Double Feature: Beyond The Lights (2014) & Yes God Yes (2019)

Welcome to the next double feature! This time, we’re looking at two films that feel like they don’t really have anything to do with each other except perhaps that they both feature a female lead as its main character and both also has female directors. The first is a 2014 romance-drama called Beyond the Lights and the second is 2019’s teen comedy-drama Yes God Yes.

Let’s check it out!

Beyond The Lights (2014)

Director (and writer): Gina Prince-Bythewood

Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker, Minnie Driver, Machine Gun Kelly, Danny Glover

The pressures of fame have superstar singer Noni on the edge, until she meets Kaz, a young cop who works to help her find the courage to develop her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be. – IMDB

Movies about singers who are trying to break out their set path to follow their own voice and setting it as a romantic drama isn’t exactly a unique premise. Beyond The Lights is very similar in that it sets out with a popular singer who goes back to her hotel room and ends up being found by a cop who is hired security sitting on the ledge of her balcony, seeming like she wants to jump. A cry for help that ends up being ignored except for the cop who reaches out to her and as they get closer, starts to give her to courage to be herself. In fact, Beyond The Lights is rather formulaic in the way that the whole story is executed. However, the whole beginning kickstarts the issue very quickly and is paced rather well to keep the two main characters to build in friendship and chemistry. At the same time also adding some more characters that are opposing to her new affections or choices like her manager and mother and a PR arranged relationship with a popular rapper. It creates enough conflict to pull the pieces together and build up a decent story.

Its really hard to discuss Beyond The Lights, mostly because this type of film is rather simplistic for the most part. The premise is rather formulaic and there is no doubt that the same formula is applied here. However, the standout point here is that they have a decent cast. The best one that holds the film together is the main actress playing Noni, the star of the show played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw who delivers a great performance. Playing opposite her is the cop Kaz played by Nate Parker, whom I haven’t seen anywhere before but has a decent chemistry with Noni even if his character does feel a little hollow in comparison. His main purpose is to be the motivation for Noni that sets her out of this breaking point and have the courage to set out on the path that she wants. Aside from that, playing manager mom is Minnie Driver who delivers a good performance as well. I sometimes feel that Minnie Driver is rather underrated especially as she shows up in some of the most unexpected movies every once in a while (at least on my watch list).

To be fair, I watched this movie because of Gugu Mbatha-Raw and because she delivers a strong performance, Beyond The Lights was a decent watch. It is a fairly predictable type of film and didn’t exactly feel like it landed in terms of being as touching as it should be but the movie does start off on the right foot especially on a scene so strong as being pushed to wanting to commit suicide despite all the attention around her but having no one really notice it. Because of that overall, the film is decent but the beginning is much stronger then the rest of the film. While there is some good chemistry and decent acting, it still feels familiar. Bottomline: if you like these types of movies, this one does a great job and is well worth of a watch and if you don’t, then just skip it as it probably won’t offer you anything too different in terms of premise.

Yes God Yes (2019)

Director (and writer): Karen Maine

Cast: Natalia Dyer, Timothy Simons, Wolfgang Novogratz, Francesca Reale, Susan Blackwell, Alisha Boe, Donna Lynne Champlin, Parker Wierling, Allison Shrum, Matt Lewis

After an innocent AOL chat turns racy, a Catholic teenager in the early 00s discovers masturbating and struggles to suppress her new urges in the face of eternal damnation. – IMDB

Yes God Yes is a fun comedy movie with a coming to age angle to it when a Catholic teenager is torn between her religious upbringings and her newly discovered sexual urges. From a good girl that everyone seems to blend in, she starts off being caught in a rumor that is a complete lie but tears apart some of her friendships before heading to church camp where she gets attracted to one of the camp counselors while being told how she should act in light of the religious belief. The whole concept is a lot of fun and a really great premise especially since it shows the shock of the first online encounter of someone sharing racy pictures as a teenager while at the same time, having that as a first step into something that no one around her talks about or when is talked about is considered to be wrong. However, the whole journey of the movie reveals that perhaps the people around her is rather hypocritical especially the people who emphasizes that sexual acts are wrong. Its a good end-game and message for the whole story that it wants to tell here.

There’s quite a lot to like about Yes God Yes. The first is, of course, the main actress who does carry a good part of the movie as it follows her character Alice and is from her point of view from the things she sees and showing the feelings that she has as well as the confusion of the things she encounters plus the dilemma of what is right and wrong when it comes to being faithful to her religious practice while following her own newly discovered urges. In that sense, Natalia Dyer does a fantastic job. To be fair, I did watch this movie because I wanted to see Natalia Dyer in something other than Nancy on Stranger Things (review) and it being a really different character from I Believe in Unicorns (review). The role feels really natural for her. There are some rather awkward moments but it is fittingly and believable for her character as well especially in her reactions and facial expressions.

Aside from her character, the other character of focus would be the character of Father Murphy, played by Timothy Simons who pretty much tries to constantly lecture and nudge Alice onto the right path especially as he tiptoes around the whole rumor that he’s heard of. His character is really on point as it does have a turning point and the dialogue between Father Murphy and Alice does shift and develop over the course of the film. There are some other characters of note that come along and add to the same effect but some of them feel not as important or worth a mention.

