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To All the Boys: Always and Forever | Review

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Netflix concludes it’s To All the Boys trilogy with another enjoyably lukewarm picture, as Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) enjoy their final year in high school and prepare to move to Stanford University…until Lara Jean does not get in. The couple must now figure out a way for their relationship to grow, as they will be spending the next four years “apart.” After the highly enjoyable To All the Boys I Loved Before, there was no need for a sequel. Most of the film’s “loose ends” were tied, and Lara Jean ended with Peter and hopefully lived happily ever after. However, two more books were written, so there must be two sequels! 2020’s P.S. I Still Love You felt completely pointless, adding another character to “spice up” the will-they/won’t they [re]-end up together for Lara Jean and Peter. Obviously, they ended together and lived happily ever after [for good this time]. Apparently not! Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky are back for another round of will they/won’t they faux problems for the sake of good ol’ Netflix views (if that means something nowadays).

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There is nothing new or original that Always and Forever offers in its structure, but the film more than makes up for it due to its infectious charm from its lead actors. We already know how it’s going to end. No matter what “challenge” is thrown at Lara Jean and Peter, they will stay together…always and forever (no pun intended, but you can figure that out on your own just by reading the title). However, it’s extremely easy to be swept away by Lana Condor and Noah Centineo’s performances. Their chemistry is as good, if not better than the quintessential Young Adult on-screen couple: Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez from High School Musical. Always and Forever also shares a similar plotline than High School Musical 3: Senior Year, minus the musical numbers, where the teens learn never to “stick to the status quo” and pursue their dreams, no matter what is holding them back or what can stop their relationship from GROWING.

I emphasize the word “growing” here, as it is a recurring word spoken by John Corbett’s Dr. Covey, who acts as Lara Jean’s personal Tony Robbins (Robbins has always said: “If you’re not growing, you’re dying”). The entire script feels taken from bits of Tony Robbins’ seminars, especially on relationships. It essentially proves Robbins’ theory that the quality of your life equals the quality of your relationships. Without a “solid” relationship, you won’t have a great quality of life, and you won’t GROW as an individual. These are all facile ways to look at life and relationships, which renders the movie’s analysis of relationships quite superficial and deprived of any originality. That being said, Corbett has an excellent on-screen presence and retains his wonderful presence from the My Big Fat Greek Wedding movies. Am I reaching when I’m saying that Corbett, as Dr. Covey getting married, could reference his most-known film? Most likely, but I haven’t read the book.

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Always and Forever doesn’t delve into terribly formulaic clichés, as much as its predecessor did. The film does contain some effectively emotional scenes, particularly involving Peter’s arc with his father (Henry Thomas), who wants to reconnect with him after never being a part of his life. The sequence where they meet for breakfast is particularly heartbreaking, as Centineo brings a welcomed sense of levity and drama to a script filled with soap-opera sappiness. When Lara Jean tells Peter she didn’t get into Stanford but is going to Berkeley, he takes it pretty well, and the clichés of “how are we going to make our relationship work when we’re one hour (gasp!) away” aren’t present. However, it’s when Lara Jean tells Peter that she finally wants to go to NYU after falling in love with New York’s vibrant, unpredictable lifestyle that the sappiness comes into play and every YA rom-com cliché possible tumble down all at once…which culminates in the most predictable finale of the year, since it’s the 1000th romantic comedy to end with “happily ever after,” that never *properly* gave us moments of character GROWING.

Still, To All the Boys: Always and Forever isn’t a flat-out terrible film, mainly due to Noah Centineo and Lana Condor’s dynamite chemistry and earnest humor that complement both performances. Did it need to be three movies? No. Are all three movies distracting enough? Yes. If I’m bored, should I watch it? If there isn’t anything to watch, sure, but watch what you want to watch. There are worse romcoms than the To All the Boys trilogy if that’s what you wanted to know. And if by some miracle, a fourth one is made, I’d watch it…though I sincerely hope Netflix leaves it alone. Rock on, Covey.

