Push (2009) Review

Push (2009) Review

Directed by: Paul McGuigan

Written by: David Bourla

Starring: Camilla Belle, Dakota Fanning, Chris Evans

Rated: PG-13

Run-Time: 1h 51m

Genre: Science-Fiction Thriller

Rotten Tomatoes: 23%

Availability: Hulu

Two young Americans with special abilities must race to find a girl in Hong Kong before a shadowy government organization called the Division does. (IMDb)

While idly searching through Hulu I came across this film and almost immediately remembered watching it many times over when I was younger. It has been many years since I’ve seen, but I remembered it fondly. After re-watching it recently I had one of those moments where I look back at younger me and wonder what the heck was going on?

This film definitely takes a stylistic approach to its cinematography that works in its favour. Through camera work and editing, the tone of the film is established early on, and the intention of the film is evident. You can see what they were trying to do, which is part of what makes it so sad that they struggle to follow through. For me, this was the primary aspect of the film that allowed me to sit through it in its entirety. With lacklustre acting and poor writing, this film heavily relies on its cinematography. 

The writing in this film is not entirely horrendous but is nowhere near good. The film is a mish-mash of ideas that are related enough that they could be done together but only with the right writers up to the task. The concept is great, but heartbreakingly poorly executed. 

The thing that really tanks this film for me is the fact that it doesn’t feel done. And it doesn’t feel done because it isn’t. You can blatantly tell there were intentions on making a sequel that never came into fruition. Sadly, the creators relied too heavily on the thought that this film would be a success; this choice actually playing a huge roll in the film failing. At the end of the film, you’re left with so many loose ends that you can’t even say the film has a proper ending. At best, we just got the first half of a painstakingly long film. 

While this film is watchable I think there are better ways to spend your time. If you are a fan of the comics from which it is based, I would probably stick to the reading.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Because This is My First Life Review

Because This is My First Life Review

Now streaming on Netflix. Rated TV-14.

This k-drama was highly recommended to me by a close friend, and as a huge fan of k-drama, of course, I pushed it all the way to the top of my watchlist. And– thankfully this has become a trend– I did not regret it. Why would I though? Korea has drama mastered!

The acting in k-dramas is not often highlight due to the result of the actors often having to take on a more over-the-top persona. While this drama is not a complete expectation with its own fair amount of over-the-top scenes, but it also is full of moments where the actors take the opportunity to show off their acting chops. There were scenes in which the acting had me absolutely blown away. There are scenes with subtle details, such as a character keeping a straight face while you see their eyes watering, conveying a depth of emotion we rarely see. If you can’t already tell, I was extremely impressed by this.

This show definitely was traditional in its proclivity to have non-stop drama. This is one of those shows that rarely gives you break with drama waiting for you around every corner. That combined with the extremely slow-burn romance makes this show extremely addictive. You start to crave those moments of solace, only for them to be taken away by the end of the episode. This achieves exactly what it’s intended to, cause what do you do then? You watch the next episode! (Seriously, so many k-dramas are like this, thank god they usually are only one or two seasons.)

This is one of those shows who has a bit of something for everyone. Of course, if you’re not a fan of dramas, you may be the exception to this, but I would still recommend giving this show a try. It’s full of laugh-out-loud moments, heart-wrenching, and swoon-worthy moments. Fair warning though: you might want to throw your computer or remote out the window at some point.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Lovelink: Chapters of Love Review

Developer: Ludia

Age Rating: 17+

Size: 112.2

Price Range: Free (with in-app purchases)

Available on iOS and Android

I usually don’t play games like this, but lately, I’ve been finding myself drawn to story-heavy games. I’m extremely picky about the games I play. The art has to be on point, the gameplay casual (since I usually multitask), and a reasonable, if not nonexistent, paywall. The last of which I realize some people can’t relate to, which I totally understand. Games can get expensive fast, always beware of the amount you spend if you decide to do so. 

Anyway, back to this game… Well, I guess since we’re on the topic of money I’m going to have to break it to you: this app is one of those that can get expensive quickly. So far I’ve only managed to spend about 10 dollars, and that’s where my spending is going to end. It is entirely possible to play without spending any money, but the wait time to gather enough currency to make the premium choices is excruciatingly long. It may take a week or more to collect enough points. For many, this could be or is a total deal-breaker. If it is, I don’t blame you and I honestly would recommend you stay away from this game. 

Now, if a little investment doesn’t bother you, the app has had some pretty good deals for new players. If you take your time with the game, you can probably play pretty comfortably with the paywall anyway. It really depends on the type of player you are. 