Overall, Yes God Yes is a really fun movie. The overall message is great and the take it uses and execution works pretty well. The movie isn’t long so is well-paced also. There are some little issues especially with the interaction with some other characters but whether you find it comedic or not is going to depend on what type of humor you’re into. For myself, some of the comedic parts landed and some of it wasn’t so much that it was funny but the part still felt relevant to the whole story. I’d say that this one is definitely a fun one to watch.

Run (2020)

Run (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Aneesh Chaganty

Cast: Sarah Paulson, Kiera Allen, Pat Healy, Erik Athavale, Sara Sohn, BJ Harrison

A homeschooled teenager begins to suspect her mother is keeping a dark secret from her. – IMDB

There always seems to be this focus on mother-daughter relationships and a fascination on these movies being chosen by Netflix (thinking back to the sci-fi Netflix film, I Am Mother (review)). Run focuses its main premise around a teenager, Chloe and her mom, Diane. Chloe is a girl that survived at birth but is ridden with a full bill of medical issues from asthma to being paralyzed in her legs. Despite that, she looks forward to her freedom when she gets to finally leave home and go to college however, its then that she starts something suspicious of her mom and starts to look deeper into it.

The movies focus on the two main characters and the build-up of how their relationship evolves over the course of the film is done fairly well. Plus, it also sees each of these characters’ development. All these are definitely strengths of the film especially when it gives the mom character played by the talented Sarah Paulson, who showed us how creepy she can be when she was in Netflix show, Ratched. Paired up with a younger actress Keira Allen, who does hold her own. The two play well off of each other. The scope of the film really is a focus on 2 characters and their confined life and routine that it actually makes it all the more engaging to watch how Chloe will react when she realizes the secrets and the changes she goes through.

The script isn’t exactly completely original as the twist doesn’t feel as shocking as it probably could be. There are some subtle creepy moments which was probably given away if you saw the trailer, and that’s something that I dislike about Netflix when its a highlighted film and just plays the trailer on its own. The trailer gives a lot of the movie away perhaps that’s why it feels not as exciting as it should be. However, thanks to these two characters and how they are scripted, the movie does have its own tension especially as things do ramp up in a decently-paced manner. Actually the movie sets up the norm of this family rather quickly and then sets up the suspicion and kicks things off from that point on rather quickly. It all comes to a rather intense ending especially when we look at the final ending which is one that is pretty good and has decent shock value.

Overall, as I think back to Run, the movie is at its best when the characters are playing off each other. There is no doubt that Sarah Paulson’s acting and grasp of her character is fantastic. It creates this dreading feeling that she is always watching which makes everything Chloe does to figure out the mystery feel even more tense especially with all her medical issues. Despite some of these ideas feeling slightly familiar, Run is still a decent well-paced psychological thriller that is still well worth a watch.

Double Feature: Eighth Grade (2018) & Tramps (2016)

Welcome to the next double feature! This time, I’ve paired up the 2018 coming of age teen movie Eighth Grade and the 2016 romance/comedy Netflix film, Tramps. Let’s check it out!

Eighth Grade (2018)

Director (and writer): Bo Burnham

Cast: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan, Daniel Zolghadri, Fred Hechinger, Luke Prael, Catherine Oliviere

An introverted teenage girl tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth grade year before leaving to start high school. – IMDB

Being in high school is hard. Between feeling invisible and trying to fit in and still being yourself, Kayla (Elsie Fisher) runs her own Youtube channel where there aren’t a lot of viewers but she talks about how to fit in and the many issues of being a teenager in high school without actually really knowing what she’s talking about as her persona in her Youtube is rather opposite from her real life situation as the film fits those parallels rather well. Its how the story is executed using her real life and how she shares her thoughts on almost a textbook version of how to face issues in high school or teenager that builds up her character really well. Adding in the relationship that she has with her dad where she’s rather annoyed at times or reluctant to share her thoughts with him, the teenage girl character is very believable. What also works well is the subtlety of the teenage girl’s change as she encounters different situations that as a coming of age story, gives her a revelation but not before having some kind of emotional “meltdown”. That scene being probably one of the most powerful in the film.

With that said, Elsie Fisher delivers a wonderful role. Being able to carry a lot of the movie especially since her introverted personality does make this film centered a lot around her actions and decisions plus what she says to those around her in order to try to be more accepted or noticed. As she moves through being forced to go to parties that is invited by a parent or trying to get the attention of the boy that she likes by pretending or trying to open herself up more to the other girls in the grade to hopefully earn their friendship, her story is a lot more sad as the whole movie almost feels like not much happens and yet while nothing happens, Kayla goes through a lot of change from her reaction or her emotions and the way she talks or ever communicates with her dad. Its such a well-crafted character that I really connected with (especially since I was also an introverted teenage girl once).

