The Kissing Booth 2 (2020)

Originally released on Netflix on July 24, 2020

Welcome back, everyone! As always, if you haven’t seen the film yet, this is your warning that there are spoilers in this review. 

Last week I reviewed Midsommar (2019) and I am almost relieved that this week’s topic is a lot lighter. The Kissing Booth 2 (2020) picks up where we left off in the last film, with Elle Evans (Joey King) explaining how the last few months had gone for her and Noah (Jacob Elordi) after finishing the school year. They spent the summer at Noah’s parents’ beach house, until it was time that he left for Harvard. Elle made the choice that they were probably going to end because of the distance, so she didn’t want to be that girlfriend that didn’t give him any space, so she focused on hanging out with Lee (Joel Courtney) and his girlfriend Rachel (Meganne Young).

Senior year begins with Elle paying tribute to her junior year start, with the lack of needing the back ups to her back ups. Upon their arrival to school, everyone is staring at Elle as though something terrible has happened to her, and she finds out it is because they all just assumed that her relationship with Noah was over because he moved away. Now it wouldn’t be a teen rom-com without possible new love interests coming into the picture. On Noah’s end, it is Chloe Winthrop (Maisie Richardson-Sellers) and for Elle it is Marco V. Peña (Taylor Zakhar Perez), and suddenly the stage is set for one of the main arcs of the storyline to form. Another important point to note, is that Lee and Elle have planned to go to UC Berkeley since they were kids, but Noah convinces Elle to apply to Harvard, so that they could be closer to each other again and suddenly we as the audience are left to wonder whether Elle learned her lesson about keeping secrets in the last film. 

Elle visits Noah in Boston, and all is well until she meets Chloe and her own insecurities flair up, this met with the fact she finds a stray earring under Noah’s bed while she is packing to return home, plant the seeds of their relationship turmoil for the remainder of the movie. Here lies the issue: Elle doesn’t tell Noah right away that she found the earring, and when she does, and he swears nothing is happening, she chooses to believe him instead of talking to him about where the earring could have come from. Noah, knowing she’s already feeling insecure, begins to lie to her about his friendship with Chloe in the hopes of not arguing about it anymore, but the lack of communication on both of their ends was a recipe for disaster from the very beginning. On the other side of the storyline is that Elle needs money to go to college, so she and Lee join this Dance Dance Revolution contest, which begins taking up all of their time, causing more of a strain on Lee and Rachel’s relationship because Rachel doesn’t want Elle there all the time. Lee, instead of talking to Elle about this, pretends to hurt his ankle and gets her to team up with the new student, Marco, who just so happens to be really good at the game as well. Then obviously, Marco and Elle grow closer right before our very eyes, there’s even a montage of Noah and Elle growing closer to their prospective love interests. 

Rachel explodes on Elle at the Halloween dance, believing that Elle was told by Lee to give them space but chose not to. Thanksgiving rolls around, and everything seemingly falls apart. Elle and Marco participate in the competition, and they even up kissing on stage, in front of Noah, who Elle wasn’t aware showed up to support her. Lee found Elle’s application to Harvard, and grows angry that she kept it from him. Rachel still isn’t speaking to Elle, and to make matters far worse, Noah brings Chloe home with him, and they are all sitting at the table at Thanksgiving together. Heated words are exchanged, Noah realizes what conclusion Elle came to when finding the earring and finding out that it belonged to Chloe, and how it must have looked to her, but he doesn’t try and explain to her what the truth was. Chloe is actually the voice of reason for him, and explains things to him from the perspective of Elle. In the end, Elle has a conversation with Marco at the kissing booth, about how she loves Noah and she leaves to go find him. Unfortunately, he also left to go find her and they end up in different places. Chloe and Elle share a heart to heart, and Noah and Elle reconcile at the gazebo from the first film. Months pass, and Lee, Rachel and Elle are graduating, and it is after the ceremony that Lee and Noah ask Elle if she received her application decisions. As Marco is watching her from afar, admitting that he still believes she is worth it, she tells them that she was waitlisted to both universities, but we the audience learn afterwards that she was accepted into both, and the sequel film has been laid out for us. Will Elle go to Berkeley with Lee, or will she go to Harvard with Noah? 

