Double Feature: Dude (2018) & Every Day (2018)

Dude (2018)

Director (and co-writer): Olivia Milch

Cast: Lucy Hale, Kathryn Prescott, Alexandra Shipp, Awkwafina, Alex Wolff, Brooke Smith, Jerry MacKinnon, Satya Bhabha

A group of teenage girlfriends deal with their impending graduation from high school. – IMDB

Dealing with high school seems like a central focus of coming of age stories as the next step in life triggers change and insecurities. Dude focuses strongly on its group of four girl friends as they face loss right before their final year. As they each have their own worries, they all individually make their own decisions even if it isn’t always in agreement with their group. Between getting ready for graduation, getting high together and planning out their next step for college, their last 2 weeks before graduation is one filled with both comedic and dramatic moments.

Girl friends stories are always quite endearing to watch. These four friends each have their own unique personality. Two of the girls are specifically focused with Lucy Hale’s Lily and Kathryn Prescott’s Chloe who share the same loss at the beginning which makes each of them cope in their different ways. The film does a good job at building their friendship where they go to events/parties/school together but gradually all have their own experiences which change each of them, giving them their individuality as well. Lily has her encounters which takes her aback while Chloe chooses to pivot her plans to be closer to home. All these things highlighting the process of moving on to the stage and accepting change and separation. In comparison, Alexandra Shipp’s Amelia and Awkwafina’s Rebecca both have rather one goal oriented, giving them a much simpler role but still they add some fun scenes.

Overall, Dude is a fairly basic coming of age teen comedy/drama. The issues they face are fairly relevant and believable and the characters are decent. If anything, the characters do make the film rather enjoyable. Plus, you even get to enjoy a verse or two from Awkwafina rapping. The writers remember that the film is about teenagers so there is a good balance between drama and fun.

Every Day (2018)

Director: Michael Sucsy

Cast: Angourie Rice, Justice Smith, Debby Ryan, Jeni Ross, Owen Teague, Lucas Jade Zumann, Katie Douglas, Jacob Batalon, Sean Jones, Nicole Law, Maria Bello

A shy teenager falls for a spirit who wakes up in the body of a different person every morning. – IMDB

Adapted from the young adult novel of the same name by David Levithan, Every Day stands out from its unique premise where a person “A” migrates through different bodies everyday of the same age. Despite this, they still find a girl Rhiannon (Angourie Rice) who is willing to love them for who they are, putting aside gender and appearances. The story itself feels relevant to today more than anything and tells a story about acceptance and love.

Every Day builds on this premise. The film’s focus in love and acceptance is due to this person’s personality or soul and their connection. Another side of this premise highlights all the different person exist within one community from homeschoolers to extremely religious student. While the story itself seems a little ahead of times for teenagers especially talking about romance in connections and such, the message here is pretty good. The whole body migrating mostly remain a mystery as they never quite figure out what it is however, there seems to be some control as they soon discover which also brings up the question of how unfair it is to take over someone’s life and make them lose out. The whole mystery of the situation also does lead to some unclear moments where A embodies the person but still manages to have their skills. Something that isn’t explored quite enough perhaps but then this is a teen romance drama and not some sci-fi or fantasy film.

The film itself works pretty well as the young cast delivers some good performances. The main constant being the female lead played by Angourie Rice as she faces this person and starts to accept him. Angourie Rice does a great job with the role at hand especially when faced with this odd person who morphs everyday. The conflict, the acceptance, the heartache is all well developed and portrayed by her. The cast which A migrates includes a handful of characters which have more screen time with Justice Smith, Owen Teague, and Lucas Jade Zumann. To be fair, the film itself does a decent job but while I haven’t read the source material, the premise itself has a lot to do with the intrigue. The execution is fairly well where credit is due but there are still parts that feel a tad disjointed.

Double Feature: Booksmart (2019) & Carrie Pilby (2016)

Booksmart (2019)

Director: Olivia Wilde

Cast: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Victoria Ruesga, Mason Gooding, Skyler Gisondo, Diana Silvers, Molly Gordon, Billie Lourd, Eduardo Franco, Nico Hiraga

On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night. – IMDB

Olivia Wilde’s debut directorial feature film is a raunchy teen party film. Booksmart is a pretty fun little high school graduation romp that circles around two girls who have given up their social life for the duration of high school to excel in her studies to realize on the day before graduation that their dedication to the books was in vain as other students who also had fun also got into great Ivy League schools.

