TV Binge: A Love So Beautiful (致我们单纯的小美好, 2017)

The first to show up is one accessible to most because on Netflix. International stuff, yay! I probably should have written the Meteor Garden one up first since that was how I landed on watching this one. Oh well, that one is coming up just it is a whole lot more work for that one so here we are at A Love So Beautiful. Its also perfectly timed because another story from the same author was also adapted called Put Your Head On My Shoulder (致我们暖暖的小时光) is currently playing on WeTV channel on Youtube.

While I’ve been reviewing a lot of Chinese variety shows, this is the first drama that I’ll be talking about and after some thought, I’m going to work on a few points that I think should be discussed as a general outline for future TV binge posts to make it easier to write up, especially for the Chinese series.

A Love So Beautiful (2017)

A Love So Beautiful

Creator: Yang Long

Cast: Shen Yue, Hu Yi Tian, Gao Zhi Ting, Sun Ning, Wang Zi Wei, Monica Lv

It starts off with high school classmates Chen Xiao Xi and Jiang Chen who are also neighbors. Xiao Xi, a cheerful girl who doesn’t study much, is expressive about her admiration towards Jiang Chen, the popular guy known for his looks and high grades. Together with their fellow classmates the funny Lu Yang, athletic but loyal Jingjing, and cool swimming team member Wu Bo Song, they embark on high school life to university until their adult life. – MyDramaList

STORY

A Love So Beautiful is adapted from To Our Pure Little Beauty by Qianqian Zhao. The story revolves around the very outwardly Chen Xiao Xi (Shen Yue) who professes her love directly to Jiang Chen (Hu Yitian) at the beginning of her senior high year, which kicks off the ton of the film. She tries to impress him and in turn be a better version of herself to match up to him. The story itself is cute and hilarious because she does a lot of little things that most of the time backfire or becomes very awkward. However, there is this heartwarming element of coming to age and finding herself especially as she grows up. Its this lightheartedness of the story and how its delivered that makes the few years in high school and their step into university and then adulthood become such a fun experience (most of the time, because this is still a drama). The tone of the series sets itself up right at the beginning and it maintains it. At the same time, what helps it in the storytelling is filling in those little moments at the end of every episode to give a hidden moment or just the inner thoughts of a character (mostly used by Jiang Chen since he talks less). At the same time, the story focuses on the friendship of five friends that also gets sparked from the first episode onwards.

LENGTH/PACING

A Love So Beautiful clocks in at 23 episodes with shorter 20 minutes special to make total 24 episodes. Each episode is about 40 minutes long. Those are one of the most fun to watch as the episode lengths are very reasonable and episode count is also very restricted giving it the space to be paced fairly quickly with enough development to give all the characters space to grow but never linger on anything too long.

CHARACTERS/CHEMISTRY

A LOVE SO BEAUTIFUL

The main focus of A Love So Beautiful is on five characters. Billed as the main leads is Shen Yue playing Chen Xiao Xi and Hu Yi Tian playing Jiang Chen who both star in their first main roles here. Fighting for Shen Yue’s love and attention is Wu Bosong, played by Gao Zhi Ting. On the other hand is Chen Xiao Xi’s good friends, Lu Yang played by Wang Zi Wei and Lin Jingxiao played by Sun Ning who also have a love tangent as Lu admires Lin and sets out to chase her also. Looking at the characters, each of these five have their differences in their personality and make them mesh together really well. Chen Xiao Xi works with her cute and silly personality but not as invested in school and the more serious things at school, while her best friend Lin, is more of a strong and smart character. Their friendship starts at the beginning of the series and sees it become very strong to almost being sisters. While at the same time, the boys in the series are held together by Lu, who is not so much invested in school who plays almost a male version of Chen Xiao Xi and explains how they always share the same general interests but also argue with each other a lot and its these friendly bickering moments that make for a lot of comedic moments. However, the love triangle is presented as a very skewed one because we know that Chen Xiao Xi likes Jiang Chen and Wu Bosong likes her while we eventually know that Jiang Chen, while always acts cold and indifferent actually can see in his small movements that he does care about Chen Xiao Xi also.

One of the strengths of A Love So Beautiful is in its characters. The way that they focus on the friendships here and the strength of it no matter what happens between them. At the same time, the love triangle is also not frustrating but rather one that its easy to get wrapped up in who is better for Xiao Xi, despite the fact that there is no doubt that she does like Jiang the most from the beginning and her perseverance is one that is admirable to say the least. However, as she gets over and gives more than she gets back (from what she knows), its hard to not feel bad for her when Jiang’s resistance to sharing his feelings eventually becomes to get in his way. Its the moments that we see them together that we also learn a little more about a lot of actions is stronger than talk and their chemistry works because of that. However, a lot of praise has to go to Wu because he really is a great person here as he is the role of ultimate unrequited love but is so great because despite everything he is not only loyal to everyone in the friends group, he also is one of the more simple characters as he has big dreams. What works here is that whether who it is, the differences in each of the characters here give each of their interactions something different and depth and it works in the show’s favor so much.

