MOST ANTICIPATED FILMS: SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR EDITION!

This year is already halfway over (I know, can you believe it?!) and from Black Panther to Hereditary, the film gods have blessed us with numerous gems. For today’s blog post though, I’m here to talk about those particular films that have yet to be released – the ones I’m anticipating the most within these next upcoming few months!

As a quick and totally unnecessary disclaimer (which I’m including anyway because it’s my blog and I have all the power, ha!) – the first four films listed could potentially be considered “cheating” since they were all released at the end of June/early July, thus technically not being second-half of the year releases, but they have yet to be screened in my surrounding theaters so I’m taking advantage of that unfortunate fact.

Anyway, let’s get to it…

LEAVE NO TRACE – JUNE 29, 2018

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DIRECTOR: Debra Granik

WRITTEN BY: Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini (Based on the novel by Peter Rock)

STARRING: Thomasin McKenzie, Ben Foster

GENRE: Drama

RATING: PG

RUNNING TIME: 1h49m

Will (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter, Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), have lived off the grid for years in the forests of Portland, Oregon. When their idyllic life is shattered, both are put into social services. After clashing with their new surroundings, Will and Tom set off on a harrowing journey back to their wild homeland.

***Written AND directed by women. Yes, Hollywood, YES.

CUSTODY – JUNE 29, 2018

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DIRECTOR: Xavier Legrand

WRITTEN BY: Xavier Legrand

STARRING: Lea Drucker, Denis Menochet, Thomas Gioria, Mathilde Auneveux

GENRE: Drama

RUNNING TIME: 1h34m

Miriam and Antoine Besson have divorced, and Miriam is seeking sole custody of their son Julien to protect him from a father she claims is violent. Antoine pleads his case as a scorned dad whose children have been turned against him by their vindictive mother. Unsure who is telling the truth, the appointed judge rules in favor of joint custody. A hostage to the escalating conflict between his parents, Julien is pushed to the edge to prevent the worst from happening.

***Premiered in Italy last year and in France earlier this year. June 29th is the U.S.A release date.

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS – JUNE 29, 2018

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DIRECTOR: Tim Wardle

STARRING: Eddy Galland, David Kellman, Robert Shafran

GENRE: Documentary

RATING: PG-13

RUNNING TIME: 1h36m

Identical triplets become separated at birth and adopted by three different families. Years later, their amazing reunion becomes a global sensation but also unearths an unimaginable secret that has radical repercussions.

PUZZLE – JULY 13, 2018

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DIRECTOR: Marc Turtletaub

WRITTEN BY: Oren Moverman, Natalia Smirnoff

STARRING: Austin Abrams, Mandela Bellamy, Myrna Cabello

GENRE: Drama

RATING: R

RUNNING TIME: 1h43m

Agnes, taken for granted as a suburban mother, discovers a passion for solving jigsaw puzzles which unexpectedly draws her into a new world – where her life unfolds in ways she could never have imagined.

MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN – JULY 20, 2018

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DIRECTOR: Ol Parker

WRITTEN BY: Ol Parker, Richard Curtis, Catherine Johnson

STARRING: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep

GENRE: Musical, Comedy

RATING: PG-13

RUNNING TIME: 1h54m

Sophie finds out more about her mother’s past while seeking guidance on how to handle her pregnancy.

SEARCHING – AUGUST 3, 2018

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DIRECTOR: Aneesh Chaganty

WRITTEN BY: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian

STARRING: John Cho, Debra Messing, Joseph Lee

GENRE: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

RATING: PG-13

RUNNING TIME: 1h42m

David Kim becomes desperate when his 16-year-old daughter Margot disappears and an immediate police investigation leads nowhere. He soon uses Margot’s laptop to contact her friends and look at photos and videos for clues to her whereabouts.

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN – AUGUST 3, 2018

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DIRECTOR: Marc Forster

WRITTEN BY: Alex Ross Perry, Allison Schroeder

STARRING: Hayley Atwell, Ewan McGregor, Toby Jones

GENRE: Animation, Adventure, Comedy

RATING: PG-13

RUNNING TIME: 2h

A working-class family man, Christopher Robin, encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the-Pooh, who helps him to rediscover the joys of life.

WE THE ANIMALS – AUGUST 17, 2018

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DIRECTOR: Jeremiah Zagar

WRITTEN BY: Jeremiah Zagar, Daniel Kitrosser

STARRING: Raul Castillo, Josiah Gabriel, Terry Holland

GENRE: Drama

RATING: R

RUNNING TIME: 1h34m

Manny, Joel, and Jonah tear their way through childhood and push against the volatile love of their parents. As Manny and Joel grow into versions of their father and Ma dreams of escape, Jonah embraces an imagined world all on his own.

THE HATE U GIVE – OCTOBER 19, 2018

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DIRECTOR: George Tillman Jr.

WRITTEN BY: Audrey Wells (Based on the novel by Angie Thomas)

STARRING: K.J. Apa, Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall

GENRE: Crime, Drama

RATING: PG-13

Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.

***The book is one of my all time favorites and I am genuinely unable to properly express just how excited I am for this film!

MOWGLI – OCTOBER 19, 2018

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DIRECTOR: Andy Serkis

WRITTEN BY: Callie Cloves (Based on the novel by Rudyard Kipling)

STARRING: Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christian Bale

GENRE: Adventure, Drama

RATING: PG-13

A human child raised by wolves must face off against a menacing tiger named Shere Khan, as well as his own origins.

***I loved the first The Jungle Book live action film they made and am really interested to see how this one compares.

WELCOME TO MARWEN – NOVEMBER 21, 2018

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DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis

WRITTEN BY: Robert Zemeckis, Caroline Thompson

STARRING: Eiza Gonzales, Steve Carell, Diane Kruger

GENRE: Animation, Biography, Comedy

A victim of a brutal attack finds a unique and beautiful therapeutic outlet to help him through his recovery process.

***I dare you to watch the trailer for this and not fall wholeheartedly in love.

And that’s it! Although there are tons of other films releasing throughout the rest of the year that I’m still highly interested in, these are the ones I will most definitely be catching in theaters as soon as they are out. What are your most anticipated 2018 releases? And what are your favorite films you’ve watched this year? Let me know by leaving a comment!

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TOP FAVORITE EMMA SWAN MOMENTS!

I don’t think the general public fully comprehends the powerful role media plays in our modern, day-to-day lives and just how big of an influence the fictional world can have not only on our moods, but also on what type of people we become. I have personally been shaped into the person I am today by numerous individuals, some of them being fictional in every way. Sometimes a fictional character comes into our lives and leaves an impact you never thought possible from anyone, let alone a fictive person. The fictional characters we read about and/or dreamily gaze at from the other side of the screen can help us in ways people in our real lives can’t. Anger, pain, loss, loneliness, depression, hopelessness…these are all emotions I’ve been able to both combat and better understand because of the fictitious personas I surround my daily life with, whether that’s through reading or watching a film or series.

Throughout my years of being in and out of fandoms, reading hundreds upon hundreds of books, and watching countless hours of screen time, I have come to love and admire heaps of various characters – all of dissimilar shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and religions, amongst everything else. Out of all these memorable characters though, there’s one that comes to mind as the one who has influenced me the absolute most: Emma Swan.

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During these past six, almost seven years, Emma has become such an integral part of my life, much like in the lives of thousands of others. She’s, in many ways, my own personal Savior. Watching and growing with her these past few years, she’s taught me to see the best in people no matter their past mistakes; to never let anyone tell me who I am because only I can make that distinction; to stand up for what I believe in no matter how terrifying it might be; to forgive myself and to be gentle on my heart because we’re all just human; that if I want my happy ending – or, should I say, happy beginning – I need to fight for it like I’ve never fought for anything else in my entire life; to not always feel like I need to constantly be strong and brave and that it’s more than okay to allow myself to feel vulnerable and/or emotional. Emma has taught me lessons that I will continue to apply in my day-to-day life and ones I will carry with me for years to come. Saying goodbye to her, my favorite superhero and badass warrior princess, has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I know how silly that may sound to some, but aside from all the life lessons I just mentioned, focusing my energy on Emma, her story, and her development instead of on the negativity surrounding various rough patches in my life was crucial to my mental health, something I will be endlessly grateful for.

Now that you understand my feelings towards Emma Swan though, we can put all the sappiness aside and move on to the actual purpose of this blog post which is to share with you all my top favorite Emma Swan moments! These are in no particular order (except in chronological) because I love them all equally and I think they’re all important to both the narrative and Emma’s development in their own unique ways. Alas, let us begin!

Disclaimer: If you’re as big of an Emma fan as I am, you might want to grab some tissues. This is going to be a bumpy ride…Also, beware of spoilers. Okay, let’s actually start now.

“There are no fairy godmothers in this world.” | 1×04

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I know what it’s like. Everyone loves to tell you what you can and can’t do, especially with a kid. But ultimately, whatever you’re considering doing, or giving up, the choice is yours […] People are gonna tell you who you are your whole life. You just gotta punch back and say, “No, this is who I am.” You want people to look at you differently? Make them. If you want to change things you’re gonna have to go out there and change them yourself because there are no fairy godmothers in this world.

I may or may not be just a tiny bit partial to this scene because of my tattoo. Now, you may be thinking, “What are you going on about?” Well, story time! Actually, it’s not much of a story, don’t get too excited. I have a script tattoo on my left forearm that reads, “Fight for your fairytale,” in Jennifer Morrison’s handwriting. Although the quote is derived from an actual speech that Jennifer gave a few years ago, and not directly because of this Emma scene, I like to think this is where the inspiration derived from in the first place. It’s essentially hinting at the same idea – to fight for your own happiness and your own life because no one else will do it for you. I love the passion behind this scene – the absolute rage and drive radiating from Emma. This is the moment Emma decides she’s done putting up with people’s perception of who she is or isn’t supposed to be, of how she is or isn’t supposed to act. This was precisely the moment I fell in love with Emma Swan and everything she stood for.

“I couldn’t go back.” | 1×09

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I just wanted you to see ’em. Just once. I didn’t think I could do it either. I gave up Henry ’cause I wanted to give him his best shot. When I saw that he didn’t have it, I couldn’t leave. I was just as scared, more probably. But once I saw him, got to know him…I couldn’t go back.

I mean, what can I even say – I’m a sucker for Emma’s change of heart when it comes to Henry. We all know how much she’s always loved that kid, so much so that she gave him up so he could have a chance at a better life – something she didn’t think she could ever offer him – breaking her own heart in the process. The minute those doctors took her baby away, a piece of her left with him. The second Henry was back in her life, she knew that she could never, ever give him up again. That loss that she felt, and the pain that accompanied it, overtook her life in unimaginable ways and she wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. Besides the pain of giving up her child, the hurt that came along with growing up in a flawed system also affected her to her core; it broke her spirit and her faith. The culmination of all of these soul-crushing events awoke something in her and that’s why I love this scene so much. This whole episode is actually one of my all time favorites because throughout the entirety of it, she’s fighting back against every instinct she’s ever known so these kids don’t have to experience any more pain, or anything that Emma herself went through at their age; so that their father doesn’t feel like she did all those years ago when she gave Henry up. Emma did everything within her power to make sure this family remained a family – something she wishes she had fought for 10 years prior with her own kid – and I was so unbelievably proud of her for being brave enough to do so.

“I didn’t ask for that, I don’t want it!” | 1×20

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I don’t want them to need me. You’re saying that I am responsible for everyone’s happiness? That is crap! I didn’t ask for that, I don’t want it! […] For him! Because that’s all I can handle right now. And I’m not even doing a good job at that! Now you’re telling me I have to save everyone? That is beyond ridiculous. I don’t want any of it!