Prior to this film, I’ve only seen a couple of Bo Burnham’s stand-up comedy show which I do enjoy his humor especially since he is younger so the bits are more related to a younger perspective. With Eighth Grade, the script and directing is pretty good overall. In many ways, it does capture the teenage life and to have it unravel over a week as Kayla gets ready to end eighth grade for high school, it almost is relatable to moving from high school to college for us as our middle school to high school didn’t include a graduation ceremony. It does have a rather satisfying ending especially as she starts being able to face up to those who don’t respect her and befriend those who seem to be more worth her time. In some ways, Eighth Grade does feel a little different to how a lot of coming of age films are and yet perhaps because it feels almost a little more subtle and quiet that the moments at the end do pack a punch.

Tramps (2016)

Director (and writer): Adam Leon

Cast: Callum Turner, Grace Van Patten, Michal Vondel, Mike Birbiglia, Margaret Colin, Louis Cancelmi

A young man and woman find love in an unlikely place while carrying out a shady deal. – IMDB

One day adventures (or even compact in a weekend) between two characters are probably one of my favorite types of films. The best example would be movies like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist which takes that concept and gives a great film that takes the audience for an adventure through a city. On one hand , it creates a simple human relationship and focuses on the “chemistry” between the two characters and doesn’t overcomplicate with too many side characters other than through other dialogue or quick scenes. On the other hand, it usually has a certain “travel” through a city element as it quickly moves from one location to the next.

The premise has these two characters, Danny and Ellie being caught chasing after a wrongly swapped briefcase after an unfamiliar task goes wrong when Danny helps his brother when he held at the police station. There are some scenes with the other characters which pads out the backstory of the importance of the briefcase. The areas they explore isn’t exactly a travel heavy premise as its not landmarks (or at least I’m unfamiliar with it). Of course, it does highlight the difference of lifestyles that these two are used to versus the person they followed to find back the suitcase which is in a more upper class suburban neighborhood.

Danny and Ellie couldn’t be more different however, they both learn about their “trapped” life and how this job means for them and slowly builds trust and coordination for each other as they face each obstacle.The way these two work together are actually quite funny especially Danny’s reaction when he realizes he swapped the wrong briefcase. The interaction between the two really being a big highlight in the film. There are some comedic points that land rather well which also helps the story plus the whole execution is decently paced.

Overall, Tramps is a feel-good movie. Its simple in story, characters and execution but the two characters are charming to follow along and they do have their own sort of adventure which brings them closer together. Danny and Ellie played by Callum Turner and Grace Van Patten respectively, are definitely enjoyable. I’d definitely say that this is a hidden gem in terms of Netflix films.

Double Feature: Down A Dark Hall (2018) & The Dark and the Wicked (2020)

Welcome to the next double feature with a horror double with 2018’s Down A Dark Hall and 2020’s The Dark and the Wicked! Let’s check it out!

Down A Dark Hall (2018)

Director: Rodrigo Cortés

Cast: AnnaSophia Robb, Uma Thurman, Isabelle Fuhrman, Victoria Moroles, Noah Silver, Taylor Russell, Rosie Day, Rebecca Front, Jodhi May, Pip Torrens, Kirsty Mitchell, Jim Sturgeon

A troubled teen named Kit Gordy is forced to join the exclusive Blackwood Boarding School, just to find herself trapped by dark forces around its mysterious headmistress, Madame Duret. – IMDB

As I look at Down The Dark Hall, the general outline reminds me of Paradise Hills (review), a movie that I think is a hidden gem as it also has the parallels of young girls in one closed setting under surveillance with a headmistress that has their own scheme. Of course, this twist is different and the boarding school is this mansion setting works well since the mysteries and dark hallways definitely meet the expectations of the title of the film. Down A Dark Hall is considered a horror thriller and in some ways, the premise does work but the execution misses a little.

What works here is the atmosphere: dark and mysterious. Some shots are so dark and yet it teases a little of what could be hidden in this darkness. At the same time, the Boarding School is very basic so a lot of dim lighting is set by this environment. Adding to that is the idea that each of the girls fall into a different obsession with a subject which makes their characters all change in a suspenseful way. This really counting on which actress manages to portray it well. Pairing them with the dynamic of Uma Thurman’s headmistress as Madame Duret which is probably the better part of the movie as a whole.

Aside from Uma Thurman, the cast also include AnnaSophia Robb which I had previously seen in some Disney movies (along with The Reaping and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and do remember her for her child roles so its nice to see her here which she does a decent enough job. Just like seeing Isabelle Fuhrman who I had previously seen in Orphan and I kind of did like her role here as well. The other cast members while having some interesting characters felt like it all felt a little oddly paced making some of their roles also feel a little unbalanced in execution.

Overall, Down The Dark Hall is a horror fantasy film which definitely embraces its title and has a decent twist to it. There are some creepy moments but nothing way too scary other than the dark setting that probably helps with creating the atmosphere and mystery. While some characters were done well, there is some odd execution choices as well as how a lot of the characters that play the boarding school staff feels so strange that its obvious that something’s not right.