OVERALL

a love so beautiful

A Love So Beautiful is a fun little TV series in the landscape of Chinese TV dramas. In its high school crushes to romances and friendship, it highlights the emphasizes a lot of positive themes other than its cute romance but it embodies a coming of age for all these characters in each of their own ways, having the courage to step forward to follow their own dreams as well as the importance of family and friends. It takes a more lighthearted, well-paced and cute/fun and heartwarming angle and it works so very well. Its one of my favorite TV dramas so far. One that I willingly rewatch. While I do like all the characters, this series really fortified my love for Shen Yue and her acting and looking at the different role she takes in Meteor Garden (will be discussed soon) and her upcoming roles which also go in different characters, it’ll be interesting to see where she takes her career especially since she keeps a down to earth attitude when in variety shows which gives her a uniqueness to her as an actress. My only real criticism for A Love So Beautiful is how it ends because it feels so random to end that way. In its way, it seems to go full circle but then it felt a little awkward to cut it off where it did.

That’s it for this TV binge!
The first Chinese TV drama binge finally crossed off the list!

A Love So Beautiful is available on Netflix with all kinds of subtitles so its one to check out if this type of series if up your alley.

TV Binge: On My Block (Season 2, 2019)

You can find the first season HERE.

***If you haven’t watched the first season and intend to, spoiler alert!!!***

On My Block (Season 2, 2019)

On My Block s2

Creators: Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft, Lauren Iungerich

Cast: Sierra Capri, Brett Gray, Diego Tinoco, Jason Genao, Jessica Marie Garcia, Peggy Blow, Julio Macias, Danny Ramirez, Paula Garcés, Lisa Marcos, Reggie Austin

A coming-of-age story about four bright, street-savvy friends navigating their way through high school in the gritty inner city of South Central Los Angeles. Dealing with the danger of getting their friend out of a gang and friends turning into romance, danger is constant. – IMDB

Picking up after a cliffhanger ending in Season 1, Season 2 of On My Block resumes in the aftermath of the shooting that went on at Olivia’s Quincinera party. Suffice to say that On My Block lost one of the characters. The second season of On My Block is much more serious than the first one. It is about healing and picking up the pieces for everyone whether physically and mentally. Some like Monse (Sierra Capri) is trying to hold the group together as they all heal from the trauma; Ruben (Jason Genao) is healing physically and mentally in dealing with the event and losing someone he loves; Cesar (Diego Tinoco) is healing from guilt and the fact that he is dead to his brother (Julio Macias) and have no home while Jamal (Brett Gray), in his nervous personality, is stressing out how to share the news of finding the RollerWorld money and then, as a group, how to wash the money so they can now split it among the friends and use it.

On My Block

The second season of On My Block takes a shift in tone. While it still keeps the essence of each of these characters, the events of the first season has changed them. However, its a good thing because it was an inevitable stage of development that each of the characters needed to go through. In reality, its easy to see how each of their change makes sense. Each of them have their own burdens and have their own story. What  makes this season very bingeworthy is the fact that the show remembers to zoom into how certain relationships (friendship, love, bromance) is emphasized on further because its hard to not find that one person that is there or understands more than the next. The group is still a unit and they find their way back to each other all the time one way or another. Its that extra focus that adds a lot of depth to each of these characters.

The strength of the show is in how it treats each of these 4 young characters and Sierra Capri, Diego Tinoco, Jason Genao and Brett Gray bring them to life exceptionally. They give them each of their unique characteristics and they are characters that we want to see survive through all the difficult situations and choices they need to make. However, what makes them beautiful is that they remember that these are still teenagers and still give them some shenanigans that make them reflect their age and lack of experience in the real world. What makes it also very special is that its hard to tell who does a better job because as much as the story seems to focus on Cesar’s carryforward situation and he goes through possibly some of the biggest struggles here, his situation affects Monse’s decisions also while she struggles with her personal choices. At the same time, we can ignore that Ruben is also going through a lot and he has a whirlwind of situation as he tries to heal and move on which is much more inner process and we can’t forget Jamal, who doesn’t seem to be grounded in the other struggles but as the one that creates a lot of the comedic moments, has his share of glue that brings together the group because of these things that don’t feel as important.

On My Block

While the story remains strongly focused on these four friends, this season gives a lot more room for other supporting characters. The first season spent a lot of time for Olivia (who we now know is not part of the show) and Ruben’s grandmother played by Peggy Blow, who still has a focus and remains one of the most entertaining characters of the show. What did get a lot of attention this time and that gave her a new angle is Jasmine, played by Jessica Marie Garcia. There is a lot of potential for this character to grow because we’ve only seen one side of her in the first season and this season, she is given a whole new area to develop as she finds her bond in Ruben as she has a more positive outlook and happiness to her character that we see is one of her unique traits and makes her have something to teach these four as well. Other than that, we also see some more of the family members as they get extended appearances from Ruben’s mom to Monse’s father and of course, carrying from the first season, Cesar’s brother.

Overall, On My Block might not be quite the light and fun bingeworthy season that the first season one as its heavier in its themes. However, what makes it still be as great as the first one is that it takes the step to give these characters a lot of depth and growth from the things they have gone through and create bonds between each of them. I didn’t mention a lot of the bonds but a few fun ones do pop up and they also give the series a nice change in pace. If you have been watching this series, Season 2 will not disappoint and it’ll leave you looking forward to (hopefully) Season 3 (as I am right now..and waiting for the new that there will be one).

