Christmas 2018: Mooseletoe by Tiffinie Helmer

Mooseletoe
by: Tiffinie Helmer

Mooseletoe

Alaska’s matchmaking moose, Bullwinkle, has his sights set on a most unlikely pair. Holly Noelle Snow loves Christmas so much she could be one of Santa’s elves, and Reese Sutton might as well be Scrooge. But there is no way BW will allow these two to ruin his perfect track record. Even if he has to bind them together with Christmas lights. – Goodreads

It is always a struggle to find holiday books and Mooseletoe fits a lot into the movie selections that I have made this holiday season. Its contemporary romance set during Christmas in Alaska in a town with a Christmas-y name and a story revolving a lady with a Christmas-y name. We soon learn why but it couldn’t be more in your face. Suffice to say, there are quite a few holiday elements and that works. The matchmaking moose also works. I realized that this moose is part of other books by Tiffinie Helmer which I haven’t read before or even heard of and responsible for other couple pairings that are in this town. I have nothing against it. Its a decent idea plus I like moose and how it should be used more in winter settings.

My main issue with Mooseletoe is very much the fact that it hits a lot of aspects I find wrong with these contemporary romance books. One of them is the dialogue. Its a tad cringey at times and the ways certain descriptions are written were equally odd. There is this thing about writing contemporary romance that really needs to be read out loud before finalizing because it never feels like I am reading a real couple (or maybe I just don’t talk like that).

Then we have this sped up romance that sometimes works but in this case, it also falls into this frustrating situation and the love at first sight but not embracing it thing and these meaningless arguments. Its a bit too much for me. There are some intimate scenes and it was okay written and I am rather indifferent to it. However, my main issue is the personality characteristics of the main couple, Holly and Reese where it feels very contradicting in parts in what happens before and after.

To be fair, Mooseletoe did bring in a family element. That part was a nice twist and surprise to the story. I enjoyed having those bits because even if you move alone to Alaska, real life is more than romance (no matter how much of a romantic I can be). On that same note, the moral of ths story behind this pairing is a positive message about having courage to push through the bad and see the good to be happier sort of thing. And to not let the bad define you. All very good messages just its not in a very fun read for myself. Overall, a few good ideas, but the writing style is not for me.

***On a side note, I am starting to think contemporary romance is something I need to stay away from for a while. Its the contemporary genre that really gets me very irritated.***

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Christmas 2018: The Princess Switch (2018)

The Princess Switch (2018)

The Princess Switch

Director: Mike Rohl

Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Sam Palladio, Nick Sagar, Alexa Adeosun, Suanne Braun, Mark Fleischmann, Sara Stewart, Robin Soans

A Chicago baker (V.Hudgens) is competing in a Christmas baking competition in Belgravia. There she bumps into the prince’s fiancee. They look alike and switch for 2 days. “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” – IMDB

If we talk about something along the calibre of last year’s A Christmas Prince (review) for this year, I would say that I’m not sure any movie in the Hallmark by Netflix category going to beat out this one. A Princess Switch is pretty much the familiar formula of Parent Trap and It Takes Two and movies of that sort except this time, we don’t have teenagers but rather young adults or in their 30s or mid20s or something like that. You know, marriage and romance age sort of story. It has a good bit of laughs and while some parts were kind of a little eye-rolling worthy, there is this charm to Vanessa Hudgens’ interpretation of both of these characters, whether it is Margaret or as Stacy that makes it so entertaining to watch. Plus, there is no doubt that this is a holiday film in the sense that it is set during Christmas and there is an overflowing amount of Christmas activities and endearing moments about the value of Christmas. Its a heartwarming and fun effort as a whole which makes it so much fun to watch especially as a guilty pleasure.

Whenever we talk about these sort of romantic comedy style holiday films, I have to always talk about chemistry. While I maintain that a lot of the really good acting had to go to Vanessa Hudgens, she did have pretty good chemistry with both of the male leads. Both Sam Palladio and Nick Sagar are charming in their own ways that fit the type of man that they portray in this movie so it works out. At the same time, there are some pretty fun moments between  each of these pairs that seem fitting for their situation if not sometimes a tad over-exaggerated but in this genre of film, it is sometimes okay to be like that and still really emphasize the chemistry and some warm laughs with the characters.