This is a scene I don’t hear too many people talking about when discussing their favorite Emma moments, yet I love it so much and I think it honestly has more to do with what it represents rather than the actual scene itself. What I find so fascinating about this moment is that you can notice glimpses of Emma’s believe system starting to crack. If you pay close attention to what she says, she never actually mentions the fact that she doesn’t believe, which is something she had always at least hinted at during every scene prior to this one. Here though, she refers to the idea of her being everyone’s Savior as “ridiculous,” not that the entire realm of tales is not real. After an entire season of slowly learning what to or not to believe alongside Emma, her reaction to August’s claims is what ours would have probably been if we had been in her place; she wasn’t so much denying the idea of this entire thing being a product of Henry’s wild imagination, but instead, she couldn’t wrap her head around anyone having so much faith in her.

“Just a lost little girl…” | 3×02

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That look in his eyes…the despair. I had it back when I was in the foster system. Just a lost little girl, who didn’t matter and didn’t think she ever would. A little girl who cried herself to sleep at night ’cause…she wanted her parents so bad. And could never understand why they gave her up […] It’s just…on this island, I don’t feel like a hero or a Savior. I just feel like…what I’ve always been. An orphan.

How could I not include this scene? This is basically the epitome of Emma Swan moments and breakthroughs. Like I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I love Emma with every bit of my heart and soul, so seeing her continue to be this broken even after 3 seasons, 2 parents, and a son, caused me so much heartache. I’ve never wanted to hug a fictional character as much as I wanted to hug Emma during this scene. This revelation was a genuine testament to just how much Emma’s upbringing and scars have continuously affected her, and how they will probably never fully go away because a person can’t just erase 28 years worth of hurt and pain. The entire moment was a massive step for both Emma and Snow and I think it really changed the full course of their relationship.

Also, around the time when this scene aired was when I started watching the show, so aside from the importance of it, it does hold a very special place in my heart because of that. Oh, memories!

“I’m not pushing you away this time.” | 4×20

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Talk about underrated! This is such a small gesture yet I thought it showed so much growth in Emma that it’s hard for me to ignore or brush it off. Going from someone whose gut instinct is to immediatey push everyone close to them away from fear of getting hurt and/or disappointed, to consciously and willingly being this open to the possibility of getting hurt again, is a massive development; my heart grew two sizes with how much pride I felt witnessing this change in Emma. On top of that, she was in the midst of dealing with more darkness than she ever had before, yet she was brave enough to be incredibly vulnerable and susceptible, showing just how strong willed Emma Swan really is.

“Love is a part of all happiness.” | 4×23

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Love is a part of all happiness, and you have to be open to that […] I just watched the man I love die. The worst part is that I never told him I loved him. Not once. I was too scared. Too scared that…somehow, saying it would make it real, and change everything. But now I’ll never have the chance to take that next step with him, because he’s gone. My only chance with him is if you don’t make the same mistake I did.

Holy tears. This scene always leaves me absolutely gutted and genuinely dehydrated from how much I cry. No exaggeration. Okay…maybe a little exaggeration, but that doesn’t take away from how emotional Emma makes me here. She’s heartbroken, I’m heartbroken, it’s all a big mess. This was the first time Emma admitted her love for Killian so directly, and although it wasn’t to him, her not only coming to that realization but voluntarily sharing it with someone in such an open and defenseless way was yet another massive strive in her development. As you can probably already tell, I’m a big fan of scenes where Emma’s character development is pushed to its extreme. For the longest time, Emma had stopped believing in the power of love. Hell – she stopped believing love existed whatsoever. But during this moment, you see her wholeheartedly give into the grasp love has on her, which is a side of Emma we had rarely seen up until this very moment. After this episode and especially after this peculiar realization, I knew that Emma would no longer shy away from the vulnerability surrounding her romantic relationship.

“I am done fixing your problems.” | 5×02

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Let me make myself clear, Regina – I am done fixing your problems […] That’s your problem, Regina, you’re always looking for someone else to blame. I did not summon that monster. The price is not mine to pay. You are the one who did not pay the price of magic back in Camelot. You want to save Robin Hood? You want everyone to believe you’re the Savior?! Then step up and do what needs to be done!

Finally someone said it! *insert eye rolling emoji here* It’s no secret that I adore Dark Swan; it’s my favorite storyline, my favorite season, everything about her fascinates me to no end. It’s also no secret how I feel about Regina’s character – which I won’t get into because this is a post celebrating Emma – so you can imagine my excitement when I heard these words finally being said after so much time yearning for them. Part of the reason why I love Dark Swan so much is because of how liberating she felt, both character and acting wise. With the acting, it’s noticeable just how much freedom Jennifer Morrison had to mold this character into something entirely new and unique; the entire experience was so different from anything else she has ever done and the excitement and energy of transforming into such a vastly different persona translated beautifully on screen. As a character, Dark Swan was free; she was free to think and do what she wanted without feeling the guilt or the responsibility of constantly having to worry about everyone else around her. Taking the pressure of the Savior’s role off of her shoulders played a massive role in the autonomy she ended up developing and it was so refreshing to witness. In this particular scene, it’s as if everything that she allowed to build up regarding Regina finally surfaced and she absolutely did not hold back.

“I am not nothing! I was never nothing!” | 5×07

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I am not nothing! I was never nothing! The power you have I don’t need!

Yes, Emma, yes! I feel like I had been waiting for a scene like this for the entirety of the show and when we finally got it, it felt so great. First, although not the main reason, I can’t ignore that a huge part of why I love this moment as much as I do is because of Jennifer Morrison’s acting. She did a complete shift in tone, demeanor, and mood in what felt like 0.5 seconds and if that’s not impressive, then I don’t know what is. Putting Jennifer’s impeccable acting aside, this was yet another massive and important revelation for Emma. For having as much power as she did during this period of time being the Dark One, being so ruthless with the darkness must have taken heaps of strength – both physical and internal – which is a quality of Emma’s I have always admired, and this scene only proved her greatness even further.

“Huh.” | 5×14

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With so many tense scenes and heart-stopping moments, I think we deserve a good laugh. Have I mentioned how much I love Emma’s humor? No? Well, it’s one of my favorite things. This scene, although short and inconsequential to the main storyline, was so awkwardly hilarious, I still can’t manage to watch it without laughing out loud. Emma’s “huh” gets me every single time. You’ve got to admit though, meeting your lover’s ex-lover who also happens to be your baby daddy’s mother is, well…it’s a little weird. Or a lot weird. Either way, it’s by far one of the funniest moments on the show. Also, as a side note, in the midst of such a dark and emotionally draining season, this humorous exchange was an invigorating change of pace.

“I hope you’re in a better place.” | 5×21

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Thanks for the pages. Hades – he’s – he’s gone now. It’s done. So I hope you’re in a better place. I know I should be happy about that…but it just feels like now you’re really gone and there’s nothing left to do but just…Oh. I miss you.

Okay, no. I said this post would be a bumpy ride, but we’re not stooping this low. I shed several tears just looking for the right GIF. Damn you, emotional attachment to fictional characters. It might seem odd that I would include this scene in here if I can’t even write about it because of how inexplicably sad it makes me, but isn’t that what good characterization is supposed to be? Sometimes the scenes that break our hearts the most are the best ones, and I, for one, think Jennifer deserves just about a quarter of a million Academy Awards for this scene. That voice break. Those sobs. I’m crying again, great.

“You helped me build a family.” | 6×20

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It’s not about the singing. It’s just where it started. It’s not about the little things that I couldn’t do on my own. It was…every time something big came along, I ran from it. Henry, I wasn’t even brave enough to keep you […] Because you came into my life. And you helped me build a family, and that let me do things I never thought I could.

Emma’s relationship with Henry will always be one of the most important aspects of Once Upon a Time, as well as one of my favorites. Even after all this time, you can still see hints of how giving up her son continues to haunt Emma, and unfortunately, will probably continue to do so for the rest of her life. Yes, their relationship has blossomed into a beautiful and trusting dynamic, but every now and then, you can still see Emma’s shell crack and her never-ending hurt and guilt are always visible through those cracks. Although the thought of this shatters my heart into a million pieces, I think it’s important to see all these sides of Emma…her pain, her joy, her wins, her losses – all of which make her one of the most wholesome and authentic characters out there.

“Looks like I’m not alone anymore.” | 6×20

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Once I lived in darkness, out there on my own.

Left to brave the world, alone.

Everything seemed hopeless, no chance to break free.

Couldn’t hear the song inside of me.

Once upon a time, a song inspired them – be brave.

They gave me up because my fate was as the one who’d save,

the world from your dark magic and the wicked things you do.

They placed a song inside my heart more powerful than you.

All the years of running, no, not anymore.

I know what I’m living for.

I’m no longer searching.

Turns out all along, the answer was inside me, with a song.

There’s not a time where I watch this scene and not feel like a proud mom – I actually don’t think it’s possible. Everything Emma has ever struggled with, everything and everyone she’s battled against to persevere and be where she is, lends itself as the perfect background to this intense and emotionally raw climax. This is the moment where Emma earnestly allows herself to be fully submerged in the idea that, no matter how much her instincts try to convince her otherwise, she will never be alone again. As, first and foremost a fan of Emma, watching this moment and realization unfold right before my eyes was a beautiful nod to her journey.

“It’s who I want to be.” | 6×22

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I…found the book you left. I was about to take another job and…and then I thought about this woman you wrote about who was a hero with a family and a Savior who never ran from a battle and…[…] Well, I’m not sure that it’s me, Henry, but, um…but it’s who I want to be. So I don’t remember all the crazy stuff you told me, but…I believe it.

It takes a notable development for this to be how Emma reacts after having spent the entire first season having such a hard time digesting the exact same type of information. In a way, everything Emma has been through has instinctually altered her so much that, even during a curse, in her deepest core, she still believes. Everything that we’ve watched her experience these past six years have turned her into an unwavering believer – such a drastic change from season 1!

“I am hope. I am light!” | 6×22

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No one needs to save me! I’m the Savior! I’m fighting for the people I love. Ultimately, I am a hero. I am hope. I am light! And light cannot destroy darkness, it can only create more light. I will not kill innocents! I will do what all saviors must! I will give hope…no matter what the cost.

Emma Swan is one badass babe and her sword fighting skills during this scene serve as the perfect evidence to that statement. Even though I was sure Emma wouldn’t die (spoiler alert: she didn’t), this entire episode was nerve-racking no matter what. From her leaving Storybrooke, which I didn’t think she would actually go through with, to the whole battle scene, my heart felt like it wanted to beat right out of my chest. She just can’t catch a break and, being as invested as we are with her and her storyline, neither can we. What I loved so much about this specific moment was Emma’s complete and total commitment to saving the day, no matter the cost – in this case, her life. It took a long time for her to come to terms with what being the Savior meant and what it required her to give up, but during this scene, you can see that she’s finally to the point where she’s ready to take up that responsibility and its corresponding consequences. Although it’s a bleak thought, you can’t deny just how brave she is for being willing to sacrifice herself and everything she’s worked towards for the safety of those she loves the most.

Another reason I love this scene is because of Emma’s speech. Not only is it the embodiment of everything she represents, it’s also very reminiscent of something Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” I’m not sure if Emma’s line was inspired by King’s words, but they sure are similar and equally as powerful.

Her Happy Beginning | 7×22

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I know this is technically a Captain Swan moment, but it’s also the ending of Emma’s journey so I felt like it’d be more than appropriate to include it in this list. After years of battles, heartbreak, death in various forms, monsters, loss, and a whole other list of unfortunate events, Emma Swan finally got the happy beginning she so badly deserved. From a seemingly more quiet and peaceful lifestyle with her husband and True Love (aka her-totally-baby-proofed-soft-pirate), to getting a second chance at early motherhood with their insanely adorable little daughter, Hope, I genuinely could not be more excited and content with how they wrapped up her story.

