Movies

A Romance Masquerading as Horror

Spoiler-Free Movie Review:

Rebecca (2020)

Rating: 4 out of 10 stars

Intro

I had high expectations for this movie. The trailer was intriguing and even looked spooky. Unfortunately, the movie did not satisfy. I haven’t read the book it is based on, so I cannot compare the two, but I have heard that the book is much better.

Background

This version of Rebecca was released in 2020 and is based on a novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier. It fits into the genre of romantic thriller. The movie stars Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristen Scott Thomas, Ann Dowd, Keeley Hawes, and Sam Riley.

Summary

An unnamed newlywed woman is brought to Manderley, her husband Maxim de Winter’s English estate. There she desires to live happily, but cannot help contending with the memory of Rebecca, Maxim’s first wife. She feels threatened by Mrs. Danver’s, a servant in the house who was intensely loyal to Rebecca. As she spends more time at Manderley, the details of Rebecca’s life start to fall into place and mysteries begin to unravel.

Pros

  • Narrative voice at the beginning compelling
  • Acting by Kristen Scott Thomas was excellent
  • Several memorable quotes
  • Not very predictable
  • General setting attractive, especially Manderley

Cons

  • Most of the acting fell flat
  • Suspense was lacking
  • The protagonist was unnamed, which felt unnecessary
  • Maxim de Winter’s signature mustard yellow suit looks terrible
  • The trailer suggested undertones of horror that were never realized in the film
  • The movie dragged and then wound up too quickly

Review

Narrative Voice

The story begins with narration by the unnamed protagonist:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. I dreamt that where our drive once lay, a dark and tortured jungle grew. Nature had come into her own and yet the house still stood. Manderley. Secretive and silent as it had always been. Risen from the dead. Like all dreamers, I was allowed to pass through my memory. Spanning the years like a bridge. Back to that summer in Monte Carlo when I knew nothing and had no prospects.”

This imaginative language drew me into the story. I only wish that the story had merited such a beginning.

Acting

The acting by Kristen Scott Thomas (Mrs. Danvers) was excellent. Watching her subtle expression when she welcomed the protagonist into the house gave an immediate indicator of how well her character was going to be portrayed. Her loyalty to Rebecca seemed intense and sincere, as did her hatred of the new Mrs. de Winters.

Armie Hammer (Maxim de Winter) came off differently. It was like he was trying to play the wrong role. His intimacy was too intimate, and his subsequent coldness was too cold. It was as if he were trying to act out two separate roles, and that made the romance hard to enjoy.

Lily James (Mrs. de Winter) made for a timid protagonist that it was easy to feel sorry for but hard to really root for.

Suspense

There’s not much to say about suspense. There wasn’t any. For there to be suspense, you have to care what’s going to happen to the characters, and I really didn’t.

Sure, it wasn’t very predictable, but that cannot in itself create suspense. There has to be emotional investment in the movie for suspense to exist.

Quotes

There were a couple good quotes from Maxim, and one notable one from Mrs. Danvers.

I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.”

Maxim de Winter

Not the most romantic line, but pretty unique. I doubt I would appreciate being called a little fool, but whatever. If that’s her thing.

All marriages have their secrets.”

Maxim de Winter

Again, not the most romantic thing one could say. I mean, it’s probably true. Most married people likely keep secrets from each other, but most people are not blunt enough to come out and say it. Trust and communication are not Maxim’s strong points, even though that’s what relationships need to be stable and healthy.

I wonder what’s she’s thinking about you.”

Mrs. Danvers

This line, delivered with finesse by Mrs. Danvers to the new Mrs. de Winter, is chilling. The “she” in the quote is the late Mrs. Rebecca de Winter. It’s one of those lines that make it seem like the movie is pretending to be a horror film. The trailer itself gives off horror vibes, and you get the feeling from the trailer that this is some ghost story, but it really is not. Nonetheless, this quote fits with the creepiness of Mrs. Danvers extremely well.

Setting

The setting is beautiful, whether it’s Manderley itself, the beach, the restaurants–all of it. The detail taken with the house made and the way the protagonist interacted with the things in the house made it all too clear how out of place the protagonist felt.