One night adventures are something that are quite the fun ride most of the time like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Booksmart actually works in a similar structure as the two best friends try to hunt down the biggest party that they should be at before their high school life is over but ends up in many other places and meeting some strange people along the way. The fun in all of it is that they soon realize that their classmates are more than meets the eye whether it is quirky or different, they all have their own passions and don’t quite have everything as together as they make it seem. Perhaps they don’t quite see it until the end, but a lot of the assumptions they make are eventually overturned throughout the night one by one as they get caught up in different scenarios.

Booksmart is very focused on its two young leading actresses, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein playing Amy and Molly respectively. These two bring their characters to life really well. The two both reveal some glaring differences that make them opposites which all comes crashing down as their own issues surface however, these two do have something great that defines their friendship in a positive way in that they have their own structure as friends and their own rules and words and the essence of their friendship is further encouraging as the two take every moment to lift each other up. The best is when they get changed into whatever outfit and they give each other endless oddly structured compliments which adds humor but is very endearing as well. All great friendships do have those little things and its what makes their feel genuine.

If there was something to nitpick about the film, it has to be that some scenes are taken a little overboard mostly in comedy which makes it sometimes a little unbearable and perhaps could turn some people away as it does come on a little strong. Its not too frequent but the quirkiness and oddities could sometimes feel that way. One of the bigger examples could be Billie Lourd’s character which pops up everywhere. Most of the time, she is very funny and her character does come together by the end when her underlying characteristics are further defined as they know the other people. There really isn’t a whole lot to criticize for this film. Booksmart has a lot of elements that work really well for a teen coming of age comedy about best friends. Its just a lot of fun.

Carrie Pilby (2016)

Director: Susan Johnson

Cast: Bel Powley, Nathan Lane, William Moseley, Desmin Borges, Vanessa Bayer, Colin O’Donoghue, Jason Ritter, Gabriel Byrne

A person of high intelligence struggles to make sense of the world as it relates to morality, relationships, sex, and leaving her apartment. – IMDB

Based on the novel of the same name by Caren Lissner, Susan Johnson’s full length feature directorial debut was for Carrie Pilby which centers around a young girl with high intelligence and realizes that outside of her books and routine, there really isn’t much else. In terms of human relationships, she lacks the ability to find her place, losing out on the social life that she should have at her age. When her therapist makes a list that she needs to complete, her life slowly starts to form together as the emotions with the people she meets brings back a past event that overshadows her in a certain way.

Carrie Pilby is a rather interesting film. The film has some great characters and it focuses a lot on the whole socialization of a the character as she enters the adult world ahead of her time, missing out on the experiences that could craft those skills. Instead her life is filled with books. Honestly, I don’t really see the issues with it being a reader and all, right? However, for her, its a much deeper issue that her therapist is addressing linking back to her family and her past. While not exactly a fish out of water sort of story, Carrie is an odd character and her interactions do turn out to be a little comedic when she easily overthinks a situation or misunderstands certain scenarios or simply making some bad judgment calls. However, it all dials down to her character development being set in a rather emotionless world to protect herself and these tasks help her take down her walls gradually and let those emotions back in. The execution of that element is done very well and Bel Powley does a great job portraying the character.

While Carrie’s character is done pretty well, the other characters do leave a little to be desired as they are designed fairly thin. The other more prominent character does go to her therapist played by Nathan Lane who does a rather decent job to achieve the means. The other characters are just scattered people from dates to neighbors to her father who really just help push her to learn more and see more about other people in the world to see what humanity is and embracing the imperfections of the world. It captures the essence of coming of age pretty well overall.

Announcement: Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2022!

Welcome to the 7th Annual Ultimate Decades Blogathon hosted by myself and Drew’s Movie Reviews.

Following last year’s suit in the new blogathon style, the Ultimate Decades Blogathon continues on with our numeric progress as we celebrate our favorite movies released in a year ending in “2”. That means you can pick any movie from 1922, 1932, 1942, 1952, 1962, 1972, 1982, 1992, 2002, 2012 and if are super on your game and have already watched some new releases worth talking about, feel free to talk about something from 2022. As usual, we allow for doubles in selections to keep it easier for everyone and see what movies stood out for you in any of those years.