Both Emma and Once Upon a Time have played massive roles in my life these past five years. Even though I eventually fell out of love with the show as a whole, because of Once, I’ve met so many amazing people who I now can’t imagine my life without. And I can partly thank Emma for shaping me into the person I am today. Because of her, my life is filled with so much unimaginable hope and promise. As sad as I am to say goodbye, I know that all good things must come to an end, and Emma? She was one hell of a good thing. She will continue to live in my heart as the character she’s always been, a badass warrior princess, and my favorite at that.

 

 

 

 

 

A GUIDE TO BINGE WORTHY TV SHOWS!

Summer time is (almost) here, which means it’s TV binging season – at least it is for me. But I can’t be the only one…right? I tend to spend so many more hours watching shows during this time of year than any other time, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t always look forward to it. With so many of our big network favorites going on hiatus, these next few months are also the perfect opportunity to catch up on those streaming originals your family and friends have been gushing about all year. That being said, if you’re looking for recommendations, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve compiled a list of my favorite binge worthy shows – both streaming service originals and network options.

 

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THE HANDMAID’S TALE  

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What is it?

Set in a dystopian future, a woman is forced to live as a concubine under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship.

Why should I watch it?

The Handmaid’s Tale is, by far, one of my favorite TV shows of all time. It’s one of the first things I always recommend for people to watch, and everyone I’ve recommended it to has ended up absolutely loving it. If that doesn’t convince you, then I don’t know what will. But seriously – it’s just so great. The writing is seamless in every possible way (and yes, it’s a beautiful depiction of the novel of the same name, which it’s based off of) and the acting is some of the best I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. The narrative is bone-chilling and disturbing, yet deeply authentic and timely. Every topic that’s crucial in our current realities is discussed and/or highlighted within the story in some way, shape, or form. From misogyny to homophobia and everything in between, these are all topics covered at one point or another; I wholeheartedly respect the show runners and writers for being brave enough to take an important story and bring it to life in such a masterful way. Even if it’s an intense emotional rollercoaster and makes you so uncomfortable at times that you are compelled to look away, it’s still a show that everyone must watch, especially now, considering how relatable it is to our present day society.

TRIGGER WARNINGS INCLUDE: homophobia, mistreatment of women, violence, mutilation, death, slavery, suicide, and mental, physical, and sexual abuse (including but not limited to rape)

Starring: 

Elisabeth Moss, Max Minghella, Yvonne Strahovski, O-T Fagbenle, Joseph Fiennes, Ann Dowd, Amanda Brugel, Madeline Brewer, Samira Wiley, Alexis Bledel

Commitment:

Season 1 | 10 episodes | Approximately 9h15m

Season 2 | New episodes every Wednesday

STAR

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What is it?

Star’s life in the foster system didn’t dull her dreams, but it did give her the strength to pursue them. Committed to following the path to fame in the cut-throat music industry, the singer tracks down her sister, Simone, and her best friend from Instagram, Alexandra, and the trio make their way to Atlanta. Once there, they find support in the form of mother-figure Carlotta and a down-and-out talent agent named Jahil who takes an interest in Star. As the young women chase down their dream, they find that ambition has a price and sometimes that price is too high.

Why should I watch it?

I actually just finished binge watching this one myself and I’m HOOKED. Not only is it full of the good ol’ drama we all live for in modern day shows, but it also has so much heart and characters you are sure to fall in love with. Getting an insight – even if it’s a very fictional  and exaggerated one – into the struggles within the music industry is so fascinating and these characters make you want to keep rooting for them until the very end. Queen Latifah and the girls (Jude, Brittany, and Ryan) are all so talented and it was such a pleasure seeing them bring these layered roles to life. Such a fun and refreshing show with some great music!

TRIGGER WARNINGS INCLUDE: violence, death, drug abuse, suicide, and mental, physical (including domestic), and sexual abuse (including but not limited to rape)

Starring: 

Jude Demorest, Brittany O’Grady, Ryan Destiny, Amiyah Scott, Quincy Brown, Miss Lawrence, Benjamin Bratt, Queen Latifah, Luke James, Michael Michele

Commitment:

Season 1 | 12 episodes | Approximately 8h7m

Season 2 | 18 episodes | Approximately 13h18m

TOP OF THE LAKE

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What is it?

Set in a remote mountain town in New Zealand, the miniseries “Top of the Lake” centers on the disappearance of 12-year-old Tui, who is five months pregnant. She is last seen standing chest deep in a freezing lake, and now all attention is focused on inexperienced detective Robin Griffin, who leads the investigation in the same town where she endured traumatic events years earlier. Not only must she find Tui, but Robin also embarks on a journey of self-discovery, and her limits are tested amid clashes with Matt, the missing girl’s father and local drug lord, and GJ, a guru at a local women’s camp.

Why should I watch it?

Yet another Elisabeth Moss show…what can I say? She’s one hell of an actress. Top of the Lake is so amazingly atmospheric; the scenery gives off a peculiar vibe that matches the tone of the show perfectly. It’s a creatively paced show with a lot of rewarding character development. It’s always so refreshing getting to witness a strong-willed female lead coming to terms and dealing with her inner demons, and combined with a well-executed storyline, a great creative team, and some very compelling writing, this show definitely hits the mark.

TRIGGER WARNINGS INCLUDE: violence, death, suicide, and sexual assault and abuse (including but not limited to rape)

Starring: 

Elisabeth Moss, David Wenham, Peter Mullan, Thomas M. Wright, Skye Wansey, Genevieve Lemon, Robyn Malcolm, Kip Chapman, Jacqueline Joe, Ewen Leslie

Commitment:

Season 1 | 7 episodes | Approximately 6h16m

Season 2 | 6 episodes | Approximately 6h25m

PREACHER

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What is it?

Fulfilling a promise to his deceased father, one-time outlaw Jesse Custer returns home to West Texas to take over his dad’s church. Jesse’s mission, however, becomes twisted when his body is overcome by a cryptic force that unleashes within him a highly unconventional power. Together with hell-raising ex-girlfriend Tulip and Irish vagabond Cassidy, the preacher-in-training embarks on a journey to find God in a world inhabited by holy, hellish, and everything-in-between characters. The darkly comedic “Preacher” is based on Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s popular 1990s comic book franchise of the same name.

Why should I watch it?

I went into Preacher thinking that there was no way I’d ever like it but boy, was I wrong. From the very beginning, this show was blowing my mind with its cleverly executed plot twists, nail-biting action and suspense, and powerful acting. The attention to detail is mind-blowing and the writing and characterization is so impressive that I finished the first episode wanting – no, needing – more. Although I haven’t read them, I have heard that if you’re a fan of the comics, the original source material, you might be a bit disappointed with how they decided to go about the adaptation, so you might want to consider that before you start. But, if you’ve never read the comics like me, give it a try! And don’t take too long – season 3 is coming out in June of 2018!

TRIGGER WARNINGS INCLUDE: violence, death, drug abuse, suicide, and physical and sexual abuse (including but not limited to rape)

Starring: 

Dominic Cooper, Joseph Gilgun, Ruth Negga, Ian Colletti, Graham McTavish

Commitment:

Season 1 | 10 episodes | Approximately 8h28m

Season 2 | 13 episodes | Approximately 10h13m

THE GOOD DOCTOR

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What is it?

Shaun Murphy, a young autistic surgeon who has savant syndrome, relocates from a quiet country life to join the surgical unit at the prestigious San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital – a move strongly supported by his mentor, Dr. Aaron Glassman. Having survived a troubled childhood, Shaun is alone in the world and unable to personally connect with those around him, but he finds his niche using his extraordinary medical skill and intuition to save lives and challenge the skepticism of his colleagues.

Why should I watch it?

I’m a massive fan of Freddie Highmore (if you haven’t seen Bates Motel, what are you doing with your life?!), so when I heard that The Good Doctor not only starred him as the lead but that it was also developed by David Shore, the same genius mind behind House M.D., I knew that I had to watch. Honestly, I’m not surprised I love it as much as I do. The writing is smart, the Autism representation is excellent, the cinematography reminds me so much of House’s, yet it has its own distinctive, modern flare, and the acting, especially Freddie Highmore’s acting, never fails to leave me speechless. How Freddie can go from playing an ailing killer on Bates Motel to probably one of the most charming, wholesome characters in modern TV proves just how talented he is. Frankly, I’m quite over medical dramas, but I willingly put all that annoyance aside when it comes to this show because it’s just that good.

Starring: 

Freddie Highmore, Nicholas Gonzalez, Antonia Thomas, Beau Garrett, Tamlyn Tomita, Hill Harper, Richard Schiff, Chuku Modu

Commitment:

Season 1 | 18 episodes | Approximately 13h26m

ATLANTA

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What is it?

Atlanta is one of the top cities for young rappers looking to make a name for themselves in the business. Among those up-and-comers is Alfred Miles, a hot new artist who is trying to understand the line between real life and street life. He is managed by his cousin, Earn, who gets caught up in the local rap scene and his cousin’s career after returning home to the ATL. Earn does whatever he can to try to get Alfred’s career to the next level. Darius, the rapper’s right-hand man and visionary, is also in Alfred’s entourage. When Earn isn’t busy managing his cousin’s career, he spends much of his time with best friend Vanessa, who is also the mother of his daughter.

Why should I watch it?

Donald Glover hit the jackpot with this show. Deeply authentic, sociopolitically aware, and downright hilarious, Atlanta is everything I wanted it to be and more. One second you’re laughing so hard you cry, the other you’re crying from just how heartfelt it can be. Both the writing and characters are so witty and clever, I can’t get enough! Seriously, the moment I finished the last episode, I wanted to watch it again. If you’re looking for a show with a light-hearted yet moving balance and some smart and witty social commentary, don’t look any further!

Starring: 

Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz

Commitment:

Season 1 | 10 episodes | Approximately 4h3m

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We’re all aware of the typical and entirely popular Netflix shows. Amongst some of the best known are Black Mirror, Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, and The Crown. Although those are all fantastic and I enjoy watching them just as much as the next person, looking past them, the platform has so much more to offer. Below are some of my favorite underrated TV shows on Netflix!

LOVE

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What is it?

When his cheating girlfriend leaves him, people-pleasing nice-guy Gus moves into a trendy apartment complex inhabited by lots of college students. A chance encounter introduces him to wild-child Mickey, also recently single, and who despises her job in radio. Though wildly different, the two are drawn to each other, and that relationship is the basis for the Judd Apatow-helmed Netflix original series. And in the end, their differences may be what help them figure out just what love is.

Why should I watch it?

Love is a beautiful mix between a sitcom and a drama, with an authentic and raw look at the craziness surrounding day-to-day life. These characters and storylines are all so relatable that it makes you feel connected to them on every level imaginable. The type of show where immediately after binging it, I missed the characters terribly.

Starring:

Gillian Jacobs, Paul Rust, Claudia O’Doherty, Chris Witaske, Mike Mitchell

Commitment:

Season 1 | 10 episodes | Approximately 5h52m

Season 2 | 12 episodes | Approximately 6h7m

Season 3 | 12 episodes | Approximately 6h20m

BLOODLINE

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What is it?

A dramatic thriller that explores the demons lurking beneath the surface of a contemporary American family. The Rayburns are hard-working pillars of their Florida Keys community, but their past contains dark secrets that they hope remain buried. Paranoia and mistrust build as lies pile up, alliances are shattered, and an unthinkable crime takes place. The tight-knit family’s formerly harmonious relationship deteriorates, and good people are forced to consider doing very bad things.