The game boasts some pretty exceptional art. And unlike some similar apps I’ve tried out the art is consistent throughout. If you already have a tendency to simp for 2D characters, let me tell you that this game will not help with that at all. They do not hold back and the sheer amount of beautiful characters to choose from is sometimes overwhelming. Additionally, each character includes unique storylines and depending on the decisions you make the romance could be never-ending! And whatever preferences you have, this app got you. Trust me. 

As a queer woman, I’m glad to say this game is incredibly inclusive. It’s so refreshing to have a game that doesn’t force you to court a person you likely wouldn’t in real life (in my case a man). While most of these games are targeted towards straight women, having an option for members of the alphabet soup gang is practically revolutionary.

If you’re willing to part with some money, this game is totally for you. If you need a little romance in your life this game is definitely for you. Give it a go! Just beware, it’s just as addicting as real-life online dating can be.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Court of Frost and Starlight Review

A Court of Frost and Starlight Review

By Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Print Length: 272 pages

Release Year: 2018

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.88

Available on Amazon and B&N

Hope warms the coldest night.

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court. (Goodreads)

As you already know from my reviews on the previous instalments of this series, I am a big fan of A Court of Thorns and Roses. It goes without saying how happy I was to finally get a chance to pick up this book… too bad it did not live up to its predecessors. 

A Court of Frost and Starlight is effectively an ACOTAR Christmas special that just so happens to also happens to give us a glimpse of the war’s aftermath. Now, I have to give Maas, some credit for some of the themes she included regarding that subplot, but not much more. While she included very real aspects of post-war life, the way they were handled was… not that realistic. Yes, this is a fantasy series, but that doesn’t necessarily excuse the sort of detached feeling I got from this book. Of course, I am taking into consideration the disassociation that often follows those who have fought in a war, but this just wasn’t it. 

The only aspect of this book that truly shines is the deeper look into the found-family relationship between the inner circle. If you take out the post-war aspect of this story, its a mostly heart-warming tale of a family during holidays. The sections that focused solely on this is what made the book bearable for me, as it managed to cheer me up during our not-so-typical holiday season. And while the character has always been just as important as the plot in these stories, this one, in particular, took a lot of time to look at each character individually and give us insight on who they are and how they think without the shroud of intense hardship. We get a glimpse into seemingly everyday life, which in these times we sort of need. 
I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped to, but it did manage to make my holiday season a little better. And I might as well admit it is what I needed to hold me over until the much-awaited release of A Court of Silver Flames. This is not a necessary read, and I won’t judge anyone who decides to skip it. But, in saying that, it’s not worthless either.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Perfect Date (2019) Review

The Perfect Date (2019) Review

Directed by Chris Nelson

Starring: Noah Centineo, Laura Marano, Camila Mendes

Rating: TV-14

Run-Time: 1h 30m

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Rotten Tomatoes: 69%

Availability: Netflix

Need a last-minute knight in shining armor? A plus-one Prince Charming? To make his dream come true, he’ll be anyone– except himself. (Netflix)

This is a fun film. I really do enjoy it at its face value. It’s definately a good movie to watch when you don’t want to think too hard, which though some people consider this a bad thing I think it’s a good thing because that’s the whole purpose of movies in the first place. Isn’t it?

My main issues with the movie have to do with the tertiary characters. There were definately moments where you could tell that the actor was reciting lines, or maybe even reading lines shown to them from off screen. Some background actors blessed with lines obviously didn’t know what they were doing becuase you could tell they were trying to act a certain way. Technically-wise this was the films only true downfall. Its cinematography was okay and got the point across. You honestly can’t expect anything groundbreaking from a teen rom-com.

My second main issue was the predictability of the story. Of course, the main love interest would be your not-so-average girl who rather goes to a cafe-bookstore than a shool dance (which, same to be honest). Of course, the main guy would fall into insta-love with a random girl he doesn’t know. And, of course, the rando-rich-girl will be stuck up and break up with him for some petty bullshit. 

This is a mediocre film at best, and it’s definitely a fun friday-night movie to watch or put on in the background as you eat, but it’s not going to become a classic.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Flavors of Youth (2018) Review

Flavors of Youth (2018) Review

Directed by: Haoling Li, Yoshitaka Takeuch, Xiaoxing Yi

Written by: Tyler Rhoads (English translation)

Starring: George Ackles, Taito Ban, Dorothy Elias-Fahn (English Dub)

Rated: TV-PG

Run-Time: 1h 14min

Genre: Amination, Drama

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

Availability: Netflix

Three different stories of youth set in different cities of China. (IMDb)

This one of those films that regularly finds itself in my Netflix recommendations. I know that I would eventually breakdown and watch it… and I was surprised when I finally did. Sadly, not in a good way. 