The movie’s plot was pretty transparent from the very beginning, though at one point I thought that Chloe’s character was going to fit the stereotype that she was the reason an earring was found, because she wanted to sabotage the relationship between Elle and Noah. It was nice to see that Chloe and Noah were only just friends, but on that same train of thought, if they were just friends, I do think that all the little looks we as the audience watch Chloe make throughout the film, definitely did not scream platonic. That could have easily just been to throw us off course, and it worked since I wasn’t expecting them to have a relationship that could be parallel to Lee and Elle (without the years of history between them.) Another plot twist was when we find out that Elle was actually accepted into the both; the moment we learn this fact, I knew there was going to be another film. 

One thing that stuck out to me during my rewatch of both films, is the striking lack of diversity. Apart from Chloe, Marco and one of the football players, I did not see many people of color given any screen time. In this film however, there was a gay couple that we saw coming together throughout the film, which I could appreciate because the school’s acceptance of them was heartwarming, and that particular storyline, no matter how small, wasn’t treated as a punchline. I think the producers and casting directors could do better. It reminded me far too much of P.S. I Still Love You (2020) where the new love interest is shown to have a lot more personality than the original, only to be tossed aside for the original. Though, side note, I do see bits of Noah in Marco, due to the fact he can be seen being impulsive and rash at the homecoming game when he chose to talk to Noah. Do I still like Noah and Elle? Of course, but I also really liked the dynamic between Elle and Marco, it didn’t seem like she had to change anything about herself. I’m interested to see where the story goes because I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of Marco, and of course I want to know where Elle decides to go. Personally, I’m hoping for Berkeley because it would be easier on her dad financially, and because it has always been her dream. 

Have any of you seen the film? What are your thoughts? 

Midsommar (2019)

First and foremost, I’d like to welcome everyone back! It’s been a while since I wrote anything that was longer than a couple of sentences, but I am happy to announce that Stardust & Silver Linings is officially up and running once again. I hope everyone is staying safe and doing everything they can to look out for one another during this trying time. There is a long list of posts coming up, but we will be starting back up with Midsommar, the 2019 folk horror film that seemed to take everyone by surprise. 

If you have not watched the film, and are still planning on it, the following review does contain plenty of spoilers, so keep that in consideration if you decide to continue reading. 

Centered around Dani Ardor (Florence Pugh), a psychology student who is dealt a great amount of trauma within the first 10 minutes of the film. Her sister Terri kills herself and their parents by filling their home with carbon monoxide after leaving a rather bleak email. The email in question is what led Dani to call her boyfriend Christian Hughes (Jack Reynor) whom she is shown to emotionally lean on, but he is distant and rather cold. While she is concerned that she is leaning on him far too much and is going to be the reason he ends up leaving her, he is talking to his friends to whom he has been apparently ranting to about her for the past year. As it turns out, Christian, and his group of friends comprised of Mark (Will Poulter) and Josh (William Jackson Harper) have been invited back to Pelle’s (Vilhelm Blomgren) home, the Hårga, in Hälsingland to celebrate midsummer. From the jump, the movie’s plot is practically screaming “Cult!” to me, and this feeling only gets stronger when we finally arrive at the Hårga, and it’s picturesque surroundings only add to my suspicions. Upon their arrival, they meet Simon (Archie Madekwe) and Connie (Ellora Torchia), who were brought to the commune by Ingemar (Hampus Hallberg). The group witness a disturbing scene that revolves around two of the commune elders, who have presumably met the age of 72, commiting suicide by jumping off a cliff; as is the custom among the commune. It’s rightfully, a traumatizing experience that prompts Connie and Simon to make a plan to leave the commune. 

When Connie meets Dani to say her goodbyes, she is told by a member of the commune that Simon has gone ahead of her due to their only being two spots in the truck, but that he will be waiting for her at the train station. Outraged, she walks off and we don’t see her again. Mark, who is coined as the group jerk, makes the mistake of peeing on the ancestral tree, and during the following meal, he is escorted away by a beautiful woman and we don’t see him again either. It was Josh who wanted to come on this trip in the first place, due to wanting to write his thesis on midsummer, which he ends up narrowing down to the Hårga specifically. He is given access to look at their sacred text, as long as he does not take any photos of the pages—he agrees and all is well. That is, until he sneaks into the building and proceeds to take pictures of the text, only to be killed by someone wearing Mark’s face. Pelle has been making the moves on Dani, asking her whether she felt loved by Christian, and this seems to break something loose within her because she makes a jab at Christian later. 

