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: 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!

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

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

An Affair To Die For (2019)

Director: Victor Garcia

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

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

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

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

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

Tears of Steel (short 2012)

Director (and writer): Ian Hubert

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

He just wanted to be awesome in space. – IMDB

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

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

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

Double Feature: Shanghai Fortress (2019) & S Storm (2016)

Time for the next double feature! Its a pairing of a Netflix Chinese Sci-fi film Shanghai Fortress with the sequel of Hong Kong crime thriller Z Storm called S Storm. Let’s check it out!

Shanghai Fortress (2019)

Director: Hua-Tao Teng

Cast: Han Lu, Qi Shu, Godfrey Gao, Liang Shi, Sen Wang, Vincent Matile, Jialing Sun, Yu Cheng

In 2035, aliens have wiped out mega cities around the globe to get their main source of energy, Xianteng. Will Shanghai be able to defend itself and maybe even launch a counterattack? – IMDB

Looking solely at the premise, Shanghai Fortress has a great setting. Think a little like the Chinese version of Independence Day with elements of Ender’s Game and hints of Pacific Rim. The whole setting in the future and the world being destroyed where Shanghai wants to counterattack and the world coming together to try to eliminate the alien invasion is a good premise to say the very least. Where Shanghai Fortress has more issues is in its execution and some of the CGI effects especially when it comes to the aliens which looks like toy action figures in some scenes (a lot of it when its attacking from the sky).

Where the movie does its best story bits is with its sci-fi elements as it talks about the war and the reality that the world now dwells in. The source of energy that is being fought for and the reality that the world now dwells in while still a bit lacking in detail still works for the most part and even with the technology that the world now has and the team that they put together to try to fight them as well as their secret weapon. With that said, where the story falls apart is putting in the romantic arc of the main lead trying to win the heart of a superior. It almost felt unnecessary as it was put there to give them a dramatic element but then, they already had the whole team and friendship that was done in a more natural way.

Despite the story, the cast is fairly alright. With the material they had, the main cast does deliver well enough. Qi Shu brings in the role of the captain and is the crush of the main male lead played by Han Lu, who is the leader of the little “task force” (not sure if that’s how you call it) that got brought up after they come together to help an attack. Godfrey Gao also takes part in this film as one of the last few movies in his career before his unfortunate death in 2019. There are some more familiar faces that work out including the rest of the “task force” and friends that I’ve seen appear and are relatively well in their roles.

Overall, its quite disappointing that Shanghai Fortress had such a good premise but just couldn’t deliver a better script and execution, which made a little harder to get into it completely whether it was the war or the human relationships.

S Storm (2016)

Director: David Lam

Cast: Louis Koo, Julian Cheung, Ada Choi, Vic Chou, Bowie Lam, Dada Chan, Janelle Sing, Sau Sek, Hoi Pang Lo, Jacky Cai

No sooner is a team at ICAC set up to investigate irregularities in soccer official betting in Hong Kong before a suspect is assassinated. – IMDB

The sequel to 2014’s Z Storm (review) takes on another corruption story and this time its within the Jockey Club with the soccer betting system. The ICAC end up following the clues from one lead to the next to realize that each of the suspects are being killed before they get there. S Storm is a fairly decent thriller. The only issue is that it adds too much to the equation that it almost feels like there’s too many characters to go through. It does keep it fairly engaging since there’s always a next step and in the beginning, its a race between the ICAC and a disrespected homicide detective’s team for the trail.

S Storm excels because of its talented cast. The ICAC being lead by Louis Koo’s character who is a staple in many Hong Kong thrillers in the past decade (if not 2). The homicide team lead by Julian Cheung, a singer and actor that I personally like quite a bit as well. The assassin is played by Vic Chou and the former F4 member and had his debut in the original Taiwanese version of Meteor Garden as Hua Ze Lei, the 2nd male lead. Its been a while since I’ve seen him in anything so this role does feel small and very quiet but his character is missing some depth perhaps. Other roles like Ada Choi, Bowie Lam, Sau Sek are all familiar faces in TV mostly but have dabbled in film before and all give fairly decent supporting roles.

While there are some issues with S Storm, its a series that I do enjoy for the corruption case angle. Its more about the clever dealings and inner network of people and such. This one does have a decent amount of action as well considering its about gambling so the triad and such gets involved. The audience gets the story step by step in bits and sees the danger before the ICAC and homicide gets there even if it doesn’t always reveal the culprit, leaving that in the dark for a while. Some good elements and some not so good ones but its an alright thriller overall.

As a side note, it would be interesting to check out what other stories will come in the other movies in the series and how it links to the letters they use really does make me wonder sometimes.