To help with your movie choices from any of these years, here’s a list of the releases from each of the years mentioned above:

The details of this blogathon:

  • Any movie released in a year ending in “2” is a valid choice. They are not limited to those in the list above as I’m not quite sure if those cover foreign film choices but that is always an option as well.
  • You can choose to do more than one review. Just let us know in advance.
  • The reviews will be posted to our blogs so make sure to submit it to us (if you plan on posting on your blog as well, let us know so that we give you the release date so that you can pair it with our release schedule).
  • Submission Deadline: February 13th (if you need more time, let us know in advance and we can absolutely work it out)
  • Blogathon starts on February 21st
  • Email submissions to kim.tranquildreams@gmail.com and/or Drew at drewt510@gmail.com. Please notify us in the comments below or by email if you plan on participating.
  • You can tag us and help us promote using #UltimateDecadesBlogathon

Welcome all to join! You can be from any platform since your review will be posted on our blogs. We look forward to your choices and submissions. Feel free to use the banner above to show off your participation. If you know anyone that would be interested in joining, please help us spread the word. The more the merrier!

Poupelle of Chimney Town (2020)

Poupelle of Chimney Town (2020)

Director: Yusuke Hirota

English voice cast: Tony Hale, Antonio Raul Corbo, Stephen Root, Misty Leek Hasan Minhaj, Greg Chun, Ray Chase, James Mathis III

A factory town is covered by chimney smoke, and as the townspeople haven’t see the sky in centuries, they no longer believe that stars exist. A chimney sweep and a friendly monster named Poupelle decide to prove that stars are real. – IMDB

Mostly known for his role as computer graphics animator, director Yusuke Hirota has his directorial debut with this colorful adaptation of Akihiro Nishino’s children picture book of the same name, Poupelle of Chimney Town, who also writes the screenplay. Poupelle of Chimney Town is a family fantasy animated film set on an island which is covered in chimney smoke with no knowledge of anything outside of their world. Carrying his disappeared father’s story in his mind, Lubicchi works as a chimney sweep to be closer to the sky in hopes of seeing the elusive stars that his father constantly talked about until he meets a monster that everyone called Garbage Man and he names Poupelle (nice play on the French world poubelle for garbage). As their friendship flourishes and he tries to hide Poupelle with a little help, they soon realize that Poupelle might not be just a monster while the constant doubt of the outside world and even the resistance of these ideas.

Poupelle of Chimney Town is pretty family friendly. In fact, it does play like a children’s book. The screenplay being written by the author of the source material definitely does fill in some of those boxes (although I have never read the source material itself). However, the story does flow relatively well. There are some parts that feel a little disjointed or the English dub dialogue might feel like it jumps into the next scene a little awkwardly. However, the concept of the whole story is there. As an animated film, the world itself being covered in chimney smoke doesn’t stop the actual film to be very colorful in appearance which brings the entire Chimney Town setting to life. The film also uses different angles for various sequences which almost plays out like a movie but at times like a video game scene and even a few musical scenes. It may feel a little odd, mostly fun but does add a little uniqueness to the whole execution.

The story is the main focus as the characters are pretty simple and easy to understand. There are some rather witty characters that pop in and out, much like any children’s book someone who poses as resistance and others that are bullies. Whether we look at Poupelle or Lubicchi who are primarily the main focus of the whole story, their goal is still pretty simple. The story talks about friendship, family, and most importantly, belief. The whole end game is to see whether there are stars in the sky and prove that Lubicchi’s dad wasn’t lying about this and being shamed for it. As the government gets in the way posing as the main resistance and others trying to stop life from the norm, the whole story unfolds both in adventure and drama, sometimes the tone does also jump around a little abruptly. It does all come to a rather satisfying and slightly emotional revelation. It seems a little far-fetched but if you do get immersed into the story about those living in this Chimney Town, the whole idea of seeing the miraculous sky is pretty cool.

Overall, Poupelle of Chimney Town is a decent family friendly animated film. There are a few darker moments and a tad bit of violence but the story itself is pretty straight forward and does feel rather magical and colorful, making it also visually appealing. It looks like a story book that comes to life for the most part in its art style. There are some fun characters and some cool adventures. Sure, the story feels like it has a little disjointedness whether in tone or story progression at times but the main message and story does carry forward well enough.