Ultimate 2000s Blogathon: Juno (2007) by From the Depths of DVD Hell

The guest to join this Ultimate 2000s Blogathon is Elwood Jones, my co-host of Movies and Tea and Game Warp Podcast as he represents his own movie blog, From the Depths of DVD Hell. For reviews of movies that stray away from the mainstream and dive into the obscure, cult and foreign selections, this is the place to go! For this blogathon, he chooses to take a look at 2007’s indie coming of age teen comedy Juno.


juno

Title: Juno

Director: Jason Reitman

Released: 2007

Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons

Plot: After finding out she is pregnant, high school teen Juno (Page) she soon finds herself face with some tough choices of what to do about her unborn child.

Review: Having been brought to the attention of producer Mason Novick after he discovered her blog about stripping Diablo Cody was almost instantly a hot property first for her memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper and unquestionably when she claimed the Best Screenplay Oscar for her debut script. Of course like anything which is a hot property on it’s release there is always the question as to if they still hold up down the line which in particular was what inspired my own re-watch of this film having watched it when it on its original release but hardly thought about it since while Cody despite being marked as an exciting new voice has struggled to create anything which comes close to her debut script.

Juno is the blueprint of the smart-mouthed hipster teen which Director Jason Reitman wastes little time in establishing as she trades barbs with Rainn Wilson’s sarcastic convenience store clerk, after walking through her town swigging Sunny Delight to Barry Louis Polisar’s “All I Want is You”. Even her pregnancy announcement to best friend / Crush Paulie (Cera) has her dragging a furniture set to his lawn only to drop it on him with such casualness that she might as well be making diner plans. At the same time she is unquestionably the sort of character who only exists in the fictional realm with his smart mouth and retro obsessions and certainly with the numerous smart mouth teens which followed in the films wake, as well as a string of teen pregnancies labelled “The Juno Effect” by Time magazine after 17 students at a Gloucester, Massachusetts high school became pregnant which many accused this film and Knocked Up released in the same year of glamorizing teenage pregnancy though how the later could be accused of such a thing is unclear, more so because none of the cast are close to high school age. What makes Juno stand out though is unquestionably Ellen Page who’d prior to this film already caused waves for her pedophile punishing antics in Hard Candy and here really made the character her own as she influenced many of the key details for the character such as her hair as well as the soundtrack being heavy on Kimya Dawson as she felt that this is what Juno would choose to listen to.

Soundtrack wise there’s a mixture of hipster folk from the aforementioned Kimya Dawson and her old band the Mouldy Peaches and a couple of Belle and Sebastian tracks mixed in with a some retro tracks from Mott the Hoople and a Sonic Youth cover of the Carpenters “Superstar” which became one of the selling points of the soundtrack. Largely its just background music which never seems to gel with the film as more often battles for your attention with what’s happening on the screen rather than complementing it. Removed from the film its a fun background music for hangouts, hinging largely on how much you like the abstract tones of Kimya Dawson.

One of the most refreshing aspects to the film though is is how it approaches the subject of teenage pregnancy as Juno is clear from the start that she has no plans to keep the baby with a sobering visit to a Women first clinic broaching a taboo subject which most films wouldn’t touch. Sure the film might not be venturing as deep as Tony Kaye’s “Lake of Fire” but it’s acknowledgement of abortion gives the film much more of a grounding that you would have expected from a film so focused on whitty pop culture influence dialogue. This visit in terms of plotting does serve a purpose as ultimately leading her to Mark and Vanessa to arrange a closed adoption which also forms the real meat of the film as starts to learn more about this couple she is going to be giving her child to.

Seeing this couple develop like our opinions of them over the course of the film is one of the strongest aspects of the film with Vanessa initially coming off the cold only to showing deeper levels of warmth to her character especially with her desire to become a mother. Mark on the other hand still clings onto few traces of rock star ambition that Vanessa allows him to keep in “his room” of their pristine house while he now pays the bills writing jingles for commercials which needless to say plays his character perfectly off Vanessa’s who is seen as the dream crusher initially with Juno and Mark soon bonding over a love of music and horror movies. By the time that Juno is due to deliver this relationship soon takes a darker turn reminding us once more just how well Bateman does suburban creepy while Cody pulls a switch-a-roo with our feelings for these characters the final pay off being delivered not in some stirring monologue but instead a simple note.

Perhaps it could be argued that the film does let Juno off attachment free when it comes to her baby as she is merely just the carrier and host to this child and any comment she really makes about the child is in how its effecting her physically than any kind of connection. As a result she give away her child and settles back into her life nine months prior to this incident now only with the knowledge that she has unconventionally helped someone out.

Juno in many ways marked the high watermark for the American Indie genre before the collapse of several of the major studios which soon saw the remaining studios move away from investing in such risky material which is something of a shame when we consider the wealth of material which came out of this period such as Little Miss Sunshine and The Squid and The Whale. At the same time while this film might not feel as hip on the rewatch as it did back on it’s original release a strong likeable performance from Ellen Page carries the film which at the least should be appreciated for it’s fierce originality as it sidesteps genre cliches to deliver it’s story in a voice which is very much its own.