Why should I watch it?

This show. These characters. AH! It’s one of those shows where you learn to realize just how true it is that nothing is black or white. Bloodline does a superb job at fearlessly exploring the depths of that meaty gray zone, which I appreciate endlessly. Every character is realistically layered in ways a lot of other characters in the modern TV world aren’t. The story is slowly built with every episode and it becomes so enthralling and rich that you won’t want to even look away. Such quality TV!

TRIGGER WARNINGS INCLUDE: substance abuse

Starring:

Kyle Chandler, Ben Mendelsohn, Linda Cardellini, Norbert Leo Butz, Jacinda Barret, Jamie McShane, Enrique Murciano, Sam Shepard, Sissy Spacek, Katie Finneran, John Leguizamo, Andrea Riseborough, Chloë Sevigny

Commitment:

Season 1 | 13 episodes | Approximately 12h18m

Season 2 | 10 episodes | Approximately 10h17m

Season 3 | 10 episodes | Approximately 9h18m

ALIAS GRACE

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What is it?

Based on the 1996 Margaret Atwood novel of the same name, “Alias Grace” tells the story of young Grace Marks, a poor Irish immigrant and domestic servant in Upper Canada who is accused and convicted of the 1843 murder of her employer and his housekeeper. Stablehand James McDermott is also convicted of the crime. McDermott is hanged, but Grace is sentenced to life in prison, leading her to become one of the most notorious women of the period in Canada. The story is based on actual 19th-century events.

Why should I watch it?

Being the massive fan of Margaret Atwood’s work that I am, I don’t think I’ll ever not watch and be completely excited about her work getting the fantastic adaptations that they’ve been getting lately. Much like The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace is a wonderfully executed and wholeheartedly captivating adaptation of one of the greatest feminist novels of all time – in my opinion, any way. Not only do a talented group of women make up the entirety of the creative team, which alone should be enough for you to want to watch, the show itself also shines a light on numerous vital sociopolitical issues, a lot of which involve women struggles. Sarah Gadon does a phenomenal job at bringing so much riveting mystery to her character, and overall, everything about this period piece is simply stunning and well-worth the watch.

TRIGGER WARNINGS INCLUDE: asmr triggers, mutilation, violence, death, substance abuse, sexual assault and abuse (including but not limited to rape)

Starring:

Sarah Gadon, Edward Holcroft, Rebecca Liddiard, Zachary Levi, Kerr Logan, David Cronenberg, Anna Paquin, Paul Gross

Commitment:

Season 1 |6 episodes | Approximately 4h45m

MINDHUNTER 

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What is it?

In the late 1970s two FBI agents expand criminal science by delving into the psychology of murder and getting uneasily close to all-too-real monsters.

Why should I watch it?

Mindhunter is a crime drama done right. After being burnt out from the never-ending amount of crime shows that have surfaced within these past few years, I was sure I would never enjoy one to its full extent again. But thankfully, this show completely changed that. Aside from being suspenseful and mind-boggling smart, Mindhunter is more fascinating than a lot of the stuff I’ve been watching recently. Diving deep into the psychology and methodology of serial killers – as insane as it sounds – enthralls me to no end, and adding the 70s elements into the mix just makes it all that much better.

TRIGGER WARNINGS INCLUDE: violence, death, suicide, discussion and/or depiction of mutilation and sexual assault and abuse (including but not limited to rape)

Starring:

Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Hannah Gross, Anna Torv, Cotter Smith

Commitment:

Season 1 |10 episodes | Approximately 8h27m

THE LETDOWN

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What is it?

Audrey is determined not to be defined by motherhood. In theory, this seems fairly easy. In practice, her career-focused husband, self-obsessed mother, and fancy-free best friend, make it damn near impossible.

Why should I watch it?

A real and unembellished insight into the lives of first time parents with a hint of heartfelt moments and a splash of comedy. I don’t have a child myself, but I’ve only heard great things from parents who have also watched it. Shows like The Letdown are so unbelievably important. I can’t even begin to express just how great it is for there to be a show out there that’s not too afraid to show the real and very normal struggles that come along with motherhood. It’s also one of the quickest shows I’ve ever binged, so if you’re looking for not only a great quality story but one that is an easy and speedy watch, then you’ve found it!

Starring:

Alison Bell, Duncan Fellows, Noni Hazlehurst, Sacha Horler, Lucy Durack, Leon Ford, Celeste Barber, Taylor Ferguson, Leah Vandenberg, Xana Tang, Sarah Peirse

Commitment:

Season 1 |7 episodes | Approximately 3h35m

ONE DAY AT A TIME

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What is it?

Follows three generations of the same Cuban-American family living in the same house: a newly divorced former military mother, her teenage daughter and tween son, and her old-school mother.

Why should I watch it?

I can’t even begin to describe just how much I love this show. Being Cuban, One Day at a Time resonated with me in ways I never thought a show could. It constantly kept me laughing, crying, or pondering – sometimes even all at once. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as many emotions in such a short amount of time as I did while binge watching this. Every character has a multitude of layers that the show intricately and slowly peels away with each passing episode, revealing some of the most relatable personas I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. The representation is off the charts and the topics covered – from homophobia, racism, misogyny, feminism, and everything in between – along with the conversations they raise are so important for modern society to be exposed to and acknowledge. The characters, storylines, and the lessons taught are relatable regardless of your race, ethnicity, and/or culture, which I think is an important characteristic for any story to have. I’ve never seen the original One Day at a Time, but this new, modernized version has managed to steal my heart.

TRIGGER WARNINGS INCLUDE: homophobia, discussion of racism, ptsd

Starring:

Justina Machado, Todd Grinnell, Isabella Gomez, Marcel Ruiz, Stephen Tobolowsky, Rita Moreno

Commitment:

Season 1 |13 episodes | Approximately 6h32m

Season 2 | 13 episodes | Approximately 6h

DARK

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What is it?

When two children go missing in a small German town, its sinful past is exposed along with the double lives and fractured relationships that exist among four families as they search for the kids. The mystery-drama series introduces an intricate puzzle filled with twists that includes a web of curious characters, all of whom have a connection to the town’s troubled history – whether they know it or not. The story includes supernatural elements that tie back to the same town in 1986.

Why should I watch it?

Why are more people not talking about this masterpiece of a show? This German mystery series blew me away almost instantly. It’s gritty, and dark, and completely addicting. Watching it, I got massive Stephen King, Stranger Things, and Twin Peaks vibes…all at once. I know what you’re thinking, but I’m serious! It’s that good. Dark’s mysteries unfold in such a deliciously slow and haunting way that it’s hard to stop thinking about it, let alone watching it. Technically speaking, it’s a stunning show with eye-catching cinematography and a soundtrack that fits the mood impeccably. The writing is on point, the cast is talented as heck, and the story is one that will keep you on your toes until the very end.

TRIGGER WARNINGS INCLUDE: violence, death, suicide

Starring:

Oliver Masucci, Karoline Eichhorn, Jördis Triebel, Louis Hofmann, Maja Schöne, Stephan Kampwirth

Commitment:

Season 1 |10 episodes | Approximately 8h25m

ON MY BLOCK

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What is it?

“On My Block” follows a quartet of bright, street-savvy friends who are navigating their way through high school, including all the of the triumph, pain and newness they experience along the way. Lifelong friendships are tested as Monse, Ruby, Jamal and Cesar confront the challenges of adolescence and life in their predominantly Hispanic and black neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles in this coming-of-age comedy series.

Why should I watch it?

Yet another fantastic 2018 release! I’m a sucker for good coming-of-age stories and On My Block is that times four since it focuses on the day-to-day lives of four teenage best friends. These kids are the heart and soul of this show and make you interested enough in their lives that you want to keep watching to see what happens. There’s a lot of humor and then there are moments that will simply just shatter your heart to pieces. What’s so interesting about this one in particular is that it comes off as a lighthearted story but in reality, it digs deep into these kids’ struggles while dealing with the harshness of the streets and their regular high school lives, both of which are entirely relatable.

TRIGGER WARNINGS INCLUDE: depictions of gang violence and drug abuse 

Starring:

Sierra Capri, Diego Tinoco, Jason Genao, Brett Gray, Jessica Marie Garcia

Commitment:

Season 1 |10 episodes | Approximately 5h5m

LA CASA DE PAPEL  

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What is it?

A criminal mastermind who goes by “The Professor” has a plan to pull off the biggest heist in recorded history – to print billions of euros in the Royal Mint of Spain. To help him carry out the ambitious plan, he recruits eight people with certain abilities and who have nothing to lose. The group of thieves take hostages to aid in their negotiations with the authorities, who strategize to come up with a way to capture The Professor. As more time elapses, the robbers prepare for a showdown with the police.

Why should I watch it?

Honestly, I was hooked on this show the moment I saw pictures of them wearing Dali masks. I mean, how great is that?! La Casa De Papel is like an intense and highly unpredictable tango dance between the police and the robbers. With every episode of this thrilling, suspenseful show, my interest increasingly built; each episode was like going on a gripping, fast-paced ride with the characters, which always ended up in getting totally blindsided by the unexpected twists and turns. Definitely an exciting watch!

TRIGGER WARNINGS INCLUDE: death, discussion and/or depiction of guns, violence, and drugs

Starring:

Úrsula Corberó, Itziar Ituño, Álvaro Morte, Paco Tous, Pedro Alonso, Alba Flores, Miguel Herrán, Jaime Lorente, Esther Acebo, Enrique Arce, María Pedraza, Darko Peric, Kiti Mánver

Commitment:

Season 1 |13 episodes | Approximately 10h

Season 2 | 9 episodes | Approximately 7h5m

GIRLS INCARCERATED: YOUNG AND LOCKED UP

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What is it?

Being locked up can be hard on anyone, but it can be especially taxing for young people, who miss out on some milestones that teens should be able to enjoy with their friends and family. This series follows teenage girls who are incarcerated at a juvenile correctional facility in Madison, Ind., documenting what their lives are like behind bars. Interpersonal relationships with their fellow inmates are a vital part of the experience because making a wrong move can lead to trouble. Among the milestones celebrated while in the facility are birthdays and a high school graduation. And, as you would expect with a group of young people, romance blossoms for the inmates.

Why should I watch it?

Although not a fictional series, I simply couldn’t just not include this one on this list. I recently binged Girls Incarcerated and, my goodness. The range of emotions I experienced while watching this show were a complete mess…happiness, anger, sadness, confusion, hopefulness. They were all there. I was so emotionally invested in each of these girls’ lives. The show as a whole provides great insight into what goes on in juvenile facilities and it’s a great conversation starter on a topic very prevalent to our current time: the both negative and positive effects of the justice system on young offenders. It was so refreshing getting to hear these girls tell their stories, in their own words, and I think they’re all stories everyone should hear.

TRIGGER WARNINGS INCLUDE: discussion and/or depiction of drugs, violence, and sexual abuse (including but not limited to rape)

Commitment:

Season 1 |8 episodes | Approximately 6h3m

THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD

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What is it?

James is a 17-year-old who believes he is a psychopath. He kills animals as a hobby, but grows bored of the practice. He decides he wants to try killing a human. He settles on Alyssa, a mouthy, rebellious 17-year-old classmate with issues of her own. She proposes they run away together, hoping for an adventure away from her turbulent home-life, and James agrees with the intention of finding an opportunity to kill her. They embark on a road trip across England, and begin to develop a relationship after a series of mishaps.

Why should I watch it?

