Netflix Review: The Society

Netflix’s new teen drama is a 10-episode series from Chris Keyser that follows a group of privileged teenagers who embark on a school field trip, only to return to their New England town with all of their parents missing. This “Lord of the Flies” meets “The 100” series combines mystery and teen angst to bring a surprisingly complex story that deals with parallel universes and conspiracies. So if you’re the type of person who says “that’s not humanly possible” whilst watching fantasy shows, you’re likely to roll your eyes at the concept. However, I’m all for conspiracy theories and the darkness that comes with parallel universes, so I was on the edge of my seat the entire ride through. Here are some of my thoughts after watching.

Spoiler’s Ahead:

When I was 12, I remember there was this American show called “Kid Nation”. The premise was basically the same with teens running a society on their own with a designated “mayor” and “working class” roles distributed among the town. What I learned from the show is that there’s a lot of teens willing to step up to be a leader, and there’s a lot of teens who will shell up and hide.  I really liked seeing how characters reacted to the absence of their parents. It was obvious that all hell would break loose.

There’s a lot of political undertones in the series as characters debate whether a democracy is the best way to run their town. Additionally, other issues such as physical abuse, mental illness, and the death penalty are brought up for teens to face head on. Even the state of women’s rights are brought up as 16-year-old pregnant Becca utters the words “I didn’t even get to choose to be a mother.” The intensity of the show surprised me in that retrospect.

Kathryn Newton’s character, Allie, is the presumed main character who has one of my favorite story arcs as she goes from the rebellious little sister to the fearless heroin. Her performance was one of the most nuanced, as her sister’s death fuels her to become the leader of the town.

In fact, for a teen drama, the acting overall was fantastic. Other standouts include Alex Fitzalan, who plays the spoiled “sort of” villain. What I liked about his character is that he could’ve been the straight up psychopath like Campbell, but instead, he dives into an unexpected depression. Additionally, Jack Mulhern plays my favorite character from the series, Grizz, who’s the kind-hearted expedition leader and a closeted teen who starts a romance with Sam. It’s sweet and probably my favorite romance among the teen angst, although I’m weirdly hoping Allie and Harry work things out as well.

There’s so many other likable characters such as Kelly, Gordie, Helena and Will, but I like that a lot of them encompass some gray area to their morality, such as Luke and Harry. My one issue with the series is that there’s a LOT of characters to the point where I’m confusing some of the boys and girls. Don’t get me wrong, I love that there is representation of the LGBTQ and deaf community, but if there’s going to be 15 main characters, I’d would have liked more women and men of colour.

Finally, let’s talk about that ending! OK- so what’s up with the dog? Are we sure we know who killed Cassandra? And what universe are the kids in? Purgatory? It’s too soon to really come up with a coherent theory, but I think there’s some sort of parallel universe that the kids were sent to after discovering what the “smell” was all about. It’s so intriguing to me, but I imagine fans are dying for some more clues. Hopefully, the committee on going home can sort something out soon because I want answers. Let me know what you thought of the show below!

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Netflix Review: Elite is Gossip Girl on Steroids

Elite (TV Series) - Stills
Photo: Netflix

Elite is a Spanish web television series about three working class teens that attend a wealthy school. With all the drama that ensues, episode 1 reveals that there is a murder that takes place as someone from the main cast is responsible for the death of another main character. This series caught me by surprise, and it’s sort of like if Gossip Girl and Big Little Lies had a baby. Also, times the drama by 15 because there’s a lot packed into this eight episode series. I’ll be breaking up the review into the sets of characters who shared a story line. Read with caution because this does contain spoilers. Let’s start with the romance and then we’ll get to the murder.

Everything Marina, Samuel & Nano: So Samuel likes Marina. Nano likes Marina. And Samuel and Nano are brothers. Cue the drama. At first, I thought Marina was miscast because I did not feel the chemistry with Samuel, but then I realized that maybe we as an audience weren’t supposed to buy them as a couple because her chemistry with Nano was so much more intense. I feel bad for Samuel, but I also wished he stood up for himself more because as much as Marina was going through, she was a terrible girlfriend to him. Also regarding Samuel, I adored his friendship with Omar. I actually liked Samuel supporting his friends way more than his interactions with Marina.

Polo, Christian & Carla: Okay I was not expecting there to be a story line like this. Polo and Carla have been together forever, but they’re bored. So enters Christian who becomes obsessed with fitting in with the elite crowd, and we’ve got a throuple. It’s a pretty messed up story line because both Polo and Christian would do anything for Carla, include share her with another man, but I couldn’t take my eyes away from this captivating plot. You can tell that Christian enjoys the luxury and I have to hand it to the actor because he’s kind of like a cartoon character. But with Polo, there’s much more of a darkness with his adoration with Carla.

