Netflix Holiday Movies Review Vol. 02

  1. A Christmas Prince – 4 Stars

It’s a classic setup. A plucky young reporter gets herself into the royal palace by pretending to be a tutor so she can write a story about their playboy prince, who is preparing to become king in the wake of his father’s death. Okay, maybe not the holiday romcom premise you were expecting, but that is exactly how this Netflix original set itself apart when it premiered on the streaming service last year. iZombie’s Rose McIver starred as the reporter, Amber, and Ben Lamb, whose previous credits include Now You See Me 2 and Divergent, played the handsome Prince Richard, who officially is next in line for the throne of the fictional land of Aldovia, but whose tabloid reputation is reminiscent of Prince Harry while his blond hair and strong jawline makes him a dead ringer for a young Prince William. Of course, Amber and the prince start to fall for each other (spoiler alert) as she realizes all those playboy rumors might just be rumors. But she still has a job to keep, which means she still has to write her story, which means that eventually the prince will learn her real name and why she tried so hard to get close to him. What’s a working girl to do? 

Then there’s the shifty-eyed cousin who’s second in line for the throne and more than happy to do whatever he can to push Prince Richard to abdicate the throne. You know exactly how this is going to go, but it’s a delightful ride nevertheless (although a bit stressful if you manage to get caught up in the emotion of it all, like my mother who is currently yelling at the screen). The actors deliver emotionally engaging performances, for the most part, and the plot moves forward smoothly without feeling overtly manipulated or obligatory. The script could have used a dialogue polish, but where else would we get the obligatory cheesiness of the genre? A Christmas Prince is a classic modern fairytale with a holiday twist. Not terribly original or inventive, but an enjoyable, feel-good ride nevertheless. 

  1. A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding – 4 Stars

The first film did so well that Netflix delivered this year with a sequel, appropriately enough centered around a royal wedding much like we all witnessed earlier this year between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. “A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding” keeps much of the formula of the first film—it all begins with a rude cab stealer, there is a crisis threatening Aldovia that centers around rumors about now King Richard, there is a suspicious old family friend and our heroine finds herself a bit out of water as a commoner adjusting to the royal lifestyle. Once again, Amber and Richard find themselves having to build a romantic connection, this time centered around the prospect of them co-ruling a kingdom together. And of course Amber’s investigative reporting pops up again too. There are definite Princess Diaries 2 vibes here as well. The overall vibe of the film has shifted a bit from the first movie to insert a bit more comedy, mostly with the inclusion of a much more animated version of Amber’s father and an over the top, very gay wedding planner (Father of the Bride anyone?). It also is a bit strange that no one seems to remember that Amber originally wormed her way into the royal family by pretending to be someone else in order to write an expose about her now groom-to-be. In some ways the film does feel a bit like a peek inside what Meghan might have gone through, seeing her personal fairytale moment transformed into a symbol of royal tradition. The film takes its own take on the royal wedding, though, sprinkling it with all the familiar trappings of a classic fairytale. The movie is a touch cheesy, yes, fairly predictable and sometimes the characters feel a bit undeveloped, but it still left me with a smile on my face and maybe a few tears in my eyes (although I will definitely deny if asked in person). An additional props to Netflix for pushing the diversity a little in this new film, even amidst an already established cast. 