The Dark and the Wicked (2020)

Director (and writer): Bryan Bertino

Cast: Marin Ireland, Michael Abbott Jr., Julie Oliver-Touchstone, Lynn Andrews, Tom Nowicki, Michael Zagst, Xander Berkeley, Charles Jonathan Trott, Ella Ballentine

On a secluded farm in a nondescript rural town, a man is slowly dying. His family gathers to mourn, and soon a darkness grows, marked by waking nightmares and a growing sense that something evil is taking over the family. – IMDB

The Dark and The Wicked is a slow-burn horror film set in the isolated rural farm where siblings return to visit their parents. The movie starts off right away setting up the unknown horror before the siblings arrive and build upon that throughout as most of the horror is in the unknown and what happens off screen. As with many slow-burn horror, a lot of the movie is based on the atmosphere and tension as well as the subtle sort of horror. There is a vagueness to the whole situation as a lot of it is rather quiet as a whole and in the moments as different situations occur to each of the characters in the story. Its also where it will draw the differences of those who will appreciate it for that or find it more boring.

Its hard to dive too deep into The Dark and The Wicked as a lot of it is revolving about the subtlety and the mystery that seems to be going on this home. Is it supernatural or evil or something else? The unknown makes up the horror of the film as a whole plus some of the horror effects and the characters as they get pulled into whatever “evil” seems to be hanging over this home. With that said, the atmosphere is on point especially with the sound design and playing with the quiet moments, there’s a good balance of using that to build horror as well as the setting itself.

The characters also play a part here. There is a fairly small cast as a whole but they all do a decent job as well. The characters also have a rather subtle change and development throughout as the situation changes and they get pulled into figuring out what is going on. Between the parents, the visiting siblings as well as the nurse and neighbors, the story does manage to find a way to make this uneasy whether in dialogue and such. There are some moments where its a little over but most of it does manage to get under the skin.

Overall, The Dark and The Wicked is a well-executed slow-burn indie horror film. The setting, the characters and the atmosphere combined together creates a good balance to bring out the creepy unknown horror vibe.

Double Feature: Lila & Eve (2015) & Hustlers (2019)

Next up for Double Feature, we take a look at a Jennifer Lopez double feature as we look at 2015’s crime drama thriller Lila & Eve and 2019’s Hustlers. Two films that feature also are about crime and female duo as their main characters. Let’s check it out!

Lila & Eve (2015)

Director: Charles Stone III

Cast: Viola Davis, Jennifer Lopez, Aml Ameen, Ron Caldwell, Yolonda Ross, Elisa Perry, Shea Whigham, Andre Royo

Two distraught mothers, whose children were gunned down in a drive-by, team up to avenge their deaths after local authorities fail to take action. – IMDB

Considering this one as a spontaneous watch as I only found it as it was about to leave Netflix but it has Viola Davis who is a fantastic actress so it was a great selling point. This is a pretty decent thriller overall. It does pull a Fight Club sort of twist but the overall execution is pretty good. The devastation of two mothers bonding together over a grief group with opposite personalities creates a nice contrast between the two as they decide to follow the clues to figure out who is responsible for their children being gunned down in a drive-by, making this into a revenge crime thriller.

There is some things to like about this film. For one, Viola Davis is as usual very good in her role of Lila and the friendship that she has with Jennifer Lopez’s Eve is done really well also. There’s a good build-up of their friendship from how they meet to their views and conversations about what has happened to their own children and not being able to just accept the grief and move on but rather find out what really happened. Also, Jennifer Lopez delivers a decent performance here. I give a lot of grief about watching lackluster Jennifer Lopez performances mostly because the movies itself usually aren’t anything to call home about. Lila & Eve might not be perfect as it does have some issues of its own but Jennifer Lopez’s role is fitting for the character that has been written here.

With that said, there are some faults to this movie. The script and pacing might be a little off. The script is alright however it might have to do with some of the supporting roles that aren’t delivered well enough which makes some lackluster dialogue and such. However, the finale is well worth a note as it does deliver fairly well and did take me a little by surprise. Overall, Lila & Eve is an alright thriller with some good and some bad elements but has two good performances from Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez that could be worth a watch.

Hustlers (2019)

Director (and co-writer): Lorene Scafaria

Cast: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Mette Towley, Wai Ching Ho, Vanessa Aspillaga, Trace Lysette, Marcy Richardson, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Mercedes Ruehl, Cardi B

Inspired by the viral New York Magazine article, Hustlers follows a crew of savvy former strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients. – IMDB

With a good amount of decent reviews and a group of female cast, Hustlers is inspired by a true story which feels a bit like the situation of The Bling Ring and has a little bit of pacing almost like Pain & Gain. In some ways, it takes a look at the world of strip club employees whether its the change with the economy, the survival and even the sexy moves and shows that comes along with the territory. The whole crime that goes down from how its structured to the execution has some fun elements to it. The atmosphere, environment as well as the narration of an interview that looks back at the past which eventually tests the friendship between Destiny and Ramona becomes a highlight that frames these characters into who they are gradually.