Guzman and Nadia: Guzman is the top dog at school. We establish that he’s supposed to be the rich popular guy. He starts off dating Lu, his other popular counterpart, and they make a bet to take new girl Nadia’s virginity. Nadia is a Muslim girl who struggles with her family values and her school life, but she’s one tough cookie. Her romance with Guzman was so innocent and sweet. To see the chemistry build episode after episode without ever sealing things with a kiss makes them such a rootable couple for the second season. I like that they’re both pretty imperfect as well. Guzman can be materialistic and lose his temper. Nadia can be close minded sometimes. But somehow, they work.

Ander and Omar: I saved the best for last because I loved watching these two on screen. Ander is the classic “athlete rich kid” who feels all this pressure from his family to be a tennis star. What I really liked about Ander was that he would always be the quiet or neutral one among the popular crew but when he blew up, you knew he was a lot more layered. While Ander seems to be angry a times, Omar is simply living his life  in fear. Omar is Nadia’s sister who happens to be a gay drug dealing Muslim. They’re from two completely different worlds, but the chemistry between them is electric. The actors are really fantastic, and their forbidden romance is hands down my favorite plot of the bunch because they’re so darn cute together. Who’s down for a double date between, Guzman and Nadia and Ander and Omar?

Photo: Manuel Fernandez-Valdes/Netflix

The Murder: MAJOR SPOILERS* So Marina dies. We find out in episode one and we’re supposed to believe it was either Samuel or Nano because of all the relationship drama. For some reason, my dumb ass believed it was the teacher for some reason. Once Samuel accused the teacher of sleeping with Marina, I thought we were going to get real dark considering it cost him his job.

Similarly, in Big Little Lies, I thought the father of Ziggy was going to be Madeline’s ex for some reason, and I thought Noel Kahn was the first A from Pretty Little Liars. I was wrong again. It was Polo. And it was actually done pretty masterfully in terms of storytelling. We get this threesome story line that very much feels separate from the other plot points, but it all makes perfect sense as things escalate over a watch that Carla is desperate to get back. Polo is so madly in love with Carla that it leads him to murdering Marina after a heated argument. I also was so in love with characters like Nadia and Ander that I was praying it wouldn’t be one of my favorite characters. And we also slowly learn that Polo is a bit messed up himself so it all ties together well.

Something that Pretty Little Liars failed to do was give people the correct motives, but by the final episode, everyone has a motive and a damn good one at that. And something Gossip Girl also failed to do was stay on track with its original mystery after a few seasons. This show really impressed me, and I’m shocked it doesn’t get more attention because it really deserves it. The acting is great. The murder was a great premise, but all the drama that ensues in between is gripping as well. I cannot wait for a second season.

Black Mirror Review & Ranking All of Bandersnatch’s Endings

Bandersnatch

Netflix’s Black Mirror unleashed its much anticipated choose-your-own-adventure episode “Bandersnatch”, where it allows the viewer to make decisions throughout the film, which alters the ending. After watching the episode, I must say, it’s mind blowing. It’s not the best installment of Black Mirror,  but it is a one of a kind experience. My mind is still processing the endings, but I do want to break down and rank all the endings I found. If I’m a bit off or wrong about certain aspects, please forgive me as I spent three hours watching through a lot of the possibilities. Here’s my ranking and needless to say: SPOILER ALERT

8) Too safe for good reviews: If you were too scared to see Stefan go completely insane, then you probably clicked on options such as “spill tea on computer” or “take pills” which both result in poor reviews of “Bandersnatch” with an unhappy Stefan watching his game fail. I grouped these all together because ultimately, you decided to play it safe, rather than go down a twisted path.

6) Stefan works for the company: To me, this isn’t even a real ending as Will Poulter’s character, Colin, lets you know right away that you made the wrong move already. This is literally 15 minutes into the episode, so there’s no way you’re content and decide to leave it at that. So is it really an ending? Wrong choice mate.

6) Stefan falls to his death on acid: This ending means you followed Colin back to his apartment for a drug-induced night. While they’re on drugs, they go out to the terrace where Colin says one of them is going to jump. What. And you have to choose who. WHAT? This is one of the first really intense choices you have to make, and I chose wrong as I chose Stefan, thinking he’d have a Birdman moment and start flying. Anyway, you’ll want to go back and choose Colin after making this fatal mistake. Just remember to stay away from drugs kids.

