is dials back to her as she struggles with choosing between a college that she wants to go to and the guy that she loves, worrying about the future of what might happen if she chooses one love over the other or a more suitable future over her love life, despite having to face up to changing plans and the consequences related to it. The story itself centering back to the basics of family, her future and her love life.

While its not a complete change back to its first film and lacks somewhat of the same type of charm, Always and Forever is a definite step up from the second film. However, that’s not to say that this one has some issues as well as it has a feeling piecing together montages a lot and jumping from one sequence to the next rather quickly creating a little sense of disjointedness. Where this film does carry back its fun elements is bringing back more screen time for the three sisters and the relationship they have while each also having their own sense of settling with a new situation to come with their father remarrying. There is no doubt that a big part of what works for this trilogy is the family element especially when the other sisters are charming characters along with their father.

For Lara Jean, the center back to her and her friends along with the idea of how to go for the future she wants in terms of college and think a little more about making the decision suitable for her comes into play. Of course, To All The Boys is also about Peter and Lara Jean’s relationship and there is a decent balance of it here as well especially as they each face their own insecurities about a future that might involve them being apart from each other and finding the courage and confidence to face those problems together. In some ways, for Lara Jean, its a lot about how she decides to be true to what she wants and for Peter to be able to support her choices even if it means taking a harder route for them.

To All The Boys: Always and Forever also packs in a really nice soundtrack that definitely matches with everything. There is a use of romantic comedy references which is pretty fun as well as the concept of Peter and Lara Jean’s meet-cute. The script here fills in those pieces of what hasn’t been talked about in previous two books while also tying in Lara Jean’s love for romantic comedies that makes it feel like it fits well. It also brings back a snippet of the first film’s use of having her talking to an imagined version of Peter Kavinsky as she struggles to tell him the truth behind something was misinterpreted. With that said, the charming characters of Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky as their own characters and as a couple is still one of the highlights of the film, which also makes perhaps some small little details feel very touching to watch, especially the near ending scene that is probably one of my faves and gives a nice feeling of the series coming full circle.

Overall, To All The Boys: Always and Forever is a pretty good sequel. Its a nice way to wrap up the trilogy and manages to bring everything back to a nice feeling from the first film. It addresses all the characters in Lara Jean’s circle for the most part and sees a progress throughout the time being in school and how they’ve also changed as well or made amends in other cases. Its about growing up and these characters definitely feel like they have. Its a satisfying ending and a great way to wrap up the trilogy.

The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity (晴雅集, 2020)

The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity (晴雅集, 2020)

Director (and writer): Jingming Guo

Cast: Mark Chao, Allen Deng, Olivia Wang, Duo Wang, Jessie Li, Kaicheng Xu, Chenjun Sun, Kurt Huang, Jusper

Qing Ming, the Yin-Yang Master, took his master’s last wish and went to the Captial Tiandu City to attend the heaven ceremony. – IMDB

Adapted from novel series Onmyoji written by Baku Yumemakura, The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity is a 2020 Chinese fantasy film acquired last year by Netflix before its theatrical release starring some well-known main leads Allen Deng (2018 popular drama Ashes of Love) and Mark Chao (2017 popular drama Eternal Love) and directed and written by Edward Guo, an author, director and screenwriter whose work has been adapted frequently especially his Tiny Times movie series.

Seeing as the IMDB summary is a bit vague, here’s a synopsis: The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity tells the story of Qing Ming (Mark Chao), a disciple of Zhongxing which has been put in charge of representing their sect as one of the Four Guardians to attend the ceremony to seal the Evil Serpent from breaking out of its vessel along with 3 other masters from other sects. Its here that he meets one of the other masters, Bo Ya (Allen Deng) who views the slaying of demons differently and gets off on the wrong foot. When one of the Guardians dies mysteriously before the ceremony, Princess Chang Ping (Olivia Wang) assigns a new master He Shouyue (Duo Wang) to replace him in order for the plans to carry on. As Qing Ming and Bo Ya both investigate the murder, they come to realize that there’s a much bigger plan underway that might lead to someone trying to release the Evil Serpent.

Chinese fantasy films and TV is a fairly popular genre in general. The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity is executed pretty well. Its runtime is a tad long at over 2 hours and it feels like some parts are stretched a little long but the story does have a decent complexity to carry it. Its not exactly novel in its realm and some parts are fairly predictable however, the character development and building up the foundation for these two main characters, Qing Ming and Bo Ya is done well. The movie itself has great production value especially with the cinematography which is great whether in the contrast and saturation, mood and atmosphere of each scene or the score and even the costumes. However, what deserves recognition definitely is in some well done computer effects for the monster design and movements.

While the director gets criticized a lot for his directing style, I actually quite like his style and how he films (especially after watching variety show Everybody Stand By 2) plus the story he tells has definitely grown from the beginning and he does have a lot of details in his writing and execution. There’s a definite growth from the earlier works that were adapted to this adapted screenplay of The Yin-Yang Master. Aside from that, the cast here is really great. Mark Chao and Allen Deng work really well in their respective roles. I do feel that Mark Chao’s characters are rather similar from the ones I’ve seen before while I do like Allen Deng’s Bo Ya a lot more especially with this costumes and character design whether its his weapons and such. Much like the characters specifically for this instalment like Olivia Wang and Dou Wang (who takes on two roles here). The whole concept of Spriti Guardians and their appearances especially for the design of Kaicheng Xu’s Kuang Hua Shi and the other two at the end with the characters of Killing Stone (Chenjun Sun) and Snow Dog (Jasper).

The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity was a pleasant surprise to say the very least. With a decent cast and a fairly decent twist plus some great demon/creature designs, the story packs in a lot of fantasy mixed with mystery and action. Plus, the new thing especially after the success of The Untamed definitely is adapting movies with two male leads. For this one, these two are equally good actors plus for fans of Allen Deng from Ashes of Love, its a good throwback of him in CGI wings again. Chinese fantasy films might not be for everyone but if you do like to try out something new, this one is a decent one to check out and just got released on Netflix, which is always a plus.