The female cast here has a few familiar faces. Jennifer Lopez being the experienced and dynamic character Ramona to prove that she not only has the body and physical ability to carry out the role but also bring in a fairly deep character that plays like a mentor and leader to this crew who moves forward to make money when the economy changes. On the other hand, she carries along a new member of this business Destiny played by Constance Wu, previously known for her role in Crazy Rich Asians which is definitely a change of pace and character. There’s no doubt that Hustlers is at its best when Ramona and Destiny. Their mentorship, friendship and partnership moves from one step to the next that creates a good dynamic between the two. . With them are some other familiar faces like Julia Stiles, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer and Cardi B as some of the girls while also having Wai Ching Ho as Destiny’s grandmother, they all add a little something as well. Perhaps for myself is seeing Lili Reinhart in something aside from Riverside where she also has an interesting character but also different from this one.

Being unfamiliar with the article or the inspiration of the true story, Hustlers plays out like a movie and yet, most of it doesn’t get as far-fetched as say, The Bling Ring however, the whole dive into the story that spans over years and through the different economic setting of US plays into the shift in the industry does bring out an interesting angle to how this is executed. Plus, Jennifer Lopez yet again delivers a great performance and probably the stand-out of the crew especially with her eye-catching fur coat outfit. The execution isn’t perfect but overall, Hustlers is an entertaining watch.

Double Feature: The Land of Steady Habits (2018) & Edge of Fear (2018)

Its been a while since the last double feature! I do apologize for the tardiness. Writing time has been limited but I do have a lot of double features backlogged that will be going up soon. The first two is Netflix drama film The Land of Steady Habits and a home invasion thriller Edge of Fear.

Let’s check it out!

The Land of Steady Habits (2018)

Director (and co-writer): Nicole Holofcener

Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Elizabeth Marvel, Connie Britton, Bill Camp, Charlie Tahan, Edie Falco, Thomas Mann

After leaving his wife and his job to find happiness, Anders befriends a drug-addicted teen, sending him down a path of reckless and shameful behavior. – IMDB

The Land of Steady Habits is a film about a man struggling with the new norms after retirement. Anders is by far an character that is very unlikable, by his own self-destructive nature and the way that he doesn’t hold by what he says. From the the start, its a character that is meant to be flawed and feeling more realistic and closer as a regular person and its because of Ben Mendohlsohn’s portrayal of this character that truly gives this story a lot of depth into this man’s change from the old ways: divorce, moving to a new home, early retirement and yet giving up all the things of old hasn’t really brought him a lot of joy as he tries to find companionship in sleeping with strangers but having issues there as well. Because of the character almost unable to find happiness in this new norm and yet constantly barging unreasonably into his old life aka his wife’s house, it almost gives this character a lot of deeper moments about the dilemma he is in.

The father-son relationship that portrays as well as the “friendship” that he has with the family friend’s seemingly delinquent kid ends up being a big focal as it portrays a growth of a man to slowly become more responsible especially in the face of what happens at the end. It helps question the character about who he is both as a parent and as a person in reflection of his choices.

Overall, The Land of Steady Habits feels a lot like a trip down a complex character study. Its a bit out of my league as its far from where I am in life. However, the character’s development and depth is rather depressing at parts especially on the twist of situations. Plus, as with movies with this, its rather quiet and subtle especially how the movie starts following through this routine of this man. It probably isn’t for everybody but as a drama film, it definitely does deliver on some levels especially in this flawed character.

Edge of Fear (2018)

Director: Bobby Roth

Cast: Rockmond Dunbar, Zhu Zhu, Shen Lin, Robert Knepper, Dean Cudworth, Robert Crayton, Robert Patrick, Amaury Nolasco, Andy Mackenzie, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe

After being stabbed in the heart by ruthless home invaders, a man is left for dead. Now weak, outnumbered, and knife sticking from his chest, he attempts to do the impossible: save his wife from these murderers before he bleeds to death. – IMDB

I think I watched Edge of Fear because it was going to leave Netflix or maybe I just did because it seemed like a movie that was good as background noise. In some ways, Edge of Fear has a good idea with its setting in the middle of the woods isolated and with no form of transportation to exit if anything happens. Not sure why anyone does that, but sure, I can buy that since no one expects to have their home invaded by criminals. Part mystery, part thriller and kind of an home invasion film, Edge of Fear lacks a lot of each of those things. The main reason being that its all very generic from the characters to the crew that takes over the cabin to the turn of events. Nothing is very unpredictable. Plus, the dialogue itself leaves a lot of space to be elevated.

In reality, the characters here aren’t too bad. The main characters going to the victims who are the Chinese doctors who were invited out. The fight to survive is definitely there except they are also faced with a bunch of fairly all brute and no brains (or at least it feels that way) minions who are doing the wrong things at the wrong times. Leading these two is the character portrayed by Robert Patrick who is obviously the better actor of the cast especially since he seems to really be great at these darker characters and can be rather menacing. The other would be the man that this crew helped escape from prison played by Robert Knepper who had an interesting sort of character design which all comes into play for the big finale.

Overall, Edge of Fear is a rather lackluster film. I didn’t have particularly high expectations for it seeing as I went into this film not knowing much about it.

That’s it for this double feature!

