Tag Archives: movie review

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.

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.

The Princess Switch: Switched Again: A Review

The Princess Switch: Switched Again written by Robin Bernheim and Megan Metzger
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I went into this movie knowing it was bad, however the first movie was one that I enjoyed last year, so I felt that I should give it a chance. I kept myself from reading or watching any of the reviews to attempt to make a fair judgement about it and, since my expectations were really low, my assessment was that it was not that bad.

Sure, the accents are not great, but at one point, Margaret tells who she thinks is Stacy that her accent is much better (was that a self-aware jab?). Also, side note, why do they have British-type accents as they are both rulers of various kingdoms in Europe that are not the United Kingdom. And the introduction of a third lookalike character was completely unnecessary. Yet, there were some sweet “Hallmark” moments and even a couple of funny things (particularly when Frank ninja chopped one of Fiona’s minions, I’ll admit, I chuckled).

The main plot of this particular sequel is that Margaret Delacourt, the royal who convinced baker Stacy to switch in the first movie, is becoming queen. And the relationship with her love interest from the first movie, Kevin, has ended. So, they needed some way to get them back together, so here is Fiona who is a cousin that magically also looks like Margaret who plots a switch of her own in order to get access to the royal bank account. I felt like this was very convoluted and complicated. I know it would have been boring, but if you just took out the Fiona part of the puzzle, it would have played out fine.

And also, why always make the “Antonio” type character, the other possible love interest for Margaret, shady? Margaret could still have stood on her own as queen and made the same decision. His “Hans from Frozen” kind of flip towards the end was kind of weird. Margaret realizes she is in love with Kevin, that it wouldn’t work with Antonio. She could have made that decision without Antonio being a bad character.

It could have been written better. The plot could have been complicated in other ways. It was a disappointing sequel that probably closed the door to any more (which is probably for the best).

No profanity. Chaste kissing and romantic situations. Violent content includes kidnapping with some type of drugging, but mostly slapstick type violence, punching, rolling large casks, karate chop to the neck.

Dash & Lily: A Review

Dash & Lily directed by Fred Savage, Pamela Romanowsky, Brad Silberling
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Yay for more Christmas content (and get ready for more this month, obviously)! This show has all the elements I could possibly want in a cheesy, romantic Christmas movie. This was also the first Christmas themed show that wasn’t a movie, but instead used the TV episodic format to really develop the characters further.

Dash is alone on Christmas. His divorced parents both think he is with the other, so he stays at his dad’s bachelor pad, planning to celebrate the holidays breaking into his dad’s liquor cabinet, catching up on reading, and hanging out at a local pizza place where his best friend works. He hates Christmas.

Lily, on the other hand, loves Christmas. But this year, her parents are going to Fiji for a second honeymoon, so she throws herself into the Christmas holidays. And most of her friends, okay all of her friends, are adults. She seems happy on the outside, but there is more to her story than first impressions.

I loved the story. The fact that it begins with a scavenger hunt through The Strand (a popular indie bookstore in New York). That it continues to explore New York City through various dares written in this book. The friendship to lovers trope. And themes about not just being yourself, but being confident in who you are, and not get caught in how things are supposed to be.

There may be a few words of profanity, but it is not significant. Sexual content includes suggestive scenes of walking in on her brother and a boy under the sheets, some kissing, and lewd humor. There isn’t really any violent content, though Lily does attack a snowman at one point.

Whose Vote Counts, Explained: A Review

Whose Vote Counts, Explained produced by Vox on Netflix
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since tomorrow is Election Day, this limited series on Netflix would be appropriate to watch and review. The series is produced by Vox and Netflix. And they really tried to maintain a nonpartisan perspective while answering a lot of questions heard on social media and straight from voters, themselves.

The series is divided into three parts. The first episode covers a lot of the history of voting, how at first voting was a privilege of the wealthy, white, male landowners (though, surprisingly, there were instances in some states that included black and women landowners before they were shut down in favor of the majority), and the ways voting has evolved and devolved throughout the years.

The second episode was about money. Whether elections can be bought (they can’t but advertising, social media, and politicians can influence you, and there is a lot of money in that). They talk about the nonprofit political groups, the Super PACs, and ideas on how to get smaller donors more involved as well as the average voter.