Details

The fact that the protagonist was never named bothered me. I know the movie was keeping with the tradition in the novel and earlier adaptation of not naming her, but this doesn’t really constitute an excuse. Why was she never named in the movie? It’s frustrating trying to refer to her and having nothing to call her before she is married and nothing to call her afterwards other than Mrs. de Winters after she is married. Names are so strongly tied into who people are. They, in a sense, make their names mean something by their actions. The fact that she doesn’t have a name makes her seem like a non-person, a non-character or like an extra with too many lines.

There isn’t any reason given during the movie for her not having a name, and her husband never uses it, which is so weird. Even when I am talking to my friends, I address them by name. How much more would this be true if I were in an intimate romantic relationship with someone?

Screenrant has an interesting article about why she was not named and regards it as a creative choice, but I still think it was an unfortunate decision.

Maxim de Winter’s suit near the beginning couldn’t help but call to mind images of the Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George. I don’t like the mustard color. He also wears this outfit repeatedly during their courtship period. He’s a rich dude, so he should be able afford some changes of clothes and at least something more aesthetically pleasing. I checked to see if I was the only one with this opinion, but looking at the reviews on IMDb, it seems I am not alone.

Conclusion

I wouldn’t recommend this movie for anyone, honestly. I would say it’s rating of PG-13 is reasonable due to sexual content, but there is nothing scary about Rebecca.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate movies, check out my rating system.

Links

Movies

A Movie About A Girl Struck by a Star

Spoiler-Free Movie Review:

Starstruck

Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

Intro

Last semester, my friends and I decided to watch each other’s childhood movies. This was a movie two of my friends had watched, but it was new to me. Even though the movie failed to win my admiration, I still enjoyed the experience of watching it with them.

Background

Starstruck is a rom-com and Disney Channel Original Movie released in 2010. It stars Sterling Knight, Danielle Campbell, Brandon Mychal Smith, Maggie Castle, and Chelsea Staub.

Starstruck is available on Disney+.

Summary

Michigan teen Jessica Olson visits her widowed grandmother in Hollywood, California. Her celebrity-obsessed sister Sarah convinces her to go to a nightclub where Sarah hopes to meet teen idol Christopher Wilde. When Christopher attempts to make a quick escape from the crowds after his performance, he accidentally hits Jessica with a door, and voila! The real story begins.

Pros

  • Catchy songs
  • Acting by Sterling Knight and Brandon Mychal Smith is decent
  • Beautiful scenery
  • Some character growth
  • Sweet, understanding grandma who really understands the protagonist
  • Wholesome, loving relationship between grandmother and boyfriend
  • Strong message
  • A fitting title

Cons

  • The female lead is hard to like
  • The movie star male lead is spoiled and occasionally a thoughtless jerk
  • Acting by most of the characters is not very good
  • Predictable
  • One picture taken from an impossible angle (they are looking down at the camera but it is taking a picture of them from above
  • Paparazzi used as a plot device, but only appear when they are needed to move the plot forward
  • How do their clothes manage to be so clean after the amount of mud and dirty creek water they slosh through

Review

Characters

First, I would like to say that I do sympathize with Jessica Olson’s lack of interest in celebrities. Personally, I rarely pay any attention to the lives of celebrities: their marriages, pregnancies, divorces, scandals and all that stuff have no bearing on my life and cannot hold my interest.

Jessica is only interested in those she can have an in-depth, personal relationship with and I admire that. That’s just about the only thing I admire about her because she is otherwise a bratty, annoying teenager who evidences only some growth as a person (shown in the comments she makes to paparazzi).

Her personality is so flat that the Starstruck Fandom has only Christopher Wilde in her list of “likes” and once again only includes Christopher Wilde in her list of “dislikes.”

Christopher Wilde is spoiled, naïve, and behaves like a jerk in a memorable incident during the movie. To be fair, his life has been in many ways unhealthy. His parents are his employees and plan out his life based on what options are most lucrative. Paparazzi invade his private life and ruin his ability to have fun like a normal teenager. His friendships are limited in the beginning of the movie to employees, and while that friendship seems sincere, it is not a good sign to only have friends you have to pay.