A huge thanks to our final guest Elwood Jones for joining with this blogathon with a great review of Juno.

We head into me and Drew’s conclusion posts after this one. If you missed any entries, you can find the entire list HERE.

Valentine’s Double Feature: Secret (2007) & The Space Between Us (2017)

Its been a while since I’ve continued on the Valentine’s Netflix Alphabet marathon! Its getting dangerously close to the end of the month and I still have a good few movies to get through. At this point, it might spill into the beginning of March. Either way, I said that I’d finish it so I will. Due to the missing X selection later on, I have chosen to do two S selections! This is the last change to the alphabet marathon. Surprisingly though, these two are both teen romances and have some unique-ish idea/concept.

Let’s check it out!

Secret (2007)

Director (and writer): Jay Chou

Cast: Jay Chou, Lun-Mei Kwai, Anthony Wong, Kai-Syuan Tzeng, Ming-Ming Su, Devon Song

Ye Xiang Lun, a talented piano player is a new student at the prestigious Tamkang School. On his first day, he meets Lu Xiao Yu, a pretty girl playing a mysterious piece of music. – IMDB

Jay Chou’s directorial debut sees him both as the writer of the original story and also acting in the film. From Initial D, its already not high expectations in the Jay Chou acting but Jay Chou is a creative individual and a very musical person so its no surprise to see that he has injected a musical element to this story. The pity of this film goes to Netflix categorizing its subgenre that ruins the twist of the story making it much easier to guess. The ending is somewhat of a headscratcher and feels a bit flawed from what the whole logic behind the situation was, the story itself had its charm. The first is the setting that its done, bordered by water, the school grounds and the more classical building. The second is its characters, including Jay Chou who wrote in a character that truly matches himself. Its probably the perk of being the writer of the original story.

secret 2007

On the off-chance that you aren’t watching this through Netflix, I’m going to keep this spoiler free as much as possible. While this movie seems a lot like your average teen movie with the female character having some ailment, there is a much more light-hearted sort of appeal to this mostly with its added twist. Using music as a medium is a really nice touch here. With the subgenre that it tackles, there are some little logic issues and flaws but it also has this fantasy element that adds a little something extra.

As I mentioned before, Jay Chou writes a character very suitable for himself therefore he does a decent job. Its really his romantic interest, Lun-Mei Kwai that takes a lot of credit here. Her personality reflects Xiao Yu’s character a whole lot whether its her little movements or when she’s happy or sad. The chemistry between them spark up some nice little moments that make us truly root for this pairing. However, in a movie full of young actors and actresses, there is no doubt that Anthony  Wong stands out the most playing the father of Jay Chou’s character. He has this vibrancy and his character while seemingly not very significant in the beginning, ramps up quite the significance by the end.

The Space Between Us (2017)

the space between us

Director: Peter Chelsom

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman, Carla Gugino, BD Wong, Janet Montgomery

The first human born on Mars travels to Earth for the first time, experiencing the wonders of the planet through fresh eyes. He embarks on an adventure with a street smart girl to discover how he came to be. – IMDB

I’m not exactly understanding all the hate that this movie seems to get via the different site that I’ve looked at. To be honest, this movie is right up my alley. For one, it has an incredible cast, at least I’m a big fan of everyone here. Then it has this whole sci-fi premise of space and Earth. The idea behind the story is pretty nice as well. There are some glaring similarities to a lot of other movies, the one that I thought of first was Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart (Review), an animated film that I love a whole lot. To see competent young actor and actress like Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson take over this pairing just warmed my heart because they are both constantly on my radar.

With that said, the music here is fantastic. The story here is a bit thin on the character development side of things and focuses on some cheesy teen romance thing, which worked for me because somehow these two have a good bit of chemistry and some really nice scenes. Plus, the whole fish of water thing always makes me feel incredibly entertained especially how they wrote up Asa Butterfield’s character even if he falls into those tropes of having some weakness to him but the fact that its because he’s born on another planet really makes it unique in its own way.

On top of that, you get Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino in this film who truly add quite a bit to the film in their roles. Its quite the adventure to see the whole chase from one thing to the next. There is romance but also a great deal of adventure that is where the bonding of the characters happen. Britt Robertson does play a very similar role to a few roles she’s done where she is a teen that doesn’t fit into the life that she is from. The key question here that is asked is “What is your favorite thing about Earth?” I think its a valid movie that uses this story to ask a deeper question about appreciating the things that we have around us that we take for granted. There are many layers to the story. Sure, it has its faults and there’s a ton of cheese and its fairly predictable but there’s also a lot of fun and adventurous moments here that work. Plus, it doesn’t take the normal teen romance type of bittersweet ending so I’m all for that.

That’s it for this double S feature for Valentine’s romance!
Both movies that have flaws but that I found a lot of enjoyment from!
Have you seen Secret or The Space Between Us?