The third episode was about how votes can matter differently? They cover gerrymandering that specifically affects the House districts and can make the minority have a majority of representation. This also happens because of where we decide to live as well. And why swing states are swing states, and how other states could become swing states. This was a fascinating episode.

Basically, voting can be a really complicated process. There are a lot of ways it can go wrong, and there are other countries who are also democratic that do some things better than we do (or at least have found policies that help their particular problems better than our policies help us, if that makes sense). But there is always hope for reforms or adjustments to the current rules and regulations on the horizon, which is why it is so important to participate in the current process.

Registering to vote in most states have met their deadlines (except in North Dakota where there is no registration), but if you are registered, don’t forget to vote tomorrow! It is an important process, not just for the federal government, but your local one as well.

There is no profanity in the film. No sexual content, either. There are mentions of school shootings and violence against protestors as covered by news media outlets.

A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting: A Review

A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting directed by Rachel Talalay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wanted to review a Halloween movie for this week, but I don’t really like scary movies. However, when I saw the trailer for this movie, I figured it was pretty safe since it was directed towards a younger crowd. I was also curious to see how scary kids movies were, since the ones I watched growing up petrified me (particularly Witches which I saw got a reboot on HBO Max, and I will in no way be seeking out that new release).

The story follows a girl names Kelly Ferguson who is really smart, to almost a superpower capability, particularly in seeing patterns in mathematical formulas, able to do them in her head. She is also teased because when she was five, she claims a monster in her closet attacked her. So, she has the nickname Monster Girl. There is also a typical school crush and a mean girl and a silly best friend, who are all pretty one-dimensional and are more props than characters.

But the adventure begins when she babysits for her mom’s boss. And the little boy, Jacob, gets taken by the monsters set on releasing nightmares into the world. We are then introduced to the secret society of The Babysitters whose sole purpose is to protect those left in their charge. These characters have a lot more depth to them, but overall everything is pretty light.

The movie is based on a three book series by Joe Ballarini. Knowing that it was based on a book series gave a little grace to some of the awkward emphasis on how smart Kelley is or some of the pacing of the movie at times. There are some moments I feel were missed opportunities to make the film just a little deeper in meaning, but overall, it is a fun movie about bravery and believing in yourself and standing up for your unique qualities.

This was pretty mild for a scary, Halloween movie. Not that I would want my toddler in the room for this particular film, but it is easily meant for the elementary/preteen crowd. The main scariness of this movie are the monsters hiding in your closet or under your bed. But there are some silly moments interwoven in those scenes to cut the scary aspect down a bit. Definitely a fun family movie night!

There is no profanity in the film. (They even referred to a week of initiation into the Society as “heck week”. No sexual content, not even a chaste kiss between the main character and her crush. Violence is a slight factor, but nothing gruesome. Some kicking and attacking with weapons, but even when a monster is vanquished, they dissipate into light, nothing remotely graphic.

The Booksellers: A Review

The Booksellers directed by DW Young
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This was an absolutely lovely documentary about the book world, specifically the rare book dealer world. It focused less on the stories within books and more on the stories of the books themselves. The only negative was that the film was too short, needing a more in-depth look into the collections of these booksellers.

The film focused on specific booksellers in New York City, but also about the history of book collecting and book binding. Did you know that there are books bound in human skin? Most of these books have made it into museums and libraries, but there are still a few collectors still in the game.

There has been a decline in collecting, though. Part of it is limited supply, and part of it is limited demand. Booksellers are having to pivot to keep up with the changes brought on by the internet and technology as a whole. Older booksellers would say the whole industry is dying, but there a still young people with a lot of ideas to keep it alive.

Book collecting is different than just buying a lot of books to add to a growing TBR. The libraries are curated to a specific theme. One collection may have just women writers, while another follows the history of hip-hop. And it is usually more than just the books, but other items that support the history they are collecting.

So book collectors are essentially historians with a love of their items. First editions aren’t always the best, sometimes it’s annotated copies or signed copies (especially signed to specific people). There was this infectious love of the search. The search that has been dampened by the internet, but it still out there.

It might have taken 20 years to find a particular book at one point, and now it may only take minutes on eBay or a bookseller site. But the love of books, the growing collections of books, is still a loved past time. It has definitely changed the way I will look at my own bookshelves and how I want those shelves to reflect me the next time I am ready to cull back or add to my own library.

There is no significant profanity in the film. Maybe some brief nude images on the cover of books for some of the stranger book collections. No violent content, either, though there is a section discussing how they wish their collections will be handled when they die.

Knock Down The House: A Review

Knock Down The House directed by Rachel Lears
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I decided to watch this documentary because I thought it would be interesting to see the process of a campaign during an election year. The film follows four women from various parts of the country who are trying to win in their primaries during the 2018 election. This is during the primaries, so at this point, they aren’t running against another party, but an established incumbent within their own party.

Did you know that there are organizations whose main purpose is to find new people to run against already established candidates? Two that were mentioned were the Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats. They basically seek out working class people to enter into grass roots campaigns to replace well established incumbents.

Each of the candidates had separate motivations for why they wanted to run and different obstacles to overcome. Sometimes it was personal, sometimes it was to make a difference in their neighborhoods on specific issues. Immediately, I recognized Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as one of the candidates the film followed. I also had heard of Cori Bush as well. But I knew very little about the other women.

It was really heartbreaking for those that lost (but I looked them up and one of them has won their primary this year). I really got invested in their stories.. The strategy and stress that go behind each of the campaign is incredible. Seeing AOC gather her community and acknowledge them every stop of the way, I can see why she won.

I think this is a great film to learn about the process, the work, and gain respect for those who campaign for public offices. They and their team put their hearts and souls into it. It didn’t make me want to throw my hat into the ring, but I gained a new respect for these women and all of the smaller names on the ballots. Even if I don’t agree with them on every issue, it takes a lot of guts and sweat and tears to get out there.

There is no profanity in this film, maybe a “hell” here or there. No sexual content or violent content. One of the candidates does talk about how her daughter died which was the catalyst for her to get involved in politics and advocacy.

Enola Holmes: A Review

Enola Holmes directed by Harry Bradbeer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, to be perfectly fair, I watched this movie assuming it was an adult movie which I think colored my opinion of it. This is not an adult movie. If it was meant for adults, it would definitely be a 3 star film, but I’m going to review it as a young teen film.

The cast is fantastic, as it would be. Enola Holmes is played by Millie Bobby Brown who is also known as Eleven from the Stranger Things series. In this film, she is quirky and fun and encompasses both the cleverness and naivete of the character. Henry Cavill plays her brother, the famous Sherlock Holmes. He seems almost type casted in roles as an emotionally stunted superhero/savant who ends up learning to love in the end (Witcher, Superman, and now this). He didn’t exhibit the exaggerated arrogance that usually is connected to Sherlock Holmes, but he fit this storyline well. (Benedict will always be the one and only Sherlock). Helen Bonham Carter, Sam Claflin, Susan Wokoma, and Louis Partridge (as well as basically the rest of the cast) did excellent jobs as well in both explaining and supporting the main character’s antics.

There is a romance, but it is really young and awkward. Most of the film is spent running and investigating, very little canoodling, even in scenes with just those two characters. The romance reflects well Enola’s naïve nature. There is more of a focus on the clues to follow much like a Sherlock Holmes novel.

It has a strong feminist message, but more in the sense that people can be more that what they are labeled. This message is first exhibited by Enola, as a girl who can do incredible things but not the socially acceptable things. But then Enola, herself learns not to judge a book by its cover through her relationship with Tewkesbury who she thinks is unable to take care of himself. He, of course, will prove her wrong.

It is set in the 19th century during the suffrage movement in London, England. The costuming is beautiful. The sets are lovely and enforce the tone of the movie, exhibiting Enola’s chaotic upbringing in the countryside to the order of the finishing school back to more chaos in the streets of London.

The ending fell a little flat for me, a little too neat and naïve, but the movie is fun. The characters are loveable. And it is fast-paced and funny. Definitely recommend to a younger audience or a family film night.

There is no profanity in this film. No sexual content, other than longing glances and a kiss on the hand. Violent content includes hand to hand combat, one scene with characters shooting a gun at other characters with intent to kill, and one death scene which felt a little brutal for this movie. If that one scene (which is towards the end) was out of the movie, I would recommend the movie to even younger audiences. Parental discretion is a must.