Friday, February 12, 2021

To All the Boys: Always and Forever (2021)

Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: To All the Boys: Always and Forever (2021)
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length: 109 minutes
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Ace Entertainment, All The Boys Productions, Netflix
Director: Michael Fimognari
Writer: Katie Lovejoy, Jenny Han
Actors: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Ross Butler, Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Trezzo Mahoro, Sarayu Blue, John Corbett, Henry Thomas
Blurb from IMDb: Continuing the romantic life of the teenage girl and facing her good and hard times with her friends and family.

Selina’s Point of View:
I have a ton to say about this movie. Most of it on the content of the story.
First of all, and I think most importantly, I think the main trope needs to die.
Back in the 80s when all you had was a wired phone to reach people with, it worked. Anyone in high school that was dating someone that would be moving to a different time zone was going to have significant trouble keeping up enough communication to continue dating them. Even if they had an answering machine, they were always going to have some spans of time where they just wouldn’t be able to talk at all. That kind of situation is what birthed this trope. A long-distance relationship meant the death of it.
That was then. Our options for communication, even over significantly long distances, are MUCH different now. If nothing else, the pandemic has proven that. Hell, I live in NY and I have best friends that live in Louisiana and Kansas. In fact, I know a couple who were high school sweethearts, went to colleges on opposite coasts, and just got married. Many other people I know have seen it happen a ton, too. It’s not as rare as these flicks make it seem.
Long-distance is not a death sentence for a relationship anymore. It just isn’t. And when films continuously tell teens that it is, it can scare them into making bad choices for their own educational future. It’s not fair to them, and it no longer makes sense from a plot-perspective.
100%, this trope needs to die. Now. In our current age, with our current technology, it’s ridiculous and only exists out of habit. Bad habit.
What’s next? Right.
I hate the way these kinds of films portray the re-emergence of a parent into an abandoned child’s life.
It’s always the same thing. The parent comes back because it’s finally convenient for them to be a part of the teen’s life, and the teen is – understandably – pissed. Throughout the flick, someone always convinces them that they are morally obligated to give that parent a chance to do right by them.
I cannot tell you how much I despise this.
If you have a child, you are a parent. You don’t get a break from being a parent. If you leave – you’re still a parent, just a bad one (in most situations). I had this view point when I was young and, now that I have a daughter, it’s even more concrete in my mind.

(Yes, there are parents who aren’t able to be with their kid because the person who has custody of the child doesn’t allow it. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’ve seen that situation, too, and it’s very different.)
Every time I see this abandonment story sneak into a teen film, it’s the same thing. And it’s bullshit.
A child has the right to be angry. It’s ok for them to not forgive the one who left.
Furthermore, comparing the parent that left by choice to a parent who died is essentially like gaslighting a kid into being ok. Not only does that not work, but it can cause them to resent themselves for not being able to do the forgiving that people expect of them. I know from experience.
Anger is a legitimate emotion when someone has been abandoned. Stop telling kids that it’s not. Stop trying to make it the norm to not feel that anger. Let kids feel it, so they can work through it. You can’t fix it if you’re suppressing it. For fucks sake.
That’s another harmful trope that needs to die.
I don’t normally do such a deep dive into tropes, but those two both really bother me. It did affect my enjoyment of the film. At least a bit.
After pausing a few times, I managed to push my concerns about the plot out of my head enough to really watch.
Acting-wise, everything was spot on. There’s a beautiful chemistry between all the actors that shows well on screen. Not just between Lara Jean and Peter, but with their friends and family. It makes everything feel a bit more natural.
To All the Boys: Always and Forever was effective. Everything it wanted me to feel, I felt. Even when I was meant to feel distance between characters, it worked. I felt every moment of that distance – that’s not an easy thing to accomplish when there is such a palpable chemistry involved.
I was hoping that this sequel would take a riskier route, and I’m disappointed it didn’t. It took the same path that most other films would have. It had the chance to redefine the genre, and took the road most travelled.

That said, it was still good. Despite my issues with the tropes they used, I still enjoyed the film. I just wish they'd gone further.