5) Stefan’s father drags Stefan out of his therapist’s office: This is one of the first set in stone endings as Stefan and his father fight his therapist. Stefan learns that Netflix is watching over him and controlling his every move. The fight is actually pretty badass and crazy, but to me, it ends so abruptly and we don’t get to know how the game turns out. Weird, but at least it’s a final ending.

4) Stefan buries his father, goes on killing spree: This was the first ending that I got that didn’t give me the option to go back. I closed my eyes as I clicked “Kill Dad” and watched as the “White Bear” symbol determined pretty much the rest of the ending. He kills his father, Colin’s wife shows up to his door, but then the dog discovers his father’s body. Apparently though, there is a path where Colin comes to his door and you get the option to killing him too. I didn’t get that, but Stefan is sent to jail before finishing the game and he gets poor reviews.

3) Stefan goes back in time to join his mother on the train: This ending was really interesting and it definitely has potential. Stefan gets to the safe and picks the option “TOY” and out pops the white rabbit he was looking for right before his mom’s death. It’s surprising as he travels back in time to that moment so he can board the train with her. Stefan dies in present time because of this decision and the episode ends. I’m surprised this ending led to tying in his mother’s death because it was the only one that did. However, everything about the video game proves to be irrelevant after the episode ends, so it leaves me missing some sort of conclusion to the game Stefan was working on so intently.

2) Dr Hayne’s office is revealed to be a movie set: This is such a cool ending. Instead of the therapist brawl that ensues, you can choose to climb out the window, and it leads to a way more of a meta ending. At this point, Stefan is aware of Netflix making his decisions so he asks his father to take him to Dr Haynes. When Stefan goes to climb out the window, someone says cut, and it becomes clear that the entire episode is being filmed as a director tells “Mike” that he’s doing the wrong action. I know it ‘s supposed to be a bit light-hearted but it’s pretty satisfying and funny because it shows how emotionally stunted the actor was as he got too into his character “Stefan.” If there was more to this ending that involved the video game, maybe it’d feel more satisfying. As a whole, it’s not the best ending, but I found the most joy and watching this ending.

1) Stefan chops up his father, gets in the right mindset and gets rave reviews: I love the Netflix ending. It’s so interesting, but it’s another storyline that sort of ended. This is the darkest of the endings, as you choose to chop up his own father’s body. It started to dawn on me that the uglier more gruesome choices led to more interesting paths, so Stefan kills his father, chops up the body and has plenty of time to finish the video game. This is the only ending where Stefan gets rave reviews, but his moment is short lived as he’s arrested shortly after. Colin’s daughter Pearl takes over the game years later, and we think the episode is over, but when there’s a glitch in the game, we have to choose to destroy the computer or spill the tea, and either way, it ends the episode. What makes this ending the true ending to me is the fact that Stefan concludes that he needed to make people think they had a choice, when in reality, he chose the ending. And in reality, we as viewers think we have a choice, but we’re often pushed to complete certain actions like killing his father and refusing to work with the company. It’s mind-boggling and I loved it.

  • My favorite moment from the whole episode was Will Poulter’s monologue about Pac-Man making you think you have all these choices and free will in life, when in reality you simply don’t. Everything he said about alternate timelines was exactly what happens, making his character more self-aware than anyone else’s. When he said “wrong choice” he’s talking more so to the audience. When he said “you’re down the hole” he’s telling the audience you’re deep into the path you’ve selected. His character was definitely a scene stealer for me. Loved the acting. Also it breaks my heart that people were bullying the actor on social media after the episode aired, so much so, that he quit Twitter. People are so cruel.
  • The acting in general was all very good. Apparently every path was filmed separately meaning they had to film similar scenes multiple times. I guess I get why because it made every moment to moment choice feel very seamless, but that sounds incredibly difficult production wise.
  • Overall, I really enjoyed the experience. While the plot suffers because of all the choices you have to make, I’ve never had the joy of choosing what happens in an episode, and it was exhilarating to have unfold. All of the endings sort of leave you lacking in other subplots and points, but I feel like they did the best with what they were working with.
  • There’s also a PAC ending, where Stefan finds out his father and mother are working for the government, but it actually leads back to Stefan having to choose to kill his father, so to me, it wasn’t exactly needed.
  • My ranking is purely based on my own opinions, and if you disagreed, that’s totally fine. To me, it was important to have certain moments like what the heck happens with the video game which happens to be the title, so if it didn’t include that, I was just more inclined to rank it lower.
  • I want to know other people’s thoughts. What’s your favorite ending?

