Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Fate: The Winx Saga: A Review

Fate: The Winx Saga created by Brian Young
My rating: of 5 stars

Apparently, this series is based on an animated series from Nickelodeon, but in a much darker context. The basic premise is that fairies exist. Our world is called The First World, and the place where much of the story takes place is in The Otherworld. In The Otherworld, there are seven realms, and all of them send their best and brightest to the private school at Alfea.

Bloom, our main character, is from California and doesn’t have magical parents. In fact, when her abilities appear, she has no idea what is going on. She is found by the headmistress of the school and brought to Alfea. She meets her roommates, all fairies with different abilities that affect the elements – water, earth, light, even an empath. There is the mystery of Bloom’s lineage and her connection with The Burned Ones, these creatures who are deadly and appeared around the same time that Bloom’s abilities appeared.

There is angst and teenage drama, wistful romances and dark secrets. Very much Vampire Diaries or The Secret Circle vibes. I like that the faculty of the school didn’t seem shady or mean, but genuinely care about the students and preparing them for the worst of circumstances. I think teen shows can miss the opportunity of adult mentors. Even Bloom’s mom, while probably a little intense at times, truly cares about Bloom in a really authentic way.

I know that not a lot of people have liked this series, especially ones who are familiar with the animated series or the books, but I haven’t seen anything so far that would make it completely unwatchable. Like I said, it reminds me a lot of The Secret Circle which only got one season so that might not bode well for this show. It also has Vampire Diaries Vibes as well, which had many seasons, so it will all depend on the fan base. And the real question is, with the popularity of Bridgerton (which I will review soon), are we still in a fantasy-watching mood as a society? Either way, I enjoy the mystery and the magic. I don’t mind the teen angst, and I look forward to watching more episodes!

There is profanity. In the first episode, there is a shirtless boy and a clothed girl in bed. Some chaste kissing, sexual innuendo, but nothing graphic. Violent content includes a mutilated body that has been burned, fight training, and choking by vine, but nothing explicit, and you don’t see anyone actually being attacked, just the aftermath.

Tiger: A Review

Tiger directed by Matthew Hamachek and Matthew Heineman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This intriguing, fascinating, and heartbreaking two-part documentary is on HBOMax right now, and it is a definite recommend.

Tiger Woods was a big name in sports when I was in high school. I remember all the commercials he was in, and I remember the scandal of his infidelity to his wife. But, as with all stories, there is more that what we see in the tabloids and on the screen.

The first part of this film covers Wood’s childhood. His strict upbringing with his father and mother who provided and prompted him with all the necessary tools to nurture his natural talent at golf. His childhood and adolescent years were not typical. His father was convinced he was going to be the next greatest social changer of his generation, right up there with Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. What incredible pressure to place on the shoulders of a kid.

The second part of the film covers his fall from grace. The trips to Las Vegas. The many girlfriends and mistresses, in particular they interview Rachel Uchitel. The role models who he grew up around who were not faithful to their own wives, including his own father. The way that the tabloids, the sponsors, the fans, even his own family used him for their own agendas, never really allowing him to find out who he really was. His entire identity was wrapped in golf.

And when his performance started to decline, so did he. When everything came out in the open, and he fell hard, it was just so hard to watch. But even though his upbringing was hard, his father really did love him. So does his mother. And as he finally comes into who he now is, you can see him finally enjoying life in a healthy way. At least, I hope so. I hope he has found happiness and contentment in his life after so many hard years.

This was a conviction to me about parenting, about being a good, kind friend, about caring for the people around you beyond whatever agenda you have. It’s about authenticity. And it ends on such a hopeful note. Even if you aren’t into sports at all, this is a good one to watch.

There is profanity. No sex scenes, but sex is discussed, primarily by his mistress and the tabloids. His dad’s friend hints at it as well. Violence includes beatings and navy seal training, the car accident he is involved in, and a tape of a DUI arrest.

Canvas: A Review

Canvas directed by Frank E. Abney III
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a nine minute short film on Netflix about love and loss and art. It is beautifully illustrated and for all ages.