Blog Tour: Shame Of It All by K.T. Grant (Review/Giveaway)

Shame Of It All
By: K.T. Grant

Publication Date: December 6th, 2020
Genre: Psychological Thriller

SYNOPSIS

*Trigger Warning : Violence/ Sexual Assault

Revenge is a dish best served cold. But for Mercy Pryce her revenge will scald one’s soul and leave behind a burnt-out husk if she has her way.

Mercy has returned to her hometown of Cartleigh, New York after twenty years. The lakeside community is the perfect location for Yakim Zeldovich, her Russian billionaire employer’s state of the art manufacturing facility. Acting as a consultant for Zeldovich, she’s on an undercover mission, not as an angel of mercy, but one of mischief, deceit and torture. Her ultimate goal is to ruin Cartleigh because of a horrible trauma she suffered in high school. The one responsible for her wrath is Colton Hahn, Cartleigh’s beloved mayor, and the object of her retaliation. The town’s golden boy, who she once adored as an impressionable teenager, brutally raped her and left her for dead at seventeen.

Consumed by years of grief and growing rage, she has targeted Colton, who may also be responsible for the death of her best friend, Marina, his fiancé. She will avenge Marina and finally take down the monster who tried to ruin her life.

Her success may come at a horrible price. But it will all be worth it if she can take away everything Colton holds dear, including him surrendering his heart and soul to her in the process.

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REVIEW

If thrillers are a hard genre to grasp, revenge based psychological thrillers are probably even harder to balance especially when it brings in an element of sexual and erotic manipulation elements into the overall story. Shame Of It All has its own pros and cons. For the most part, the story does flow relatively well with the pacing. There are some moments where it does feel very wordy near the end that lays out the “best laid plans” of the main character which makes the ending feel probably a little bit too clear cut. However, there are elements of executing the sexual manipulation and creating a story that works almost in parallel with the present and what happens in the past that drives the character to make these plans for revenge that makes it all the more intriguing. While the story itself doesn’t feel exactly unpredictable in the path it takes and the reveal seems a little lackluster, the writing style here does give the story a big boost.

The story is written in first person perspective from the main character Mercy’s point of view. Everything is voiced through her thoughts and actions and every character plays off of her and the things that the character lays out. This does create an angle to give the characters around her a chance to reveal as she learns more about them especially since she returns twenty years later to a place that she grew up in. Despite it being focused on Colton Hahn, the mayor of the town, this story revolves around a few other characters that actually might be crafted a little better since his character feels pretty well laid out and not exactly as surprising reveal in his secrets. In fact, what drives the story better is that Mercy’s character because of this revenge and how it ends actually veers away from a personal pet peeve, that this boosted up how I felt about the story itself. However, Mercy is a rather conflicting character to back. In some ways, she’s a character that might be pitied but doesn’t want to be pitied and yet her vengeful personality and the way the character talks doesn’t exactly make her likeable as well however if you ask whether what she’s doing is right or wrong, that’s another discussion point. Perhaps what crafts an even more interesting angle is the character of Yakim and the mysterious elements with his background which stayed a mystery because of his name more in quick conversations and in passing through conversations and small moments.

Overall, Shame Of It All is a decent revenge thriller. It has its little issues. The ending is executed a little lackluster in some parts. There are some characters that are well in development however some of them also lack some depth. However, the writing style and the way it treats each of the more sexual elements and the balance of power between the characters of Mercy and Colton is done really well. There’s a certain level of msytery due to the execution building itself up throughout.

Where to Buy:
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

KT Grant is a self-proclaimed eccentric redhead who not only loves to read a wide variety of romances, but also loves writing it. As a former book blogger and entertainment columnist with a bad coffee and Twitter addiction, she still doesn’t shy away from voicing her opinion. A proud native of New Jersey, KT is multi-published and writes Gay, Lesbian and Straight romance. KT has also been a top ten best-selling author at Amazon. KT loves to hear from readers. You can drop KT an email at ktgrnt@gmail.com.

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Blog Tour: Up The Creek by Alissa Grosso (Review/Giveaway)

Up The Creek (Culver Creek #1)
By: Alissa Grosso

Expected Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Genre: Supernatural Thriller

SYNOPSIS

An unsolved murder. Disturbing dreams. A missing child.

Caitlin Walker hasn’t had a dream in nine years. But now nightmares torture her son Adam and awaken in Caitlin buried memories and a dark secret. Her husband Lance has a secret of his own, one that his son’s nightmares threaten to reveal.

In Culver Creek newly hired detective Sage Dorian works to unravel the small town’s notorious cold case, the grisly murder of a young girl.

How are Caitlin and Lance connected to the horrific crime? And how far will they go to make sure their secrets stay hidden? Find out in this riveting thriller.