Sarah Olson, Jessica’s older sister, is mostly bland and annoying, obsessed with Christopher Wilde. She shows a little bit of unexpected kindness toward the end but is otherwise shallow.

Albert Joshua “Stubby” Stubbins is Christopher Wilde’s best friend who also happens to be his driver. Honestly, I wish we saw more of him because he is a fun character with convictions.

The grandmother of Jessica and Sarah has a touchingly close relationship with Jessica, and her grandmother is able to understand her even when the other members of her family don’t. Her grandmother has a sweet relationship with her boyfriend, and it was nice to see the cute elderly couple just living life together contentedly in the midst of all the drama in the movie.

Music

The first song isn’t amazing, but after that the rest are pretty catchy. My favorite is Something About the Sunshine. It’s catchy and just fits the mood of the movie so well. I found one music video that has the lyrics but no spoilers. I know it’s not the best, but most of them have spoilers, unfortunately.

Acting

The acting is…passable. Nothing amazing, nothing too cringy. A scene with crying is unconvincing, and Sarah’s obsessive fangirliness seems fake and a little too over-the-top.

Plot

Predictable. A couple things were unexpected, but we all know how this movie ends. I’m not going to say it, even though it barely constitutes a spoiler, but the whole thing is cheesy and obvious and you should probably know that going in. It doesn’t make it a bad movie, but it makes it an average one.

Scenery

The scenery is beautiful, whether its the beach, the cityscape, or the path less traveled they go on to avoid the paparazzi.

Mistakes

The main mistake I really noticed was that one of the photographs in the movie is shown from an impossible angle based on the way they were holding the camera.

They also got really muddy at one point, and after swimming in a creek, they were perfectly, immaculately clean. I wish stains came out that easily, but no.

Message

This movie could serve as a warning to those who idolize child celebrities to not take it to a creepy and inhumane level by prying into their private lives. It points out the problem with magazines and shows that capitalize on scandal and ruin celebrities lives. It also offers a peek into the life of a child celebrity and the unique problems and struggles they face. This is a kind of an interesting route for Disney to take considering how many teen stars they use, and surprisingly insightful.

Title

Ah, I get it. It’s Starstruck because clumsy star Christopher Wilde strikes Jessica Olson in the face…with a door…repeatedly.

Or maybe it’s because the TV show Christopher Wilde was performing on was called “Starstruck.”

Or it could be because the word “starstruck” comes up in the lyrics of the first song he sings, and is in fact the name of that song.

For whatever reason it was chosen, I feel that it was a fitting choice.

Conclusion

If you are a fan of Disney, you may like this. If you are a fan of Disney Channel Original movies, you almost certainly will like it. Otherwise, it’s probably a waste of your time.

I want to point out that my rating of 5 out of 10 stars does not mean that it was a bad movie. It just means it was an average movie–that there was nothing that made it terrible or great.

The best audience for this movie would be preteens and teens.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate movies, check out my rating system.

Links

Anime, Shows

A Rom-Com About the Trials of a Manga Writer

Spoiler-Free Anime Review:

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun Season 1 and Bonus Footage

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Intro

I was first introduced to this show when I accidentally came downstairs in the middle of an episode my sisters were watching. I was intrigued by what I saw. When they later asked if I wanted to give it a try, I was all for it. I enjoyed the anime so much that I ended up re-watching it with a college friend too.

Background

Also known as Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-Kun, this anime series is based on a manga series written and illustrated by Izumi Tsubaki.

Season 1 was released in 2014. There is no complete Season 2, but there is bonus content that amounts to about the length of one episode.

Monthly Girls’ Nozaki Kun is available to watch on Netflix and CrunchyRoll.

Summary

A high school student named Chiyo Sakura confesses her love to her schoolmate Umetaro Nozaki, but he mistakes her for one of his fans and she ends up with his autograph. Chiyo finds out Nozaki writes girls’ romance manga and becomes one of his assistants.

