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.

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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!

Netflix Review: Alex Strangelove

Before I begin my review, I have never seen Love, Simon, but I imagine that there are some similarities. Alex Strangelove definitely has a different premise and I imagine a different vibe as well. But I won’t be able to compare the two movies, although there have been iterations similar before like GBF.

Alex Strangelove is about a young teenage boy and his girlfriend making plans to lose their virginities to each other. He’s been putting it off for quite a bit despite his girlfriend being his dream girl. Things take an interesting turn when Alex meets an older guy named Elliot who recently graduated from high school.

The two hit it off at a party and Elliot starts hanging out with Alex. It’s a tale about sexual identity, and it definitely feels very modern with identity being talked about way more freely. I remember the days when I’d watch Degrassi, and it was so taboo to have a gay character talk about his or her sexuality. The fact that Alex can so freely talk about his identity to his best friend is refreshing.

The story is somewhat predictable and definitely has the formula for a coming of age plot. It has the love interest, the two quirky best friends, the classic high school parties and the under water revelation to tie it all up. It’s cliche for sure, but in a lot of ways, it’s a lot more unedited. Some moments are incredibly awkward and hard to watch, but it mirrors how life is at that age.

The actors did a pretty good job, specifically Madeline Weinstein who had to play the confused girlfriend trying to understand her boyfriend’s mixed signals. The actors who played Alex and Elliot, Daniel Doheny and Antonio Marziale have great chemistry throughout, which easily makes them the couple to root for.

I really loved the ending of this movie, mostly because it’s sort of unfinished even at the prom, which is typically the wrap up scene in teen movies. Instead, the movie ends with a great friendship moment.

Netflix Review: Set It Up

Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell in 'Set It Up'

“Set It Up” is a modern romantic comedy starring Glenn Powell and Zoey Deutch who both work for demanding bosses and decide to set them up to alleviate their hectic schedules. When I say modern, I really see it being one of the best romantic comedies in a long long time. And it really surprised me.

When I see Zoey Deutch, I think of Maya who played Zack’s girlfriend in the Suite Life on Deck. She was a badass relatable character then, and she really shines as the quirky but awesome Harper. From seeing her delight over free food and pizza to seeing her kill a game of beer pong with Pete Davidson, she became a great female character to root for. Glenn Powell plays Charlie the 28 year old assistant who thinks he wants to live a life similar to his boss Rick. He has the classic romantic comedy arc, where he messes up, but somehow through grand gestures, fixes everything.

Despite having the predictable format of a class rom com, this film largely benefits from a likeable cast. But it also has characters that have great dialogue that sort of poke fun at the stereotypical romantic comedy lines. One of my favorite scenes took place in a ring shop, where Harper leaves dramatically only for the alarms to go off and the store clerk making an awkwardly funny scene even more funny. Additionally, the “will they or won’t they” gag isn’t completely played out. You know it’s coming, but the journey to get there isn’t frustrating through unnecessary miscommunication. It’s through their own insecurities, which both characters eventually face.

The supporting characters are great as well. Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu play hilarious bosses as they change their mind and make rash decisions as a typical no nonsense boss should. Pete Davidson makes an endearing performance as Charlie’s roommate and the actress who plays Harper’s was really awesome too as she delivered a sentiment about loving someone despite their differences. The ending is super cute and it might be predictable, but it works in its simplicity.

All in all, this movie is truly a New York City romance. It’s actually funny too. The jokes made me laugh every now and then, and I think we’ve been missing the string of classic romantic comedies. Go watch “Set It Up” on Netflix because it’s a gem of a movie, and it’s a feel good one at that.

Netflix Review: Dude

Spoilers Ahead:

Dude stars Lucy Hale as she and her three best friends prepare for high school graduation. The film opens with best friends Chloe (Kathryn Prescott from Finding Carter) and Lily (Hale) who are hanging out with Chloe’s brother, Thomas, played by Austin Butler. Butler’s character is killed off pretty early on in a unseen accident and from there, the movie takes shape as it flashes forward one year to the four girls being seniors and getting into college.

The death of Chloe’s brother looms over the movie as Lily can’t seem to get over the past. I’m going to admit that I had low expectations going into the movie, but what I like about it is the fact that everything seems very real from the way teens are portrayed to the emotions they experience.

There’s a lot of ugly things about this movie including a very realistic portrayal of rape, an imperfect love interest, and the irrational fighting the girls go through. It’s ugly because it’s all very real and isn’t glorified in any sort of way. The girls struggle to find their place after high school especially Lily who has grown attached to her high school routine.

I’m currently in college about to graduate and I’ve definitely had my “Lily” moments when I grow frustrated holding onto something that is simply meant to be a memory in the past. A lot of my friends graduated last semester, and I felt so similar to Lily in a lot of ways, especially her still coping with the loss of Thomas. Going from one phase in your life to another is scary, but holding onto the past is not the answer, and I think this film really hones in on that.