None of the characters have names, but it opens with a 2-D animation of a painter in front of his canvas, painting the perspective of a woman sitting against a tree. But as she turns around, the painter wakes up in a 3-D animated world. He is alone. His granddaughter comes to visit. She is a little of an artist herself and sets out to create her own drawings while visiting him. But she comes across a place that has been shut off, and once she opens that door, it gives the painter an renewed opportunity to open his heart once again.

It’s gorgeous and sweet. It’s emotional, and the music adds to that emotion. Highly recommend this precious little film for everyone and anyone who enjoys a story of love, loss, and finding love once again.

No profanity. One chaste kiss. There is a death implied, but there is nothing too heavy in this short film.

Silvie’s Love: A Review

Silvie’s Love created by Eugene Ashe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes you just want to watch a sweet love story. If you are looking for a simple storyline that is slightly predictable but absolutely precious, this is the movie for you.

The story takes place in 1950s Harlem (probably reaching into the 60s by the end of the film). It is a love story between a poor, but up and coming, sax player and a well-to-do girl engaged to a man from a prominent family (his father is a very successful doctor). The two have a summer fling, but as the summer comes to an end, something happens, choices are made, and the two are separated for years.

But fate brings them back together over time. Each time, life pressures will pull them apart, but no matter how hard it gets, they find each other again.

The cast is mostly made up of people of color, and while there are mentions of the civil rights movement, marches, the NAACP, and blatant bigotry, this isn’t the main focus of the story. In fact, neither of the main characters seem to have much involvement in the movement, though they have friends that are. Instead, the focus is on their own successes in their career and the way life bends at times, and how to move through it.

The costumes, the music, the carefree summer days bring a sense of romanticism that goes beyond just the love story. It was uplifting and simply beautiful. Highly recommend this if you have Amazon Prime.

There is some profanity. Kissing and sex scenes, though nothing too graphic. I don’t think there was any nudity. No violence.

Soul: A Review

Soul directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Powers
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Absolutely beautiful Disney movie about life, death, and jazz. Joe is a part-time middle school band teacher with dreams of playing piano with some of the jazz greats. But when his opportunity finally comes, his life ends abruptly and he tries everything he can to get back to “his moment.” Mistaken for a mentor to a new soul who is not interested in going to earth, he finds a way back into the world, but accidently takes the new soul along. Hilarity and heartbreak ensue.

At first, the movie comes off a little psychedelic and woo-woo. But once 22 and Joe meet, it starts to get interesting. Lost souls versus souls that are in the zone were pretty cool. And defining passion for life versus the purpose of life was definitely beautiful.

The music is gorgeous. There are nods to black culture throughout the film, including the jazz but also the experiences at the barber shop. The twists are predictable but still beautifully laid out.

I would definitely recommend this movie. It gave me Inside Out vibes with both the illustrations and the emotion of the film. There are some slightly scary parts with death being the main topic, as well as the lost souls which were big, dark creatures. It’s a sweet film about death, but more importantly, about living life to the fullest.

No profanity. No sexual content. All of the death sequences are brief, like falling down a manhole, but nothing gruesome.

WandaVision: A Review

WandaVision created by Jac Schaeffer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disney+ has begun releasing their episodes of WandaVision. The first week, they released two episodes, and I assume that they will only release one episode at a time after that. I have missed the MCU in all its variety and fun, so I was really excited to watch this show.

It did not disappoint. It isn’t like anything else I’ve seen so far on in the Marvel Universe. But I’m a huge Donna Reed fan, so seeing a show in this format of a 1950s/60s sitcom was really entertaining. I loved all the silliness and catch phrases, but this isn’t a simple sitcom. Between the laugh tracks, there is something amiss in Westview.

Everything seems to be slipping clues as to what is really going on, from the commercials to the strange beekeeper scene to creepy one-liners from the supporting cast. And I feel like the show isn’t going to let on what is happening exactly any time soon, but like any good mystery, we are going to follow Wanda and Vision as they realize their broken reality and follow each secret door to the final reveal. And I’m living for every second of it.

The cast is also amazing. There were all sorts of familiar faces. Kathryn Hahn (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Bad Moms alum) is the perfect quirky neighbor, Agnes. Emma Caulfield Ford (who I loved in Buffy way back in the day) was the intimidating neighborhood leader, Dottie, in the second episode that had a very creepy scene. Teyonah Parris, from Dear White People, is the naive new friend, Geraldine (who may know more than she lets on). And Debra Jo Rupp must have felt quite at home in a period sitcom since she was from That 70s Show.