As a side note though, I do love how the King and Queen, especially the Queen’s role here as they question the Duchess character making it feel more realistic as sometimes there is always these moments where the silliness things get looked over like everyone else is stupid. At the same time, the guard or whoever we call him ends up getting caught in figuring it out but also having these really hilarious moments of ending up in the most awkward situations like he’s a servant and not the higher ranking that he is supposed to be. Aside from the two assistants of sorts to the Duchess and the Prince who bring a lot of humor, we have the classic character who miraculously shows up everywhere as a magical element that strings together the character and the pieces. In some ways, it makes the movie on rails but it kind of pokes fun knowingly at itself that it works somehow.

Overall, I liked the Princess Switch a lot more than I expected I would. Vanessa Hudgens was on point with both her roles and the male leads were both very charming. There was a lot of heartwarming moments and fun moments and even some meaningful moments. Its really well put together for a holiday centered romantic comedy. It both had the romantic chemistry and holiday spirit in equal parts to make it feel enjoyable.

Christmas 2018: The Holiday Calendar (2018)

The Holiday Calendar (2018)

The Holiday Calendar

Director: Bradley Walsh

Cast: Kat Graham, Quincy Brown, Ethan Peck, Ron Cephas Jones, Genelle Williams, Ali Hassan, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll

A struggling but talented photographer inherits an antique holiday advent calendar, the contents of which seem to predict the future. Will this magical calendar lead her to love this holiday season? – IMDB

I’m going to be honest that I really only gave this one a chance because I really like Kat Graham in The Vampire Diaries. However, I wasn’t as much of a fan of her in Honey 2 so while I don’t know what The Holiday Calendar was about, I decided to take a chance anyways. I do want to say that on one side, I did work for what it was trying to deliver but if you really don’t have much tolerance for these kind of Hallmark films, then it might not be for you. I’m just going to lay it out so you don’t waste your time. I say this because The Holiday Calendar does nothing special. Everything you predict will probably happen right down to who she ends up being with in the end and even how she pieces together the “magic” calendar to the things she missed to leading her to the one. However, while being predictable isn’t particularly a good thing, there is enough fun bits here to make it enjoyable. Its heartwarming and talks about family and dreams and careers and taking chances and not just romance.

The Holiday Calendar

While the antique calendar itself has something of a spirit here in the background with a lot of presence because the film flows with what pops up in the window everyday, the movie does benefit a lot from Kat Graham who does a great job as Abby, a girl who is stuck at a day job that pays her bills but scared to live her own dreams. There’s this really fun element to her character and her friendship with Josh (Quincy Jones) has a lot of sweet moments to it also. Surprisingly, the parts that I liked the best are the ones where Abby talks to her grandfather because there is a lot of genuine and good bits to it all. The family moments and the picture moments and those bits also add to the experience.

The only thing I did feel about The Holiday Calendar is that there is this turning point moment in the middle which felt kind of awkward. It was this weird epiphany moment that kind of felt out of spot but it didn’t really last too long before things got back on track. If you like Hallmark holiday films, this one is pretty alright. Its pretty predictable but also has a nice heartwarming element and emphasizes on more than romance but also on family moments and a lot of Christmas-y moments.

Christmas 2018: A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (2018)

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (2018)

A Christmas Prince The Royal Wedding

Director: John Schultz

Cast: Rose McIver, Ben Lamb, Alice Krige, Honor Kneafsey, Sarah Douglas, Theo Devaney, John Guerrasio, Andy Lucas, Simon Dutton, Katarina Cas

A year after helping Richard get to the throne, Amber is about to become his wife. But is she really made to be queen? – IMDB

Following last year’s A Christmas Prince (review), its been a year for us as we watched Amber and Richard fall in love and be engaged. This time, we’re watching Amber get ready for the Royal Wedding while Richard struggles with the modernization of the country whose initiative has made the country bleed money affecting jobs and such. To be fair, the only thing Christmas-y about this one is really that its set during Christmas and they do a lot of Christmas things like getting a tree and baking and Christmas pageants and such. This story is a romantic comedy about Amber as she struggles with following protocol and getting caught up in the whirlwind of everyone but herself having a say on her own wedding and we know what’s going to happen after that. A Christmas Prince (even the first one) is those stories that are predictable romantic comedies however, it seems the second one here still has a few laughs but has lost a bit, scratch that, a lot of the chemistry and charm.