This film is a collection of short films, three to be exact. All follow themes relating to growing up/ The stories themselves are the true highlight as they are relatable and heartwarming. The first, “The Rice Noodles” is probably the best overall with its tearjerking storyline. “A Little Fashion Show” falls short as a result of a lack of nuance. Conflict in this particular story felt forced and characters reacted unnaturally. “Love in Shanghai,” the final story, manages to land somewhere in the middle with a common story of young love that unfolds just as you’d expect it to. There is an end credit scene as well, but it does little more than show the geographic relationship of the stories. 

With such lacklustre storytelling, you would hope it would at least be paired with stunning animation. Sadly, this film fails to deliver yet again.. The animation is disappointingly average, honestly barely so at times. The only noteworthy scene is at the beginning of “The Rice Noodles” depicting the titular noodles being prepared. Otherwise, there isn’t anything that sets this film apart from those like it. 

In the end, this film just felt like a waste of time. So little about it is memorable, I’m sure there are similar pieces that achieve what this film set out to but with much more… elegance.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Forest of Souls Review

Forest of Souls Review

By Lori M. Lee

Publisher: Page Street Kids

Print Length: 400 pages

Release Year: 2020

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.69

Available on Amazon and B&N

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.

And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.

Unveiled as the first soulguide in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a soulguide can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for. (Goodreads)

Forest of Souls was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020. I was so excited when I finally got my hands on it that I had to force myself to slow down a bit. I’m trying to spend a longer time in books like this because I want to really take my time to contemplate and savour the story. While the story was fast-paced, throwing you into the action immediately, I managed to slow my reading pace comfortably. Lee does an amazing job of showing rather than telling, so whenever I set the book down I had plenty to think about. Regardless of the fact that I came to the same conclusions as our protagonist as quickly as she did, it allowed me to explore aspects of the story that the author set aside. This only adds to my excitement for the upcoming sequel Spider’s Web, because I want to see how these concepts are brought into fruition. 

The magic system definitely gave me similar vibes to Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, and the aesthetic of this world definitely felt influenced series like The Untamed. The lore of this world felt well-developed and even though we only view the world through a single character’s eyes, I definitely felt like we were provided with more than sufficient world-building. 

My favourite part of this book was the characters. Forest of Souls includes a beautiful sisterly-friendship between the protagonist Sirscha and her familiar Saengo. Lee does an amazing job portraying the platonic love between the two girls, and how their situation affects them not only as individuals but as partners. The lack of romance in this book is refreshing, but not entirely not existent, as there is definitely foundation laid down for it. Whatever the author ultimately decides, I can only imagine it being executed well, as her ability to set up characters and their relationships are definitely above average.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Review

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Review

By Stephen Chbosky

Publisher: Pocket Books/MTV Books

Print Length: 213 pages

Release Year: 1999

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary 

Avg. Goodreads Rating:  4.2

Available on Amazon and B&N

standing on the fringes of life…

offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see

what it looks like from the dance floor.

This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being A WALLFLOWER

This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that the perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up. (Goodreads)

Originally posted on my personal website crystinaluna.com.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, at this point, is a long-time favourite of mine. At this point, it can probably be considered an older book, but– at least to me– it doesn’t read like that. The many reasons it reads that way is probably the same reason this book is considered banned in many places. 

A realistic examination of what it’s like to be a teenager, this book follows Charlie as he begins his first year of high school. Charlie immediately struggles with the transition and it’s not until he befriends two seniors, Sam and Patrick, that his year begins to make a turn for the better. Chbosky leads us through a graphically realistic teen experience that includes concepts regarding LGBT struggles, drug experimentation, mental health, and much more. 

I feel like there really is something for everyone in this book. Though I personally did not have the “traditional” teenage experience (far from it, actually) I still find myself relating heavily with the characters in this book. You may not have direct experience with certain things, such as drugs and certain mental health struggles, but it’s hard to be a teenager nowadays without being exposed to these concepts one way or another. I feel it’s even that indirect connection that fosters understanding and compassion for the book’s characters in the readers. Having read many books in my few years on this earth, with is one of those rare books that truly captures what it’s like growing up.

Regardless of all these great things, I am aware that this book is banned in many schools and to some extent, I understand why. I would probably recommend this book for a more mature audience, but not in the sense that maturity equates age. With hard subjects including molestation and suicide, this books is not for everyone. Though I think this should be read by all high schoolers, I admit that the individual should be taken into consideration. I wouldn’t go so far as to right out ban the book, rather, I’d explicitly warn younger readers what is to come and open it up for conversation if there is something they need help understanding. 