Overall, the first two episodes are entertaining, full of creepy clues, and keeps you just a little on edge all the way to the end. If you have Disney+ and you loved Marvel, I would definitely suggest checking it out. I am looking forward to the rest of the season for sure!

No profanity. Chaste kissing and romantic situations. May have some slapstick violence, but nothing detailed or graphic, at least not in the first two episodes.

Get Organized with the Home Edit: A Review

Get Organized with the Home Edit starring Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I love to organize, so I thought I would really love this show on Netflix about these two women who own an professional organizing company. The formula for the show is very easy to grasp. They organize a part of a house for a celebrity, and then the second half of the episode is a surprise organization project for a nominated person.

The first episode features Reese Witherspoon who had just moved into her home in Nashville. And she wanted a place to store and display all of the costumes and accessories from her famous shows. Primarily, the focus was the things from Legally Blonde, but her other notable shows also made an appearance. Clea and Joanna clearly had fun looking at, handling, even trying on a slipper from her iconic roles, but it didn’t have a practical translation to me. I have respect for costuming and design, but not enough to find that part entertaining.

The second half of the show was a surprise closet makeover for a hospital pediatrician. She seemed like a nice person, the people who nominated her seem to really love her and want the best for her. But, again, nothing about the organization process was new or interesting to me. I would have loved to see a “six months later” segment to show what worked and what didn’t for the doctor.

However, all that being said, this was the pilot episode. First episodes, especially in these kinds of makeover type shows, can been a little cheesy and surface level. I expect that when I continue to watch the episodes, there will be more reveals, conflicts and solutions that I will find helpful. But at first taste, the show left me wanting a little more practicality and little less fluff.

There is no profanity, sexual content, or violent content.

The Wilds, Episode One: A Review

The Wilds created by Sarah Streicher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Wilds on Amazon Prime follows nine girls who are stranded on an island after their private jet crashes on their way to a female empowerment retreat. The first episode opens with an interview by law enforcement of one of the girls, Leah, presumably after they have been rescued. Through a montage and quick introduction of the characters, we learn the basics of each girl’s past.

We have Toni and Martha from Minnesota. Martha is an Indigenous person who is shy and has never been in a relationship. Toni is loud and violently opinionated, something that apparently got her kicked off the basketball team. Dot and Shelby are from Texas. They are described as Dot, the girl who wears cargo pants, and Shelby, the pageant girl who constantly talks about Jesus. Rachel and Nora are sisters from New York. Rachel is a swim athlete and Nora is observant but anxious, who stays in her sister’s shadow. Jeanette is from San Francisco and helps her parents in their restaurant. And Fatin and Leah come from the same school, but Fatin has a bit of a bad reputation and Leah has no reputation at all.

The first episode follows Leah’s perspective from the events leading up to her going on this trip. She gets involved with an older man and lies about her age. It doesn’t end well, and when she spirals into depression, her parents decide to send her to this retreat. Since it is coming from her point of view, it is very angsty and overexaggerated. Everything is the end of the world. She makes a comment about how the island definitely gave her trauma, but she was already living in hell before she boarded the plane.

Like I said, very angsty.

Towards the end of the episode (which this is in the trailer, so no spoiler), it is revealed that the organization who does the retreat actually orchestrated the plane crash. The girls are being monitored the whole time (and from the trailer, we know that their parents are in on it, too).

I plan to keep watching it, but I hope that it lets up on the teen angst comments just a bit. I assume that each girl’s story will be revealed with the following episodes, and I’m just intrigued enough with this organization to keep watching.

It starts by issuing the warnings of profanity, sexuality, violence and drug use, so be forewarned. There is profanity. Sexual content includes an adult/minor sexual relationship with love scene in bed, though no nudity. There is a death that happens in the first episode as well. There are also injuries from the plane crash.

Wonder Woman 1984: A Review

Wonder Woman 1984 directed by Patty Jenkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Much like Barbara at the beginning of this movie, the film seemed to be trying a bit too hard, stumbling around in its own shoes.

First of all, it’s set in Washington DC in 1984 (hence part of the title), and there are constant reminders throughout the movie to let you know this is the 80s. But I didn’t understand why it had to be set at this point instead of later or earlier.