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding

We can start with some of the good stuff. The Christmas decor was really nice. There was an overly exaggerated toboggan ride that I could get along with since it gave a link from the first to the second movie. There was a lot of Christmas activities which also worked since I am watching this for the holidays marathon so it matched the theme. It also emphasized family and friends a lot and that was fun. Some supporting characters like Mr. Zabala (Andy Lucas) adds a nice little twist to it. Then, I really like the little sister, Princess Emily (Honor Kneafsey) who adds a good deal of sharp humor here. Amber’s time with her friends also was pretty fun since it was a lot more natural, be it out investigating in disguise or be it having her mini bachelorette party.

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding

Then, everything else falls apart. Most of you who have been around here know that I’m pretty lenient on rom-coms. Last year’s A Christmas Prince was a pretty alright one in the current state of romantic comedies, well as of last year. There were some nice moments and romantic chemistry and such. But this year, it wasn’t really about that anymore. Amber and Richard were rarely on screen and when they were, it was not exactly full of chemistry. I mean, I guess the ending kind of hinted that they could do a third one if this one is a success although after this one which was rather boring to watch for the most part and pretty predictable and let’s say, a little over the top especially with the Count Simon and her best friend moment that had so much cringe. Not to mention, they really wanted to add in the twist and smoke screen thing going on with why the kingdom was bleeding money and it was just so obvious who was behind it all.

I didn’t expect much from this one in the first place but A Christmas Prince: A Royal Wedding was a big disappointment from the first one. It does tick the Christmas holiday film bit but in the romantic comedy department, it no longer is that kind of category because the chemistry was pretty much not there since the two were not really on screen together much. It was more of a wedding planning movie. I guess I wasn’t too surprised since it panned out like I expected it would. I don’t hate it or like it, I’m kind of indifferent to be honest.  Although, I’d definitely hesitate on watching another sequel if they ever do one because there was something mentioned at the end in the movie that hints at maybe visiting this property again if this one works out.

Meg Ryan Birthday Blogathon: Joe versus the Volcano (1990)

Meg Ryan Birthday Blogathon

This review is a part of The Meg Ryan Birthday Blogathon. You can see all the details HERE.

Joe vs. the Volcano (1990)

joe versus the volcano

Director (and writer): John Patrick Shanley

Cast: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Abe Vigoda, Dan Hedaya

When a hypochondriac learns that he is dying, he accepts an offer to throw himself in a volcano at a tropical island, and along the way there, learns to truly live. – IMDB

Joe versus the Volcano

There’s always a special spark to watching Meg Ryan in any movies. Joe Versus the Volcano gives us three awesome helpings of this wonderful actress as she takes on three roles. In her first collaboration with Tom Hanks, which follows through a few years later with Sleepless in Seattle and then a few years after that You’ve Got Mail, its nice to see where it all started. While I can’t say that Joe versus the Volcano is especially better than her later works, its definitely one that has quite a fun little vibe to it. Tom Hanks, of course, delivers a fairly funny man role as he plays a hypochondriac. Right from the get-go, its kind of refreshing to see Tom Hanks in an earlier role especially since I have to admit that I’m not one that has followed his movies as closely as others have, despite thinking that he is a talented actor. In this one, its a side of Tom Hanks that I rarely see as he starts off in this gloomy character but still manages in all his unfortunate events to make it pretty funny to watch just through his expressions and reactions. In fact, with Joe being the title of this film, there is no doubt that anyone other than Joe, played by Tom Hanks is just a supporting character even if this film is considered a romantic comedy.