  1. Merry Kissmas – 3 1/2 Stars

A clear riff on the 2011 tv movie A Christmas Kiss, the 2015 movie Merry Kissmas centers around a young woman named Kayla, whose life is totally changed by a random kiss with a handsome stranger in an elevator. When we meet Kayla, she is pulling double duty as the business manager and fiancee of famous director/choreography, Carlton Wells. If you’re thinking that’s a terrible combination, you would be right. Carlton is wrapped up in his newest project, a production of The Nutcracker, and refuses to acknowledge her as anything but his business manager until the show is over. Enter unbelievably handsome, yet somehow tragically single, chef Dustin played by Brant Doherty, whom Pretty Little Liars fans will recognize as the dastardly Noel Kahn. The movie seriously lacks depth, refusing to even entertain anything more than the two-dimensional and obvious. Carlton is self absorbed and rude. Dustin literally bakes free cookies for the dog shelter. Kayla complains again and again that her fiancé pays no attention to her so that the viewer doesn’t miss the fact that her subsequent cheating is totally excusable. The kiss itself is totally unnecessary and shockingly unmotivated, despite the fact that they were in an elevator with mistletoe. The film also has a massive problem with consent, which they get away with mostly because the person who is repeatedly kissed without permission is the guy, not the girl. “I’ve never been miffed at you before” is an actual line in the movie delivered without irony, as well as the obligatory “you two belong together” and a repeating joke about Dustin becoming the male version of a cat lady that wasn’t super funny the first time. Also, spoiler alert: One of the biggest plot points revolves around Dustin talking to an elevator. If A Christmas Wedding Planner was saved by Jocelyn Hudon, Merry Kissmas is saved by Brant Daugherty, who proves over and over again throughout the whole film that he is able to deliver terribly written lines convincingly while pretending he doesn’t know his character is terribly written. (Although PLL fans shouldn’t be surprised considering all of Noel’s storylines after breaking up with Aria.) The film is awful, but engaging. Despite cringing at most of the lines and plot points, I had to keep watching this movie to see what happened next. I blame Brant.

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Netflix Christmas Movie Reviews

I don’t know about you, but holiday-themed entertainment is one of my favorite parts of this time of year. 2018 marks my twenty-fourth year of living without Hallmark, so this year I will once again be turning to Netflix to get my Christmas movie fix. Unfortunately they chose not to bring my favorites back this year (namely Christmas Cupid and Christmas Kiss), so I am being forced to venture out into the unknown to discover some new favorites. But between the Netflix Originals dropping basically every week this month and a bunch of other movies I’ve never heard of, it can be hard to know which ones are worth your time. I thought I would offer you guys my thoughts and ratings for a few of them in hopes that it will make your decision process a little easier! If you decide to watch them, let me know if you agree or disagree with my ratings!

  1. The Holiday Calendar – 4 1/2 stars

The first 2018 rollout from Netflix, The Holiday Calendar stars The Vampire Diaries’ Kat Graham and features a storyline that finds her character Abby working as a holiday mall photographer while dreaming of finally following her dream of becoming a full time photographer. While plodding along at her day job, Abby is also forced to deal with the return of her successful, travel photographer best friend, Josh, and the gift of an old school wooden Advent calendar that starts predicting events in her day. I personally found Kat’s acting a refreshing break from the typical Christmas RomCom female lead. She inserted a lot of personality and sass into her stock character. I also thought Josh’s character was a nice break from the stereotypical Christmas RomCom guy characters. The entire cast, in fact, adds some well needed diversity to a genre typically dominated by the petite blond lead and scruffy rugged male lead, who looks like he belongs on The Bachelor. This movie lost half a star from me because the ending felt a bit rushed and not as emotionally deep as the rest of the movie, which cheated the viewer of the full emotional resonance the film could have had. Still a fun watch, though!

2. The Princess Switch – 4 stars

Netflix continues its diversity trend with High School Musical’s Vanessa Hudgens (part Filipino) as the duel lead of The Princess Switch. She plays both Stacy, a baker who gives off some serious grown up Gabriella vibes, and Lady Margaret, a duchess with a questionable accent, in this modern holiday retelling of The Prince and The Pauper. When the two girls run into each other right before the biggest baking contest of Stacy’s career and Lady Margaret’s wedding to a prince she’s met twice, they decide to switch places for a few days so Lady Margaret can find out what it’s like to be normal. A bit of a poor motivation for the swap, but it’s the whole premise of the film, so just go with it. After the switch, the two ladies continue into their individual Christmas RomCom storylines for a double dose of holiday romantic magic. The “rich and poor girl switch places” plot plays out a bit predictably, with a few tiny twists. The biggest weakness of the film, in my opinion, is the overwhelming focus on Stacy’s character, which left me with much less of an emotional attachment to Lady Margaret at the end of the film. Overall, however, The Princess Switch is a fun film that utilizes several classic cinematic tropes for a final product that is as sweet as Stacy’s baked goods. 