Moxie (2021)

Moxie (2021)

Director: Amy Poehler

Cast: Hadley Robinson, Lauren Tsai, Alycia Pascual-Pena, Nico Hiraga, Sabrina Haskett, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Sydney Park, Anjelika Washington, Amy Poehler, Ike Barinholtz, Marcia Gay Harden

Fed up with the sexist and toxic status quo at her high school, a shy 16-year-old finds inspiration from her mother’s rebellious past and anonymously publishes a zine that sparks a school-wide, coming-of-rage revolution. – IMDB

Adapted from the 2015 novel of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu (which I’ve never read), Moxie is a story about a group of high school girls finding their voice to speak up for the double standards faced with girls, making this a rather type of coming of age story. Its not focused particularly on love but much like other stories, its finding themselves but having the courage to also own up to their own choices, making not too different from other coming of age story in terms of execution however in its theme, it does speak clear on various real issues that girls may face in high school or as they are growing up and even has a reveal on an issue in the film that reminded me of the 2015 documentary called The Hunting Ground.

Female empowerment and the inequality that is present in many places is something that definitely needs to be addressed. In this case, empowering younger girls to speak up about their discomforts is a good place to start as they could be viewed as preys to bigger issues in the future, probably one of the strongest conversations from the film between main lead Vivian (Hadley Robinson) and Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Pena) as they discuss how to fit into the school by avoiding and laying low and accepting the status quo but the latter feels like there shouldn’t be a need to hide herself and just be who she is without being bothered. As a standpoint of the issue it wants to show, Moxie definitely picks a good topic and even showing it through girls teaming up to stand up for what is right and against the status quo. It all makes for some good moments in the film.

When looking at the characters though, at times it feels like there are issues of character development and possibly something that seems to affect the whole execution. Yet again, I haven’t read the source material so its all based on the movie as its own story and not an adaptation. For one, the character of Vivian, while has the right motives and a decent character development also creates some mixed feelings especially near the end when there’s a turning point which causes her character to have a certain “volcano eruption” moment. In some ways, it fits the age of her character and probably the inner struggles she has with the whole situation and just finding the courage to stand up and possibly talking before thinking. However, there’s something about her character that I haven’t quite pinpoint that seems to be a little off for myself. It might also be that the story itself feels like the flow of events is a little odd. There are some good and effective moments and even manages to gather in the different sides from different girls and their backgrounds and what holds them back. Every girl has their own story.

The movie also highlights the school environment rather well, whether its the uncomfortable teachers in face of the sensitive topic or the principal who is afraid to make certain situations too big that it affects the school reputation. This leads certain jock students to think that they can do whatever they want including making others feeling uncomfortable. Perhaps one of the things that makes this feel very close to reality is the ranking of girls or categorizing them which suitably is the catalyst of the situation. There is some props that need to be given to Patrick Schwarzenegger who does deliver a very convincing role as the “bad guy” and perfectly dislikeable.

Overall, Moxie is a good coming of age story. What works here is definitely the issue it wants to highlight and the message that it delivers. There are some issues of execution affecting a bit of the character and pacing however, the whole girl rebellion is one that definitely is worthy a watch as some of these issues in high school may carry on to bigger things and deserves to be seen. If anything, this movie has made me want to give the source material a read to see how it is similar or different.

Blog Tour: The Littlest Dinosaur by Bryce Raffle & Steven Kothlow (Review/Giveaway)

Welcome to the tour for the most adorable story, The Littlest Dinosaur by Bryce Raffle and Steven Kothlow, illustrated by Tessa Verplancke! We also have a fantastic giveaway — Digital Prize Packs which include the ebook copy of the book, two desktop wallpapers for the computer, two cell phone backdrops, plus three printable activity pages including colouring two book pages and a maze.

The Littlest Dinosaur
By: Bryce Raffle & Steven Kothlow
Illustrated by: Tessa Verplancke

Publication Date: November 2nd, 2020
Genre: Children’s Literature

SYNOPSIS

Ty, The Tyrannosaur just wants to make a new friend.

Sadly, the other dinosaurs are all afraid of his sharp teeth! So Ty must go on an adventure to find a dinosaur brave enough to be friends with a Tyrannosaur.

ADD TO GOODREADS

REVIEW

While children’s books isn’t exactly a staple in our household, its always fun to give a read at a simple picture book and screen it for my friends and their little ones. The Littlest Dinosaur caught me with its cute illustrations from its book cover of a little dinosaur. Being a fan of The Land Before Time as a child, dinosaurs are fascinating characters for stories.

The Littlest Dinosaur is a simple book to read and yet, between the lovely and cute illustrations of Ty’s adventures as he tries to make friends with the other dinosaurs he encounters. Being a Tyrannosaur, he is caught in prejudices of how dangerous he could be as they all would be his snack. That’s until he meets The Littlest Dinosaur who doesn’t have these prejudices and listens and helps correct the views. It has a pretty decent and positive message about accepting those around you and learning about them before forming prejudices. Its rather witty on how it plays with some fun little details of what Ty likes and the little encounters.

The illustration also brings a lot to the picture book. Its captivating and colorful. The art style is really nice. The different settings also have their own little fun designs. Plus, all the dinosaurs are different types and each illustrated with different colors and shows their characteristics.

There’s a lot to love about The Littlest Dinosaur. Its simple enough for young children to enjoy as a story and has a nice message behind it that kids can slowly learn and has all the cute illustrations to be fun to look at.