Joe versus the volcano

However, seeing as I am reviewing this for the Meg Ryan Birthday Blogathon, its hard to ignore Meg Ryan who goes through three characters and three transformations for each. The way the character dresses and the vibe that the character delivers all differ and are unique. In fact, when she firsts enters the movie as an office worker or secretary of sorts called Dede, she sports this fantastic accent and is almost hard to recognize. However, there is this fun character wrapped in this role that we see right before she leaves that role and the movie moves into the next part when we see her show up again in her second role as Angelica, the daughter of the rich man who asks Joe to jump into the volcano. This character is conflicted in her own way and is somewhat quirky because of her artistic nature or so we think she is until she shares some of her work and has this odd delivery. However, the final role as Angelica’s half sister, Patricia who ends up taking Joe to the island is the one that is the Meg Ryan that we all know as her elegant, fun and charming self but yet so very competent and beautiful. You can’t say that Meg Ryan doesn’t show off some great acting skills just through this one film. Impressive as always.

Joe Versus the Volcano

Overall, Joe versus the Volcano is a fun little romantic comedy. I’m not sure there’s so much romance as its a comedy and something of an adventure for Tom Hanks character Joe to embrace life more unafraid. However, as fun as Tom Hanks is, Meg Ryan is the reason I watched this movie and she definitely does an outstanding job, impressive as she always is as she takes on multiple roles in one movie. I can’t say its my favorite Meg Ryan film but its one that I’m happy that I finally caught up with. You can see my Meg Ryan Roles Ranked List HERE.

Double Feature: Call Me By Your Name (2017) & Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Call this a 2017 double feature and a drama as well. Two movies that got a lot of recognition and praise at the beginning of this year so its surely two well-matched double feature.

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Call Me By Your Name

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel

In 1980s Italy, a romance blossoms between a seventeen year-old student and the older man hired as his father’s research assistant. – IMDB

I’ve only ever seen one other movie from Luca Guadagnino earlier this year, A Bigger Splash. I’m going to be honest that this director has a very similar way of approaching stories or maybe its the stories that he chooses and the setting that distinguish it apart because while watching Call Me By Your Name, while the story itself is very different, there is this same feeling that I got as I was watching A Bigger Splash and that was before I realized that these two films were directed by the same person. I can’t say that the story itself is particularly unexpected but what works even better is that the story is made really great because of its cast who delivers some fantastic performances.

What this movie does a great job at doing besides yet again giving us a beautiful Italian setting and the love of filming in waterholes or pools or something or another like this (like in A Bigger Splash), is how Armie Hammer’s Oliver and Timothée Chalamet’s Elio deliver a powerful story about first love. One of the most powerful points here though is that it breaks barriers of how romance no matter what gender is still the same. Its as valid and the same for everyone. Oliver and Elio’s first love might be something they try to hide around the people around them which leads Elio to find also a romantic feeling with Marzia (Esther Garrel) and there he finds something different as well. There is a feeling of exploration and getting in touch with their feelings while also having that uncertainty and vulnerability of not being sure how much to show. There is a lot of depth to this story. It kind of is one of those stories that creeps up on us with every scene that in the end when we get the final moments between Elio and his father who has this incredibly touching speech and that final ending conversation with Elio and Oliver, it just tugs on all kinds of heartstrings.

Its been a while since I’ve seen Call Me By Your Name and yet, there is something so beautiful and so raw about how this whole story is set up and told from the details of the setting to the interactions that make this journey, especially for Elio’s first love that makes it so powerful. So many scenes resound in my mind and the story seems to just linger on.

On that note, I’m not exactly sure I’m into watching a sequel or even where this story can go, especially since that seems to be in the works but we will see, I guess.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

three billboards outside ebbing missouri

Director (and writer): Martin McDonagh

Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Caleb Landry Jones, Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Lucas Hedges

A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit. – IMDB

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a film that I liked a lot. There is a nice mix between drama and dark comedy. Plus, the film is packed with fantastic performances. Between Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand, these three deliver on their characters. The story itself is pretty dark and in some ways, the drama behind it is actually quite heartbreaking to watch in the sense of how the case was treated and the pain of a mother trying to force some justice and action in a desperate way. Call it her way to find closure.