What an odd show, but ever so brilliant. I started this on a whim and got so caught up with the storyline and characters, I finished it in what felt like a minute. Funny, dark, quirky, heartbreaking, compelling…so damn good. It’s like taking a road trip with two amazingly messed up kids just doing their best to deal with both their inner and outer demons. The modern Bonnie and Clyde romance we all need.

TRIGGER WARNINGS INCLUDE: death, sexual assault and abuse (including but not limited to rape)

Starring:

Alex Lawther, Jessica Barden, Gemma Whelan, Wunmi Mosaku, Steve Oram, Christine Bottomley, Navin Chowdhry, Barry Ward

Commitment:

Season 1 |8 episodes | Approximately 3h13m

SEVEN SECONDS

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What is it?

When 15-year-old black cyclist Brenton Butler dies in a hit-and-run accident – with a white police officer behind the wheel of the vehicle – Jersey City explodes with racial tension. This crime drama explores the aftermath of the accident, which includes an attempted cover-up by the police department and a volatile trial. Assistant prosecutor KJ wants to prosecute the hit-and-run as a hate crime, in addition to a negligent homicide. The longer the case drags on without a resolution, the more tense the situation becomes.

Why should I watch it?

Seven Seconds hit me from where I least expected it. The story seems so similar to a lot of other ones portrayed in the media these days, yet its constant twists and turns and effortless balance between being powerful and painful make it as unique as they come. The way this show handles its commentary on moral crises and sociopolitical dilemmas in some of our nation’s communities is both impressive and wretchedly candid. Aside from the gripping and necessary storyline, the writing and execution are superb, offering the audience an unbiased insight into all sides of the central issue and allowing them to come up with their own opinions and thoughts. If you’re looking for a solid crime drama, give Seven Seconds a shot!

TRIGGER WARNINGS INCLUDE: violence, death

Starring:

Clare-Hope Ashitey, Beau Knapp, Michael Mosley, David Lyons, Russell Hornsby, Raúl Castillo, Patrick Murney, Zackary Momoh, Michelle Veintimilla, Regina King

Commitment:

Season 1 |10 episodes | Approximately 10h28m

As far as network shows go, I wanted to mention just a few that I think are completely worth the watch. The Night Manager, starring Hugh Laurie, has managed to climb its way into my favorites list rather quickly. With only 6 episodes, the storyline and characters are strong enough to leave you unsettled and keep you at the edge of your seat for the entirety of the season. Hugh Laurie is brilliant, as always, as well as the rest of the veteran cast. I will forever be fascinated by the way they chose to put this show together – I mean, the scenery, cinematography, and directing style are a stunning combination that just work so unbelievably well. I once read a review of this show where the writer referred to it as “a modern day Hitchcock thriller” and I think that’s just about the perfect way to describe it.

The Good Place is one that caught me by complete surprise as the synopsis never intrigued me in any way, but I’m a sucker for Kristen Bell – I think she’s fantastic. I was definitely blindsided by this show’s charming and witty storyline and its array of unique and quirky characters. From the hilariously smart writing to the cast’s chemistry, and everything in between, this show will definitely claim a place in your heart.

Last but most certainly not least, The Chi. This one is by far one of my favorite 2018 releases. I’m all for shows that are deeply raw and authentic in their narrative and character developments. I love everything about this show, and I love that it’s a POC cast doing their best to depict some of their realities in the most honest way possible.

There you have it…a full list of what I think are some of the best TV shows that are currently out. Now, stop whining about not having anything to watch *insert eye rolling emoji here* and happy binging!

 

 

MY FAVORITE FILMS WITH WOC LEADS!

Being a fan of cinema who watches at least 150+ films annually, you become aware of little details the average viewer wouldn’t. I started to take notice of the lack of WOC representation in the film industry, both in front and behind the camera, at a relatively young age. Of course, back then, I had no idea what it meant or that it was even an issue, but as I’ve grown older, it’s become a topic of discussion that I’m incredibly passionate about. Being a Hispanic female who has an intense appreciation for the art of filmmaking, it’s unfortunate and at times even hurtful not having the opportunity to relate to many characters and/or storylines on the big screen. These past few years, the topic highlighting the lack of WOC roles has caught fire, and it has quickly become something more and more people are talking about and trying to change for the better each and every day. I feel so honored to live in a society that, although flawed in heaps of ways, has a burning and deep desire to alter and improve the roles WOC have in modern cinema. Even though there is still a long way to go, I feel like the industry is taking the necessary steps in the right direction. That being said, I think we should take the opportunity to celebrate those fantastic WOC leads that have had the opportunity to grace our screens with their talents within the past few years – they’re slowly but surely paving the way for other women to follow in their footsteps, something utterly praise worthy.

Here’s a list of my favorite WOC lead roles across an array of diverse genres:

Disclaimer: I consciously excluded comedy because it is my least favorite film genre and I hardly ever watch it. Out of the ones I have watched, less than a handful have had WOC leads.

ACTION:

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  • Michelle Yeoh as Yu Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Meiko Kaji as Yuki Kashima in Lady Snowblood 
  • Zoe Saldana as Cataleya in Colombiana
  • Pam Grier as Foxy Brown in Foxy Brown
  • JeeJa Yanin as Zen in Chocolate

ANIMATION (about WOC characters/non-Disney):

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  • The Breadwinner
  • The Prophet
  • Spirited Away
  • Persepolis
  • My Neighbor Totoro

DOCUMENTARIES: 

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  • Daughters of Destiny
  • India’s Daughter
  • Strong Island
  • Ladies First
  • The Pearl of Africa

DRAMAS:

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  • Nora El Koussour as Layla in Layla M
  • Elvire Emanuelle as Mo in First Match
  • Karidja Toure as Marieme in Girlhood
  • Madina Nalwanga as Phiona Mutesi in Queen of Katwe
  • Sareum Srey Moch as Loung Ung in First They Killed My Father
  • Anailín de la Rúa de la Torre as Lila in Una Noche
  • Adepero Oduye as Alike in Pariah
  • Oprah Winfrey as Deborah Lacks in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  • Lamis Ammar and Ruba Blal as Layla and Jalila in Sandstorm
  • Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith in Bessie
  • Salma Hayek as Frida Kahlo in Frida
  • Meron Getnet and Tizita Hagere as Meaza Ashenafi and Hirut Assefa in Difret
  • Emayatzy Corinealdi as Ruby in Middle of Nowhere

HORROR:

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  • Narges Rashidi as Shideh in Under the Shadow
  • Eihi Shiina as Asami Yamazaki in Audition
  • Sheila Vand as The Girl in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  • Blanca Guerra as Concha in Santa Sangre
  • Soo-jung Lim and Geun-young Moon as Soo-mi Bae and Soo-yeon Bae in A Tale of Two Sisters

ROMANCE:

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  • Parminder Nagra as Jess in Bend it Like Beckham 
  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido Elizabeth Belle in Belle
  • Sandra Oh as Jade Li in Double Happiness
  • Angira Dhar as Karina in Love Per Square Foot

I’m always in search for new WOC lead roles and stories to experience, so you already know what to do – if you know about any that I didn’t mention in this list, let me know! Who knows, maybe I’ll discover a new favorite!

 

 

HOW & WHY I ANNOTATE MY BOOKS!

I recently posted about annotating books on my JMoReads Instagram account and ever since then, I’ve gotten tons of questions on how I go about my process. So, I put together this little guide on how I annotate my reading material in hopes that it helps some of you develop your own distinct techniques!

Before we even get started, let’s talk about the inconceivably obvious elephant in the room.  Yes, I write in my books. Yes, I enjoy writing in my books. And no, I don’t feel bad for writing in my books, so don’t even get any ideas about how you’re planning to make me feel guilty for it (book shaming is sooo 2011 *insert eye rolling emoji here*). Alright, now that we got that out of the way, we can move on to bigger and better things.

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First, some basics…

Why do you annotate, isn’t that like basically committing book murder?  

Uh, no. The complete opposite. Actually, let me explain. I have never yearned for a pristine-looking book collection. Okay, that’s a lie. Twelve-year-old me would have definitely cut your hand off if you would have even done something as little as accidentally dog-earing my book. But let’s not focus on that version of me – quite frankly, she was rather scary. And influenced. But mostly just scary. Let’s focus on the post-preteen version of me, she’s less…intense. It’s been years since I have longed for a perfect-looking bookshelf. It’s not something I’m interested in. If I want to make heart eyes at rows upon rows of books in model condition, I can go to the bookstore three blocks away. I want my book collection to look like my book collection. I want people to borrow a book of mine and be able to clearly see what passage I loved so much that I was compelled to draw a heart around it, what piece of dialogue made me laugh so hard that I dog-eared the page and highlighted it, not once but twice, and what sentence made me cry enough for it to be slightly smeared from coming in contact with a tear. I hope to someday pass down my book collection, and whether that’s to a child, friend, or stranger, I want that person to not only read the story at hand, but feel a little less alone while doing so. Because, who knows – perhaps what made them laugh, or cry, or simply ponder, is exactly how it made me feel, but how would they know unless it’s indicated as such? As an avid reader, I want to be able to experience each and every story told within every one of my books as intimately and authentically as possible; I want to live and breathe every sentence, taste every word. As an aspiring author, I’d feel the most honored if a reader came up to me with a battered, entirely written up copy of my book because that means they took the time to connect with each and every character, theme, and storyline on the deepest of levels.

Alright, enough with the gushy stuff. What type of books do you annotate?

Honestly, if I annotated every single book I read the proper way, it’d take me just about a year to get through a mere handful of them. Annotating – although enjoyable and liberating and totally something I think everyone should do – is time consuming. Almost every book on my shelf has at least a single pen marking in it, but the books I truly try to annotate from beginning to end are those that I predict will be four or five star reads. Sometimes even three star reads, but those are significantly less common. If I know a book will impact me in any way, shape, or form, I usually reach for my stack of pens, highlighters, and post-it notes and get ready to mark the hell out of it.

So, you write in any edition? *screams in horror*

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NO! Everyone obviously has their own preferences when it comes to this, but I don’t touch my signed or first editions. I’m a rule breaker, not a monster.

Okay, now that we’re through with that, let’s move on to my actual annotating process. It’s so complicated (sarcasm intended), so I’m going to be a nice blog owner and lay it all out for you in an easy-to-read, step-by-step guide. Keep up, this is some serious shit.

Step 1: Turn to any of the beginning pages of your book and make yourself a key so that it’s accessible in case you ever need to remember why you highlighted and/or marked a certain word or passage. Keys are definitely not necessary but they help me out a whole lot, so I always recommend them to other aspiring bookish rule breakers. Coming up with a key is pretty simple, here’s an example of one of mine featuring one of my latest reads, Shanghai Girls.

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A huge part of my annotating process is highlighting – it’s an easy way to give some order to your notes and annotations without necessarily looking too tidy. There’s two ways to incorporate the use of highlighters. You can either just highlight anything and everything you want without following a system, or you can do what I do and highlight based on a set structure. Just like in the picture above, I assign highlighter colors to different categories. The five categories I typically use are: anything important/details I should remember (this one is crucial for those who are annotating for reviewing or educational purposes), beautiful writing/passages or pieces of dialogue that spoke to me because of its fantastic use of words, scenes/moments that made me so unbelievably happy I almost cried (I’m a very emotional person so I cry…a lot. This category might not seem very significant to the average person, but I use it more often than not), scenes/moments that made me laugh, cry, or ponder depending on the genre of the book, and themes worth noting (not pictured because I sometimes don’t include this category in every book I annotate due to how time consuming it can become). Feel free to personalize your own categories and corresponding key, and be creative with it! This is supposed to be fun, after all.