Dani chooses to participate in a dance competition to find out who the May Queen would be, and she wins and is given the opportunity to sit at the head of the table at the next feast. She is led away to bless the crops and the harvest, and we witness as Christian goes to meet Maja (Isabelle Grill) after being given more drugs, and the two end up having sex. The sex in itself is a disturbing idea, because the sole purpose is to impregnate Maja, but what made the scene all the more uncomfortable to watch was that it all takes place in a room filled with a dozen naked women varying in age, as they mimic the sounds that are being made. Dani finds him, and he later comes to his senses and tries to make a run for it, only to discover Josh’s leg planted in a flowerbed, and Simon’s body in a barn. He is then paralyzed by one of the elders. 

Everything really comes to a boil when it is explained to Dani that in order to purge the commune of evil, they decide to offer up nine humans as sacrifice. The first four victims being Simon, Connie, Mark and Josh. While the next four victims are all from the commune, the two elders from earlier, as well as two volunteers; Ingemar and Ulf (Henrik Norlén). As May Queen, it is Dani’s responsibility to choose the final sacrifice, and she can choose between Christian or a local villager, and in the end, she chooses Christian. He is then stuffed into a disemboweled brown bear’s body and placed in a wooden temple alongside the other sacrifices. The temple is set on fire and we watch as flames engulf him and the others, all the while the other commune members are celebrating by mimicking the screams. The camera pans to Dani, and we watch as her face morphs from horror into a smile, accompanied by a distant look in her eyes. She feels purged of her sins. 

I knew that this movie was going to leave me uncomfortable, given the myriad of people who claimed as much last year when it came out. It reminded me of Mother! (2017) due to the shock value that came with it, as well as the abundance of realistic-looking gore. Florence Pugh was phenomenal from the beginning, with a heart-wrenching scene where she is shown sobbing as a result of hearing the news of her family. Her performance, as well as the performance of Reynor really stood out to me, because they had to do a lot of the heavy lifting. The two of them, both united and in separate scenes, are dealing with a lot of intense themes and they both handle this responsibility really well. There is no denying that the movie is about a cult, but what made it interesting to me is that we don’t see Dani ever warm up to the idea of what the Hårga is, until the end when it seems she goes through her own version of an enlightenment. Throughout the film, she is repulsed at practically all of the customs, but in the end, she is shown to be smiling, as though relieved. The reason for this could be that Christian was a burden on her, and she freed herself of him, thus this idea of purging. 

Another actor that I thought did really well was Blomgren, because he does a really good job of portraying Pelle as the well-natured friend who is simply enthusiastic about sharing his culture. Even in the end, we don’t see him at the forefront of the movie anymore, showing that he isn’t a leader by any means, he was doing what he felt was his right and his responsibility. It would have been interesting to see him talk to Dani after she chooses Christian, but I think ending the film by focusing on Dani’s face was far more impactful. The movie left me just as disturbed as Mother! did, with the main difference being that I actually understood what was happening during Midsommar. It was really well done, and definitely deserved all the recognition it has received in the past year. As far as I know, this is the only folk horror film that I’ve ever seen, but if any of you have any recommendations for other films in this category, do let me know! 

Have you guys watched the film? What did you think of it? Let me know down below! As always, don’t be afraid to leave movie or show recommendations down below in the comments. 

Descendants (2015)

Taken from the Disney Wiki page for Descendants

I’ve always loved Disney’s fairy tales, my personal favorite being a tie between Peter Pan and Mulan. By the time the first Descendants movie came out in 2015 I was already done watching Disney Channel for the most part and missed all the publicity for it. It wasn’t until both of my little sisters performed songs from Descendants 2 for their end of the year school shows over a year ago that I began to show any interest in the wildly popular franchise.