3. Christmas Wedding Planner – 2 1/2 stars

The only non-Netflix original on the list, Christmas Wedding Planner is based on a Harlequin novel with a much more creative title. It follows a first time wedding planner  planning her cousin’s wedding while also trying to protect the event from her cousin’s meddling, private investigating ex-boyfriend. Of course, along the way, our well-meaning heroine must join forces with the dastardly wedding ruiner and they, of course, start catching feelings for each other. In fact, the whole film suffers from a sense of obligatory “fill in the blank”-ness. Now the romantic leads must bond. Cue montage. By now they should be falling for each other. Insert an almost kiss. The film is saved mostly by the female leads, even if Kelly Rutherford and Rebecca Dalton are basically just playing their characters from Gossip Girl and Good Witch (respectively). The lead actress manages to bring some layered and shaded elements to her character, whose various aspects don’t quite make sense together on paper. In contrast, the lead male actor lacks the acting props to bring nuance to the badly written dark horse love interest. The whole film suffers from poor writing and a lack of compelling performances from the male actors (including Joey Fatone from NSYNC fame). It was basically a solid three star film, but I took off half a star for the ending. No spoilers, but it revolves around a huge romantic moment between the two leads that felt unearned. Overall, some fun concepts and a few good performances, but seriously lacking quality execution. 

 

What Being Unemployed for Over a Month Has Taught Me

 

DSCN9367I am unemployed. I very rarely say those words out loud. I have adopted the phrase, “I’m in-betwween jobs right now” or occasionally “I’m actually not working right now.” The word “unemployed” comes with so much baggage. At first I thought it was because I was uncomfortable with not having a job or ashamed. I’m not. I’m loving this season. I’ve been more productive over the last six weeks than I’ve been in months. I was afraid of people’s reaction, of people’s perceptions. I was afraid of being seen as lazy or incompetent, as being labeled a “typical millennial” or viewed as some sort of failure. I was afraid someone would assume I had gotten fired or let go (from my almost three year gig at Chick Fil a… Yeah, I don’t think so). It is amazing how much I allow other people’s baggage to become my own.

And sometimes I’ve been right to project these thought patterns onto other people. I’ve gotten used to the occasional unsolicited job advice. “I hear they’re hiring at…” “My [friend, sister, cousin] got a job at…” Other people are usually more uncomfortable with my employment than I am. To be fair, most people have actually been great and asked me what steps I’m taking and what jobs I’m looking for. But still, people are so quick to put their own connotations on my employment status, often without asking me how I feel about it.

Now, I’m not an idiot. I know eventually savings will run out and that I should be bringing in an income before that happens. I don’t think for a second that my parents will allow me to set up shop at their kitchen table forever. A traditional job is in my near future.

But since my last day at CFA, I’ve found myself avoiding social situations so I don’t have to answer the traditional questions about what I’m up to. The often innocent question leads to me admitting that I’m unemployed, living with my parents and until about two weeks ago, car-less. Recently, however, I tried this new thing where I was just honest. I realized the outside perception of my life was only a small fraction of the reality. And to my surprise, most people responded really well when I explained what I’ve been up to. I’m sure most people’s idea of unemployment is sitting on the couch eating Cheetos and binge-watching EVERYTHING on Netflix. And while I have watched more Netflix than ever before and developed a new late night gluten-free cookies & ice cream habit, there has been so much more to this season for me.

Right now I am essentially self employed without any of that, oh yeah, income. I get up every morning when I feel rested enough and sit down at the kitchen table where I don’t leave until usually dinner (or whenever I need to run a sibling to an appointment). I drink coffee and listen to music and watch videos until I reach a completely creative mindset that allows me to work ceaselessly for hopefully a few hours. I type out notebooks of 2-3 year old chapters of a novel until my wrists hurt from hitting the laptop keyboard. And then usually every few days I take a break where I sit with my journal and write about how useless I feel, how I feel like I no longer have value because I’m not getting up every morning and working a 9 to 5, how frustrated I am that making art every day is so much harder than I thought I’d be. Because honestly it’s really hard being face to face with the limits of your own mind and skillset and internal motivation. There’s no boss who will penalize me if I don’t clock in on time. No one is going to call me if I don’t come in. There’s no one to call for help if the job gets too hard or confusing. It’s just me and all the doubts in my own mind telling me I’m not good enough, that I’m wasting my time, that everyone’s ashamed of me. The power of the human mind is incredible.

And then usually right when it gets completely overwhelming, I get a text out of the blue from a friend saying they were thinking about me and just wanted to remind me to trust God’s timing. And then I remember that I’m not in this alone.