*Poupelle of Chimney Town opened in theatres across North America on January 7, 2022*

*Screener provided by Prise Media Group*

TV Binge: I Know What You Did Last Summer (Season 1, 2021)

I Know What You Did Last Summer (Season 1, 2021)

Cast: Madison Iseman, Brianne Tju, Ezekiel Goodman, Bill Heck, Ashley Moore, Fiona Rene, Cassie Beck, Brooke Bloom, Sonya Balmores, Danielle Delaunay, Sebastian Amoruso

In a town full of secrets, a group of teenagers are stalked by a mysterious killer a year after a fatal accident on their graduation night. – IMDB

I Know What You Did Last Summer is a 2021 modernized TV series adaptation of the novel of the same name and the 1997 film with only retains the general premise. I have always felt that slashers do have a market in creating longer forms for these stories whether its the previous attempt with Scream TV series (review) or this one since it gives so much more room to flesh out the story and characters and create a bigger mystery to cast suspicions. However, as both Scream and this series has proven, somehow they aren’t quite the crowd pleaser. Perhaps its the comparison to its predecessors or that a bunch of fresh faced teens as the main teens aren’t quite as appealing to watch with their new lingo and modern technology making the target audience not exactly aimed correctly. Whatever it is, it seems like a fate they haven’t been able to escape albeit myself finding both the previously mentioned or this one are still decently enjoyable despite there being obvious plot holes.

Looking at the story of I Know What You Did Last Summer, the essence of the premise is there. Grad night and an accident happen that gets hidden, a year later, they start getting hunted down along with other members of their community. The elements are all there and this remake brings things to today’s world: the social media, the lingo, etc. The story does pace fairly well throughout the season. It sets up the plot and uses the pieces of grad night to craft these characters one by one to not only complete the past and in turn, building up their present intentions or actions. The execution on that level is well done. The killings for the main group of teens is also spaced out fairly well with some creative death scenes to say the least while also directing suspicions from one character to the next reasonably. The best element of this TV series is that its self- contained. One season, a resolution and most answers addressed: its rare thing to have these days.

Looking at the young cast, I Know What You Did Last Summer is still pretty decent. Leading the show is the central characters, twins Lennon and Alison as they appear in flashback and present day, played by Madison Iseman, a young actress that I discovered with an indie film that I love, Riot Girls (review). She does a fantastic job as her character spirals throughout the film and creates some mind-boggling character development moments. Playing alongside her is Brianna Tju as Margot, a girl that has a little thing for Lennon but keeps getting rejected and has her own set of issues whenever she seems to lose control of her life as well as Dylan played by Ezekiel Goodman, who is the center of a lot of grad night’s feud between the twins and has the most resistance towards the whole accident being covered up. Much like them, there’s another girl who is best friends with Dylan and also deals drugs as her side business to earn some money, Riley (Ashley Moore). Complimenting the younger cast are the parent characters, the two prominent ones being Lennon and Alison’s dad (Bill Heck) who seems very knowledgable about covering their tracks about their little secret while his not-so-secret special fling with the police sheriff (Fiona Rene) who no doubt is a focus considering she is investigating all these deaths hitting their small town.

Overall, I Know What You Did Last Summer is a remake. It literally only uses the skeleton of the premise and builds from there. The film is set in sunny Hawaii which makes for some nice scenery. The cast itself is fairly decent for this type of teen series fare. While the plot itself has its fair share of head-scratching developments aka plot holes, it still fairly enjoyable to watch. I’m not sure anyone heading into these teen series are expecting some revelation or revolutionary profound watch so there’s no point in trying to make it what it isn’t. However, the show does have its fair share of tackling different personal issues that a lot of these shows normally would have and does it in a decent way. Slasher genre in general aren’t really supposed to taken that seriously since its just a fun time. Putting aside the comparisons, the show itself is pretty fun with decent moments of mystery and suspicion, building tension and a nice little wrap-up for the season-long mystery.

As a final thought in general, these teen slasher TV genre really seems to be struggling. It definitely makes me wonder why that’s the case. Teen series aim for a younger crowd so the original shows should bank on this better, perhaps Scream Queens being a nice example since it did make it to 2 seasons where other adapted or remade series might have its bigger issues as older audience than teens might want to venture into it since those would be compared to their source materials or film adaptation predecessors. Not sure there’s any conclusion to this thought but its been something that I’ve thought about whenever thinking about these series.

Double Feature: 6 Years (2015) & All The Bright Places (2020)

6 Years (2015)

Director (and writer): Hannah Fidell

Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Ben Rosenfield, Lindsay Burdge, Joshua Leonard, Jennifer Lafleur, Peter Vack, Dana Wheeler- Nicholson, Molly McMichael, Alysia Lucas

A young couple, bound by a seemingly ideal love, begin to unravel as unexpected opportunities spin them down a volatile and violent path and threaten the future they had always imagined. – IMDB

6 Years is a familiar story about young romance. One that talks about about a lengthy young romance that’s been around for years with plans of their future that suddenly get shifted when their future plans take on the unexpected changes because of new opportunities. Do they continue or do they end it? That is the main question these movies take its audience on.