I figured now was a good a time as any, and in a matter of 24 hours I completed the franchise. (Weird fact: I watched the 1st and 2nd movie twice in the same 24 hours.) I decided to break up my thoughts and keep them separated by movie. Let’s begin with the 2015 release of the first movie; Descendants.

It opens with Mal explaining the history of Auradon; how Belle and the Beast united the kingdoms while also choosing to take all the villains and their sidekicks and locking them on the Isle of the Lost. This took place 20 years ago, and in present day, their son Ben is getting ready to be crowned King and he definitely dreams big. His first proclamation came as a shock to his parents; he wants to allow four children of the Isle to come to Auradon Prep and if all goes well, he wants to continue to bring children from the Isle past the barrier. Not afraid to make waves he goes with the biggest villains in Disney culture and chooses their kids. This is where we meet Mal (Maleficient’s daughter), Jay (Jafar’s son), Carlos (Cruella De Vil’s son) and Evie (Evil Queen’s daughter). Chosen by Prince Ben to come to Auradon Prep, they are very hesitant to leave the Isle but Maleficient tells her daughter that she must, and she must steal the wand from the Fairy Godmother (yes the one from Cinderella) so that Maleficient can escape and take over the world.

Throughout the movie, we are shown through little gestures that perhaps the kids aren’t as happy being evil as they wanted us to believe. Mal uses a love spell baked into a cookie to get Prince Ben to love her, which ends up washing away in the enchanted lake on their first date and lo and behold; he still wants to be with her. Completely dismissing the fact he had a girlfriend named Audrey (Sleeping Beauty’s daughter) who we saw as a self-centered princess who looks down on those who aren’t like her. At Ben’s coronation we see Mal actually didn’t choose to steal the wand until she was able to grab it from Jane, Fairy Godmother’s daughter. In a really sweet scene, she and her friends choose to be good, believing that their parents couldn’t get to them there.

Well, at least one of them was wrong because Maleficient shows up and even turns into a dragon. She and Mal have a battle of wits and Mal ends up winning, which leads to her mother turning into a lizard. Mal and Ben end up choosing to be together and there is a really big dance scene in the end.

Overall though, I think this movie may be the weakest of the franchise only because the personalities of the characters really shine through in the sequels.

Highlights:

  • Prince Ben singing “Did I Mention” to Mal when he is under the love spell. It’s a really catchy song and may be one of my favorites from all of the movies.
  • Carlos telling his mom that he loves dude the dog and that she needed to get over it.

Next week catch my review for Descendants 2!

Jane the Virgin S5E11-12

I never plan on talking about two episodes in a single post but that seems to be the groove I’ve settled into. So sit down, grab a snack and let’s talk about these episodes.

Season 5 Episode 11

Lots of drama in this episode. From Xo waiting for the results of her PET scan, to River kissing Rogelio, to Jane and Rafael continuing to learn how to co-parent. There’s another point of tension, Jorge has officially moved in with all of this things now that he and Alba are actually married and in love. Jane grows uncomfortable with the way Alba seems to be waiting on him and the way that the house she has grown up with has seemingly changed with him bringing all his stuff in.

It’s a reoccurring conversation throughout this episode that results in Alba shutting down that idea, saying that was choosing to cook and clean for him, because she loved doing it. Prompting Jane to realize that it was time for her to start a new chapter in her life and that she wanted to move out into her own apartment.

As for Rogelio, he doesn’t believe Xo in the beginning when she says that River is still going to go after him until River proves that by saying they could be together now that they had a good alibi. There’s even a huge fight between River and Xo on set which was entertaining. River at the end of the episode is talking to herself about how Rogelio didn’t love her and that he was going to pay. All ominous like.

Season 5 Episode 12

Guys. We did it. In this episode Jane and Rafael spend a lot of time alone because he is trying to help her find an apartment to move into. In the process though, Jane is introduced to the new woman he is dating; Julie. Julie is played by Sophia Bush and despite most likely being a guest character never to be seen again, she played a major role. I’m going to get back to this, don’t you worry. First though, I want to talk about Mateo.

I love that the show isn’t romanticizing ADHD, and I love that they are accurately showing how powerless parents can feel for not knowing the best way to help their child, and how confused and upset the kids can be for not understanding what is going on.