I truly fully believe that God has placed me on this earth in this time period with these passions and talents and desires for a reason. I believe I was made to do things no one else can do, that I am uniquely equipped and created for a purpose. And above all that, I believe that I serve a God who already has a perfect path laid out for me. When I stop and remind myself of all that, the fear disappears. Because God’s got me. And He’s not intimidated by the dwindling numbers in my bank account or the limits of my training or the time that’s already passed me by or the opportunities already here and gone. He knows what is best for me and best for the world as a whole, best for His entire master plan. All I have to do is continually seek His will and stay faithful to whatever season He has me in, whether that’s getting up every morning and putting in the unpaid hours at my kitchen table or putting on a uniform and giving my all at a nine to five. I have the incredible privilege of being used by the Creator of the Universe to make the world a better place and that alone is worth enduring a season of unemployment for.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

Why It Matters That Zac Efron fell for Zendaya in The Greatest Showman

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I finally saw The Greatest Showman on Super Bowl Sunday with my mother because we couldn’t convince the rest of our family to leave the house (we’d been waiting to see the movie as a family) and because we assumed (correctly) that the majority of the rest of the world would be too busy with the football game to go to the movies. As soon as the movie started, I instantly wished I’d bit the bullet and gone to see it by myself. I could tell from the beginning, as tears started gathering in the corners of my eyes, that this was going to be one of those movies that would impact me on a totally personal level. That feeling never left. I can honestly say I cried through most of it. I still can’t believe a film that was clearly just made for me made such an impact on the rest of the world as well. And that was all before I met Zendaya’s character.

I’ve seen Zendaya act in a variety of projects since she made her Disney Channel debut in 2010. She has always been black, but never once have I watched something of hers that so clearly acknowledged it. Now, of course there may be a project or episode of one of her shows that I missed where they did touch on it, but isn’t that the point? Most of her projects kind of shoved aside her race, as if hoping we wouldn’t notice. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love when black people play roles that could just as well be white or any race. That’s not the issue I have. The issue I have is that the color of Zendaya’s skin became this thing that no one was allowed to talk about. At least until Zendaya said it herself. And don’t worry about any of the whispers about her light-skinned black privileged. She’s spoken about that too.

I knew walking into The Greatest Showman that Zendaya and Zac Efron’s characters were love interests. I thought that was the coolest thing from a fan standpoint but as soon as I realized they were allowing Zendaya’s character to be black, I realized Zac falling for her was actually going to be an even bigger deal than I thought. They weren’t going to ignore the fact that a totally hot totally white guy was falling for the totally gorgeous definitely black girl. Watching them together on-screen reminded me of why Zac has always been a celebrity crush of mine. It’s not just those piercing blue eyes, that swoon-worthy smolder, that chiseled jawline or those high cheekbones that could carve diamonds. It’s the fact that the first time I saw him onscreen, he was falling for a brown girl. The next time I saw him onscreen, he was falling for a fat girl and dating that brown girl in real life. I don’t know how intentional it has been on Zac’s part, but seeing the cliche heartthrob falling for someone other than the petite blond girl told young teenage me that I had a chance. That my choices weren’t limited. That there was a chance the Zac Efron’s of the world might just think I was beautiful.

I didn’t think I needed that validation anymore. I’m a grown woman, for crying out loud. But when I sat in the theater, tears streaming down my face during “Rewrite the Stars,” I realized it was a message my heart hadn’t received in a while. It wasn’t the High School Musical effect where we all were told to pretend Gabriella was white (essentially). During The Greatest Showman, we were told that it was okay to acknowledge that Zendaya was black because she was acknowledging it and so was Zac. When they finally got together, it was coupled with the full acknowledgement of the risk they were taking, the way the public would perceive them. It was full of so much truth. Zendaya’s fears and concerns and trepidations resonated with me. The fear of being a fetish or a phase. The deep-seated belief that he may flirt with you but would never make you his girlfriend. The fantasy of seeing yourself with him but always having to bring yourself back to earth by remembering who he is and who you are. The color of your skin, the disparity between economic backgrounds, the fact that he grew up with a silver spoon and you had to fight to be a part of the circus. It hit me with this sucker punch of “I’m not alone and finally people aren’t afraid to talk about it.”