Step Two: Okay, so you have the highlighting portion down. The next thing I tend to include are actual handwritten notes. For me, this is the most entertaining part of annotating. I get a lot of questions regarding this aspect of the process because most people are confused as to what they should write, and fortunately, there’s no set answer. I say ‘fortunately’ because this is what makes it so liberating and enjoyable. As far as my own technique though, I go back and forth between two types of notes. At times I’ll make a note about something I liked and/or appreciated, like in the picture shown below where I specifically comment about how I enjoy how Lisa Lee includes the definitions of certain Chinese phrases or slang terms, since it makes the entire experience a bit more relatable and transparent. My other types of notes are the ones I treat as a conversation with the characters, or sometimes even the author. So, for example, if a character does something questionable or idiotic, or both, I’ll write comments on the margins such as, “Why?!” Or if the author leaves us on a heartbreaking cliffhanger, I’ll totally pretend they can telepathically read my notes and I’ll write something like, “You better fix this, Ms. I-think-I-can-kill-your-favorite-character-without-any-consequences” – that note is actually taken directly from a book I annotated not too long ago.

It’s easy for people to shy away from annotating books because it can genuinely seem like a daunting process, but what most fail to realize is that it doesn’t have to be. You don’t need an English degree to read critically, and you most definitely don’t have to turn critical reading into a professional sport. Just enjoy it! Be creative and have fun. Out of everything it offers, when I look back at my annotated books, I see a diary – a genuine and raw insight into what and how I felt while reading certain moments in a book. Don’t dismiss annotating just because you think it needs to be immaculate and proficient.

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And that’s basically it.

What? Were you expecting a longer process? Sorry to disappoint!

But really – try it! If you’re not fully comfortable with marking your precious children just yet, there are other options, although I still hope you try my method at some point. My first suggestion is to either buy or find a stack of sticky notes and do the note taking on those, instead of in the actual book. It’ll allow you to still explore and dissect the story on a deeper level without the commitment. Talking about commitment, another way to deal with that while still wanting to give my method a chance is to purchase a cheaper, preferably used copy of whatever book you want to annotate and use that instead; it’ll allow you a real feel for annotating without touching your bookshelf copy.

The above are just last minute suggestions for if you really, really, reallyyy (I obviously can’t stress it enough, but if you need even more convincing, here’s one more: reallyyy) are hesitant about committing to annotating a book or two. I think you should just go for it though…join the dark side. We have way more fun.

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TOP FAVORITE ‘CAPTAIN SWAN’ MOMENTS!

How could I possibly let May 7th pass without making a Captain Swan related blog post? If you’re not on the same level of fangirliness (Is that a word? it is now!…maybe it’s fangirlness? Yes? No? I don’t know, what even is English?) as I am, allow me to explain. Captain Swan is the ship (Totally-professional fangirl term for ‘couple,’ not the water vessel – although the confusion is both understandable and expected) of  dreams…They’re basically the Titanic of all fictional couples for me. Guess that’s not entirely the best analogy since the Titanic sank…what is wrong with me today? *Sigh* Excuse my scattered ramblings…I may have had a cup too much of caffeine. ANYWAY, like I was trying to say – Captain Swan is my favorite fictional couple of all time. And yes, I realize just how big of a deal that is, considering that statement means they surpass any other TV, film, AND literary couple, but it’s true. I could genuinely sit here and bore every single one of you for hours on end about how much I simply adore this duo, but for now, let me get to the point of this post. So, May 7th turns out to be Captain Swan’s wedding anniversary and today, May 7, 2018, makes one year since the happy couple sang their hearts away…quite literally. You’re probably thinking, “You’re really celebrating a fictional couple’s wedding anniversary?” And my answer to that is, how could I not?! In hopes of sharing some of my own love for these two lovebirds and their story on this very special day, here’s a comprehensive list of my absolute favorite Captain Swan moments.

“DON’T YOU KNOW, EMMA? IT’S YOU” // 4×15

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Killian has been admitting his love for Emma since the beginning of time. It’s one of the many things that melt my heart into an absolute puddle regarding their relationship. But this time, it was different. Given the starkness of the situation, Killian confessing this to Emma changed the course of their relationship as a whole. It’s evident that Emma was afraid to ask because, to some extent, I believe she actually still had doubts someone could love her so much, but when Killian came out and said what she always hoped he would, her facial expression gave everything away. She was relieved and touched, and in this precise moment, she knew that this – that Killian – was it for her.

“I LOST EVERYONE. I CAN’T LOSE YOU TOO.” // 4×03

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From Emma’s vulnerable peek to Killian’s relieved expression when Emma said the opposite of what he was expecting, everything about this scene makes my heart skip a beat. While watching the show live, I remember being so frustrated by Emma’s constant avoidance. I mean, while it was totally relatable, I was even more irritated than Killian, which is saying a lot considering he was beginning to lose his mind over Emma constantly dodging his every move. Then suddenly, the dam burst, and we got a raw insight into a very sensitive and susceptible place for Emma. I think I can speak for every single one of us, including Killian, when I say we were all relieved that that was the reason Emma was avoiding him, yet it managed to shatter my soul into a million pieces. No exaggeration. Emma’s experienced so much painful loss in her life and every time she begins to think things are changing for the better, the universe somehow finds a way to ruin it once again. It’s no surprise she was so scared of allowing Killian in, but I felt like a proud mom when she was brave enough to admit the reason behind her hesitation. Just like the scene I previously wrote about, this one was yet another major turning point in their relationship. It was, in a way, what steered their love forward.

OPERATION BEST MAN // 6×19

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SPOILER ALERT. Emma and Killian get married! Besides the iconic wedding scene which I’ll write more about a little later on, this scene was my other favorite wedding-related moment. First of all, even though it technically wasn’t Captain Swan, can we please just acknowledge how sweet and heartwarming the little moment between Killian and Henry was? I love their relationship so, so much and that small but substantial moment made my life. There’s really nothing better than some quality future step-dad and step-son bonding. But as far as the actual Emma and Killian interaction in this scene, it was simply just too precious. Their joy was palpable through the screen, so much so that I genuinely cannot watch the scene without smiling like an idiot throughout the entirety of it. You try it and tell me if it’s any different for you. I bet not because it’s impossible to react any other way. Emma, who is already typically very smiley around her pirate, is absolutely radiant in this scene and after everything they’ve been through, it’s such a satisfying sight. Also, can I just add, the look Killian gives Emma towards the end of the scene, which makes her chuckle all while shaking her head in disbelief of her soon-to-be husband’s dorkiness (I’m just making up words left and right in this post, aren’t I?) is, without a doubt, a favorite moment of mine all on its own.

THE WEDDING // 6×20

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What kind of fan would I be if the epitome of their love story wasn’t one of my favorite scenes? This whole episode was absolutely fantastic. Not only because of the wedding, but also because of the musical. We had been anticipating a musical episode for so long and the fact that they incorporated it into Emma and Killian’s wedding made it all that more special. Their wedding was so magical. From their effortless yet entirely authentic vows to lovingly singing their feelings away, it looked and felt like a dream. Everything Captain Swan had endured, both the good and the bad, was completely worth it to have seen them as happy and fulfilled as they were during this very special moment. I think it’s pretty much every fangirl’s dream to witness their OTP (Yet another totally-professional fangirl term meaning ‘one true love’ aka the couple you root for the most) get married and with Captain Swan, we got that and so much more which I’m eternally grateful for.

“…AND YOU TRUST ME!” // 6×14

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I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a sucker for well-executed angst. This scene was, well, it was nothing short of painful and a definite tear-jerker. But just like Emma and Killian are a fan of every part of each other, I’m a fan of every part of their relationship – the good, the bad, and the ugly. The Captain Swan fandom has been put through hell and back, literally, so watching it, I knew that this angsty fight wouldn’t face them in any way. Yes, it was yet another hurdle they had to work through, but it made their relationship all that more real. This is yet another reason why I adore Emma and Killian’s dynamic so much. They’re not all rainbows and butterflies. Their relationship has been put through some incredibly strenuous situations and they’ve fought for each other and their love through it all. It was refreshing seeing this side of Emma – the side who knows them and their relationship so deeply and so authentically that she wasn’t going to put up for anything short of the best versions of themselves, especially before taking such an important step in their lives. On top of this, Jennifer Morrison’s acting blew my mind out of the water. She’s usually pretty amazing all around, but there was something about this scene that hit me like no other and I completely applaud her on her impeccable performance.

SECOND PROPOSAL // 6×17

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No matter how much I adore the first proposal, this one upstages it with flying colors. Working out the kinks from the previously discussed fight ended in this very sweet moment. I was so happy that Killian finally got to propose the way he wanted, without fear of disappointing Emma or without anything holding him back from enjoying the moment in its totality. I love his choice of words, especially when he assured Emma that, no matter what, he’ll always be by her side, and I love Emma’s tearful chuckle as a reaction. Then, Emma joining him at eye level before muttering the anticipated response and Killian’s heartfelt and purely sincere smile when he heard it was just enough to send me over the edge on the emotional meter. Everything about this moment is so indescribably tender and everything this couple deserved.

TRUE LOVE TEST // 5×20

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I don’t think people talk about this scene enough. It’s, next to the wedding scene, the embodiment of their entire journey as a couple. One of the most important moments we’ve witnessed time and time again throughout the course of Once Upon a Time is true love couples experiencing their true love realization moments. Now, before Captain Swan, every single one of these moments had been shown through the cliche but very romantic act of a true loves kiss. But for Emma and Killian, it was different. Although considered a bit debatable because some fans believe that them not sharing a true loves kiss means they were deprived of something, I think it’s quite the opposite. Captain Swan’s story is so perfectly unique and special in its own way and they’ve gone on so many thrilling adventures that the typical true loves kiss would be quite a dull experience for their standards. The idea of their love being tested to its extreme is so fascinating and it really is the only thing that makes sense to me, considering that every other aspect of their relationship has also been pushed to its limits. We’ve seen Killian give up his own life to save Emma and her family. In turn, I simply adored the act of sacrifice Emma showed during this scene which ended up seamlessly depicting their unconditional and indestructible love for one another.

“YOU’RE IMPOSSIBLE.” // 5×14

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Out of this entire list, this has got to be the shortest scene but I love it just as much as all the others. It wasn’t often that we got alone and quiet moments between these two, so I quickly learned to appreciate the ones we did get. Even though this particular moment happened in the midst of an insanely bleak season, it was so tenderhearted that I can’t even think about the scene without feeling my heart double in size. The fact that Emma crossed a very dangerous and narrow bridging over the river of souls without a hint of hesitation is enough to applaud her. I would have been terrified, and I’m sure she was too, but she didn’t care because her sole objective was getting to her true love on the other side. If that’s not the most nail-biting, romantic gesture then I don’t know what is. It was a moment, in between all the spirits and death lords, where Emma and Killian could simply be in each other’s arms and presence without having to worry about anything or anyone else. Along with that also comes the epitome of cute exchanges topped off with an adorable giggle from Emma and a weak but genuine smile from Killian.

STORY TIME // 6×07

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Will I ever get over just how gentle Killian is with his Swan? No, most probably not. This is one scene that caught me by surprise because I never expected to love it as much as I do. It’s so simple yet I think that’s exactly why I love it so much. This exact moment is a beautiful testament to just how supporting and encouraging Killian is towards Emma and everything that she is and stands for.

CEMETERY REUNION // 5×21

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Drum roll, please! I may love every single scene on this list so, so much but the cemetery reunion will forever and always be my absolute weakness. If I’m being honest, I’m not quite sure why I’m such a big fan of this moment, but it makes my stomach do somersaults and my heart leap out of my chest. I’m pretty sure we can all agree that season five was one hell of a rollercoaster ride. There were so many heartbreaking and emotionally exhausting moments, and very few that allowed us any bit of relief. But this one. This one changed the game. I guess part of the reason I love it so much is because, first and foremost, I’m an Emma Swan fan, and seeing her so incredibly happy for once in a long time was more rewarding than I can explain. The cheek kisses along with the intense giggles and pure joy make for one of the most uplifting, lighthearted scenes in the show’s history.