Netflix Review: You

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You

You was a series I was excited to watch immediately after its episode one airing on Lifetime. Then, all of a sudden, I was in the UK, and there was no way of watching the series legally. I was bummed after seeing what could be a great guilty pleasure. Then, I hear the entire season is on Netflix, and I waste no time binging through the remaining nine episodes. And boy, it was exhilarating.

The series stars Gossip Girl’s Penn Badgley who plays Joe, a book store worker who meets a young graduate student, Beck, and instantly falls for her from first sight. Joe starts finding out more about Beck (Elizabeth Lail) , such as a mild social media search and a quick address search in Google maps. Sounds like stuff we’ve all done right? But something isn’t right, as Joe starts stalking her, watching her, breaking into her apartment and a variety of creepy activities in his all black getup and a cap. His infatuation turns into an obsession and the scariest part is that from Beck’s perspective, Joe seems like the perfect gentleman.

The series definitely has a Lifetime feel, don’t get me wrong. The show is not something that is always the most smartly crafted series ever, but it really embraces that guilty pleasure feel that I miss in a series. Every episode is unpredictable as Badgley shows Joe’s erratic behavior perfectly through his eyes and clenched demeanor every time something doesn’t go his way. It’s a social media horror story, as Instagram and Twitter become key mediums for Joe to pull off some of his shenanigans. Additionally, it’s relevant more than ever as dating apps and “sliding into the DMs” are the new ways of meeting people these days.

The show largely benefits from the fact that Joe is the one narrating every creepy thought he has, and it’s twisted that we can actually empathize with him at times, especially when we see him care for his neighbor, Paco.

Pretty Little Liars star Shay Mitchell also stars in the series as Beck’s spoiled Queen Bee friend who is smarter than she appears, as she catches on to Joe’s sketchy behavior quite quickly into the series. John Stamos also makes a surprise appearance as Joe’s therapist late into the series. These guest stars add to the overall drama and both play key roles in how the story unfolds.

The 10 episodes fly by quickly, and the ending left me pretty satisfied as the finale escalated to a point when I started saying “How are they possibly going to wrap this up?” If a series has me asking that by the final episode, that’s a good sign. With the twist at the very end, I’m not sure how strong a second installment of the series will do, but I’ll definitely be tuning in to see how the second chapter will go down.

The Incredible Jessica James Review & Talking Diversity in Rom Coms

Image result for the incredible jessica james

I’ve been binging romantic comedies all summer, and while I’ve been enjoying them more now than ever, I find myself seeing the same female leads. I remember watching The Spectacular Now and completely identifying with Shailene Woodley’s character. That was back in 2015 when I watched that movie. She played the shy Amy who slowly came out of her shell through the eyes of her love interest, which reminds me a lot of Lara Jean from To All the Boys I’ve Loved. And while I adore these female leads, I find myself not relating to them anymore, mostly because I’ve grown out of that phase of not truly knowing myself yet. Now bring in this little gem of a movie starring a black female who knows she’s dope but for whatever reason doesn’t have her life figured out quite yet. Jessica Williams shines as she plays a total bad ass whose insecurities are shown through actions and body language rather than talking about it. Not only is this the perfect display of showing rather than telling, but it really does emulate what twenty somethings are going through.

Everyone is all about talking about what they’re passionate about, but at the same time, everyone is struggling to pursue that same passion. James works at a nonprofit and wants to pursue play writing, but the movie itself is more or less about her trying to get over a breakup. She meets Boon played by Chris O Dowd who is totally opposite from her but also getting over a breakup so they begin a weird relationship, including a pact to follow each other’s ex. It’s a story we’re all familiar with, but it’s a more modern take. Chris O Dowd brings the same charm he had in Bridesmaids and it really works because he feels much more like a real human being instead of a Prince Charming. He makes mistakes and doesn’t make some sort of grand gesture for them. Instead, the two leads talk through their shit like normal adults would, and it’s refreshing to watch. In addition to the romantic elements, there’s a great side storyline that shows James interacting with one of her students. It’s simple but a great display of why Jessica James pushes some of her students so much to pursue their dreams.

Overall, I really loved how realistic this movie felt, and I love seeing more interracial couples come to screen lately. Growing up, a lot of my friends assumed I liked people with skin like mine, and it really upset me when I was younger but I couldn’t quite pinpoint why so I kept my mouth shut. I remember my friends in 5th grade asking me if I liked the only other colored person in my class and I couldn’t express back then why it was so wrong of them to say that. However, when I saw the backlash with To All the Boys I’ve Loved with some people saying they should of casted an Asian male lead to play Lana Condor’s love interest, I resonated so much with the actress’s response.