Were the stakes higher because of the time period of the film? Sure. I highly doubt anyone would refer to me as “the help” to my face in 2018 and I would hope my boyfriend’s parents wouldn’t disown him for choosing to hold my hand in public. But that feeling of not being good enough for someone like Zac Efron because of the color of my skin, the way I look, how much money my parents make, is still so real. It’s the reason I still appreciate that Gossip Girl’s Nate Archibald dated Vanessa and Chuck Bass had a serious relationship with Raina Thorpe. It may not make a difference for most of you and some of you amazing women of color may not need interracial relationships represented on-screen to feel that option if valid for you, but for this black woman, I still need a reminder sometimes that the right guy will love me for me… Even if he has Zac Efron level cheekbones and piercing blue eyes.

 

Fearfully & Wonderfully Body Positive

The last couple years have been a journey to accepting my body the way it is. That isn’t to say I can’t eat healthier or finally actually go to the gym, but when I do, I want it to come from the right place. I want to improve my body from the inside out because I love myself enough and value God’s creation enough to want my body to be its best. I don’t want to start eating salads to see my waistline shrink or hit a certain number on a scale. I don’t want to work out to fit into that one dress or pair of shorts from that one summer.

And I’ll be really honest. Sometimes I pull on a piece of clothing from the back of my closet and cry because the zipper gaps now and there’s no chance of even getting it to close. I could fill plastic trash bags with the clothes I am convinced I will someday be able to fit again. I’m not the same size I was in high school. I’m not the same size I was a couple years ago. And it’s taken a long time for me to accept that. This is the way I look now and it probably won’t be the way I look forever, but until I accept my body the way it is and see myself as beautiful regardless of the number inside of the tag, I won’t fully step into seeing myself the way God does, as “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

I’ve been dabbling in fashion illustration/design and yesterday, I sat down to draw myself. I used the same silhouette I use to draw all my girls, customizing it only. A little to fit the way I saw myself—tall, thin, small waist, narrow hips, hourglass figure. And then I looked at a fitting room mirror selfie from earlier that day and realized that wasn’t what my body looked like. There was a moment when I convinced myself it didn’t matter. It’s fashion illustration. It’s all exaggerated and stylized. But first off, the illustration wasn’t going to be much help if it didn’t reflect the way the clothes would actually look on my body. And secondly, anytime I buy into the idea that “stylized” means shrinking a waist and trimming down limbs, I think I’m doing not only myself a disservice, but also any of the girls looking at my drawings. So I erased lines, expanded my waistline and took a real look at that dressing room selfie.

I tried my best not to do so with judgment but with kind eyes. I wanted to see myself clearly so that my design could then flatter my body, not some idealized body that maybe only really existed on paper. And then I thought about all the real girls that I hope I’m designing for and smiled thinking about how they would feel to put on clothes that flattered their bodies the way they were. Not clothes that reminded them to lose fifteen pounds or made them wish they were shorter, taller, curvier in places, smaller in others. I don’t think that does us any good. It’s pointless to buy clothes wishing for a different body. And trust me, I’ve done it time after time and those clothes never look right on me, no matter how many times I tuck and pin and belt them.

I think one of the first steps in accepting yourself as “fearfully and wonderfully made” is accepting the body looking back at you in the mirror. Accepting it with grace, grateful for all the things it enables you to do, thankful for your health, admitting that treating yourself after work is more important than the handful of pounds you would have kept off otherwise, accepting the ways you can better take care of your body, but not holding it against yourself. I’m fighting hard to give that gift of true acceptance and body positivity to myself and hope to at least nudge someone else in that same direction. Cuz you are fearfully and wonderfully made, knit by hand with the most incredible Love you could ever imagine. If we truly believed that about ourselves, how radical would our body positivity be?

 

The Last Breakfast Club review

A friend of mine recently asked me if the The Last Breakfast Club was good.

For those of you who don’t know, The Last Breakfast Club is the newest musical parody from Rockwell Table and Stage in Los Angeles. I have gone to see the show every weekend since it made its preview debut three weeks ago. When I saw her question, I wanted to laugh. Obviously the show was good if I’d seen it so many times, but I knew what she was really asking–Would I recommend it? While the answer is fairly simple, I felt that I had enough thoughts about the show to merit an entire blog post, so here we go: my review of The Last Breakfast Club: a Musical Parody.