There you have it, my top favorite Captain Swan moments from the first six seasons of Once Upon a Time. Happy anniversary to my favorite couple! Are you also a fan of them? What are your favorite scenes?

BACK ROADS: BOOK VS. MOVIE

Back Roads, originally a novel written by Tawni O’Dell and released back in 1999, was recently adapted into a film directed by Alex Pettyfer, starring Jennifer Morrison, Juliette Lewis, Nicola Peltz, Chiara Aurelia, June Carryl, Robert Patrick, and Hala Finley. The film went into production in early/mid 2017 and ended up having its world premiere as a spotlight narrative at the Tribeca Film Festival in April of this year.

I was lucky enough to attend the Back Roads premiere at Tribeca and the entire experience ended up becoming one of my ultimate favorites. Having run the Back Roads movie fan account on Instagram for over a year now, I had been anticipating the film for so long and actually getting to see the final product come to life at such a special event felt like an incredible honor.

That being said, I’ve been a fan of the novel far longer than I’ve even known about the making of the film and being a book lover in general, you can probably imagine my natural weariness when it came to the adaptation. I was so anxious about how it would turn out and I can’t even begin to explain just how relieved and thrilled I was when it came out better than I ever imagined.

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I already reviewed the film on my YouTube channel (Also called ‘Nerdy Babble’ – check it out, *wink wink*), so I felt like writing a similar review on here would be utterly redundant. Instead, I thought it’d be a fun idea to note some of the key similarities and differences between the film and novel, all while keeping it as spoiler-free as I possibly can…here’s to hoping for the best.

* Warning: This post might (probably not, but perhaps) contain novel spoilers, but I will keep any specific details about what they did or didn’t include in the film out. If you’ve read the novel, then you should be safe. If you haven’t, then well, you’ve be warned. Proceed with caution.

First, for those who decided to proceed with caution, if you don’t know what Back Roads is even about, here’s a quick synopsis taken directly from the novel’s Goodreads page:

Harley Altmyer should be in college drinking Rolling Rock and chasing girls. He should be freed from his closed-minded, stricken coal town, with its lack of jobs and no sense of humor. Instead, he’s constantly reminded of just how messed up his life is.

With his mother in jail for killing his abusive father, Harley is an orphan with the responsibilities of an adult and the fiery, aggressive libido of a teenager. Just nineteen years old, he’s marooned in the Pennsylvania backwoods caring for his three younger sisters, whose feelings about him range from stifling dependence to loathing. And once he develops an obsession with the sexy, melancholic mother of two living down the road, those Victoria’s Secret catalogs just won’t do the trick anymore. He wants Callie Mercer so badly he fears he will explode. But it’s the family secrets, the lies, and the unspoken truths that light the fuse and erupt into a series of staggering surprises, leaving what’s left of his family in tatters. Through every ordeal, the unforgettable Harley could never know that his endearing humor, his love for his sisters, and his bumbling heroics would redeem them all.

As far as similarities go, the most important ones – the ones I always felt like they had to include in order to appropriately honor the novel – are the novel’s narrative sequence, plot highlights, and core conflicts and themes. But what does this mean, exactly? Themes that run throughout the length of the Back Roads narrative include: the process of maturity, own worst enemy, coming-of-age, humanity vs. human nature, family, loss of innocence, and motherhood (Or, in this case, the lack of). All of these themes, which are ever so prominent in the novel are just as prominent in the film, consequently giving the film a very similar tone to the one the novel portrays. While watching the film, I found myself experiencing the same thought process I did while reading the source material, and being as big of a fan of these specific themes and core conflicts as I am, I was so glad to see them included in the screen adaptation.

The original story follows a very unique plot timeline by revealing the sequence of events in a form of a flashback. If you’ve read the novel, then you’d know exactly what I’m referring to. The first scene we are introduced to in the novel is the interrogation scene between our protagonist, Harley, and Chief Mansour that takes place in the police station. Very similarly, it’s also the first scene you see in the film. Then, just like in the novel, the story unfolds chronologically in one long flashback sequence circling back to the very beginning of the film again at the end.

Another major similarity is the characterization. Although in the novel, some of the characters, such as Callie and Amber, are physically described a bit differently than how the actors portraying them look (In the novel, Callie has brown hair vs. her blonde hair in the film; in the novel, Amber has reddish-blonde hair vs. her bleached blonde hair in the film; etc), every single cast member brought their corresponding character to life in such an authentic way. During the Q&A session after the screening at Tribeca, Tawni O’Dell herself thanked the cast for how well they treated these characters and for their genuine and spot-on portrayal. I mean, if that doesn’t tell you something, then I don’t know what will.

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Alex brought out Harley’s naive and sympathetic personality so extremely well, it gave me chills quite a few times. Harley’s violence-filled and psychologically disruptive upbringing were direct implications for his troubled and misplaced character, and even though I had my own personal doubts about how Alex would manage to portray such a complex and troubled individual, he exceeded my expectations. To be wholeheartedly honest, he broke my heart with his tangible performance time and time again, and I can’t do much except applaud him for a job well done. Also, can I just quickly mention – on top of being in every single scene, the man still managed to direct a cinematically stunning film with numerous elaborate and exacting shots, and I still can’t wrap my mind around how he accomplished it so effortlessly.

Alright, enough gushing about Alex’s talent, even though I could seriously go on all day. Let’s move on to the other, equally as well depicted, characters. Jennifer Morrison as Callie Mercer…wow. She’s just so good. I’m not exaggerating when I say that after seeing Jennifer as Callie, I can’t possibly imagine anyone else doing a better job. Knowing how big of a book lover she is, I wasn’t a bit surprised with the amount of details Jennifer managed to incorporate from the novel version of Callie into the on screen version. Every bit of energy and time she spent trying to make sure she got this character just right reflected so well in the final product. Callie’s such an elaborate character and so different from anything Jennifer’s ever done before, yet it feels like she’s been playing her for the entirety of her career. In the novel, the only insight we get into Callie’s character and life is what Harley chooses to reveal to the reader from his perspective, which I can see being an entirely difficult and limiting situation when it came to bringing the character to life on screen, yet it doesn’t seem like Jennifer had any issues. She managed to not only portray all of Callie’s written quirks, mannerisms, desires, and emotional complexity, but she also brought so much more than I expected to the character, making her a million times more layered than in the novel. Also, since we’re already on the topic and because I know a lot of you will be curious – no, the film didn’t change the ending of the book (Thankfully! I mean…could you imagine? I would have been downright pissed), and yes, it’s just as heartbreaking and infuriating.

The girls, Amber, Misty, and Jody, were all beautifully portrayed. Mostly, I was very nervous to see how Nicola would go about bringing Amber to life as she’s my favorite character in the novel, and she did it seamlessly. Amber is just as strong-willed and troubled as she is in the book, and Nicola plays her with such passion and veracity that every scene leaves you torn between feeling empathetic and furious towards her character. Misty was just as unsettling on paper as she was on screen and I was blown away by Chiara’s ability to depict this character’s intricacy at such a young age. Last but certainly not least, Hala Finley as Jody. My goodness, what a little talent. Hala was the most surprising part of this entire experience. Not that I didn’t think she’d do a fantastic job but she blew my expectations out of the water. Jody was exactly the same as in the book but even more adorable and endlessly endearing, if that’s even possible. She provided some of the most heart-warming pieces of dialogue and some much needed lightheartedness to the entire narrative, balancing out the heaviness of the central plot in  such a necessary and flawless way. Amber might have been my favorite character in the novel, but Jody stole the show as well as the audience’s heart, including mine.

The biggest difference I found between the two pieces is the intensity of Harley’s character. Allow me to explain. In the book, Harley’s character is intense. Due to the fact that a novel allows for a much deeper character analysis and insight, while reading the story you really get an idea of just how fiercely disturbing some of Harley’s thoughts truly are. Yes, in the film you get to see his damage, but in my opinion, it’s nowhere near as heavy and grim as the novel portrays it. In all fairness, I really do think this is a natural shift as, like I mentioned before, the length of the novel allows for a deeper dive into his character’s thought process. It’s almost impossible to translate every little inflection the novel carries into a screen adaptation, given that films are more restricting, and so this slight difference in tone didn’t end up bothering me in the slightest. Also, there are several moments in the film, just like in the book, where you still get those intense insights into the odd workings of Harley’s mind, which are equally as disturbing, so it ends up balancing out the intensity of the novel in what I think is a phenomenal way.

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Overall, I’m beyond satisfied with the way Back Roads turned out. Now I know that I should have probably never been as nervous as I was to begin with, because having followed the entire production through my Instagram account, I knew just how much love, respect, energy, and effort was being poured into this project and so I should have known it was going to be great. In all honesty though, it easily exceeded every expectation I had and my hat goes off to every single person who worked so incredibly hard to make this fascinating and special story come to life in the way it did. I’m just hoping the rest of you get to see it very, very soon because I’m sure it will not disappoint!

My rating?

4+1-2+Stars

 

WHAT I LOVED & DIDN’T LOVE ABOUT ‘A QUIET PLACE’

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If you don’t at least know about A Quiet Place, then you’re surely living under a rock. The film is doing major damage at the box office and with good reason – it’s a simple concept done so right. I finally got around to watching it the other night, and from a technical perspective, it left such a good impression on me, but overall, I had a few issues with it that I still haven’t been able to see past. Today I am here to discuss those impressions with you all. Oh, and don’t worry – this will be an entirely spoiler-free post!

WHAT I LOVED:

  • Like I mentioned above, A Quiet Place was based around such a simple, and at times even overdone, horror concept – a post-apocolyptic world where a group of characters are targeted by an enemy of some sort, whether that would be in the paranormal or monster sense of the word. It’s a concept that has the potential to go so wrong, because of how many times it’s been done and redone throughout the years, yet they managed to, instead, take that overplayed idea and use it to their advantage. Adding the more distinctive elements, such as the noiselessness, gave the film an edge that undeniably made it stand out. Horror films have a reputation for making their concepts so unbelievably complex that it takes away from the meat of the story, hence why I enjoyed the simplicity A Quiet Place offered. Now, don’t get me wrong, a simple concept can fall flat if the execution is not carried out properly, but in this case, it definitely was.
  • There’s a lot to say about a film whose entire cast managed to keep the audience’s attention in line through their acting. Of course, it’s easier when you have a cast like the one from A Quiet Place, which only has a total of five actors, but considering that three out of those five actors are children, I still give them major props. Typically, films, especially the horror/thriller genre, tend to lean a whole lot on their use of sound to create a sustainable ambience. With this film though, because they took away most (I’ll get into why I specifically said ‘most’ later on in this post) of that element, they really depended on the actors’ facial expressions, mannerisms, and body language to convey every bit of emotion; it felt very theatrical in a sense and I really enjoyed that.