Pros

  • Well-developed thematic intro
  • Great music
  • Creative characters
  • Range of characters’ expressions entertaining
  • Changing backgrounds to convey mood
  • Beautiful animation with great attention to detail
  • Humorous dialogue
  • Pokes fun at rom-coms in general and shoujo manga in particular
  • Hilariously awkward relationships
  • Fitting ending

Cons

  • Uncomfortably violent relationship between two characters
  • Repetitive themes that can get a little annoying

Review

Intro

The intro is one of my favorites. Like in the picture shown above, it shows the characters transposed against comic-style panels. This is perfect because it is an anime about writing manga, to some extent.

The part where all the characters are beating up on the Tanuki doll is funny too considering how their dislike of Tanuki comes up in the story.

Music

I love all the music of Monthly Girls’ Nozaki Kun. It’s quirky, just like the show. Music adds to the humor throughout the show. My favorite song definitely is the one in the intro though.

Characters

Umetaro Nozaki is a teenager who is oblivious to love in his everyday life but is able to write characters who are in love with precision and skill. He thinks Chiyo just wants to help him with his manga, and even though that’s true to an extent, he is incapable of recognizing Chiyo’s love for him.

Chiyo Sakura has a major crush on Nozaki, and I mean major. She is sweet, helpful, and persistent. The flirt Mikoshiba doesn’t bother being flirtatious with her, probably because they become good friends and she sees right through him.

Mikoshiba Mikoto is basically the handsome flirt of the show, but he is quirky too. After saying something flirtatious, he becomes extremely embarrassed. He frequently tries to get his friends to help him out of unfortunate situations his flirting gets him into, and is surprisingly socially inept.

Yu Kashima is nicknamed “The Prince” because of her princely behavior around guys. She is more popular than Mikoshiba even. I think that her crush on Hori is unfortunate because of the brutal way he treats her though.

There are plenty of other colorful characters, but you’ll have to watch the show to get to know them!

Mood

Backgrounds show how characters are feeling and exaggerate that emotion.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Chiyo-expression-2-1024x423.png

Character expressions are an added element, and they have a wide range of them.

Animation

The animation is beautiful and well-executed. No complaints here.

The level of detail is astonishing. The fact that they went to the trouble of making a bin of pens look like an actual artist used them is phenomenal. The different types of pens with the sizes and everything is so amazing. It looks kind of like the box of pens I use with my Copic markers.

Humor

Dialogue is one way that humor comes across in Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun. Here are two lines, both from Nozaki himself, that show what you can expect from the show.

Critics have called me the spokesman for girls everywhere.”

You couldn’t have a character more oblivious to the feelings of girls around him, and yet critics laud his ability to understand girls.

In another instance, when Nozaki is questioned about what he and his friends do, he tries to hide the fact they are working on girls’ manga by saying:

We like to meet at my apartment for unspecified activities.”

All the people you can ship in this anime have the most awkward relationships possible. I mean, look at this:

I don’t even have to explain who these characters are–you can tell that they are shippable in the most awkward way possible.

Nozaki holding the umbrella for Chiyo is the worst. I mean, poor girl. But reverse their roles and it’s not much better:

This is also a way that the anime pokes fun at romances. Walking home together under one umbrella is such a cheesy, cliché thing. By making it not work at all, they maximize the humor in a satirical way.

The also makes fun of how in shoujo manga alcohol has to be replaced by juice and cigarettes have to be replaced with lollipops.

Ending

The ending may not be satisfying to many, but I would say it fits the theme of the show well.

Problematic Relationship

I don’t like the relationship between Kashima and Hori because he beats her up and it is meant to be comedic but it’s really just…uncomfortable.

Repetitiveness

Chiyo’s continued hopes that Nozaki understands her love for her are continually squashed by Nozaki’s oblivious. Does it get old? Well, kind of…but there is so much more to the show and it’s really humorous anyway.

Bonus Footage

The Bonus Footage is not as good as the episodes of Season 1, but they were still worth watching. There are hilarious parts to them as well.

Conclusion

If you like lighthearted rom-coms, I would recommend this anime.

It is rated PG and I think that’s a fair rating. There is nothing in this anime I would be worried about children seeing.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.

Links

Shows

This Fairy Tale Retelling Shouldn’t Be Rated PG

Once Upon a Time Season 1.jpg

Spoiler-Free Show Review:

Once Upon A Time Season 1

Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars

Intro

I watched Once Upon A Time for the first time with my sisters, and it was so good I was happy to watch it a second time with my roommate and suitemate. Most fairy tale retellings don’t impress me, but Once Upon A Time, especially Season 1, was able to tell the stories in a way that celebrated the old and emphasized the new.