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This innovative musical is packed full of 80s tunes that feel like they were written for The Last Breakfast Club. If you’re not singing them along with the cast during the show, you will definitely be singing them to yourself for the rest of the week. Part of the fun of the show is trying to guess what iconic 80s song the characters will jump into next.

As the cast of The Last Breakfast Club comes right out of the gate chorusing, “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” we understand that they’re talking about the nuclear zombie apocalypse that has trapped them in the library. But it also kind of feels like they’re talking about our world too. In a present where our president regularly tweets about his latest indignation, the threat of nuclear war hangs in the air and children are killed at concerts, it certainly feels like the end of the world as we know it. Hardly any of us would claim we “feel fine.”

The Last Breakfast Club doesn’t ignore our current political climate. It embraces it. The show explores our deepest hopes and fears for this new world. At one moment it’s blaming Republicans, Christians and white men (which some may argue are synonymous) for the doomed apocalyptic world the characters are forced to live in. The next, it’s advocating for love and compassion in spite of it all.

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This amazingly talented cast is increasingly mind blowing with every scene. The unique layout of the Rockwell theater allows for most of the audience to gain at least one closeup of the cast during the show. This unique set-up explains why each cast member boasts both stage and screen credits. Both sets of skills are fully utilized in the show to great effect, switching effortlessly between big over the top “theatrical” moments and nuanced quieter ones.

The Last Breakfast Club calls itself a parody of the original 1985 John Hughes film, but that label isn’t quite fair. It’s clear the show has a great respect for the original, preserving most of the film’s format and signature lines. At times, it feels like a revisionist take on the film. This updated version of the story tackles the age old issue of Allison’s makeover (selling out or naw?), the original couples (would they have lasted past detention?), the assumed boy-girl couple structure (you might of gotten away with it back then, but today it’s considered “heteronormative”) and the Bratpack’s general treatment of adults as the cause of all their problems. The musical doesn’t shove its modern perspective onto the original to the point of losing the film’s original intent, but it also isn’t afraid to address some of the issues with the movie.

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In spite of several revisionist changes, however, the Breakfast Club is still #sowhite. The majority of the seven cast members in the new show are Caucasian, reflexive of the all-white cast from the film. On the one hand, this reflects more on the original filmmakers than the producers of the latest reincarnation. The moral of the original film was that “each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal.” Apparently the only way to teach that lesson in the 80s was to make every character white and therefore, relatable.

There is, of course, an easy explanation for the lack of racial diversity in The Last Breakfast Club. The premise of the show is that the same characters from the film have aged roughly ten years, so each of the cast members physically resembles their cinematic counterpart. However, it’s worth questioning whether, in a world where these beloved characters have been given new sexual orientations and religions (and in Claire’s case, hair color), might they have been given new ethnicities as well? In an alternate reality where the characters crack culture references they shouldn’t know and reference both the original movie and the musical they’re currently starring in, the audience must quickly adapt a strong suspension of disbelief. Might this suspension have also held up to, say, an African American Princess or a Latino Brain? It is unclear if it would have worked, but a part of me wishes the producers would have been willing to find out.

Which isn’t to say that the show isn’t perfectly cast, because it is.

Anna Grace Barlow brings a sweetness and a sass to Claire the Princess, as well as an acute vulnerability most present in her big solo number where she reminisces on time spent with her parents. Barlow brings down the house every time during said solo number with her powerhouse of a soulful voice and tear-filled eyes. As her sister Abigail stated so well, the music of the show fits her voice perfectly. In addition to the spotlight moments, Barlow’s sweet harmonies perfectly round out the overall sound of the show.

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Jonah Platt anchors the show as Bender the Criminal, riling each character in turn. He holds all the brashness and insensitivity of the original character, but Platt’s natural charm bubbles through in time for the tender moments that eventually come toward the end of the show, most notably a heart to heart with Vernon. This scene in particular sets Platt’s version of Bender apart from the original, mixing his biting humor with remarkable sensitivity.