Valentine’s Double Feature: Midnight Sun (2018) & Nappily Ever After (2018)

Next up in the Valentine’s Double Feature is the M & N selection! We’re at the first choice which I’ve actually been interested in seeing for a while and the second which was a last minute change in plans, because I just like to keep things spontaneous. Our M selection is a nice shift into some teen romance which I tend to avoid because it gets very formulaic genre but I’m interested in seeing how Patrick Schwarzenegger fares as a young actor and Bella Thorne has truly grown a lot in her acting in the last few films I’ve watched so interested in seeing how she does in a role different from her usual ones. As for Nappily Ever After, it just seemed like a cool film to mix it up a little. Its supposed to be a romantic comedy but I honestly think its more about a more personal journey.

Let’s check it out!

Midnight Sun (2018)

Midnight Sun

Director: Scott Speer

Cast: Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Rob Riggle, Quinn Shephard, Suleka Mathew, Nicholas Coombe

A 17-year-old girl suffers from a condition that prevents her from being out in the sunlight. – IMDB

I’m going to admit right away that Midnight Sun is very similar to a lot of teen romance films out there where one of the two have some sort of disease or whatnot. But due to my lack of knowledge of other movies (and I hear this compared most to Everything Everything which I haven’t seen), the only one that I can say this gave me similar feels to A Walk to Remember. For lots of Nicholas Sparks movie haters, this might not sound like much however if you are like me and do have tolerance for it, I actually thought that Midnight Sun had that genuine feeling to it that A Walk to Remember gave me which is a praise in itself because I honestly love that film. Its a film with a love story where this young couple find courage and encouragement to reach for their own potential and their dreams despite things that happened that make them scared to go for it completely.

With that said, my biggest praise goes to Bella Thorne who has broken out of her typical bitchy high school girl role and taken on this much more docile role as a girl, Katie with a condition that prevents her from going out in the sunlight because it can cause her body to deteriorate. However, she strives to be seen as a normal girl especially in front of a boy that she’s only dreamt of meeting until the day that she does and he is attracted to her. Its a fairly typical course of events and you can call it contrived in its own ways and its not like the plot is going to win any awards for uniqueness, but movies likes these lie in the genuine chemistry and course of events that build up these two characters and Bella Thorne does a fantastic job in her role (even if her singing bits could be better). This is the first film that I’ve seen of Patrick Schwarzenegger and he has great chemistry with Bella Thorne and he is a pretty decent young actor as well. With time and more roles, we will see how his career goes and the potential he has.

Movies like Midnight Sun really appeals to a certain type of audience and for myself, it worked because it wasn’t all about the love story and it had something a little more, especially in the positive bits of a love story even in one doomed to end early as expected here. This one also remembered that Katie’s life didn’t only have love but also highlights her relationship with her friendship and her father, making the movie and Katie a much more real character with so much more to lose.

Nappily Ever After (2018)

Nappily Ever After

Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour

Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Ricky Whittle, Lyriq Bent, Lynn Whitfield, Ernie Hudson, Daria Johns, Camille Guaty, Brittany S. Hall

Violet Jones tired of waiting for her longtime boyfriend to propose, breaks up with him. But old feelings, and heaps of jealousy, no doubt, arise when he promptly begins dating another woman. – IMDB

You know, I have to say that the IMDB synopsis here is really not accurate to what Nappily Ever After is about. Its how it starts but I don’t know if jealousy is what causes things to go in motion, more than our main character figured things out at the end of the film about what matters to her and the things worth holding on and such. Is there a romantic angle to this? For sure! There’s a lot of that going on here especially because she realizes that she doesn’t want to wait for this man who she realizes won’t marry her and breaks up with him. However, she ends up getting drunk and doing something crazy like cutting away her staple of perfection and pride which is her hair which completely changes her course because she loses her physical beauty but owns up to her beauty regardless of her hair length. Its a pretty great story in that sense and inspirational and motivating and has all the positive vibes.

Is it really the standout for its romance? Not really. Its not to say that the scenes with Sanaa Lathan and Lyriq Bent weren’t full of chemistry because they were. They had some great moments which gave a nice contrast between this romance versus the previous one with the guy who wouldn’t marry her played by Ricky Whittle. I’ve always Ricky Whittle as he’s a pretty handsome man in general and has done some great roles, somehow this one isn’t one that I particularly thought was much since he was fairly shown little. Sanaa Lathan played her main lead role beautifully especially in interpreting the story plus I love how the film was split in chapters in the hair length/style that she had  in each stage which is pretty unique. Its supposedly based on a novel which I didn’t know before writing up this review so maybe that is how it was done in the book. Tell me if thats the case if you have read it. I’m interested in knowing.

Another aspect here was Daria Johns as Zoe who plays a daughter of Will (Lyriq Bent) who does such a charming job. Plus it brought in another angle to the story that gave it this very natural feeling and heartwarming moments especially as she found a way to see through Zoe how a childhood should be and what matters.

Thats it for this Valentine’s double feature!
Just saying that this double feature thing will continue through the rest of the alphabet but less frequent during the Ultimate 2000s Blogathon which starts soon!

Have you seen either of these films? Thoughts?

Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before #3) by Jenny Han

You can find the reviews of the previous two books:

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

Always and Forever, Lara Jean
(To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before #3)
by: Jenny Han

Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Lara Jean is having the best senior year a girl could ever hope for. She is head over heels in love with her boyfriend, Peter; her dad’s finally getting remarried to their next door neighbor, Ms. Rothschild; and Margot’s coming home for the summer just in time for the wedding. But change is looming on the horizon. And while Lara Jean is having fun and keeping busy helping plan her father’s wedding, she can’t ignore the big life decisions she has to make. Most pressingly, where she wants to go to college and what that means for her relationship with Peter. She watched her sister Margot go through these growing pains. Now Lara Jean’s the one who’ll be graduating high school and leaving for college and leaving her family—and possibly the boy she loves—behind.

When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to? – Goodreads

There’s something so grounded about To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before book series. Whether its about popularity or finding your place, dealing with family pains or facing your feelings or trusting your heart. On top of the teenage woes that are very much relatable or reminiscent, the array of characters are wonderfully well-written, especially our two main characters, Lara Jean and Peter. These love birds have gone through high school at this point and they are at the point where the next big stage in life is here and its a decision to choose to be together and how to do it so that both sides can face their own fears but still hold on to what matters to them and taking the leap of faith. College (or as I call it university in Canada) is a huge step which does have all these realistic ideas that insecurity comes into play and uncertainty also comes along as well making decisions that are true to what you like and accepting the disappointment of rejection and the joys of new doors opening. All this is so well-portrayed in Always and Forever, Lara Jean.

Jenny Han sculpts these two fantastic characters but also all the supporting ones are equally as engaging to read because the stories are not about just teen romance but also embodies a lot of other factors that create these characters including family and other factors. While this story does follow quite the expected storyline of love and loss, big decisions and disappointments that I mentioned before, it somehow feels even more grounded than its previous two stories and that is because through the last two books we’ve bonded with Lara Jean and suddenly these events she goes through feels very real as well. Its the beauty of reading really well-executed books that make them both incredibly fun to read but also have its fair share of heartbreak and heartwrenching decisions and the uncertainty of whether some decisions are worth it while other characters also end up getting this bigger part of their goals and motives that change the dynamic of the situation.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean is a really  great read. Its probably not as engaging as the first book but this one is much more grounded in a very real teenage situation and growing up and being able to making these tough choices. This trilogy has been solid through and through, bring alive some wonderfully colorful characters with still a decent amount of room for development and depth.

The books are now done

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.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

Check out the book review HERE.

Its not a secret that I’m not a huge fan of adaptations because a lot of times they lack the beauty what the words portray. However, I loved To All The Boys I’ve Love Before and you can see the review in the link above that I went and bought the second book full price (something I don’t do often so its a big deal). When Netflix showed off their trailer for it, I was pretty much sold. A part of me wondered how it would turn out but then, it had some a great premise that I thought there was no way that they could destroy it, especially when they even cast an Asian-American as their lead just like the book. Consider me happy just with that sole point.

However, let’s be objective, as much as I can and check it out!

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Director: Susan Johnson

Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Israel Broussard, John Corbett

A teenage girl’s secret love letters are exposed and wreak havoc on her love life. – IMDB

Its not surprise that I was a little skeptical as much as I wanted to be objective and not assume too much going in. To be honest, I was a little worried. Why? Well, the teen movies they’ve had on Netflix has been worryingly bad. F the Prom, #RealityHigh are just two very bad examples of how much I hated watching those two movies a lot. But then, To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved is based on a really solid novel. Its a simple premise with charming characters. Its pretty hard to mess up. And you know what? Netflix delivered all the way!

I loved the tone of the trailer and when we saw the actual outcome of the entire movie, it worked so well together. It took a moment or two to embrace some of the characters are the beginning and get into it but it really captured the essence of the novel itself, especially when I was feeling every bit the feelings I had when I was reading the book. So great job on that, Netflix! Its nice to see a well done adaptation, even with a detail or two changed around. I’m not really bothered a lot by changes in details as long as they work in the realm of films because some things works well in books and they don’t translate as well into movies. However, there is one thing that was changed around which made me wonder what the point was because it affected probably one other scene and didn’t make much of a difference whether it was shown or not. I’m avoiding spoilers here so if you read the book, you may know what I’m talking about.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before

 

For one and probably the most important, the Song sisters play a big role in the film in whichever presence they have. Lana Condor does a great job at being our main lead here as she takes on this clueless teen who has these fantasy notions of romance in her imaginary world and scared to actually fall in love. There’s a good deal of humor and clumsiness as you would seem in the teenage world from her unconfident driving to her desire to take over the role of her older sister and the fictional romantic world that gives her these more “behind the times” sort of love concepts. At the same time, this makes her letters being sent out every bit as amusing as the two main guys are the main contenders on her mind. The first being her sister’s recently ex-boyfriend Josh (Israel Broussard) and the most popular boy in her grade, Peter (Noah Centineo) who she ends up making a deal with to not let Josh think that she likes him anymore. I have to say that Noah Centineo casted as Peter was a little out of the left field for me. I didn’t quite picture him like that but his character did grow on me. Especially in his scenes with Lara Jean and watching how their characters developed and then their relationship also grew as their chemistry and connection was more apparent. It works because they are quite the clueless first love teenage characters who make bad decisions and have their own reasons for justifying it. Its this cluelessness especially in Lara Jean (who reminded me of one of my friends at that age) that makes it so charming and fun to watch.