Front and center for this film is Mel and Dan who start the film off in a hot and heavy sex scene. Its a unique way to start it as it does show off their intimacy together. However, the film actually sets them apart a lot of the times to interact with their new circle of friends or their work environment as they start stepping into the young adult path into their new career paths. Mel’s friends are still about getting drunk and immature about their decisions, giving a glimpse of the younger age and the people she hangs out with that also makes for some bad decision-making. However, Dan is different. He feels more settled and grounded and just waiting for his turn to grow in his career and making the connections he needs by associating with work friends. As the film puts them in their own social environment and not so much involved in each other’s social environment, the insecurity also sets in, especially for Mel who starts to react both emotionally and aggressively. The film doesn’t take it too far but the hints of the changes in the essence of their relationship is there.

With that said, the film is mostly about these two characters played by Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfield. Each doing a rather decent job at handling their roles respectively as they spiral away. Perhaps, some of the issues is mostly with the script as some of the dialogue feels rather annoying, no matter the scenario of Mel with her friends or Dan with his friends in the social environment. No one in this film other than them seems to believe that a 6 year relationship at their age would work and with all that negative force, its hard to not have some doubt planted in it. But then, when you think deeper, this also does bring up the issues that have been hidden from the comfort of having each other in their lives.

6 Years is a pretty basic film and whether you connect to the story itself and the content will probably determine how much you enjoy it in the end. These characters have their certain level of depths. The film does lack a little progress in general and makes some strong scenes to instigate those changes. However, the dialogue sometimes does get a little grating and annoying in parts. It does feel rather real and raw in some cases where the doubt does feel reasonable because their plans were made with stability and belief that there won’t be any change to their current situation, which also shows their naivety to real life. That is what brings these character to life and what makes this film an interesting one in terms of the material but lacks a little in the execution of the material to make it completely engaging with the whole situation.

All The Bright Places (2020)

Director: Brett Haley

Cast: Elle Fanning, Justice Smith, Alexandra Shipp, Kelli O’Hara, Lamar Johnson, Virginia Gardner, Felix Mallard, Sofia Hasmik, Keegan-Michael Key, Luke Wilson, Chris Grace

The story of Violet and Theodore, who meet and change each other’s lives forever. As they struggle with the emotional and physical scars of their past, they discover that even the smallest places and moments can mean something. – IMDB

*Published in Friday Film Club HERE*

Adapted from a novel of the same name by Jennifer Niven (review) who also co-writes the adapted screenplay, All The Bright Places tells the story of two teenagers, Violet and Finch who are both living unhappily for their own reasons. Violet is living with survivor guilt after her sister’s death which gives her a fear of cars and limits her to things that she finds are safe. Finch is a little more obscure as he is having consulting sessions at school with the counselor after an incident and is considered a freak by other students. When they work together on a project to wander the town, Finch takes Violet to a lot of adventures that slowly pulls her out of her sadness but slowly he retreats into his own darkness and struggles to get out from it. 

While its been a few years since I’ve read the novel itself, the adaptation does have some differences from the novel but does keep it in the important parts to make it the story effective. One of the key elements of the story is between the two main characters Violet and Finch and in turn their portrayal by the two main leads, Elle Fanning and Justice Smith. These two young actor and actress do capture their roles really well especially since they each have their own struggles. Justice Smith having the more obscure and complex one which never truly gets addressed as to what he has but his struggles from past to present is constantly shown in little details on screen. However, the film is only about these moments but rather it spends much of the time with Finch helping Violet find her happiness and smile again to break free of her own guilt and in turn, their adventures while rather insignificant at the beginning, each has their own meaning.

All The Bright Places has a very strong source material to begin with and a rather surprising ending when Finch gets a much more dramatic turn of events in its set up in comparison to the film. However, the film does capture the essence of the story in general which focuses on the neglect, ignorance, unknowns as well as struggles with mental illness in general and how Finch’s character is trapped in something he doesn’t quite understand but no one seems to notice that he needs the help either.

All The Bright Places might look like a teen romance that can just be brushed over but while there is some romance between Finch and Violet, the story is much more meaningful and has a lot of depth for what its trying to portray. Plus, Elle Fanning and Justice Smith does deliver some solid performances to capture these two teens very well from start to finish to truly feel their mental transition in both Violet and Finch right down to a very touching speech with Violet recapping the lessons she learned from the whole experience with Finch.