While Platt prods the plot forward, Garrett Clayton holds the show together in a virtual group hug as Brian the Brain. His soft insistence for everyone to get along is broken only by his piercingly amazing high notes and incredible comedic timing. Fans of Clayton from the Teen Beach movie franchise may even hear his signature Tanner laugh break through some of Brian’s iconic “Sir?”s during a few of his particularly funny scenes with Vernon.

Rockwell veteran Lana McKissack completely commits to all that is Allison the Basketcase, including the character’s numerous quirks and various animal noises. Her skills as an actress, however, truly shine brightest in the serious moments where she gets to spit straight truth. The complexity and sensitivity she brings to her scenes with Andrew, in particular, make the characters’ relationship one of my favorites in the show.

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Four time Emmy nominee Max Ehrich brings vulnerability and heart, as well as fierceness, to Andrew the Athlete. He manages to simultaneously wear his heart on his sleeve while fighting to keep his mask up. His Act One return to “total assholery” may be initially off-putting, but the character lets his true self come through in time to enthrall the audience with his showstopping ballad in Act Two.

The two adult characters, Vernon as played by Jimmy Ray Bennett and Damon Gravina’s born again Janitor, are just as charming as the young adult characters, bringing another level of humor and ridiculousness to the whole production.

Now back to the original question, do I recommend the show? My answer is a resounding YES… with two caveats.

The first is language. The show’s social media coordinator joked that the show has “zero f*cks to give…. because they’re all in the show.” He’s not wrong. To be fair, if you’ve seen the OG Breakfast Club, its cast also had a lot of fun throwing around f-bombs. But it does bear noting that those sensitive to strong language or those on the younger side should probably skip out on this particular show.

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My second warning pertains to the way Christianity is portrayed in the show. The show relies heavily on the use of satire in order to comment on religion, ridiculing various aspects of Christianity in a way that some may find offensive or sacrilegious. Now, the show does not hate religion or Christianity as a whole. The hate-filled, holier-than-thou Christian character does not denounce his faith or speak ill against God in order to become likable by the end. He does have a change of heart, of course, but the show does not demand that he give up his faith in order to be considered an ally. The show also makes it clear that religion itself is not the problem, but rather how people abuse religion. Still, if this seems like the type of humor that would keep you from enjoying the show, maybe just stick to the original movie for now.

There are no better last thoughts to leave you with than these well-spoken words from The Last Breakfast Club’s director, executive producer and co-writer, Bradley Bredeweg, “Let us laugh together as 150 people in a bar in Los Angeles while we also talk about and explore some really important and scary shit. Because entertainment is a powerful medium that not only makes us laugh and cry… it provokes, encourages, raises awareness, and it allows us to look inward.”

For those of you willing to laugh, cry and be challenged, please head down to Rockwell Table and Stage this summer and show this amazing production some love!

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Tickets: tickets.rockwell-la.com

 

Photos from the show by me, Promotional photos for TLBC by Bryan Carpender, Promotional photos from the original Breakfast Club belong to their respective owners

Self Love (V-Day 2017)

Self love, to me, doesn’t mean I think I’m the greatest. It doesn’t mean believing the world revolves around me or trying to force it to. Self love is dressing up simply cuz looking cute makes me feel good. It means taking myself to a movie or a show because it feeds my soul. It means understanding I’m valuable only because the Creator of the world handcrafted me and declared it to be so. I can love me because He loved me first 💕

Jesus already outlined how we’re supposed to love in Matthew 22:36-40: Love God, love others and love self.

This Valentine’s Day, be sure to show love for and appreciate love from your family and friends, share love with your significant other if you have one, but don’t forget to send a little love to yourself as well 😘 Love you all, happy Valentine’s Day!!

xoxo, CMB

Winter Things: the Conclusion

So, it is official! Winter Things is available for purchase on Amazon! It is so surreal after so many years of dreaming and so many weeks of hard work to finally have my stories available to the world.

I want to give a huge shout out to my editors Lizzie Cragg and Elena Ender who helped give me a second set of eyes by reading over my stories and letting me know what was and wasn’t working. They helped alleviate any fears I had about releasing something into the world that I was less than proud of.

I cannot wait for you all to finally get a chance to read it and to hear your feedback, so please check out the link below, download the book and when you’re done reading, leave me a comment on Amazon. Thanks for your support!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N7MLBEB

xoxo, CMB

 

Winter Things: the Completion

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So, bad news: The release date of Winter Things has been pushed back. This week has been crazier than anticipated and I really want to make sure I put out something that I’m proud of. I expect to have it out by Christmas, but I will keep y’all updated.