Now back to the role Julie played. If it wasn’t for her very existence, Rafael wouldn’t have realized the one deal-breaker he can’t get past. She isn’t Jane. Ironically, right before getting back together with Rafael, Jane was showing Petra her new dating profile. But Rafael comes to his senses and tells Jane not to buy the apartment because he wants to be with her and thus, they will be moving back in together. There’s a musical number that occurs here, by the way.

Things aren’t going for Petra, and I have a feeling they will only get worse from here. Milos wants to force Petra’s hand and make her lie for him in court in order to stop him from selling the hotel. But she refuses, because she doesn’t want to lie anymore. Her assistant Krishna goes to Milos and says that she is willing to work with him because she also wants to take Petra down. Which made me think of Luisa saying she was ready to work with Rose again. Which in turn reminded me that we haven’t heard of our red-headed villain in the shadows in a couple episodes. Seems to be the quiet before the storm.

We will just have to wait and see what happens as the show starts coming to a close.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

When we’ve got a good thing going no one wants it to end. It was only in the past few months that I’ve dived headfirst into the fandom that is How to Train Your Dragon (mentioned as HTTYD from here on out). I watched the first movie when it came out originally in theaters but then I lost track of it and chalked it up to ‘just-another-kid-movie.’ After a friend recommended me to give them another chance now that I’m older, I realized how wrong I was. Sure, it’s animated and that for so long meant that it was just for children but let me remind you that there are so many works out now that are enjoyable for all ages and not just children.

When I began the franchise over again I watched HTTYD, followed by all the short films, Riders of Berk, Defenders of Berk and Dragons: Race to the Edge. These shows and short films were meant to act as supplement material between movies 1 & 2 due to the five year time jump. I think these pieces were brilliant, my favorite being Netflix’s Dragons: Race to the Edge because it was in this show that we watched the characters really grow up and saw Hiccup and Astrid become our beloved couple.

If you didn’t watch the shows here are some points you may have missed out on

  • Stoick and Hiccup’s relationship really flourishes in the shows, and it makes his death in HTTYD2 that much more painful. We see Stoick more in the shows and we get to see his first dragon; a Thunderdrum named Thornado who we don’t get to see in the second film. We also see him and Toothless actually bond and work together which once again, makes his death hurt that much more. I’m a big fan of Stoick and I think Hiccup learned a lot from him.
  • Dagur and Heather the berserkers! I’m still so gutted that they weren’t a part of the films because these two characters are beyond interesting and some of my favorites so the fact they aren’t even mentioned?? I didn’t like that. They are such a major part of the story because Dagur is the Chief of the Berserkers, Heather is his sister and was even a dragon rider with the gang for a while. She and Fishlegs were even together briefly.

things that the Hidden World did that didn’t make sense to me

  • Ruffnut being shown as nothing more than a dimwitted annoying girl that her twin can’t stand to be around. Sure, they tease the hell out of eachother but to make it so he wasn’t worried when she was left behind? Wasn’t accurate.
  • Hiccup being depicted as someone who wanted to keep Toothless all to himself? It wasn’t a selfish desire, they had each other’s backs for years at this point, of course he would be upset if he didn’t think Toothless was going to come back.
  • The riders not being able to work together as a team? After doing so for the past, what? Like six years? Also not accurate and frankly super annoying.

Overall, I think it would have been really hard for this movie to keep all of the fans happy. I don’t think it was a perfect ending to a franchise I love so much, but it could have been a lot worse. In some aspects I can understand the route that the writers and everyone behind the scenes decided to take in terms of making it so all the dragons disappeared into the hidden world. They probably wanted to keep some mystery alive so that it could be said that dragons still existed but that they know the humans don’t deserve them. On the other hand, it could be said that this was an easier route than trying to come up with an ending that would make sense with no one trying to hurt the dragons while they were at New Berk. Easier doesn’t necessarily mean better in this case, because I just find it hard to believe that after everything Toothless and Hiccup have been through together that they would only reunite ten years later and take one final ride before saying goodbye forever. It’s a painful thought and I’ve elected to ignore it.

That’s a wrap on the HTTYD franchise but it has sparked a renewed love for animation so I’m looking forward to finding new series to watch and fall in love with.