The two main themes of the movie were “how to grieve like a superhero” and “don’t try to cheat the realities of life.” After the loss of her love, Steve, Diana has cut herself off emotionally from the people around her, even though she is still moonlighting as a superhero and works in a museum as an anthropologist. When a crystal surfaces that starts granting wishes, she is reunited with Steve but at a big cost. She then has some very hard decisions to make.

Outside of Diana and Steve, the new characters that are introduced didn’t have a lot of depth. Barbara fit the stereotype of the nerdy, awkward museum employee. Max Lord is a washed up entrepreneur who would give anything to be successful, forgetting the things that are most important. But that’s about it. Each makes a wish that they don’t want to give up, but their development is abrupt and confusing at times.

Then, there is the amount of information dumping that happens. The backstory of the crystal towards the beginning of the movie, all the way to the backstory of Max Lord towards the end (which I wasn’t sure if it was his childhood or his son’s for a minute). None of it really helped me understand or care about these new characters. They seemed like props to help move the story along.

The only two characters with any depth were Diana and Steve, but that was because of the previous movie. Here, they are just echoes of who they were before. Diana’s sacrificial choice towards the end was heartbreaking, but the emotions tied to that scene seemed to die with that scene. As the plot continues on to the final battle with the big bad, the monologue at the end that is supposed to reflect the transformation of Diana’s character is overshadowed by the weird info dump of Max Lord’s backstory.

I didn’t hate the movie. There were funny parts and emotional, sweet parts. I can see how they were trying to zero in on Diana’s humanity since the first movie was more about revealing the god-like part of her character. It seemed like they only had time to focus on either the special effects or the story. I just wish they had chosen to develop the story more.

There is profanity in the movie. Sexual content includes some kissing, including kissing in bed. There is a small possible trigger warning of Barbara being sexually assaulted in the park. Other violent content includes gun fire and fight scenes which are par for the course in superhero movies.

A Look Back and A Look Forward: Movie and TV Reviews

Looking Back

I didn’t begin the year watching and reviewing movies or series shows. In fact, the first films I shared were at the end of June, after a month of watching shows that told BIPOC stories like Just Mercy and 13th. I wanted to spread awareness for these films, especially since at the time, they were free to view.

Slowly over the course of the next six months, I started reviewing films and series shows on Mondays using the same model that I use with my books. First, I try to share my thoughts without spoilers. I talk about things you might see in a trailer, but I don’t ruin plot twists or endings. Also, I include whether there was profanity, sexual or violent content, and what in these categories really stood out to me (particularly trigger warnings if I see them, though I’m not always completely comprehensive with triggers, so I always say proceed with caution regardless).

Honestly, I write these reviews for myself. I like looking back and seeing what I watched, why I watched, and what moved me at any given time in my life. I’m glad if my sharing these reviews prompts you to watch them too. And I’m always up for talking about films or tv shows. I tend to learn something new in every conversation. It challenges me and I’ve really enjoyed thinking critically about the things I watch.

Looking Forward

Next year, I want to keep this momentum going, but I want to make a change or two.

  • Instead of waiting until I’m completely done with a season before writing a review, I’m going to make it slightly easier on myself by only reviewing pilots and finales online (as well as I can without any real spoilers).
  • I also want to include movies again, but as it has been this last year, a lot of films are getting delayed or found on only a specific platform like Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Disney+. (Or HBOmax which we have heavily been considering subscribing to simply because Warner Brothers is going to stream a lot of their future films on that platform).
My 2021 Media and Reading Journal

Like this year, I’m also going to keep a handwritten journal of what I watch (as well as what I read). I like having the journal with me to take any notes while I’m watching the show. Favorite quotes or scenes. Characters or Actors that I want to look up later. Anything that may be triggering as well. And the journal helps me focus on why I enjoy doing this in the first place.

It’s hard to make any goals or resolutions after a year like 2020, so instead of making a new goal, I plan to keep doing what I’m doing, and hopefully get better at it and learn some things in the process. That’s really what I hope for in the new year, more growth, more passion, more pursuing the things that bring me joy and letting go of the things that are no longer working. I want to think more critically about the media I consume. And perhaps learn a little more about myself along the way.