Good news: I can now reveal the official book cover! Again, so so grateful for the assistance of Rachel and Andrew in making this happen. Excited for you all to finally get to see what’s inside very soon.

Drum roll please…

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xoxo, CMB

Winter Things: the Crew

Almost a month ago, I posted this tweet:

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I was tired, I was frustrated and I was about to give up. I was so excited about the concept for the Winter Things cover, I was trying my darndest to get the project off the ground and no one would help me. Well, that’s not exactly true. No one was willing to help me for free.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I definitely belong to the school of thought that artists deserve to be paid for their work. Heck, I am hoping some of you decide Winter Things is worth paying a few bucks for. But I am so tired of money holding me back from creativity. As a starving college student and a starving artist, it is often hard to pay for food, much less pay people to help me out on passion projects. Now this is not a specific diss to those I asked to help me on this project. I am so proud that I have friends who are so established in their field that they can charge consistently for their services. It is just generally difficult to find people who are willing to help you out simply for the love of the art, mutual excitement over your idea and a desire to bring your vision to life.

Just as I was beginning to give up on the prospect of an original cover and bracing myself to go through stock images, I found my team, the very people I wished for in the tweet.

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Rachel

After being turned down by multiple photographer friends, I came to the realization that I needed to find someone who was good at photography, but wasn’t a “photographer.” That’s when my dear friend Rachel David came to mind. I had just finished working with her as the director on the school film I co-produced, which had placed us in a professional working relationship for the better part of eight months. It also convinced me that she was someone I wanted to continue working with. Still, when I reached out, I fully expected her to turn me down.

There’s something that happens to your sense of hope when you’ve been rejected so many times. You start to believe all you’ll ever hear is no. Or maybe that’s just me. Anyway, Rachel pretty much said yes right away, which was amazing. I knew she was the right person for the job, though, when I sent her the Pinterest board I made and only to found out she had already made one! Hers lined up with my vision exactly, even though I had only sent her a few key words.

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Andrew

Despite successfully convincing Rachel to join the project, I was still convinced there was no way it was actually going to happen. If it was this hard to find one of my friends willing to help me out for free, how the heck was I going to find a male model? Did I mention I know zero male models, which guaranteed somehow talking a stranger into doing this for free. Enter Andrew Bliek.

I had been watching Andrew’s performance as the male lead in my classmates’ film “Hazel” all semester and been impressed by it, so when I found out he also modeled and also went to my school, he was my natural choice first. I put off contacting him until Rachel said yes, then sent him an email basically just saying that I’d been impressed by his work in “Hazel” and wanted to know if he would be interested in modeling for a passion project of mine I thought he would be a good fit for, but couldn’t pay him for. When I got the email back a few days later and I put off reading it, convinced it was going to be a no. When I finally mustered the courage to open it, I found instead a simple reply thanking me for my kind words and offering his availability.

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Despite finding such an amazing team, I was scared up to the last moment that things were going to fall apart. Seriously! I sat next to my phone all day before the shoot until everyone showed up at the location, waiting for the text from either him or Rachel canceling on me. I may or may not have had several bad experiences in the past of people pulling out on projects, especially unpaid ones. Imagine my surprise when the shoot went off without a hitch! It was an amazing work experience, the type where the actual experience left me so happy and artistically fulfilled that I almost didn’t care about the final product…. Almost.

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The final images that Rachel was able to capture were so magical and exactly what I wanted. Also, Andrew was the best fake boyfriend I could have asked for. He kept me laughing the whole time as we had the most ridiculous conversations about the most random things. It was so much fun! I can’t wait for you all to see the final cover.

Rachel, I am so sorry sorry for not realizing right away that you were the perfect person for this project. Thank you for making me feel so comfortable and allowing me all the creative control I wanted (although you have great instincts!). Andrew, thank you for trusting me enough to say yes and for making a potentially awkward situation so much fun. Hope to work with you both in the future!

One more shot form the shoot to demonstrate that we clearly had no fun…

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Stay tuned for the final cover reveal soon!

xoxo, CMB