To All the Boys: Always and Forever is now streaming on Netflix

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‘Jane Austen’s Period Drama’ Review (TRIBECA) | A Brilliant Fusion of Comedy and Social Commentary

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Julia Aks
Julia Aks in a still from 'Jane Austen's Period Drama' (Photo Credit: Mickwick Productions)

We are in 2024 and sadly, the subject of periods or menstruation is still considered to be taboo in several cultures and societies. In cinema, we have seen a lot of titles talking about the issue with great sensitivity. However, none has been so effective and powerful as Julia Aks and Steve Pinder’s Jane Austen’s Period Drama. The short film, which is set against the backdrop of Georgian England, starts with a joyous moment of Miss Estrogenia receiving her much-awaited marriage proposal. However, things go upside down when she realizes that her period has arrived and her dress is drenched with blood. Upon seeing the blood, Mr Dickley takes Estrogenia to her home and calls for a doctor. Although Estrogenia has decided to tell Dickley about menstruation, her mother stops her from doing that because she feels that Mr. Dickley would drop the idea of marrying her daughter.

The movie’s narrative is clever, and witty, and intertwines traditional themes of love, social status, and marriage with contemporary issues of feminity and bodily autonomy. The unique mixture of both these elements creates a distinctive storyline that feels timeless and relevant at the same time. In this narrative, the unexpected period serves as a metaphor for the often unspoken aspects of womanhood that clash with societal expectations of decorum and propriety. This bold narrative allows viewers to be a part of Estrogenia’s life and how she navigates the balance between honesty and societal pressures.

Jane Austen Period Drama

A still from ‘Jane Austen’s Period Drama’ (Photo Credit: Mickwick Productions)

The writing is quirky, yet thought-provoking and explores the subject with sensitivity. The direction by Steve Pinder and Julia Aks is skillful, balancing the film’s comedic elements with its more serious undertones. Another aspect that makes the film such a brilliant watch is its cinematography. The cinematography captures the elegance of the 18th-century setting and opulent interiors that take viewers to a time when things were pretty different. The costumes and period-accurate set designs enhance the movie’s authenticity. Acting-wise. Julia Aks steals the show with a mesmerizing performance. Her performance enhances the viewing experience, giving viewers a glimpse of her impeccable talent. Meanwhile, the supporting cast delivers strong performances, adding richness and complexity to the story. The dynamics between characters are well-developed, with each interaction contributing to the overall narrative.

Overall, Jane Austen’s Period Drama is a brilliant and charming take on the genre of period drama. The film masterfully combines humor, thought-provoking storylines, and heart most extraordinarily. Additionally, the film does occasionally lean into modern sensibilities but never forgets its true destination. Solid performances, engaging script, and beautiful cinematography make this film a must-watch for everyone who loves literature and contemporary comedy.

Jane Austen’s Period Drama had its premiere at the 2024 Tribeca Festival.

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HORROR

Longlegs: An Atmospherically Distressing Exploration of Evil

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Longlegs [credit: neon]

Longlegs has been the talk of the town with early screening reactions terming it as “the scariest movie of the decade”, which not only raises eyebrows but also significantly raises expectations. Neon is backing it with a strong marketing campaign that has got many horror fans extremely excited about it. Oz Perkins’ latest horror feature stars Maika Monroe, Nicolas Cage, Blair Underwood and Alicia Witt.

 

The official synopsis says “In pursuit of a serial killer, an FBI agent uncovers a series of occult clues that she must solve to end his terrifying killing spree.” Maika Monroe plays Lee Harker, the FBI agent on the hunt for Longlegs, described as highly intuitive and sensitive, while Nic Cage who also produces the movie, plays the horrifying serial killer. Perkins sets the standard right off the bat with the very first scene of the movie, which proves to be just an appetizer for what’s to come.

 

Longlegs [credit: neon]

The movie is divided into 3 parts that act as the standard three acts in a feature. The first two acts are heavily focused on Lee as we get to know her and follow the FBI’s pursuit of a serial killer on a spree. Lee is a single child, lives alone in a cabin in the woods, and is highly intuitive, maybe even psychic. She is able to decode the clues left behind by Longlegs at the locations of the murders. Her performance is restrained yet penetrative and often symbolizes how the viewer feels while watching Longlegs.

 

Nicolas Cage is horrifyingly creepy as our serial killer. He is the best horror villain since Bill Skarsgaard’s Pennywise in my opinion. His screen time is limited but, highly impactful. The makeup and costume design deserves a lot of credit for his extremely gross appearance and at times you won’t be able to recognize that it’s Cage under that wig. He has a certain mannerism that is extremely distressing and just his words are enough to scare the hell out of you. Perkins manages to get the best out of both his leads, while the supporting cast is decent as well.