Music Obsessions – January 2022

Welcome to the first Music Obsessions of this year. To be honest, I’ve been just listening to a lot of old stuff lately so not really a whole lot of new things to share especially since a lot of the new stuff is from Netflix movies and holiday films so it seems like its not exactly a great time to share it. However, I did get back to listening to some fun older music as I was updating music on Spotify so I’ll share a few of those here.

The Wrong Song – mxmtoon & Dylan Chenfeld

Mixtape is one of those movies that I find are somewhat of a hidden gem. It has content that I really like and also focuses on the mixtape era which teaches the newer generation of when there were people putting together mixtapes and the whole idea of it. Of course, that’s besides the point here because the final song that they find is the original which probably means more in the movie than listening to it alone but I do enjoy the lyrics and such.

龍捲風 Tornado – MAYDAY五月天 feat.周杰倫 Jay Chou

Tornado was originally released on Jay Chou’s album in 2000 and probably the song that truly put him on the map. Its pretty epic to see that 2 decades later after many hits, he decided to team up with Taiwanese band Mayday to release this version. Its also a great version to be honest since both of them are very talented.

The Big Hits 勁歌金曲 – 古巨基 Leo Ku

The epitome of Cantopop medley does have to go to Leo Ku when he created an actual song that lasted 12 minutes and included a bunch of Cantonese songs that were really popular. The first compilation actually snuck in some popular classic Mandarin songs as well which worked incredibly well. However, it was quite a breakthrough and accompanied myself through a lot of karaoke sessions as the starting song when I was younger as warm up when with friends.

The Big Hits 2: The King of Love 情歌王 – 古巨基 Leo Ku

Of course, Leo Ku’s first medley success leads him to The Big Hits 2 which is a compilation of Mandarin love songs which has a lot of pretty fantastic choices as well. Its not quite the novel idea this time around since the original The Big Hits song and didn’t accompany me as much but recently, I’ve been revisiting it and there are some really great hits included in this medley that is well worth a listen.

勁歌金曲3-Party King – 古巨基 Leo Ku

To wrap up today’s session, I figure I’d just finish up introducing these Leo Ku medleys since the final one is called Party King, one that I knew existed but listened to the least as I had pretty much taken a break on Hong Kong music for a little while. However, as I listened to this again, I realized there are some decent songs mixed up in here and some pretty nice hit songs in there. My only issue with the Party King mix is that it does use that one party song beat to string all the songs together and it loses some of the actual music but does manage to cleverly put each of the songs and lyrics together.

Not exactly the best Music Obsessions but I’ve been wanting to revisit some older songs lately.
Hope you enjoyed! What have you been listening to lately?

Schemes in Antiques (古董局中局, 2021)

Schemes in Antiques (古董局中局, 2021)

Director: Derek Kwok

Cast: Jiayin Lei, Xian Li, Zhilei Xin, You Ge, Tao Guo, Mei Yong

Adapted from Ma Boyong’s novel of the same name, the film tells the story of a series of adventures that occurred when the descendants of the five veins made a wish to find out the truth about the Buddha head of Wu Zetian Mingtang in the Tang Dynasty. – IMDB

It’s always nice to have a film that delivers exactly what it says. Literally. Schemes in Antiques is exactly a plot revolving schemes in antiques. This Chinese film is a treasure hunt adventure which touches on a little bit of Chinese history and antiques. While the structure of the plot isn’t exactly novel, the approach using the Chinese antiques and following the characters to solve the puzzles to go to the next clue to find the elusive Buddha head that caused the main character’s family history to be tainted, leaving him in the undignified state that he lives in. There are secrets and twists and adventure plus a bit of family drama in the backstory that works well together.

Schemes in Antiques may seem like very straightforward just from its title alone and probably taking away a bit of the mystery itself. However, it has its own sort of fun elements. Its a plot which centers around a race to finding the truth behind this artifact that was supposed given to Japan but turns out to be fake. As two descendants go on this hunt, their different strengths lead them in different pacings on the trail. Both of these two characters have their own family legacies to fight for with the main character Xu Yuan having a much more direct motive: to find out the truth behind whether his ancestors did disgrace their family name.

The cast itself is pretty decent. The main character, Xu Yuan played by Jiayin Lei is pretty well-casted. While I haven’t seen this actor other than in variety shows, he does capture this role which floats between the constantly drunk electronic store owner with an exceptional antique knowledge living in the shadows of his disgraced family name from his grandfather and the neglect from his own father. However, his encounter with the daughter of one of the members of the antique society becomes an alliance that takes them for quite the dangerous adventure. In a film full of men, this character shines out played by Zhilei Xin who has her own motives to prove that a woman can also amount to purpose to break his father’s old-fashioned mindset. Their competition or opposition is played by Xian Li, the only cast here that I am familiar with especially after his burst of fame after Chinese TV drama series Go Go Squid! (one of my absolute favorite Chinese series as a side note) which has opened up the doors to a huge variety of roles in the past few years. He captures this role pretty well as his character straddles a line throughout as someone with ulterior motives but remains relatively mysterious right up to the end.