to all the boys i've loved before

Aside from the fun romance bits, which does take up a decent amount of screentime, it also emphasizes on the family aspect. The three sisters are quite the presence. While Janel Parrish’s older sister Margot role is quickly disappeared into the background as more of a mental presence with everyone, her scenes are very much the big sister role who takes care of her family very well but also trying to find herself as she spreads her wings and leaves the comfortable protection of her home. At the same time, the physical charming and smart-aleck younger sister Kitty played by  Anna Cathcart is incredibly comedic as she pokes fun at her lame older sister who lacks the basic social skills and driving skills (and other things) but when the end of the day, they all do things for each other. That sisterly bond is shown so well also. John Corbett plays the father of these girls who is a widower trying to make things work amidst his busy job. His role wasn’t huge but at the same time, these girls along with their dad is living up to mom’s memories and her words as they try embrace those memories in each of their own way to be more courageous about their life decisions. Its a touching subplot in what feels like a teen romance but has a little more than just that which is what makes it also a great watch that has some heart string tugging moments outside of those romantic parts.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before

Overall, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a fun and charming teen coming of age romance drama/comedy all mixed up in a lovely package. Its a great adaptation of the novel albeit its slight changes because it captures the characters, their heartbreak, their fears and insecurities and gives them enough back story to make their relationships, whether friendship, family or romance, enough space to grow but paced properly to make it always have something meaningful. There are some over the top moments but to be honest, the book had some of those moments as well. The charm and charisma of the film comes not only in the fun source material but also how this young cast gave it life especially when we look at Anna Cathcart, Lana Condor and Noa Centineo. If you like teen romance drama/comedy type films, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is an awesome choice.

Double Feature: F*&% the Prom (2017) & Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Back full power into the alphabetical train, the next two films in the double feature

F*&% the Prom (2017)

F The Prom

Director (and co-writer): Benny Fine

Cast: Danielle Campbell, Joel Courtney, Cameron Palatas, Meg DeLacy, Aidan Alexander, Michael Chey, Brendan Calton, Nicholle Tom, Jill Cimorelli, Madelaine Petsch

Maddy and Cole were inseparable friends until high school started and Maddy became the most popular girl on campus. When she starts feeling lonely and heartbroken, she reconnects with Cole and the duo conspire to destroy the ultimate teen popularity contest – the Prom. – IMDB

If it wasn’t for the sporadic releases of movies like The Edge of Seventeen (review), Easy A (review) and even The Duff (review), I’d have written off teen comedies in general. Netflix Originals in general have been fairly cool but when it comes to teen comedies, it seems they are not really finding the unique angle to take quite yet. I can’t remember the title of the last one I saw that was a disappointment..gimme a sec..#RealityHigh (review).

F the Prom

F the Prom is absolutely better than that one. It has hints of some of the older teen comedies but unfortunately, does fall flat and gets rather generic. You can’t shame it for at least doing like a Carrie style scene or having a ragtag team of bullied kids. The film is okay for what it is. There are some funny parts and I think Madeleine Petsch fits into the mean girl character (just like she is in Riverdale). I’m guessing this movie is more for this generation as it fits in a lot of social media and lets just say, I’ve been out of high school for almost 15 years now so to be honest, I laugh at some of the overexaggeration of say selfie-taking (since I always feel weird about it) and the emojis and whatnot. Either way, point is, F the Prom might have something and might have its demographic but its not for me and other than some little chuckle moments, I thought it was fairly generic.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

guardians of the galaxy vol.2

Director (and co-writer): James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel(voice), Bradley Cooper(voice),  Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Kurt Russell, Sean Gunn, Sylvestor Stallone

The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. – IMDB

Its really hard to not love the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 even when there are some of the normal downfalls I feel about MCU movies. For one, their soundtrack is fantastic and it remains that way in the sequel. On top of that, the ragtag team’s follow-up is one that shows them both bickering but also in the depths sees them forgiving towards each other in their stubbornest or dumbest moments. In fact, its because of their mishaps and their differences that give each of this team so much character and uniqueness and makes them both lovable and fun to watch. With that said, I don’t think in my limited film knowledge would I find so much joy in watching a little baby tree stump who only says three words over and over again. And not to sh*t talk Bradley Cooper but every time Rocket Raccoon talks, I forget that its Bradley Cooper and wonder who does such a great dynamic voice.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Aside from the strength in the key characters, The Guardians along with some of the new additions to their team, we do also meet some cool characters and cameos. Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn, playing Yondu and his right hand man Kraglin, get a bigger role here and we learn more about The Ravagers. Alongside that arc, we also see a cameo from the awesome Sylvester Stallone. We love Stallone over here, so its always great to see him in all kinds of projects. He only had two scenes but its still really great. The Ravagers is something of a side arc while the main arc really goes to both the Guardians being chased down by the Sovereign, lead by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) and Peter Quill’s father, Ego (Kurt Russell) showing up. I recently saw Elizabeth Debicki in Cloverfield Paradox (review) who was fairly decent. She’s alright in this one although to be fair, in terms of villains, Guardians still is quite lackluster as always, maybe its because we know our heroes are always going to be victorious. With that said, the Sovereign is an interesting galactic race to see especially when they battle like going to the arcades. On the other hand, Ego is a decent turn of events and introduces also the pretty funny Mantis (Pom Klementieff). The planet is beautiful and they have their own mystery as to what happens with it all.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a fun ride through the galaxy as we see the Guardians save the galaxy another time. This time, there are fun characters, Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone with some new funny additions like Pom Klementieff as Mantis. On top of it all, the best moments is absolutely with Rocket and Baby Groot who have some adorable moments especially when Baby Groot does a great dance around as the Guardians fight a interdimensional monster. Just from that first scene, it already sets a tone for what to expect in the rest of this action adventure.