 

When it comes to the visuals, this is a very aesthetically strong film. Perkins manages to create atmospheric tension and fear with constantly changing aspect ratios and his color grading choices which are supported by a crisp sound design. Where he falls short is the writing. The movie is too slow at times which causes it to lose its intensity. Some of the dialogues also feel very generic or amateur, with jokes that feel abrupt and unnecessary.

Longlegs [credit: neon]

The movie also slips into multiple genres, most of which are intentional but do not necessarily work. It is a horror movie at the outset but also a serial killer crime drama, an investigative thriller with shades of noir and supernatural. The writing really falls off a cliff in the third act, with a twist that makes sense, but massively underwhelmes. That said, the way it explores evil is intriguing and offers a lot of food for thought. I would suggest going into this movie without any knowledge, the lesser you know the better.

 

Longlegs may not be the scariest movie of the decade but has more than enough to crawl under your skin and deliver pulsating chills. It has strong lead performances, effective jumpscares, and a beautifully unnerving aesthetic and works best when it explores evil and focuses on its characters. Horror fans should definitely experience this suffocating and haunting ride. Perkins’ latest feature is his best so far, but that said, it gets buried under its immense expectations.

Longlegs will be released in cinemas on July 12.

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(TRIBECA) ‘I NEED YOUR LOVE’: Camille Trust Offers a Heartfelt Look at Music Industry Sacrifices and Triumphs

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I Need Your Love
Camille Trust in a still from 'I Need Your Love' (Photo Credit: Via Vespucci Productions)

Making a career in the music industry is never easy. Yes, musicians do have platforms such as YouTube, and Spotify to showcase their talent, but that doesn’t mean every aspiring musician will turn out to be the next Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift. Several aspiring musicians face immense challenges to achieve success in the music industry, yet their struggles often remain from public view. Mostly, we hear from artists who have made it big in the world of music, leaving the sacrifices of countless artists unrecognized. One such artist carving out her path is Camille Trust. Despite reaching a notable level of success, Trust never lost her way and continues to strive for greater heights. Her music has been praised by several big outlets. However, Trust stays grounded, fully aware of the sacrifices she made to reach where she is today. To shed light on her journey and countless aspiring musicians, Trust, in collaboration with director Walker Kalan, launched an indie series I Need Your Love.

The series, which had its premiere at this year’s TRIBECA FESTIVAL, follows the journey of Camille Trust and provides an authentic look at the challenges faced by the musicians trying hard to make it big in the industry. Although the narrative does sound a bit serious, Trust and Kalan blend the serious storyline with a brilliant mix of quirkiness and hilarious situations. From the very first scene, I Need Your Love serves as a bittersweet comedy that plunges viewers into the gritty reality of the music industry through the eyes of pop singer Camille Trust. It is a heartfelt and humorous depiction of the relentless pursuit of musical stardom in the middle of New York’s cutthroat scene. The series opens with an unflinching look at how aspiring musicians have to perform in settings that might not be ideal for any kind of performance. This particular scene sets the tone for the series that is brutally honest, yet darkly comedic.

Photo Credit: Via Vespucci Productions

One of the standout aspects of I Need Your Love is its ability to tackle serious issues with a satirical edge. The episode focusing on toxic fandoms, for instance, provides a scathing yet humorous critique of obsessive fan behavior. Trust’s firsthand experiences with aggressive fans add a layer of authenticity to the narrative, highlighting the often-overlooked dark side of fame. This episode strikes a delicate balance between satire and sincere commentary. Walker Kalan’s direction brings a nuanced balance to the series, seamlessly blending humor with the emotional weight of Trust’s journey. The writing is sharp, capturing the absurdity and frustration of the music industry while never losing sight of the human element.

Acting-wise, Camille Trust is mesmerizing. She never lets her guard down and doesn’t shy away from letting people know about her struggles. Trust’s portrayal is raw and authentic, making her the beating heart of the show. Her journey is very relatable not just with the people in the music industry but with people across all professions. Meanwhile, the supporting cast – Inès Nassara, Athan Chekas, Willy Rincón, and Ben Becher – comprised largely of Trust and Kalan’s friends, brings a level of authenticity to the series. The chemistry between the actors is natural and enhances the viewing experience.

All in all, I Need Your Love balances humor and moments of desperation in the most authentic way possible. Camille Trust is a treat to watch and should be applauded for making herself vulnerable to show the reality of her life as a musician. Most importantly, the series makes her struggles deeply relatable and her triumphs all the more rewarding.

(‘I NEED YOUR LOVE’ debuted two episodes at this year’s TRIBECA FESTIVAL)

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