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Await Further Instructions (2018) Review

Await Further Instructions (2018) Review

Directed by: Johnny Kerorkian

Written by: Gavin Williams

Starring: Sam Gittens, Grant Masters, Neerja Niak

Rated: NR

Run-Time: 1h 31min

Genre: Horror

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

Availability: Netflix

A family’s Christmas takes a strange turn when they awake to find themselves trapped inside and begin receiving mysterious instructions through the television. (IMDb)

Originally published on my personal website crystinaluna.com .

While I watched this movie on a Friday, I wasn’t quite confident enough to write a review for it until the following Monday. Not because I found this film so intellectual or amazing in some other way that I needed time to understand it; but because I needed time to figure out what exactly the film was trying to. It is evident from the beginning the intentions of the film, but it simply falls short of actually doing achieving what it wants to. 

When the ominous message “stay indoors and await further instructions” appears in the television of an already torn family, tensions rise as no one can agree on what to do next. As the promised instructions start to appear, the (already horrible) family dynamic is thrown out the window as what little bit of familial trust that may have existed is quickly dissolved. As characters trust each other less and less it becomes evident to the protagonist that an there is something potentially otherworldly going on. 

Now, first of all, it was so refreshing to see practical effects! Though at times this seems to be occasionally augmented with some minor bits of CGI, the fact that the film uses this now archaic technique is quite a breath of fresh air. For many horror film purists, practical effects might as well be the modern-day holy grail with the power to save otherwise dull movies. Which, when it comes to horror films, this film did, in fact, feel quite dull. Aiming for more nuanced psychological horror the film definitely fell short, succumbing to its overdone themes and failing to present a truly unique story. 

With themes of corruption and cult-like devotion, the feel doesn’t do a very good job at presenting these in what should have a character-driven plot. From the very beginning, the characters were unpleasant and in their own ways corrupt. Noone truly changed, for better or for worse, everyone was just insufferable (with the exclusion of maybe the protagonist’s girlfriend).

For this film to have worked it would have likely needed to present a family dynamic much more healthy than the one in the film. Allowing for otherwise good characters to surrender to their inner demons and not-so-perfect beliefs. Even though the antagonist in the film is an omnipotent alien, it may have been in the interest of the filmmakers to research the dynamics of real-life cults, where the corruption of vulnerable individuals is common. 

Honestly, I can’t think of very many people I would recommend this film to. Though on paper the concept seems interesting it simply isn’t well executed. I had to take a break while watching the film simply because I was bored out of my mind.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Amari and the Night Brothers Review (Blog Tour)

Amari and the Night Brothers Review (Blog Tour)

By B.B. Alston

Print Length: 416 pages

Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy

Release Date January 19, 2021

Available for pre-order on Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to theWriteReads and Egmont Publishing for providing me with an ARC.

Amari Peters knows three things.

Her big brother Quinton has gone missing.

No one will talk about it.

His mysterious job holds the secret . . .

So when Amari gets an invitation to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain this is her chance to find Quinton. But first she has to get her head around the new world of the Bureau, where mermaids, aliens and magicians are real, and her roommate is a weredragon.

Amari must compete against kids who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives, and when each trainee is awarded a special supernatural talent, Amari is given an illegal talent – one that the Bureau views as dangerous.

With an evil magician threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is the enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton . . . (Goodreads)

Amari and the Night Brothers is a charming fantastical middle-grade book that promises to open a new world for its readers. It delivers and then some! Managing to introduce us to a world that is, in some vague ways, reminiscent of the wizarding world, but far larger and dare I say better. For being such a vast world it is well realized, as well as the characters in the story. The relationships between the characters definitely had Percy Jackson-vibes, a fleshed-out realism that makes them all the more relatable and loveable. 

For me, this book was often reminiscent of the Men in Black franchise but on a much larger and more magical scale. This is the sort of book I would have been obsessed with when I was in the intended age category, and still intend to follow as an adult. This book manages to pack a large story into a small package and knowing there is more to come and so much more of this world to explore in what makes this book memorable. This is the sort of book you read as a kid and obsess over, convinced that if your nomination was detected that you’d follow in our titular heroine Amari’s path.

This book, most importantly, manages to pack in some heavy themes. Tackling issues children today, and children of yesterday, have dealt with. It’s a type of story we need more of. 

Amari and the Night Brothers is a fun book for everyone, regardless of age. There are lessons to be learned, fun to be had, and so many interesting characters to meet along the way. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to read this book and look forward to future instalments.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.