What I like the most about this film is how it is executed. The pacing and the way it is put together works really well. While Woody Harrelson’s character is incredibly dynamic to watch and one that has quite the impactful character where Frances McDormand’s character is more of the dramatic and gritty character, the character that stood out the most to me was Sam Rockwell’s character which had the most layers and growth in this whole story. The heart of the movie lies in these performances and the characters from its many different prejudices towards race, career and other elements. Its these prejudices that create these unnecessary aggression and what causes a lot of these situations that happen. There is a lot to talk about in this film and a lot of depth to the story and its characters which makes it so awesome and one I highly recommend.

Overall, two films that I enjoyed a lot!
Somehow its two that I think the experience of watching it overpowers anything I can say about it.

Double Feature: The Kissing Booth (2018) & Sierra Burgess is a Loser (2018)

And we’re back with another Double Feature.

Let’s be clear that I originally wanted to do individual posts for each of these movies but one of these  is one, I really didn’t want to put to much time into writing up as I wasn’t a huge fan of it in the first place. Spoiler alert for my own views I guess. You can decide for yourselves which. Either way, both of them are Netflix Original, both films set in high school so they pair up really well also.

Let’s check it out!

The Kissing Booth (2018)

the kissing booth

Director (& screenplay): Vince Marcello

Cast: Joey King, Joel Courtney, Jacob Elordi, Carson White, Molly Ringwald

A high school student is forced to confront her secret crush at a kissing booth. – IMDB

I’m going to get straight to the point that I’m not a big fan of this movie. There’s a lot of stuff that didn’t work for me. The romance didn’t really work. The humor was a tad silly and at times dumb. There was a lot of ridiculous bits and I don’t know, it just didn’t really have much depth to it. Maybe it has to be the fact that I’m not the target audience. I still remember watching Joey King in Ramona and Beezus when she was younger and loving that one. This one just felt very been there done that aka predictable. There are some cute parts here and there but nothing that really connected with me.

The Kissing Booth

However, the one redeeming point of this film is the friendship between Elle (Joey King) and Lee (Joel Courtney) at least until a certain point. In some ways, this movie reminded me of a flip side of The Edge of Seventeen (review), a movie that is very much more superior to this one. Other than that, these two bond over dancing on the dance machine at the arcades and that is just super cool.

Sierra Burgess is a Loser (2018)

Sierra Burgess is a Loser

Director: Ian Samuels

Cast: Shannon Purser, Kristine Froseth, Noah Centineo, RJ Cyler, Loretta Devine, Lea Thompson, Alan Ruck

A case of mistaken identity results in unexpected romance when the most popular girl in high school and the biggest loser must come together to win over their crushes. – IMDB

Sierra Burgess is a Loser is one of those films that I wanted to watch the moment that it was announced. Whether its because I like Shannon Purser and the fact that I gained a liking for Noah Centineo lately, or simply the catchy title and the great premise is just all up my alley. The deal is, as much as this is somewhat of a teen romance between Sierra (Shannon Purser) and Jamey (Noah Centineo) and there are some seriously sweet parts between and cute little moments, even the catfishing bits were a lot of fun, there’s something else that shines out here and that is the emphasis on the friendship.

Sierra Burgess is a Loser

This story’s strength is in the teen coming of age for Sierra Burgess to know her worth and not questioning her worth because we can see how she was a lot more confident in the beginning and losing it as she started comparing herself when she started falling for Jamey. On the other hand, its in the friendship between Sierra and Veronica (Kristine Froseth), which I thought were actually the superior moments because its equally a film about the popular girl realizing there is more than these rather shallow things that she thought was so important. Their friendship helped both of them grow in some ways and to look at themselves in a different way.

With that said, Sierra Burgess is a Loser is a really good film. There’s so much strength in seeing friendships between girls and the support for each other especially in this friendship. I strikes a good balance between finding time to give depth to its characters and letting them grow.