“You are being racist unknowingly and continuing to put us in a box that we don’t need to be in. It’s really unfair. People should be able to love who they want to love. It’s offensive to me — you’re continuing to promote tribalism. So I can’t be with who I want to be with? These are probably the same people who have an issue with the LGBT community. It’s the same thing — you telling me who I can love is unfair,” Condor said.

Anyway, I went off on a bit of a tangent, but my point is that I love that we’re seeing more diversity because growing up all the love stories seemed to happen to people that didn’t look anything like me, so I hope young women and men are inspired in a way that I wasn’t able to be when I was growing up.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Review

Starring Lana Condor , Noah Centineo and Janel Parrish, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a teen romance about a girl named Lara Jean who writes five letters to all the boys she’s ever liked. Mysteriously, they get sent out to them, and drama ensues when one of the boys, Peter, strikes a deal with Lara Jean to fake a relationship so that he can get back together with his girlfriend. On the flip side, Lara Jean wants to fake a relationship so that her neighbor doesn’t suspect her feelings for him.

I really liked this movie. When I watched the trailer, I thought it would be cute and man, it was so stinking cute. I have to hand it to the actors because for me, the way they craft the characters and dialogue is what makes this movie so likable. If it weren’t for Candor and Centineo’s chemistry, I’m not sure if I would have bought them as much as the central couple, but there is a ton of chemistry between the leads. I’ve always been a fan of Noah Centineo because I religiously watched The Fosters every week, but I’ve never seen Lana Condor before, and I think she really carries the movie whether it’s her innocence coming across at a party full of mean girls or talking to her dad about missing her mother. It’s all very awesome stuff from this actress.

I also adore Janel Parrish and thought she was fantastic as the outgoing older sister to Lara Jean. But the little sister to Lara Jean and the father are also quirky and total scene stealers too.

The plot is pretty predictable. That’s probably the weakest aspect of this movie, but the movie makes up for its lack of originality with the conversations the characters have. I also like that in the main conflict, it’s not so much about the guy messing up and then making a grand gesture. It was always about Lara Jean and her internal struggle. It feels fresh and authentic, and I’m pretty content with the way it ends as well.

There’s a lot of sentiment in this flick, and it’s definitely a pretty solid movie for its message of taking risks in life. I remember being in high school and reading novels where I would imagine myself as the main character, so I completely related to Lara Jean. But just like me, she learns that she can keep reading or watching fairytales, or she can go out and create her own.

Netflix Review: The Kissing Booth

I’ve been reviewing a handful of Netflix movies, and they’ve been pretty good. Dude starring Lucy Hale was unexpectedly heartwarming and relatable for anyone who has ever held onto the past. Alex Strangelove and Set It Up also surpassed my expectations. Out of all these movies, The Kissing Booth got the most social media hype. While it definitely has its charm here and there, I was slightly disappointed.

The movie is about two best friends Shelly and Lee who run a kissing booth as a fundraiser, and drama ensues when Shelly kisses Lee’s older brother, Noah. From there, it’s rather predictable, but let’s jump into my thoughts of the movie.

Let’s start with what I did like. The three leads were all pretty good and had great chemistry. It’s weird to talk about friend chemistry, but I felt that with Joey King and Joel Courtney who both really captured their goofy friendship that never veers off brother/sister territory. That was one of my favorite pairs to watch onscreen. Jacob Elordi made a mark in every scene he was in too, and it’s clear why King’s character pines after him. The plot is pretty good too, and the kissing booth functions as a set up for the rest of the movie. It’s a classic rom com plot line and I’m actually pretty content with the ending too, although I’m sure some won’t be happy with it.

My main problem is that the movie is just so cheesy. It felt like something I’ve seen on Nickelodeon even thought the content is more mature. I wonder if maybe I’m just getting old, but then I look back at how much more authentic the dialogue is in Dude and Alex Strangelove, and I can’t help but compare since all these characters are in high school. I mean some of Noah’s lines are so corny, and some of the moments are just silly including a paint/ locker room scene.

That being said, I do think this movie will set up the three leads for bigger roles in the future, and deservedly so. I really like the cast, and the movie gets a major boost from their charisma.

However, it lacks a descent script and to me, the message sort of gets lost in all the melodrama. I know a ton of people adore this movie, but that’s just my opinion about it. Sound off in the comments and let me know if you agree or disagree with my take!