Double Feature: A Stork’s Journey (2017) & The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

As I work through maintaining a little bit of everything every single week, here we are with the double feature of the week showcasing a free movie for a limited time on Google Play Store called A Stork’s Journey and 2016’s teenage coming of age favorite, The Edge of Seventeen. Going into both of these is completely fresh, for one, I just saw Storks and this is A Stork’s Journey, a movie I know nothing about, while on the other hand,  I don’t know much about The Edge of Seventeen, but Hailee Steinfeld has yet to convince me that she is a young actress to watch out for. Maybe this will be the one to do it.

Let’s check it out!

A Stork’s Journey (2017)

A Stork's Journey

Director: Toby Genkel & Reza Memari

Voice Cast: Drake Bell, iJustine, Jane Lynch

Even though everybody else thinks he’s a sparrow – Richard himself holds tight to the conviction that he is in fact a stork. – IMDB

A Stork’s Journey is a pretty generic story. While there is some fun acting and some cool use of characters and play with words as well as incorporating the modern terms, it still has moments where it does fall flat a little. What does it give an edge is perhaps Jane Lynch doing the voice of Olga, the Pygmy Owl. This is definitely a rag-tag aviary team as Richard sets off to prove that he is a stork by making it to Africa, and on the way meeting other birds which are different in their own way to their own type of bird, be it an oversized pygmy owl or an over the top parakeet that wants to be a singing star and the great amount of techie pigeons that divulge a lot of information. A Stork’s Journey is a simple and innocent journey that pretty much tells us to dream big and never downsize ourselves. We can be whatever we want to be but also accept that we are who we are, big or small, and have our purpose and excellence. Absolutely a family-friendly film and probably geared towards a younger audience.

I mean, I probably wouldn’t pay to see this but it was free on Google Play Store and might still be, if you know, then do leave a comment below. I can’t see the price because I own it now. Its a tad cliche as a bird adventure story which might remind you a little of Rio at parts, but the story that move along fast enough and the animation has some adorable bits and I personally love Jane Lynch and her voice for Olga was really cool. There are some clever word plays and I like those in anything. I’m kind of in the middle here. Its not exact a hit but not exactly a  miss either.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

The Edge of Seventeen

Director (and writer): Kelly Fremon Craig

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Hayden Szeto, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick

High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother. – IMDB

At this point, I’ve watched The Edge of Seventeen once and then rewatched it two more times. I’ve seen The Edge of Seventeen be compared to Sixteen Candles and in some ways, I can see it particularly with an awkward main character who loathes the idea of high school and is really over it. Suffice to say that I like this one a whole lot. Part of it is that the story is written so well with enough awkward dialogue and awesome characters that really highlight the melodrama of being in high school. For Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), this means losing her only friend to her popular and hot (almost perfect) brother who already has everything and takes away her only spark of joy as well. Call this a blessing in disguise, while Nadine flips out in her odd ways and makes some stupid decisions (as you would expect), she ends up meeting Erwin (Hayden Szeto), a fellow classmate who reaches out to her unexpectedly in her time of need.

the edge of seventeen

The Edge of Seventeen is full of great characters. I’d have to say that the highlight is the equally awkward Erwin, played by Hayden Szeto. He took portrayed his awkwardness with silly joke and the dialogue between him and Hailee Steinfeld’s Nadine was a lot of fun. All their scenes were quite fun and meaningful. On the other hand, the scenes with Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson was also really great as its mostly pretty hilarious with his unexpected brutal honesty. Woody Harrelson’s Mr. Bruner is somewhat of a odd support system, his straight forward answers or comments on her situation spoke a lot of the harsh truth and in many ways, as someone that is past the high school phase, it reminds me of why someone didn’t point those things out.

Honestly, its been a while that I’ve seen something so fun with coming of age elements and kind of at a point really tugged at my heartstrings. I’m starting to see that potential in Hailee Steinfeld although, I do believe the fantastic script and the great cast all around made this memorable. I totally recommend this movie!

Have you seen A Stork’s Journey and/or The Edge of Seventeen?

(Sorry for the later than expected post. I thought I had posted this up. Apparently, I forgot to schedule it…)