Overall, Hong Kong director and screenwriter Derek Kwok’s venture into the China market with this film is a pretty fun one. The runtime is a little wild at over 2 hours and at times feels a little lengthy but the adventure and action is pretty well done and adds in a little bit of comedy, which primarily is in the beginning. The film does build up a certain level of tension by the end and adds a decent twist to the plot in terms of character and the treasure hunt turnout for this antique. With a decent cast and a focus on the Chinese history and adventure based on some puzzle-oriented clues with some Chinese origins as well, it gives the film a unique angle to a fairly basic treasure hunt adventure film.

*Screener provided by Taro PR*

2022 Upcoming Plans!

Its 2022! After spending an entire year in the pandemic last year, life has definitely changed from watching new releases to just real life in general. Routine and everything has definitely taken a shift. Its the new year and we can only hope that we will hopefully escape the pandemic in some form in the coming year.

With all that said, yesterday we wrapped up with a 2021 overview and today is to share what to expect in 2022. Not a whole lot of change in general but for those new to the blog, it will give a general guideline of what to expect. I will try my best to achieve the majority of it but some things may not actually pan out. Its just how life works in general. If 2021 has taught me anything, its to just let things flow.

Enough of that and let’s move on to the actual plans!

BOOKS

Goodreads Reading Challenge 2022: 15 books

Last year was a massive fail in terms of reading. So I’ve basically opted to half the goal from last year. This goal feels overall attainable. One book or so a month seems pretty doable in general. I recently did a clean-up of my books and the goal is to go through the physical TBR books sitting on my bookshelves.

MOVIES

Movies will be basically the same thing as this year. I truly don’t believe new theatrical releases are in the horizon in terms of actual theatre visits so I’m going to focus on Netflix, Shudder and Digital rentals for most new releases. At the same time, this year’s big change is to take a year off of festival coverage. I will talk briefly about some life changes below as we get into some personal plans.

  • Focus on Double Features format
  • New releases or screeners get single reviews
  • Marathons:
    • February- Valentine Romance
    • October – Horror
    • December – Holidays
  • Ultimate Decades Blogathon: annual blogathon that I co-host is back and announcement post will be coming in a few weeks
  • Movies and Tea Podcast: podcast that I co-host will simultaneously be shared here as we dive into more director filmography and themed seasons

TV

All TV binges this year will focus on Netflix content for the greater part.

Where will the Chinese-language dramas that I consume go? That’s in the next section below!

TRANQUIL DREAMS PODCAST

After a few months of hiatus, the podcast will be making a return. This time, I’m going back to the original concept of what I had initially wanted to do with the podcast: Chinese-Language Dramas!

The podcast still needs some structural elements to be finalized but I will be covering Chinese-Language Dramas. What does that mean? Mainland Chinese, Taiwan and Hong Kong TV dramas. The main focus will be those accessible on streaming services since they are becoming more and more available on Netflix alone and I feel like it doesn’t get talked about enough since there are a few gems in general.

I am debating to have a Chinese and English version but that’s a whole other discussion which I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to quite yet in terms of time and editing alone. I do also have another idea for moving the once Sunday lists here as a monthly podcast segment but its a little more work so still under consideration.

MONTHLY SEGMENTS

Mostly the same:

  • Music Obsessions: first weekend of every month
  • Adventures & What’s Up: combined together at month-end

PARTIAL REVIVAL: BAKING THROUGH DISNEY & STUDIO GHIBLI

Look, Baking Through Disney is behind us. There’s no point in dwelling on something that probably won’t happen at this point. I bake desserts pretty much once a year. I’m not saying that it won’t happen again since I have been having the thought lately (due to some upcoming changes) but it won’t be happening in a good part of this year. However, I’m going through a bit of a burnout on horror films which makes the movie portion for horror marathon a big maybe whether I will do it by October or not. Maybe I will be out of it but other factors come into play (also something mentioned later in this post).