Cat’s Point of View:
Valentine’s Day is almost upon us. This year it’s been harder to feel that romantic buzz with my husband and I both sick. However, my restlessness and home-bound state did give me the perfect opportunity to catch up on the To All the Boys trilogy.
To be honest, I was slightly dreading watching To All the Boys: Always and Forever because of the situational timing. I have to say, though, that once I got into the movies, the rest of that fell away and I sank back into the story as if there hadn’t been a time lapse since 2019. The flow felt natural and the three films connect together as a really well-rounded trilogy.
I think Selina summed up the experience for To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020) well in her review; so, while I watched both, I’m going to do my best to focus on the third movie.
One thing I really appreciated is that while the audience is presented with this cute fairytale-like story, it also offered a realistic look at young love.

The films don’t shy away from the bumps in the road, the doubts, or the rollercoaster of highs and lows that comes with the territory. At the same time, it’s not cranked up to the level of melodrama that many productions lean on like a crutch.
I liked the fact that there’s a layered story with each of the family members experiencing their own arc woven into and around the main character’s tale. You get a glimpse at different perspectives without feeling like it’s too much. It’s maddening when a film gets lost and tangled in its own side quests rather than dialing in to the core plot.
There’s some real depth here to go with the adorable. There were even a few parts I got misty-eyed. I couldn’t help it. I just resonated deeply with multiple aspects here.
In the end, I’m glad that I experienced this trilogy. If you haven’t watched the first two already, it’s possible to binge all three without making a giant time commitment.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 70%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 83%
Metascore – 63/100
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.6/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4/5
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

After Midnight (2021)

Streaming Services: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: After Midnight (2021)
Genre: Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
Length: 83 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Rustic Films, Kavya Films, Vested Interest, Drop-Out Cinema, Cranked Up Films, Front Row Filmed Entertainment, Meteor Film, Umbrella Entertainment
Director: Jeremy Gardner, Christian Stella
Writer: Jeremy Gardner
Actors: Jeremy Gardner, Brea Grant, Henry Zebrowski, Justin Benson, Ashley Song, Nicola Masciotra, Taylor Zaudtke, Keith Arbuthnot
Blurb from IMDb: When his girlfriend suddenly disappears, leaving a cryptic note as her only explanation, Hank's comfortable life and his sanity begin to crack. Then, from the woods surrounding his house, something terrible starts trying to break in.

Selina’s Point of View:
Something strange happened to me with this film. Let me explain.
I thought, from the trailers, that this was going to be a werewolf flick. I LOVE me some werewolf action – but, way too often, the werewolf thing is just a metaphor for abuse instead of being the monster movie I want. That knowledge led me to being skeptical here. That’s the whole reason it didn’t make my Top 20 list.
As I watched, I was almost certain that I wasn’t far off. The meaning of the monster started to shift in my mind, but I was annoyed.
When the ending came around, I started rolling my eyes a bit. I saw there was 10 minutes left and was sure that nothing was going to change my mind about it.
What happened not only changed my mind, it altered the way I felt about the entire thing.

By the time the black screen showed up, I was dying of laughter and unable to stop for about 15-minutes. That may not have been what the creators were going for, but I do have a tendency to laugh at inappropriate times – so this one may just be on me.
The point is, I wasn’t angry at it anymore. My perception of the film did a full 180 and I am certain I am going to remember it as a glorious experience.
Now, this is a screener I didn’t request. I wanted a couple of others, and this just came along with them. I had to reshape the entire February schedule just to fit it in, but I’m glad I did. I’m positive we would not have watched it this month if the screener hadn’t come in, and I might never have known what I’d missed.
After Midnight was worth it. It was worth the hour of extra work, and I’m damn sure it would be worth signing up for Shudder to watch.
If you want to see it for yourself, After Midnight will premiere February 11, on Shudder.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was actually pretty jazzed when I learned that I’d be able to screen After Midnight today. It couldn’t have had better timing, really. I’ve been in real need of a good pick-me-up. My entire household has COVID-19. (Don’t worry, I saw this film on my computer, not at a theater.)
We’re exhibiting only mild symptoms so far, thankfully. Our prognosis is good. Considering my compromised immune system, it could have been much worse.
Needless to say, we’re not going anywhere to celebrate my birthday this February 10th. That made this movie screening experience extra special for me. It was almost as if it were a gift wrapped up in a cinematic bow.
The last couple of films I was lucid enough to review, we saw some slow burners. The productions took their sweet time in getting to the point. After Midnight played its hand slowly, too, but in a way that kept me engaged.
The tension was necessary. It’s crucial to the story here for audiences to be guessing. Is the monster real? Is it all in the main character’s head? Is it just a run-of-the-mill wildlife denizen running amok that’s been misconstrued as a fearsome beast? These questions are meant to plague the viewer. I thought I had it pegged for a little bit, and yet I was definitely wrong on my own guesswork.
This was really a treat of a film. It’s not often that you can mix romance and horror well. Things get awkward when blood starts spilling, you know? There was a clear love story here, though, and it didn’t detract from the story – it was the very backbone.