Purchase Links
The Littlest Dinosaur
Amazon
Lulu
Lulu Hardcover

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryce Raffle was the lead writer for the video game studio Ironclad Games. He also writes stories for young adults and designs book covers.

Steven Kothlow is making his debut as a children’s book writer. He hopes to tell many more stories that help spread a message of diversity and inclusion especially in children’s literature.

Tessa Verplancke is a sound designer by day and an illustrator by night. She lives to tell stories through as many mediums as possible.

BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE

March 8th

Reads & Reels (Review)
Didi Oviatt (Review)
I Smell Sheep (Review)
@geauxgetlit (Review)
Lunarian Press (Review)
@_yay_books (Review)

March 9th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight)
@dreaminginpages (Review)
Bonnie Reads and Writes (Review)
Book Dragons Not Worms (Review)
@kathreadsya (Review)
Michelle Meng’s Book Blog 4 (Review)
Books Teacup and Reviews (Review)

March 10th

B is for Book Review (Spotlight)
Jessica Belmont (Spotlight)
@jodys_ig (Spotlight)
Books Rambling and Tea (Review)
@joanna.zoe (Review)
The Faerie Review (Review)
@brendajeancombs (Spotlight)

March 11th

The Invisible Moth (Review)
@devoured_pages (Review)
Ruby Red Romance Review (Review)
Tranquil Dreams (Review)
@bookishqueendom (Review)

March 12th

Nesie’s Place (Spotlight)
Tsarina Press (Spotlight)
Book Review Crew (Review)
Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review)
Sophril Reads (Review)
Bookish Laura (Review)

GIVEAWAY

Giveaway: International

To win a digital prize pack which includes the ebook copy of the book, two desktop wallpapers for the computer, two cell phone backdrops, plus three printable activity pages including colouring two book pages and a maze, click the link below to enter!

ENTER RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY HERE

Blog Tour Hosted by:

R&R Book Tours

Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2021 Wrap-Up: The Cannonball Run (1981) by Drew’s Movie Reviews

After 2 weeks of entries and my final review over at Drew’s Movie Reviews yesterday, its time for Drew to wrap up with his second pick and the last entry for this year’s blogathon! He chose to revisit 1981’s The Cannonball Run.


Synopsis 
An eclectic group of racers take part in The Cannonball Run, a race from Connecticut to California.

Review 
Look, I know The Cannonball Run might not have the best reviews out there, but you know what? I enjoy the hell out of it. Maybe it’s because this was one of the first films I had available on DVD so I regularly watched when I was younger. As a result, I might be tainted by nostalgia but there’s something about this film that keeps me coming back to it and laughing all these years later.

There are quite a few characters in The Cannonball Run and the movie tries to focus on as many of them as possible. These characters are varied and entertaining but because the film tries to focus on all of them, the first half of the film’s breezy hour and a half run time is spent before the titular race even begins as it introduces them all. Also because of the large cast, they get barely any development. Now unfortunately, this also applies to the main core of JJ (Burt Reynolds), Victor (Dom DeLuise), and Pamela (Farrah Fawcett). We do get to know more about them than those around them but it’s still the bare minimum. Given the caliber of the cast list, many of the actors and actresses are wasted, providing little more than what feel like extended cameos.

Given that the film centers around racing, it’s odd (or should it be no surprise?) that the pace is disjointed. As I said before, about half of the film is consumed on the setup. Then the next portion is spent jumping from racer to racer as they make their way across the country. Some of these segments are fantastic while others can be removed completely and it wouldn’t change the film in any way. Then it really slows down before (spoiler alert) becoming a foot race towards the finish line. The movie was shot quickly (it was filmed in 36 days and many of the actors only worked for two or three days) and it feels like much around the production was rushed as well.

Now, so far I have given only criticisms of the film but now I’m going to contradict myself. I said earlier that one of the negatives of this film was that the main characters barely receive any development. The Cannonball Run isn’t about its characters, it’s about the race. The race is an excuse to have a diverse cast characters, played by a who’s who of actors and actresses of the time. This variety is one of the film’s aspects that I enjoy the most. Not all of the actors bring their A-game but regardless, nearly all of them are loads of fun and I find their humor entertaining. And when the characters are being introduced, there are some truly memorable setups.

The gags continue all through the film. Some land spectacularly while others spectacularly miss. As I’ve said before about comedies, humor is very subjective. Meaning that if this isn’t your style of humor, you aren’t going to enjoy The Cannonball Run very much, especially since it doesn’t offer much else. But for me, the slapstick and gags throughout the movie is the kind of humor I enjoy, especially from this era of comedies.

I thought The Cannonball Run was GREAT 😀 Although this film came out a little before my time, I usurped my dad’s DVD of the film into my own collection when I was younger and watched it often; I couldn’t get enough of it! As I have watched this film more and more without the lens of youth and blissful ignorance, the flaws have become more apparent over time. Nonetheless, I still find myself coming back to The Cannonball Run and finding it good for some quick, cheap entertainment. Because of my relationship with this movie , I have come to sincerely understand that sometimes it isn’t about the quality of the film but your experience with it that makes it meaningful to you.