After watching several episodes, I was shocked that anyone would rate this show PG. It is not appropriate for children–read on to find out why.

Background

Season 1 of Once Upon A Time first aired in 2011 and concluded in 2012. It was created by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, and is an ABC television series now offered on Disney Plus.

Season 1 stars Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, Raphael Sbarge, Jamie Dornan, Robert Carlyle, and Eion Bailey.

Summary

On her 28th birthday, Emma Swan is unexpectedly reunited with the 10-year-old son she had given up for adoption. After driving him back to his adoptive mother in Storybrooke, Maine, Emma’s concern for him makes her hesitant to leave.

Her son, Henry Mills, believes that the stories in his book of fairy tales are real. He thinks that the people of Storybrooke are fairy tale characters trapped by a curse and have lost their memories of their past lives.

Henry tells Emma that she is their only hope for breaking the curse, but Emma does not believe him.

Season 1 tells the stories of various characters, alternating between their pasts in a fairy tale world and their current lives in Storybrooke. It also follows the struggles of Emma and Henry against Regina, Henry’s manipulative adoptive mother.

Pros

  • Clever foreshadowing
  • Consistent, well-crafted structure
  • Great acting
  • Subverting viewer expectations
  • Clever ways of connecting various fairy tales
  • Likeable, realistic characters
  • Impressive character development
  • In-depth backstories
  • Character names in Storybrooke chosen for meaning
  • Costume design reflects character personality

Cons

  • Occasionally overdramatic
  • The graphics in Wonderland were shoddy

Review

Foreshadowing

The title sequences always has a different shadowy sneak peak of what the episode is going to be about. Look for dark woods in the title screen to see the foreshadowing.

Structure

The structure of each episode includes flashbacks to a character’s past in the fairy tale world as well as glimpses of the character’s present-day life in Storybrooke.

The story that has happened in the past is usually linked strongly to what is happening in the present in any given episode.

Viewer Expectations

Viewers have certain expectations based on their knowledge of the fairy tales. However, the creators of Once Upon A Time use this to their advantage by making stories seem familiar before repeatedly subverting viewer expectations.

These are not the bedtime stories kids everywhere grew up with. These are new, refurbished, refined and stunning.

The way that fairy tales intertwine is particularly clever, especially the way the Beauty and the Beast tale works.

Characters

Red Riding Hood | Once Upon a Time Wiki | Fandom

Almost every single character has an in-depth back story, and many begin in Season 1. The story of Snow White and Prince Charming take center stage, but my personal favorite is the story of Red Riding Hood.

The characters develop both in the past and in the present. The most development is seen in Emma Swan, Mary Margaret Blanchard, and David Nolan.

The characters act realistically considering their personalities, and even though it is dramatic, the reactions of the characters are often reasonable considering their circumstances.

Once Upon a Time Favorite Character Moments: Snow White/Mary Margaret  Blanchard | The Girly Nerd

Character names in present-day Maine were chosen carefully for their meaning. For example, the name Mary Margaret Blanchard was chosen for Snow White because Blanchard is a French name meaning “white” and Mary and Margaret were names Snow used in her fairy tale past to conceal her identity.

Costume Design

7 Easy Halloween Costumes from Once Upon a Time | Once Upon A Time

The costume design fits the characters’ personalities perfectly. For example, Regina’s hair styles and costumes particularly reflect her flamboyant style and dark personality.

Drama

The drama is reasonable and understandable most of the time, but sometimes it is over-the-top. For example, when something terrible happens, the camera will often switch rapidly from shocked expression to expression in a way that seems overly contrived. People can be shocked, but not every character needs a close-up.

Conclusion

Overall, I really enjoyed Season 1 of Once Upon A Time. I would recommend this series for teens and adults.

Despite its PG rating, I would not recommend Once Upon A Time for children due to violence, suggestive content, and dark themes. Seriously. Hearts get ripped out and crushed, there is an affair, people get turned into animals and stepped on, a person is mauled and eaten, etc.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.