With all that said, I’ve been missing animated films and think its a great time to jump back into it so I do want to review Disney films preferably in the order of the ones I have access to or can rent (unless Disney+ has another cheap subscription month), very much like how the original project was structured minus the baking and creativity part. With that, I do also want to go through the Studio Ghibli films seeing as they are mostly available on Netflix right now. Perfect timing and all.

PERSONAL LIFE GOALS (AND A LITTLE UPDATE)

Most of the blog stuff is pretty much updated above so we will do some quick personal life goals. Last year’s workout goal in general worked at its best during the summer. This year is a little bit more different.

Let’s start with the update and real life news/update that may create the biggest change for my life and blog. I’m pregnant and due in a few months so anything in the second half of 2022 will be a big unknown at this point. With that said, the life goals will be very much oriented towards this new change.

  • Eat healthier: For obvious reasons, this is already underway. I am in the process of boosting calcium since lactose intolerance doesn’t exactly help in that department. Along with that, also boosting fruit consumption since I was very bad at that last year.
  • Streaming Once A Week: After that one stream last year in March, I’ve been thinking of streaming regularly for a while but never really had the right timing. So, I thought I’d take baby steps and set in one stream every weekend. I will probably do an official announcement once I finally take the step to start it up.
  • Set Up the Nursery & New Office: The news above basically means I’m working on clearing out my current office to transform into the nursery. I mean, this is a gradual to-do list. There’s a general plan right now so this kind of links to the above goal since I do want to transition to the new office area in the house before streaming. Less hassle that way.

FINAL GENERAL NOTE FOR THE BLOG

I’ve been slowing down on writing this past year. A lot contributed to it. With the new changes in life, I don’t foresee writing frequency increasing and I don’t want to stress over it. The goal is to get a post up every 2 to 3 days. Plus, after a decade of blogging, I do want to jump into some new projects hence the solo podcast with this new structure and also streaming. Maybe when those things happen, I will also want to write more. It will take time for a new routine to build in so some of the newer things will be lesser frequency. Either way, I am going to maintain the quality instead of quantity.

2022 will hopefully be a great year despite the craziness in reality!
Happy New Year and Wishing Everyone All the Best!

Do you all have some new projects? Feel free to share it in the comments!

My December 2021 Adventures + Overview of the Year

After an entire year of pandemic (and ongoing from the previous year), we’ve finally reached the end of 2021. Its a tad wild and yet 2021 went by incredibly fast despite all the sitting at home, watching TV, playing games, and finding other ways from our own homes to connect with friends. Of course, the blog is not about that and while here took a little slowdown in the last few months mostly for personal IRL reasons, I still think it was very much needed. With that said, a little look at some simple activities in December. We will end with an overview of 2021: some simple numbers, and top 10 lists. You know, this is the normal deal on the last day of the year.

Christmas Decorations

Beyond Monet

Before things started getting worse in Montreal, we managed to make it to the Beyond Monet exhibit. Monet art is something that means a lot to me as art is something is what reminds me of my childhood with my father. With that said, this exhibit was quite the show as its a 360 wall of Monet art that flips through the details of each collection while pairing it with classical music (in majority, there was some opera as well).

OVERVIEW OF 2021

Its the end of 2021 and with that, its time for some quick numbers! First of all, we are dropping blogging statistics this year because its really not something that was top on my list this year. However, let’s focus back on the content that was consumed.

  • Total films watched: 215 movies
  • Total books read: 9 books
  • Total TV series binged: 69 seasons

Top 10 First Time Watches

  1. Hand Rolled Cigarette
  2. Vicious Fun
  3. Dreams On Fire
  4. The Final Girls
  5. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
  6. Inglourious Basterds
  7. Better Days
  8. The Dressmaker
  9. Hello! Tapir
  10. Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes

Top 10 TV series

  1. Flourish in Time
  2. Baking Impossible
  3. Our Secret
  4. Squid Game
  5. Moonlight
  6. Lost In Space (Season 1-3)
  7. Love Crossed
  8. A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower
  9. Use For Our Talent
  10. Sweet Home

Overall, 2021 was a decrease in content in general for film watching in general. The actually movie watching for 2021 releases was all focused on what was accessible on streaming services or online. Some of which is still waiting to be written up. Less posts written, less movies watched, a new podcast (which is currently in hiatus for rebuild), more TV watching (I believe since I didn’t track it last year), an unbelievable backlog of movies and TV series to write up reviews and a whole lot less books read is where I’m at as we approach this year-end. However, its been a crazy year in real life so I think all things aside, its amazing that things are still running the way it is.

Drop by tomorrow to see the 2022 upcoming plans post!
There’s some little changes and announcements!