Trailer 

Cast & Crew 
Hal Needham – Director
Brock Yates – Writer
Al Capps – Composer

Burt Reynolds – JJ McClure
Dom DeLuise – Victor Prinzim
Farrah Fawcett – Pamela
Jack Elam – Doctor Nikolas Van Helsing
Roger Moore – Seymour
Dean Martin – Jamie Black
Sammy Davis Jr. – Fenderbaum
Adrienne Barbeau – Marcie
Tara Buckman – Jill
Terry Bradshaw – Terry
Mel Tillis – Mel
Bert Convy – Brad
Warren Berlinger – Shakey Finch
Jamie Farr – Sheik
Rick Aviles – Mad Dog
Alfie Wise – Batman
Jackie Chan – Subaru Driver #1
Michael Hui – Subaru Driver #2
Joe Klecko – Polish Racing Driver
Norman Grabowski – Petoski
George Furth – Arthur Foyt
Peter Fonda – Chief Biker


To see the full of entries for Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2021, please go HERE.

Ultimate Decades Blogathon 2021: Shrek (2001) by Starry Traveler’s Road

Next up for the Ultimate Decades Blogathon is from my (now in hiatus) Battle of Ingredients co-host, Phoebe from Starry Traveler’s Road. While Starry Traveler’s Road is posting far and few the last few months, you can go check out her DIY crafts, gardening and other projects and thoughts. Being a regular of the blogathon, Phoebe brings us a review of 2001 family animated film, Shrek.


Starry Traveler and family review: Shrek (2001)

Big thanks to my Battle of Ingredients co-host Kim and Drew of Drew’s Movies Review for hosting this Ultimate Decades Blogathon! It has definitely been a nice distraction from COVID-19’s brouhaha and caregiving tasks to spend some time trying to watch a movie as a family.

Why did I say, “trying to watch a movie”? The story behind it is, we tried to watch Shrek over dinner, but Bun Bun freaked out and asked me to stop because she finds some scenes scary even if there were some parts in the introduction that she laughed her head off like potty humor. I went on to finish the movie on my own that night only to ask Bun Bun the next day if she wants to try and finish it again while I prepare dinner and dad can watch with her (my husband successfully calmed her down when we watched Frozen 2 for last year’s movie review). They did finish it but Miss Bun Bun did not want to discuss it on numerous days so my conclusion is that I will do future movie reviews alone or with my husband unless Bun Bun volunteers to watch it with us.

Before I go into the movie review, I must be honest and say that I am extremely puzzled by Miss Bun Bun’s avoidance of kids’ movies. She told us that many movies are scary or too sad (she cried buckets when we watched Tigger Movie during first lockdown but she was fine with Zootopia on a flight a few years back). As a concerned mom, I ultimately decided to look up the phenomena only to find out there are other kids like her who find some TV shows or kids movie scary. (https://www.todaysparent.com/kids/is-your-child-afraid-of-kids-movies/) For parents with sensitive kids like Bun Bun, sounds like family movie nights with popcorn are not part of quality family time.

Without further ado, here is a summary of Shrek from IMDB:

A mean lord exiles fairytale creatures to the swamp of a grumpy ogre, who must go on a quest and rescue a princess for the lord in order to get his land back.

Directors: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson

Writers: William Steig (based upon the book by), Ted Elliott | 6 more credits »

Stars: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz | See full cast & crew »

To be honest, I did not really like Shrek when it first came out. The fact that it was a dysfunctional fairy tale while containing a bad sense of humor did not really appeal to me. Also, I found donkey utterly annoying in capital letters. Fast forward ten years for 2021, I still did not like it except for some of its messages like not judging people by their looks. I did learn to appreciate the strong female lead that I found in Princess Fiona. Her internal struggles about her terrible secret make her very relatable. Her fighting scene with Robin Hood and his Merry Men to defend Shrek was wonderful.

There might be some bad words that are not so good for younger kids (especially those in copycat phase) but I do use some of them when I am extremely angry, so it is not as if Bun Bun has not heard them before. Therefore, I let this category slide a bit.

Music is so-so if I must compare. The only one that stood out was the Hallelujah with some modified lyrics as it went well with the emotional scenes. I am maybe biased as well since I performed it with my choir group in my graduating year.

Graphics are ok for that time period after double checking movies from 2000s as I did not watch that many movies during that time period.

To end, this is my husband’s review for Shrek:

I found it clever in that it inverted a lot of the usual fairy-tale tropes. All the typical expectations were subverted. However, I still do not get why Shrek mysteriously decides to pick up random bits of knights’ helmets and put them on while looking for the princess nor how she fails to notice that Shrek has green skin. Regardless, the movie was funny and decent overall. It probably takes a good amount of knowledge about other fairy tales and nursery rhymes as there are many cameos. I would not necessarily expect young children to have known even most of them. I would consider this an above average movie.

Thank you for reading my little family’s movie review. I definitely hope all of you stay healthy and safe in this difficult period!


A huge thanks to Phoebe and her family for offering up this review!

To see the full list of entries of this blogathon, you can see HERE.