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REVIEW

Being the first book for an upcoming series, Up the Creek sets a good foundation. Up The Creek is well-paced and executes the story back and forth between its characters. In this case, it involves 3 main characters: Caitlin Walker, her husband Lance Walker and the new detective in Culver Creek Sage Dorian, who has been hired to take a look at the cold case. As a thriller, it also is executed quite well to slowly give the reveal of what is the secret with Caitlin and Lance that links them to the disappearance of their child and the cold case. It also sets up the story so that the finale delivers a question that makes you think whether all this could have been avoided if one person’s decision had been different and whether some secrets are best exposed.

One of the best elements of Up The Creek is the character design/development. The three characters each have their own connection to the past that brings up some flashbacks and through various conversations with the new situation that comes up reveals their secrets little by little. With that said, the characters are fairly complexed and suitably so for a thriller. Caitlin’s secret is probably the easiest to piece together: the reason that she takes medication for her dreams and the quick reveal of her tendency for nightmares pieces together easily to see her deal. However, this ends up connecting to her young son Adam that eventually goes missing and no one truly knows who took him and what happened. Lance Walker is probably the character with the most secrets from what seems like every day habits to slowly see that he has a much stronger connection to the case. His character is actually rather fascinating as he unveils and everything comes into place. That leaves Sage Dorian which probably starts to feel like the balance for his part is a little smaller however he is a key part as he pulls the cold case with the new missing child case together. At a certain point at the end, it is fairly clear how it all pieces together however, there isn’t an issue for this character to draw the conclusions clearly. As a side note, while this isn’t mentioned but there seems to be one connection that probably will come into play at the end in future books as it may connect to Sage Dorian that wasn’t addressed.

As a first book of a series, Up The Creek leaves a lot to look forward to for future books set in Culver Creek. Already by the end, there still is the issue of Sage Dorian’s own family mystery that hasn’t been addressed yet and only mentioned that gives his character some foundation. Writing good thrillers are very difficult and something that I mention quite a bit. Up The Creek does a great job to make it both gripping and thrilling to watch from beginning to end with decent pacing and execution. Up The Creek is a great thriller and well worth a read.

Score: 4.5/5

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alissa Grosso is the author of several books for adults and teens. Originally from New Jersey, she now resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. You can find out more about her and her books at AlissaGrosso.com.

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Double Feature: A Simple Favor (2018) & Dumplin’ (2018)

Next double feature is here and we’re doing a 2018 film double feature. Honestly, it was fairly unplanned since this one was more for the focused on the female cast on hand. The first is a dark comedy thriller A Simple Favor and the second is Netflix coming of age comedy Dumplin’.

Let’s check it out!

A Simple Favor (2018)

Director: Paul Feig

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Ian Ho, Joshua Satine, Henry Golding, Dustin Milligan

Stephanie is a single mother with a parenting vlog who befriends Emily, a secretive upper-class woman who has a child at the same elementary school. When Emily goes missing, Stephanie takes it upon herself to investigate. – IMDB

* Originally published on Movies and Tea – Friday Film Club*

Based on the 2017 novel of the same name by Darcey Bell, A Simple Favor is a dark comedy thriller about a mommy vlogger who befriends one of the other moms who ends up mysteriously disappearing after asking her to pick her son after school. Using the power of her followers and as a form of journal, she tries to track down her friend and eventually find out what happened to her. 

Starring in the main roles as the mommy vlogger Stephanie is Anna Kendrick while her elegant friend Emily is portrayed by Blake Lively. A lot of the charm of the movie is how it is executed as a fluctuation between the past interactions and the context of their friendship and how their conversations expose their characters, especially that of Stephanie, both having elements that break out of how they are perceived by the people around them while contrasting it with the present search after her disappearance and eventual death which leads to Stephanie trying to figure out what happened while being caught up in it herself. 

Anna Kendrick has always been quite a flexible character as she started off in Pitch Perfect and takes up comedic roles like Mr. Right and now, this one takes it one step further as she catches those dark comedy points really great especially in her dialogue which brings in a bit of embarrassment and unexpected elements that brings out some laugh but still keeps the movie fairly suspenseful. Blake Lively’s Emily is a blunt character, not the conventional polite mom but a powerhouse elegant girl who says what comes to mind and feels secretive but also manipulative which makes her disappearance feel not unexpected but rather more of a mystery of what secrets she is hiding. 

A Simple Favor has the same feeling and tells the kind of story like Gone Girl but perhaps a different angle as it takes a more dark comedy angle while the other is more of a pure thriller. The twist and the story/script all work pretty well as it watches a character feel like she is a naive small town girl just trying to do the best mom she can be even though in reality, both female characters are really  not as perfect as they seem to be whether in their perspectives or the people around them. Not to mention that it has a lovely soundtrack. Its not exactly very complex but it has a good balance between having a decent twist and mystery to fulfill the thriller element while also delivering some great dark comedy. A Simple Favor is simply entertaining and fun. 