I really appreciated that After Midnight also took a realistic approach to the relationship here. It wasn’t saccharine sweet and perfect. This wasn’t one of those fairy tales. There were well-nuanced bits sprinkled throughout that highlighted the couple’s journey.
Another bonus point I really enjoyed with this movie was the cinematography. The production captured the very essence of the South in summer. I could practically feel the heat relieved by the occasional cool breeze of an oscillating fan. The buzzing of bugs while Spanish moss swayed in the wind reminded me of down here in Louisiana – but I figure this was probably filmed in Florida somewhere.
There was a lot of good production value here. I love when a monster movie teases you with the big bad boogie, and I was tickled here that you only get a glimpse. I have to tip my hat to the creative team because this creature was definitely unique and it was well-executed.
If I had to pick on something for a negative, I’d really have to be grasping at straws. I wish there was a little more of the monster, to be honest, but I don’t think the movie’s lacking for it.
I have no idea why IMDb lists this as a sci-fi film. Unless they know something that hasn’t been explained in the movie, itself, or the promotional material; I just don’t get where that element fits. Horror and romance are where I’d place my bets.
Shudder struck gold when they optioned this movie as an exclusive. It’s definitely worth the subscription to check this one out.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 88%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 47%
Metascore – 55/100
Metacritic User Score – 5.9/10
IMDB Score – 5.4/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4.5/5
Movie Trailer: 

Monday, February 8, 2021

The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity (2021)

Streaming Services: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity (2021)
Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy
Length: 138 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Hehe Pictures, Shanghai Film Group, Netflix
Director: Jingming Guo
Writer: Jingming Guo
Actors: Mark Chao, Allen Deng, Ziwen Wang, Jessie Li, Duo Wang
Blurb from IMDb: Qing Ming, the Yin-Yang Master, took his master's last wish and went to the Captial Tiandu City to attend the heaven ceremony.

Selina’s Point of View:
I am having trouble coming up with the words necessary to describe this film. I can throw out terms like gorgeous and amazing, but that doesn’t quite hit the extent of it.
The trailer didn’t really do The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity justice. I mean, I knew it would be beautiful and figured it would be interesting… but I was still blown away. All my expectations shattered under the weight of how breathtaking this cinematic masterpiece was.

I was hypnotized by the graphics.
I’ve never seen anything quite like it. For all the well-done CGI I’ve gone through since I started this blog, there isn’t anything that comes even remotely close to what I saw today. There were things I knew were fake simply because they don’t exist in real life, but they were so flawless that suspending my disbelief took no effort.

I’ll admit there are some overdone themes involved in the plot, but I don’t think it matters. From an entertainment perspective, it had me. I was so completely engulfed that I don’t think I took a single breath during the entire climax.
I think fans of Final Fantasy games are going to see a lot of visuals that remind them of the 90s installments (with obviously upgraded coding). There was some summoning action, as well as one scene that gave me serious Sephiroth vibes.

I have no complaints. None. The film made me want to read the books, and it’s probably something I’m going to watch several times over. I don’t think I can recommend it enough.
I watched it with the subtitles, but they do have English dubbing if that’s not your cup of tea.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – None
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 85%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 6.2/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 5/5
Trust the Dice Parental Advisory Rating: R – horror scenes
P.S.: Mid-credits scene.
Movie Trailer: