[REVIEW] ‘Kim’s Convenience’ So Good I Binged Watched 4 Seasons This Week

I am not a binge watcher. It is probably my least favorite way to consume content. However, every once in a while I find a show where I just can’t help myself. I enjoy it so much I have to devour it! The CBC show available on Netflix Kim’s Convenience is such a show. There are currently 4 seasons with 2 more coming, and I can’t recommend it more highly. It’s funny, sweet, authentic and just great.

Kim’s Convenience is about a Korean Canadian family that owns a convenience store in Toronto and is based on a play of the same name by show creator Ins Choi. I’d love to see the play someday because it creates a setting for the show that feels authentic and true (it reminded me of Lin Manuel’s similar set up with his In the Heights musical).

Paul Sun-Hyung leads the cast as the father or Appa of the Kim family and owner of the store. What I appreciated about his character is he is a funny loveable curmudgeon who is set in his ways, but he also is a flawed character that is estranged from his son. This makes him more than just the butt of jokes but someone we can relate with and become invested in his journey.

Jean Yoon is equally strong as the matriarch of the family. She is famous for her pokes when people are frustrating her and her sneak attacks when she wants to get her way. But again she’s not a cliche character because the separation of her family is quite devastating for her throughout the show. I loved her character so much.

All the characters are great. Andrea Bang as Janet is fantastic as the daughter of the family. Simu Liu (who is about to blow up in Marvel’s Shang-Chi) is wonderful as the estranged son Jung who is trying to rebuild his life after a rebellious youth. I absolutely loved his relationship with his boss Shannon played by Nicole Power. She’s just weird enough to be charming and funny.

The supporting cast is wonderful with people like Jung’s best friend and roommate Kimchee (Andrew Phung) and the whole cast at the car rental place Handy that Jung, Shannon and Kimchee work at. You could honestly have an entire show just at Handy.

I think what’s most important about Kim’s Convenience is the writing. There honestly isn’t a bad episode. It’s so funny and it creates a family I cared deeply about. Sure it pokes fun at Korean stereotypes but that’s not the main source of the humor. Mostly it is about relationships and everyday problems anyone from a family can relate with.

The entire cast has chemistry together and even small roles like Amanda Bruget as Pastor Nina are so well executed. With weaker writing such a role could have been a bland overbearing religious figure but she’s not. She’s funny, flawed yet sincere and that’s the way all the characters are.

I can’t recommend Kim’s Convenience highly enough. It goes along with the recent Ted Lasso as a fantastic comedy with a big heart. I adored it and can’t wait for 2 more seasons!

Have you seen Kim’s Convenience? What did you think of it? What other hidden gems are out there I might have missed?

9 out of 10

[REVIEW] ‘To All the Boys: Always and Forever’ or I love Peter and Lara Jean

For how often it is attempted it might seem hard to believe but teen romances are not easy to pull off. Usually they are actors way too old to be playing their teen parts and the romance feels more like adults rather than teenagers. The To All the Boys series is an exception to the rule. I’ve enjoyed all 3 of the films in this series including the latest To All the Boys: Always and Forever, which comes to Netflix Feb 12th.

The reason why this new film and the series work is because they have created such warm and affectionate lead characters in Peter and Lara Jean. They are both charming as played by Noah Centineo and Lana Candor respectively. They have terrific chemistry as a couple and as believable characters in their own right.

I’m one of the few people who actually enjoyed the 2nd film PS I Still Love You more than the original because I felt it made Peter a more well-rounded, fleshed out character. In the first he was a bit too perfect; whereas, in the second he had opinions and ideas all his own and their relationship had to grow. I enjoyed that dynamic.

Fortunately the 3rd movie has done away with the weakest part of the 2nd movie- the love triangle between Lara Jean, Peter and John Ambrose (played by Jordan Fisher). This love triangle was unnecessary and took away from building the relationship between Lara Jean and Peter.

The 3rd movie covers a lot of ground. We start out with Lara Jean and her family exploring Korea and her hoping she gets into Stanford to be with Peter in college. Then things get more serious as they go to New York and she starts to wonder if she belongs there more than in Palo Alto.

We also have prom, her father’s wedding and Peter trying to forgive his father for his lack of presence in his life (his father played by ET’s Henry Thomas!). All of these moments add to our characters and make the entire journey feel authentic and very sweet.

Some people may find To All the Boys: Always and Forever to be too sweet and romantic for their tastes but I’m all for it. I thought it was delightful and one of the most romantic movies I’ve seen in a long time. Viewers young and old will be swept away in the love story of Peter and Lara Jean and be cheering for them all along the way.

Most importantly all 3 movies together work as a coming of age story for both Lara Jean and Peter. They both grow and change and their love grows along with them. Honestly I could keep following them as they grow into adults, get married, have kids, the whole shebang. As it is, I’m glad we’ve gotten such a lovely trilogy to enjoy. If you like romances at all I think you will love this whole set of movies and even if you don’t, it might still win you over!

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] BRIDGERTON: Netflix Meets Dishy Regency Romance Novel

It’s interesting one would think with a new  female led action film coming to HBO Max this weekend in Wonder Woman 84 (which I did marginally recommend) I would not be looking to Netflix for pleasurable entertainment. Alas that is the case and fortunately they provided with the dishy new series from producer Shonda Rhimes called Bridgerton.

Based on the romance novels by Julia Quinn Bridgerton is set in a fantasy version of Regency London.  As such it has no interest in the plight of the working class or the yorkshire schools. It’s not interested in diving into racism or class problems. Such issues are for other shows and series to tell. This show is made for one reason and one reason alone: to bring pleasure to to the viewers, mainly women.

For example, if a Black woman will get more pleasure out of seeing the handsome Duke of Hastings be a Black man (Regé-Jean Page) than that’s what they are going to do. This isn’t about realism or historical accuracy. It doesn’t waste time explaining casting choices or the setting (it might as well be on another planet and timetable). It’s about eroticism, lust and luxury, which all has to be hid under the “rules’ of the time. That’s very sexy and fun!

The only real look into darker themes is a brief scene where Lady Featherington (Polly Walker) takes her distant cousin Marina Thompson (Ruby Barker) to show her where the working class lives and her response is something to the effect of ‘why are you taking me to see these hard working pleasant people?” Indeed, why? Some may take this as a bad thing, but I find it very entertaining and a welcome escape after a hard year.

I think what makes it work is they go all the way. Any aspect they can make more dishy they do. They have a mysterious gossip paper writer voiced by Julie Andrews narrate the show. They have Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) who seems to be from a different era with the powdered wigs and structured dresses of the 18th century not the empire dresses and white gloves of the Regency Era with the rest of the characters. We also have classical music versions of modern songs from the likes of Ariana Grande, Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift.

If this sounds awful to you than you will hate it. If it sounds like trashy romance novel fun than you will love it! It definitely leans into all the tropes of romance novels including strong sexual content so if you aren’t comfortable with erotica don’t watch this show. It’s all part of the fantasy and the fun.

The main focus  is on the Bridgerton family of 8 children with eldest daughter Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) leading the cast. Then we also get Lady Featherington and her 3 daughters including the delightful Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) that will be a treat for any plus size female viewers looking to dive into the story.

My only quibble is I’m not sure why they have Daphne have 3 brothers. I did not care about their stories near as much as the female characters. At the very least they could have been combined into a single brother to follow and that would have been much better.

Earlier this year we had the supposed modern take on Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon, which was a huge misfire. The attempts to combine camp and gritty realism did not work (especially the terrible ending!). With Bridgerton it’s like they took notes and corrected everything I disliked in the earlier show. Thank goodness! Sanditon apologized for being a Regency story. Bridgerton revels in it!

Throughout the 8 episodes we follow our characters through all the tropes of romance novels. We get a fake relationship, a problematic pregnancy, a scandalous gambler (rakes make better husbands as the series tells us), a marriage of convenience that grows into more, and I could keep going. There is even a dramatic duel over honor at one point!

Just as we are moving out of the purity of the Hallmark season (which also uses all the same tropes to their fullest effect) Bridgerton provides a tantalizing and delicious entry for romance fans everywhere. It is just what this queen ordered!

8.5 out of 10 (This show is a Mature Rating and has strong sensuality. Buyer beware!)

Current Mini Reviews

For a time period with essentially no new movies coming to theaters I sure have a bunch of films to update you on! Here I am with 9 mini reviews to help you decide what is smile and frown worthy:

Rebecca

On one hand it is hard to fault this handsomely mounted film version of the classic novel by Daphne Du Maurier (which was famously adapted by director Alfred Hitchcock in a 1940 version that won the Oscar for Best Picture). On the other hand, all that potential makes the film all the more disappointing.

The problem with this version of Rebecca is it fails to capture the suspense and chilling atmosphere of the source material. Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kristin Scott Thomas all do a good job in their roles but the movie is just plain bland. To begin with it takes way too long for the story to get to Manderley and then it feels like everyone is going through the motions. I didn’t hate it, but I also wasn’t very engaged. It is shot beautifully, and aside from some wonky fire visual effects, looks great, but that can only take you so far. Instead of making something compelling and mysterious they’ve made something dull and ponderous.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Spontaneous

This film Spontaneous is very difficult to describe and it will definitely be divisive. It stars Charlie Plummer and Katherine Langford (both whom I love and are very talented) in an unusual coming of age love story, For some unexplained reason people in their high school start randomly exploding. At first this is played for laughs which is awkward (I’m not the biggest fan of dark comedies) but then it becomes serious as our 2 leads know that any moment may be their last together.

Spontaneous is not going to be for everyone but if you are looking for something creative and different give it a shot. The leads are so good and it kept me guessing,which is refreshing. The more I think about it the more I love it

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The War with Grandpa

On one hand I can’t in good conscience recommend The War with Grandpa. It’s ridiculous, stupid and most of the jokes don’t land. On the other hand, I didn’t hate the movie. I am a sucker for broad live action family comedies so I am perhaps more forgiving of a film like this than my other critic friends. It’s movies like The War with Grandpa that I wish rottentomatoes had a middle ground score. It’s worth a rental if you like slapsticky family comedies but it’s not great. (I really miss the live action family comedies we used to get from Disney and other studios- broad, silly, fun with a nice message).

Most critics of course hate the film, and I can see why. The whole concept is inane about a Grandfather (Robert Deniro) and a grandson (Oaks Fegley who was so good in Pete’s Dragon) that engage in a war of pranks with each other when Grandpa takes the grandson’s room. However, I did like the cast including Christopher Walken, Cheech Marin and Jane Seymour. I also really liked the little girl who is obsessed with Christmas. Her holiday themed birthday party is the stuff of my dreams!

But it can also be a little too mean for my liking with Grandpa and grandson hurting each other and being really irresponsible. This isn’t the best message for kids, which hurts its value as a family film. It’s too destructive so I can’t recommend The War with Grandpa.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy (but I didn’t hate it like everyone else)

The Trial of the Chicago 7

After I have just defended The War with Grandpa let me confess I am not the biggest Aaron Sorkin fan. I think Sorkin is great at dialogue, and I never hate his movies, I’m just usually not as excited as most seem to be about them. I find that behind the quippy dialogue are often flat, bland characters that don’t grow and change. His portrayals in particular of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network and Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs left me wanting more. They are one-note characters at the start and end of their respective films. His writing, despite the good dialogue, always leaves me a little cold.

Now we have The Trial of the Chicago 7 and despite my having the same problems with Sorkin’s characters, I am more forgiving with this film. It’s easier to accept one-note characters in an ensemble piece where the actors can feed off each other and that’s what they do here. Plus, the real-life events are crazy enough to engage and entertain the audience. The trial moves along nicely and is so surprising that it is fun to watch. All the performances are good including Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mark Rylance and more.

The film manages to be relevant without being too on-the-nose like some movies in COVID have been. I also felt the music did not fit in with the period or feel of the film especially at the start. It seemed like something from another movie.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Hubie Halloween

Adam Sandler continues his terrible streak of comedies with his latest for Netflix Hubie Halloween. I knew the minute I heard his annoying babyish voice this movie was going to be rough and it was. It’s somehow not as bad as films like The Ridiculous 6 or The Do-Over, but I still hated it. I hated the characters. The jokes are awful and Hubie is incredibly annoying. There isn’t anyone to root for and you just hope they will all go away by the end of it.

3 out of 10

FrownWorthy

The Last Shift

It seemed to apropos to see the new film The Last Shift on the last day the Regal Cinemas will be open for a while. I was literally seeing The Last Shift on the last shift! This film is a small yet tender story about an older man, played by Richard Jenkins, who has worked at a fast food establishment his entire life. He is now retiring and must train a young Black man named Javon (Shane Paul McGhie) on how to do his job.

As they work together prejudices are revealed, life plays out in both expected and unexpected ways, and they learn a lot from each other. Jenkins and McGhie are excellent in their roles and it’s a nice slice of life film. Some aspects of the ending didn’t work for me and I didn’t like Ed O’Neill’s character, but overall I enjoyed the film.

It’s definitely worth a watch if you can see The Last Shift

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

>.

The King of Staten Island

I put off seeing The King of Staten Island because I’m normally not a big Judd Apatow fan, and I find Pete Davidson to be a grating presence on screen. However, after finally seeing it, I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised. This is a sweet coming of age story about a young man who can’t figure out what to do with his life. So instead of doing something he skates by with the bare minimum, waiting for something to inspire him. Then one day he becomes involved with a group of firefighters who knew his deceased father and his life starts to change.

Bill Burr shines as Davidson’s new stepdad figure and Marisa Tomei is good as usual as his long-suffering Mother. The film definitely has the Judd Apatow man-child plot and it is way too long and vulgar but overall the sweetness won me over. Both of the romances in the movie are also really sweet and enjoyable. It’s a genuine, heartfelt, coming of age story.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Then Came You

Most people will probably see Kathie Lee Gifford starring and writing Then Came You and not give the film much of a shot. That’s a shame because it’s an enjoyable rom-com. It’s definitely loaded with tropes and silly moments, but I liked the chemistry between Craig Furgeson and Kathie Lee Gifford. It was nice to see a romance between an older couple and it is surprisingly mature in its humor for this kind of film.

Elizabeth Hurley is not in the movie much so don’t go in expecting a lot from her. It’s mostly a 2 people show with Ferguson and Gifford hating each other at first but falling in love while she scatters the ashes of her late husband in Scotland. If that sounds fun to you than you’ll probably like it. I did. This is not as made for the Hallmark crowd as it might appear with the sensuality, vulgarity and other mature topics discussed so buyer beware on that account.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

2 Hearts

2 Hearts will always be remembered as my 2nd critics screening since the start of COVID. I will always be grateful to it for that. However, as a movie it’s a very strange film that I hardly know what to make out of it. On one hand, it’s a typical soapy tragic love story along the lines of A Walk to Remember or Five Feet Apart. In fact, it tells 2 love stories and the unexpected way they influenced each other. For the most part it is well cast and has a nice message about living life to its fullest and the value of organ donation. However,about 2/3rd of the way through they make a narrative choice with one of the couples that is frankly bizarre. I am still quite baffled by it. I can’t share here because of spoilers but it was strange.

There’s a lot of Hallmark movie talent in this film including a few people I have interviewed over at Hallmarkies Podcast. It’s always nice to see these actors getting work in feature films. Some non-Cuban actors playing Cuban roles was a poor decision and the timeline on some things was a little confusing but again 2 Hearts is a harmless movie. It just depends if you can get over the twist, which I’m not sure I can. It was so bizarre.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

So there you have it! What do you think of these films? What score would you give them? Let me know in the comments section

Current Mini Reviews

Hey  everyone! I’ve got some more mini reviews for you of films I’ve been seeing over the last few weeks. I have certainly been extremely busy with content to make and movies to watch and it’s not even Christmas yet!

Lapsis

Lapsis is a film I saw as part of the virtual Fantasia Film Festival 2020. It is a very interesting sci-fi film starring Dean Imperial as a man in future dystopian-like world who is desperate for work. His brother is sick and the bills are piling up so he decides to get a job laying cable for a giant corporation. As he embarks on an Appalachian trail type odyssey he grows to realize the reach of the company is bigger and stronger than he ever imagined including little robots he must compete with who are also laying down cable along with the humans.

As you can tell this film has an intriguing premise and for the most part I enjoyed it. The only major flaw with it is the ending is very abrupt. It feels like they ran out of funding and couldn’t finish the movie. Up until then I was really digging the strange take on work in the gig economy. Still there is enough good before the ending for me to recommend giving Lapsis a shot.

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe

I am only minimally familiar with the Phineas and Ferb program. I’ve watched a few episodes here and there and recently tried to get caught up with mos the first season. From what I’ve seen it’s a delightful show with a nice sense of humor and playful character designs.

Recently they released a new movie based on the show called Phineas and Ferb the Movie Candace Against the Universe. Despite my lack of familiarity with the characters I really enjoyed this movie. It had a lot of humor that worked, a playful sense of whimsy and as someone with 2 brothers a character in Candace I can definitely relate with. I didn’t feel confused as a non-watcher of the show. The animation is bright and colorful and the music is catchy.  Your kids will love it.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

The Blech Effect

The Blech Effect is a documentary that tells the story of investor David Blech as he is about to go to prison for investors fraud. It was for the most part a fine documentary and it is interesting to see the preparation that goes into someone getting ready for a correctional institution. At one point they even have a prison consultant who’s assigned to tell David what the first day of prison life will be like.

The aspect I didn’t like is them painting him as a victim of the system. In particular the repeated use of his young autistic son as a reason to spare him punishment. I am sure raising a son with autism has its challenges but it’s not an excuse for committing crimes or a reason for leniency.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

The Lost Husband

On the surface The Lost Husband looks like a Nicholas Spark-like narrative with our heroine getting back to her roots while overcoming grief. Unfortunately it is missing key aspects that make those movies, sappy as they might, work.

The film stars Leslie Bibb as a widow who moves into a farmhouse with her aunt Jean (Nora Dunn). Farm living proves to be therapeutic for the city girl especially with hunky farm aid played by Josh Duhamel. The problem is the romance is barely developed and the big reveal does not pay off. It makes the entire film very bland and boring where it could have been good.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Shooting Heroin

When I finished watching the new drama Shooting Heroin I was left more than a little befuddled. The very dark film about a group of citizens that take back their small town from the ravages of addiction has the feel of a faith-based films but then it is loaded with f-bombs, drug abuse and violence. I can’t help but think who was this made for?

The story of the film revolves around Adam (Alan Powell), Hazel (Sherilyn Fenn) and Edward (Lawrence Hilton- Jacobs). All have lost loved ones to opioid addiction and they all do a good job with their performances. Addiction is a horrible blight on humanity and it impacts every family sooner or later. It took 2 of my cousins. So I was with this movie as far as messaging but the tonal shifts didn’t work. It’s not awful but just messy.

4.5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ or Not My Art Film

There will be a lot of people who find the new Charlie Kaufman film I’m Thinking of Ending Things to be brilliant and one of the best movies of the year, and I can totally see why. It’s bold, creative and clearly trying to say something about deep themes of life, death and relationships. It also has strong performances from Jessie Buckley (who I adored in last year’s Wild Rose), Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, David Thewlis and more. All of these factors could make it a compelling work of art.

Unfortunately just like with any art there are going to be people who do not connect with it and it doesn’t inspire. With this film I am one of those people. If it does move you I totally get it but people are asking for my experience in this review. I can’t lie and say something moved me when it did not.

Let’s get into it. I’m Thinking of Ending Things stars Buckley as a ‘young woman’ who is going to meet her boyfriend Jake’s family for the weekend. She has very mixed feelings about this trip because she wants to break up with him. We then get 2 main portions of the film: First, when she arrives at the house and strange things start happening, and second, when those strange things continue on as they are driving home. That’s all I can really say without spoilers.

As these strange things happen our ‘young woman’ is confronted with themes of aging, life, death and more but none of it seemed very deep or interesting and Kaufman repeats himself a lot. By the third or fourth time seeing an aging parent, for example, you want to say ‘I get it!’ He also doesn’t make his characters very likable which makes the whimsy less enchanting.

In contrast to I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a movie called A Ghost Story which is also abstract and strange and has a similar message about the fragility of life and permanence of death. However, A Ghost Story keeps its metaphor simple and it is only a blessed 92 minutes. I often think arthouse films would be better as shorts as opposed to features but either way I’m Thinking of Ending Things is way too long at 134 minutes. Especially the last act when they are driving lost me, and I was ready for it all to be over.

Some people may throw up their hands in frustration and say ‘well Rachel you just didn’t get it’ and maybe they are right? Most of it I got, but not all of it. I don’t understand, for example, why we needed a long scene in a blizzard getting ice cream which is then immediately thrown away. I don’t understand why we need an animated pig and a naked man at a certain point? You may see that and its ambiguity and love it! Not knowing what is happening may intellectually excite you. I can respect that. It just wasn’t my experience.

If you loved I’m Thinking of Ending Things please explain what moved you in the comments section? What did you love about it? Where does it rank for you in the Kaufman canon? As for me I would pass on this one unless it sounds like your kind of thing than go for it.

4.5 out of 10

[REVIEW] ‘Enola Holmes’: A New Game is Afoot!

Longtime readers of mine will know I love Sherlock Holmes. In fact, my entire family enjoys it especially my father who had a particular affinity for the Jeremy Brett version in the 1990s. I wasn’t a big fan of the Guy Ritchie directed films with Robert Downey Jr because he was too much a James Bond type figure dodging bullets and outrunning explosions. Sherlock to me is a character of high intellect not physical strength so it missed the mark. Then the BBC series Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch was wonderful for 2 seasons and then went downhill especially series 4 which was garbage.

One of the things I hated about Sherlock series 4 is his sister Eurus who basically puts him in a house with puzzles like some kind of Saw rip-off. I hated the story, and I hated her character. So when I saw Netflix was making a new series about a female Holmes family member named Enola Holmes I was both intrigued and terrified.

Fortunately Enola Holmes is charming addition to the Sherlock Holmes mythology and a promising start to a new series of hopefully many films. In this story Enola played by Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things fame is a much younger sister of the famed detective Sherlock Holmes. He is played here by Henry Cavill who is fantastic in the few scenes we see him in. Sam Claflin plays Mycroft Holmes and his performance didn’t work as well. He’s too angry and mean for the light-hearted tone of this film. Helena Bonham Carter is perfect as the mother of the whole clan.

Millie Bobby Brown is very good in this role and the script allows her to break the fourth wall and be cheeky and modern. It’s a lot of fun. For the most part this is a film the entire family can watch together and both boys and girls will really enjoy our smart but strong young female detective.

The only problems I have with Enola Holmes is the actual case wasn’t very interesting. This is basically an origin story movie so the film is more concerned with establishing all the key players and parts of Enola’s life and personality. The mystery involving her missing mother didn’t really do it for me. I’d like in the next film for her to get a case to solve and while she’s doing so she can find love and adventure along the way.

I also feel the movie gets too violent towards the end to be an ideal family film. Multiple characters are shot and there’s a lot of tension which is a bummer because most of the movie is appropriate for all ages.

Nevertheless Enola Holmes is a fun ride with a heroine we all need right now. She’s bold, she’s funny and she’s more than a little sarcastic. It comes to Netflix September 23 so put it on your calendar. You’ll love it!

8 out of 10

 

Current Mini Reviews

Hey everyone! I have 3 quick reviews for you 2 that are on Netflix (what would we do without streaming services in this time of quarantine?).  I would love to hear what you have been streaming and if there is anything I should be checking out. Make sure you are following me on my channel Rachel’s Reviews, which I have been putting more work into lately and at the Hallmarkies Podcast which has a lot of fascinating interviews and episodes recapping romcoms and stuff like the excellent recent Baby-Sitters Club series.

I also have a patreon account I haven’t mentioned much on this page. For as low as $2 a month you can get all kinds of perks including live watch-alongs with behind the scenes talent and chances to special request podcasts and Family Movie Night videos.  If you love what I do here and would like to give back I would really appreciate it. Check out the site here.

Anyway, on to the review:

extraction

Extraction-

In many ways Extraction is the polar opposite of what I cover on the Hallmarkies Podcast. This is wall-to-wall action that is incredibly violent with a very thin story to keep the narrative going. That said, just as in Hallmark films, Extraction knows what it is trying to be and isn’t really grasping for Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar anytime soon. This is for folks who like Rambo movies with a lot of carnage delivered by likable actors, which Hemsworth is.

Some have complained it is a white savior narrative and I guess I can see that but I thought the Indian/Bangladesh characters were pretty kick butt as well as Hemsworth but who knows? I also heard complaints about the color grading but that didn’t bother me at all.

The action scenes in Extraction are tremendous with one particularly impressive 12 minute long-take sequence that stands out. And even though the violence becomes numbing after a time it was entertaining on that spectacle level. If you are expecting a nuanced discussion of war move on. This is dopey well-done action and that was enough to keep me entertained; although it could have easily been 20 minutes shorter and been better for it. Still enough for a mild recommendation if it seems like your kind of film.

5.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

desperados

Desperados

Next up is a movie I think I’m supposed to like on Netflix called Desperados. It’s a road trip movie with 3 single women who go to Mexico to try and save one of their relationships to a hunky Robbie Amell.  Unfortunately those 3 women are a chore to spend 105 minutes with.

I’m not kidding I hated every single minute of this supposed romantic comedy. I hated all the jokes. I hated the shrill obnoxious women. I hated how what is supposed to be empowering is actually demeaning. This movie even made me hate dolphins. It was brutal to get through and all I can think to say is Anna Camp fire your agent. After this and your cringy appearance in The Lovebirds you have had a terrible Summer 2020 even outside of quarantine! How many actors can say that?

1 out of 10

Frown Worthy

relic

Relic-

Finally is my favorite film of the 3 and one of my favorite films of 2020 and to my surprise it is a horror film called Relic. I normally don’t like being scared but am better when it is a supernatural scare or there is a little bit of comedy to lighten the mood. Movies like Get Out and A Quiet Place really work for me! Relic is that kind of scary movie. No murderers or exorcists just a haunted house and a creepy old lady the occupants do not understand.

What makes Relic special is like Get Out, it adds a metaphor to the scares which makes everything more powerful. In this case Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcote come to help when their Mom/Grandma played by Robyn Nevin turns up missing. What they don’t understand is she has become possessed by a spirit in the house and it is making her body decay like the wax candles she is constantly carving around the house.

Anyone who has dealt with a family member going through dementia can relate to what these people are going through (obviously to an extreme). When someone you love forgets who you are it can seem like they are a new person, almost possessed of a different spirit. Their personalities can change and the whole experience is very unsettling. Obviously that doesn’t stop us from loving our family members but it is very difficult. Relic captures that real life fear extremely well and I really enjoyed it. It’s also unpredictable with good acting and atmosphere for a small horror film. It reminded me a little bit of a cross between The Others and Get Out.

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘The Baby-Sitters Club’ (2020 Netflix) or How to Adapt Nostalgic Properties Right

Back in the old days when I was in middle school there wasn’t much of a YA reading scene (at least to my knowledge) but there were several popular authors (ala Cynthia Voigt and Judy Blume) and popular series (Sweet Valley High, Nancy Drew) with my favorite being The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M Martin. What I loved about the series is the independent spirit of the girls forming their own business and also becoming a strong group of friends. It satisfied both my youthful needs for independence and connection in one set of novels. My friends and I even started our own club inspired by the books!

With this history you can imagine my excitement when I heard about the new series on Netflix coming this year. Well, excitement mixed with trepidation after what Netflix did with my beloved Anne of Green Gables in the abhorrent Anne with an E, which I hated. That show lost all the spirit of the novels and the characters in a weird mixture of melodrama and supposed grittiness. What would they do with my Baby-Sitters Club?

THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB

Well, I am delighted to reassure you all that not only is The Baby-Sitters Club a worthy adaptation of our beloved novels but it is one of the best live action family series I’ve seen in a long time. I absolutely loved just about everything they did in this series and I don’t see any reason why other fans won’t also be very pleased with it.

The biggest strength to the series is the writing. Taking inspiration from the novels each of the 5 main girls is granted their own episode or chapter where they are the lead narrator. Kristy played by Sophie Grace is the brainchild behind the club and a very independent young lady that bristles at the thought of her mother remarrying.

Then you have the artistic Claudia (Momona Tanada), free spirited Dawn (Xochitl Gomez), shy Mary Ann (Malia Baker), and sophisticated Stacey (Shay Rudolph). They all face their own unique challenges that feel authentic and real without resorting to unnecessary and overbearing trauma like Anne with an E did.

The conflict is especially impressive when we consider the writers have only 23 minutes to get their lead character’s story across as well as building the over-all narrative of the group.

THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB

I also really enjoyed the casting including Alicia Silverstone as Kristy’s Mom. She walks the tricky balance of defending her own choices while still giving her daughter space to grow and accept the big changes in their lives. Again, it was real and authentic and something anyone can relate with.

THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB

The show is also sweet with great chemistry on the part of all of the girls. You don’t have to be a teenage girl to love this show. If you ever were a teenager or ever faced the toils of growing up you will enjoy it. It’s honest and heart-felt without resorting to the cheap gags or sitcom antics of shows typically made for this age demographic.

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There are also characters for younger kids like little Karen Brewer (Sophia Reid-Gantzert) who would go on to receive a spinoff series in the novels and I can see that happening here in The Baby-Sitters Club Little Sister series (they also have graphic novels of the main and Little Sisters series). She’s a funny, strange and superstitious character that smaller children will really enjoy.

THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB

What’s great about a show like The Baby-Sitters Club is it can be appreciated on many different levels. It tackles different issues teens are facing from having your period, to parents splitting up, to bullying but it also can be enjoyed on a basic entertainment level. This is because they took the time to write dynamic interesting characters we can relate to. I can think of so many family home evening discussion you could have with this show while still being very entertained.

As far as flaws the 2 episode arc at the camp was a little more over-the-top and less grounded than the rest of the episodes but I was with fine with it. A few of the side characters dipped into caricature like Claudia’s sister Janine. But in fairness she comes right out of the books and was based on Ann M Martin’s actual relationship with her sister, so I’ll allow it (one classic novel this episode is based on is literally called Claudia and Mean Janine). I also thought Mary Ann’s Dad (Marc Evan Jackson) took me out of the realistic tone and was a bit silly in his neurosis for the show.

THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB

Other than that I absolutely loved The Baby-Sitters Club. It was clearly made with love and I hope that families embrace it and it becomes the hit it deserves to be.

9 out of 10

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