Dumplin’ (2018)

Director: Anne Fletcher

Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Jennifer Aniston, Odeya Rush, Maddie Baillio, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Luke Benward, Harold Perrineau, Ginger Minj, Sam Pancake, Hilliary Begley

Willowdean (‘Dumplin’), the plus-size teenage daughter of a former beauty queen, signs up for her mom’s Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town. – IMDB

A true Netflix gem is what Dumplin’ is. I can’t say how many times that I’ve watched it and rewatched this film at this point. There’s so much to love from the coming of age story to hitting those comedy points really well and even giving me that extra push from the Hideaway location with Dolly Parton drag queens that made me go and watch Rupaul’s Drag Queen because I’ve never seen it before. Of course, that’s besides the point. On that note, I don’t listen to Dolly Parton a lot nor am I mega knowledgeable about her music except for the really popular ones but I love the Dolly Parton soundtrack that it uses. Even though I don’t know about her sayings either, the movie puts a lot of focus on all the positive message that she delivers which becomes an encouraging element for Willowdean’s character.

What makes coming of age films great are usually the different types of relationships including that with facing up to yourself. For Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald), the story is from her point of view as she deals with a feeling that her mother (Jennifer Aniston) is ashamed of her body because she prides herself on being the 1991 Miss Teen Bluebonnet and her beauty pageant which makes her make fun of the pageant girls. At the same time, it brings in the element of friendship as she ends up having an argument with her best friend Ellen (Odeya Rush) that leads her to making friends with 2 other girls, Hannah (Bex Taylor-Klaus) and Millie (Maddie Baillio) that are not the typical pageant girls in the heart of breaking the norm. Its all about finding the courage and doing the impossible for them as they realize all the work that goes into participating in the pageant and the shining points of the pageant as they describe is a “team sport”. Then there’s the extension to finding courage and committing to being different much like Willowdean’s Aunt Lucy taught her and the friends she makes at the Hideaway help her remember. The whole Hideaway segments and the pageant segments are some of the best parts of the film.

If there was one thing that seemed to not fit so well was probably the love interest character that didn’t seem to be needed. It was there to emphasize her discomfort with herself and that she had to come to terms with herself. At the same time, while the character of Bo (Luke Benward) was okay overall, he didn’t exactly add a whole lot to the film itself. The movie was much more about the girls and ladies than anything else. Plus, its a different sort of movie that shows this pageant being filled with girls who don’t have it out for each other but are actually rather nice about the whole thing.

BITS 2020: Bleed With Me (2020)

Bleed With Me (2020)

Director (and writer): Amelia Moses

Cast: Lee Marshall, Lauren Beatty, Aris Tyros

During a winter getaway at an isolated cabin, a self-destructive young woman becomes convinced that her best friend is stealing her blood. – IMDB

Cabin in the woods, cold winter and bunked up for a getaway with a couple and a best friend is the set up for Bleed With Me. The isolation, the single setting and the obligation for the characters to interact with each other builds up through a well-executed atmosphere and tension, wanting or not, its inevitable. As best friends Rowan (Lee Marshall) and Emily (Lauren Beatty)are using this trip to bond, Emily and her boyfriend Branden (Aris Tyros) are there to take some time together where Branden voices his reluctance to bringing Rowan along.

Bleed With Me is shot from Rowan’s angle right from the beginning as she drowsily lies down in the backseat of the car for the road trip. The audience sees what she sees. Its a clever way as her observations and feelings as well as the effects of her blurry sight when she wakes up in the middle of the night keeps the unknown feeling going. As she tells her stories and experiences to Emily and Branden, her character starts to form especially of self-harm issues. Especially since Rowan is set up to be socially awkward especially in this weird third wheel situation as she flails between keeping her distance to give Emily and Branden space but also drinking to try to ease herself and fit into the conversation.

As she starts suspecting that Emily is taking her blood at night and growing increasingly suspicious of her as more cut marks appear on her arm, its a big mystery where the uneasy starts to take effect as it plays on whether she is really experiencing it and Emily has ulterior motives or whether its all in her mind, playing on the psychological horror/thriller element very well. The small cast delivers some good performances, notably Lee Marshall. Although, deliberate or not, Lauren Beatty’s character sometimes feels like its laying the creepy vibes a little heavy, especially when Lee Marshall’s portrayal of Rowan is much more subtle.

Bleed With Me uses its dim setting, the environment and the isolation as well as the character development to give it an unsettling feeling and to keep suspecting between Rowan and Emily. As Rowan explores the cabin on her own and how Emily reacts to certain things, the mystery starts to have a few hints towards what this all is about. While the ending is a tad odd but the sum of its parts and the entire movie before then worked really well together. Using dark settings and low lightings along with her blurry/distorted vision and the horror of the unknown, Bleed With Me is an effectively unsettling horror film.