The other two girls, Rebecca and Amelia, are also fleshed out a bit, but the main focus really sticks to Chloe and Lily. Chloe also has a sweet love interest, and it works because it makes Lily freak out when Chloe endures all these changes at once. Lily’s love interest is also sort of fitting as his indecisiveness and back and forth with Lily makes sense since she is equally confused about the state of her future. Overall, the supporting characters worked for the most part, including Lily’s mom who snaps her back to reality.

Overall, I really like the simplicity of the plot. Some may say it may not even have one, but the characters feel real and authentic, and I found myself relating to a lot of the different aspects of the core four girls. I would recommend this movie for sure. Is it the best movie? No, it’s not, but it is a nice feel good movie and if you’re graduating, then you should watch it for sure.

Ranking All Season 4 Episodes of Black Mirror

I’ve been meaning to review Black Mirror because I binged all six episodes of Season 4 weeks ago, but I really did enjoy this batch of the series. With all episodes featuring female leads, this season brought up tons of relevant topics, such as abusing male authority, helicopter parenting and dating in today’s society. Here’s my ranking of all episodes of this season.

6. Metalhead: Metalhead doesn’t have any major issues for me. It’s a pretty straightforward episode, but for me it doesn’t feel like a Black Mirror episode. The kind of edge on your seat feel is there, as a mechanical dog leaves a group of people on the run. I really like the main character Bella making smart decisions all around, but it sort of dragged for me from her time up in the tree to the mechanical dog trying to figure out where she is in the house. This is probably the episode I have the least to say, but it was by no means a horrible 48 minutes of Black Mirror. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

5. Arkangel: Arkangel is a pretty standard episode of Black Mirror that reminded me a lot of The Entire History of You. It revolves around a device that allows a worried mother to keep tabs and monitor what her child can and can’t see.

The only problem is that the first iteration of this technology being used was much better in Season 1. Arkangel is a pretty good episode though. I think it brings up a lot of ideas about parenting, which is why I liked it better than Metalhead. It definitely made me think about helicopter parenting and how far is too far when it comes to keeping tabs on your child’s life. I thought it built up pretty well, and the ending is pretty unsettling and probably a parent’s worst nightmare in hindsight. My biggest issue is the actress that played the older Sarah. She’s 21 in real life, but she could not pull off a 15 year old. It was so distracting for me. I couldn’t quite get over it.

4. Crocodile: Crocodile is an episode that had me screaming “No, no no,” because I knew where it was leading. This episode has two separate stories that intertwine, and the episode takes a while to get to that point, but once it does, you just can’t believe where the main character goes in order to protect herself. I don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t give away too much about the plot, but it does have this cool kind of technology that works in both good ways and bad ways. I’d love to know if people were surprised with the most disturbing part of the episode, which I obviously don’t have to say if people have seen the episode.

3. Black Museum: Black Museum brings three stories together similar to White Christmas, as a young woman stumbles upon a museum that has all these different artifacts from previous episodes. It’s actually really cool to see how many references are made in the museum.  I was in love with the actress that played Nish. She was so fabulous throughout the episode and gave off such charisma at the end.

The twist moment was really really good. I loved the timing of it all. The first story was so interesting to see how someone deals with pain and pleasure. The second lost a little steam for me, and the third sort of brings all the different stories together. OK, so this would be higher, but honestly, I thought the ending was a little too much for me with everything wrapping up a little too neatly in a bow.

2. USS Callister: This episode is one of my favorites from the entire franchise. I love Cristin Milioti as an actress and think she is very underrated. She really shined as the tech savvy leader throughout the episode. The episode follows Robert Daly Jesse Plemons a gifted programmer and co-founder of a popular online game who is bitter over the lack of recognition of his position from his coworkers, so he takes out his frustrations by simulating a Star Trek inspired adventure within the game, using his co-workers’ DNA to create digital clones of them.

The episode itself is fun and fills up it’s running time of an hour and 16 minutes, but the underlying tones about men in the workplace makes the episode even stronger. The misogynistic Daly is played well by Plemons because at first, we do feel genuinely bad for him, but he abused his authority, and this is probably one of the more relevant themes of the season thanks to his performance. I like that technology is seen a bit differently here too than most Black Mirror episodes. In most episodes, we see the overexposure of technology playing against the characters by being too connected, but in this case, the technology has a way of isolating people from the real world.

1. Hang the DJ: Hang the DJ is my favorite episode of the series. That might change due to recency bias, but I just adored this episode with its clever spin on dating apps. The episode follows Amy and Frank, two of many people in a system, that is instructed by a digital companion, Coach, into romantic relationships with others. The device tells them exactly how much time is given to each pairing as they check their expiration dates to see how long they have together. And of course, Frank and Amy are the couple we’re rooting for.

The actors had such good chemistry together. You can’t help but want them to find their way back to each other. And the episode is all sorts of relatable for single people trying to navigate the world of dating. Amy says a very bittersweet line as she wonders if people just get tired of searching for their soulmate for such a long time that they sort of settle for someone and just remain content. This episode melted my heart and can definitely make a person think, especially if you’ve ever had a relationship where you keep coming back to each other. The episode had a twist, and it was brilliant and totally satisfying. The episode is simple, but it works so well here.