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  • John Krasinski deserves every bit of recognition for the fantastic amount of attention he poured into this film. You really don’t realize just how noisy humans are until you watch A Quiet Place. Also, as a side note, you don’t realize how noisy we are until you have to challenge a crowd to stay quiet throughout a 90 minute film. The struggle was real. ANYWAY. Everything we do in our day-to-day lives requires us to make some sort of noise and the fact that this film made me realize that says a lot. Even things like the eating utensils or how they covered the path they walk home on with sand…every little detail was accounted for and it made the entire experience seem so much more believable. You could really dwell on the idea that these characters have genuinely adapted to this new world in the most extreme and realistic of ways.
  • Given the fact that silence played such a massive role in the narrative, it was almost a given that jump scares would be used. I mean, if not, why develop all that tension to begin with, right? I’m typically not a huge jump scare fan – I think they’re overly used to the point where they become a way to get a cheap scare out of the audience. A Quiet Place uses them sparingly though, which I think created just the right amount of build up. With the lack of noise, you’d expect for the movie to be full of them, which I was scared of, but I was pleasantly surprised about how they chose to go about it. The ones used were very strategically placed and actually managed to scare me half to death. Alright, maybe I’m exaggerating a little there, but still…it was great.
  • My favorite aspect of A Quiet Place, by far, has got to be how they put in the effort to actually include a deaf actress, Millicent Simmonds, to portray the role of young Regan Abbott, the oldest daughter who, in the film, is deaf. Millicent did a phenomenal job depicting Regan’s frustrations and strides towards her character’s turning point. Disabled individuals are highly underrepresented in the film community, and even the roles that are written as disabled are typically played by abled actors. The fact that the producers and Krasinski were so adamant about giving this role to a genuinely disabled person is incredibly important and a step in the right direction when it comes to being more inclusive of a marginalized community.

 

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WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE: 

  • Contradicting exactly what I just said above (I know, I’m so complicated), the one thing that has bothered me about this film since the minute I stepped foot out of the theater is how they managed to turn right around and screw up said inclusivity. They were doing so well when it came to using ASL in a respectful and appropriate manner, and being careful to include subtitles throughout the majority of the film’s length, making it possible for hearing audiences to understand. That being said, you’d expect them to have the same courtesy for the deaf/hard of hearing community, considering they put so much effort into making it as inclusive as possible during every other moment of the film. Unfortunately, during the few speaking scenes that were included, they failed to offer subtitles, making it incredibly hard or impossible for the same group of marginalized individuals to comprehend, consequently defeating the purpose of a comprehensive experience. I was utterly disappointed with this, especially given the fact that it was such an easily remediable fix.
  • The score. You see, the score is typically one of my favorite parts of a film. Without a good quality score, films tend to fall flat and can be rather lifeless, making for cinematic disasters. But, in this particular situation, where the narrative depends so intensely on the use of silence, the cliche horror score they used during most of the tension-heavy scenes sometimes took away from what they were trying to achieve. Heavy silence is such a terrifyingly brilliant component to add to a film and it can make the audience’s experience an entirely spine-chilling one, but instead of utilizing it to its fullest potential, I feel like they took the safer route, and sadly, it reflected in the final product.

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Putting aside my obvious issues with it, I still managed to enjoy A Quiet Place a whole lot. It’s refreshing to finally get a horror movie whose execution is dissimilar from every other one that’s been released in the past few years. I do believe that if they would have kept up with their fantastic efforts at an inclusive concept throughout the entire film, instead of just during the parts accessible to hearing audiences, I would have rated this a full 5 stars, but I have to at least knock down half a star for the backwards leap during those several speaking scenes. No matter what though, it is a step in the right direction and at the end of the day, that’s what truly matters. If you have yet to watch A Quiet Place and don’t mind the two negative points I noted, give it a go! Let me know your thoughts and whether or not you agree with my points.

My rating?

4+1-2+Stars

TOP 10 HIDDEN NETFLIX GEMS!

Netflix can be a complicated world. You have thousands upon thousands of films at your disposal, ranging from all types of different genres and categories, so why is it so hard to make up your mind on something to watch? I mean, it can’t just be me, right? It’s quite easy for me to spend hours trying to choose a film, yet I end up watching the same ones over and over again. If you share a similar struggle, I’ve got you covered – at least for the time being. Here are some of the little gems I’ve found throughout my many adventures scavenging the depths of Netflix:

WHAT HAPPENED TO MONDAY

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  • DIRECTOR: Tommy Wirkola
  • WRITER(S): Max Botkin, Kerry Williamson
  • STARRING: Noomi Rapace, Glenn Close, Willem Dafoe, Marwan Kenzari, Christian Rubeck
  • GENRE(S): Dystopian, Science Fiction, Thriller

“In a world where families are limited to one child due to overpopulation, a set of identical septuplets must avoid being put to a long sleep by the government and dangerous infighting while investigating the disappearance of one of their own.”

This one is what I like to call ‘Orphan Black: On Steroids.’ I’m not the biggest sci-fi fan so I don’t have too many recommendations when it comes to the genre, but I wanted to make this list as diverse as possible. What Happened to Monday is one of the better sci-fis I’ve seen lately and Noomi Rapace’s phenomenal portrayal of seven totally different women alone is enough for you to want to watch.

MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI

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  • DIRECTOR: Claude Barras
  • WRITER(S): Celine Sciamma, Gilles Paris, Morgan Navarro, Germano Zullo, Claude Barras
  • STARRING: Gaspard Schlatter, Sixtine Murat, Paulin Jaccoud, Michel Vuillermoz, Raul Ribera, Estelle Hennard
  • GENRE(S): Family, Animation, Drama

“After his mother’s death, Zucchini is befriended by a kind police officer, Raymond, who accompanies him to his new foster home filled with other orphans his age. There, with the help of his newfound friends, Zucchini eventually learns to trust and love as he searches for a new family of his own.”

I have wholeheartedly fell in love with animation this year. Of course, I’ve always been a massive fan of the Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks films, but didn’t start really testing the waters with other animations until earlier this year and thankfully I did because I have found some that have become lifelong favorites. This one didn’t come to me as a surprise as it’s written by Celine Sciamma, one of my all time favorite directors and writers. Her storytelling always manages to leave me breathless, and My Life as a Zucchini was no exception. It’s still hard for me to believe that this 70-minute odd, little French film about characters made out of clay provoked as much emotion as it did. Not only is it absolutely stunning and so incredibly well put-together, but also manages to shine a light on some crucial themes and subjects, which will all manage to tug at your heartstrings throughout the entirety of the narrative. Trust me on this and give it a watch, it wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award for no reason…*wink, wink*

HUSH

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  • DIRECTOR: Mike Flanagan
  • WRITER(S): Mike Flanagan, Kate Siegel
  • STARRING: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr, Samantha Sloyan, Michael Trucco, Emilia Graves
  • Genre(s): Thriller, Horror

“A deaf woman is stalked by a psychotic killer in her secluded home.”

Ready to get a proper scare? Hush is the first movie I always recommend to people when they ask me for Netflix recommendations. It’s always surprising to see just how little amount of recognition it has, and I find that it’s a balanced enough film where lots of different people with all types of tastes will enjoy it. Aside from my obsession with foreign films and female directed and/or written works, another one of my favorite things is finding good stories that center around an underrepresented community and Hush is just that. I do wish they would have used a genuinely deaf lead actress though, but for what it’s worth, I feel like they spent a lot of time and energy making sure that that community was appropriately represented and respected.

THE BREADWINNER

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  • DIRECTOR: Nora Twomey
  • WRITER(S): Deborah Ellis, Anita Doron
  • STARRING: Saara Chaudry, Noorin Gulamgaus, Soma Chhaya
  • GENRE(S): Drama, War, Animation

“A headstrong young girl in Afghanistan disguises herself as a boy in order to provide for her family.”

Another animated masterpiece! Told ya’ I was in love. This one is so special and I’m so excited to share it with you all because it truly deserves every bit of recognition and praise.  A story about an independent, brave, completely badass little girl written AND directed by an all female crew? I don’t think it can get any better than that. Oh, wait – it can! Not only does it have great female representation, but it’s also a story focused around a culture typically not highlighted in the film industry. The Breadwinner doesn’t hold much back when it comes to showing the audience the reality of women in these situations – it is terrifyingly harsh in the same way it is deeply moving and real. There is something so refreshing about a film of this nature not being afraid to tackle such sensitive yet jarring issues and I applaud it for doing so in such a heartbreakingly stunning and respectable manner.

GIRLHOOD

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  • DIRECTOR: Celine Sciamma
  • WRITER(S): Celine Sciamma
  • STARRING: Karidja Toure, Assa Sylla, Lindsey Karamoh
  • GENRE(S): Drama

“Oppressed by her family setting, dead-end school prospects and the boys law in the neighborhood, Marieme starts a new life after meeting a group of three free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her dress code, and quits school to be accepted in the gang, hoping that this will be a way to freedom.”

Yet another Celine Sciamma mention. Are you really surprised though? She’s just so good. I swear everything Celine touches turns into pure and perfect cinematic heaven. I have watched and re-watched her entire filmography and could genuinely recommend every single one of her films, but sadly, most are not on Netflix. Good news is that Girlhood is and gosh, is it great! There are so many great coming-of-age stories out there, but I had never seen one focus on the lives of young Black women in a poor French neighborhood. It’s stunning, intimate, thrilling, heartbreaking. I simply couldn’t recommend it more.

UNDER THE SHADOW

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  • DIRECTOR: Babak Anvari
  • WRITER(S): Babak Anvari
  • STARRING: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi, Bobby Naderi
  • GENRE(S): Thriller, War, Drama, Horror

“As a mother and daughter struggle to cope with the terrors of the post-revolution, war torn Tehran of the 80s, a mysterious evil begins to haunt their home.”

I absolutely adore horror films – actually, they’re my number one favorite – and I love war films almost just as much. Now, combine those two elements with a mother/daughter story and a well-developed cultural commentary sprinkled in here and there, you’ve basically got one hell of a horror movie. It’s a simple concept with a marvelous and atmospheric execution that will surely leave you spooked.

FRUITVALE STATION

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  • DIRECTOR: Ryan Coogler
  • WRITER(S): Ryan Coogler
  • STARRING: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer
  • GENRE(S): Drama

“The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.”

Let’s be honest, we all know that everything the Michael B. Jordan/Ryan Coogler duo does turns out great, and this is no exception. It’s so absolutely heartbreaking and Michael’s performance is one of his best. I loved how they included real footage of Fruitvale – it made it all that more powerful and striking. Most importantly though, I think it was a beautiful and respectful nod to Oscar Grant III, whose tragic death is what this film is based on.

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

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  • DIRECTOR: Abdellatif Kechiche
  • WRITER(S): Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalia Lacroix
  • STARRING: Lea Seydoux, Adele Exarchopoulos, Salim Kechiouche
  • GENRE(S): Romance, Drama

“Adèle’s life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adele grows, seeks herself, loses herself, finds herself.”

Blue is the Warmest Color is so beautifully hypnotizing that sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s even real. I love my French films, as you can probably tell from this list, and I think one of the reasons I love them so much is because French filmmakers tend to be so daring when it comes to their art. It’s like poetry coming to life on screen and it is simply stunning in every way. This depiction of a boldly passionate coming-of-age story is one of the most raw and painfully honest I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

MUSTANG

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  • DIRECTOR: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
  • WRITER(S): Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Alice Winocour
  • STARRING: Gunes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan, Ilayda Akdogan
  • GENRE(S): Drama

“In a Turkish village, five orphaned sisters live under strict rule while members of their family prepare their arranged marriages.”

Talking about powerful coming-of-age stories, this has got to be my absolute favorite, by far. I watched it for the first time about a few months ago and I still manage to think about it quite often. I’ve never seen a film tackle such a serious issue in such a tasteful manner. The movie doesn’t stray away from being terrifyingly real and unapologetically honest, yet it balanced itself utterly well by allowing the audience to feel these young girls’ hopeful spirits. There are highs and there are lows, there are heartbreaking moments just like there are lighthearted ones. There’s not a single character you don’t react to in an emotionally striking way, whether it’s a positive or negative reaction. The fact that there are five main characters that are all taking separate life routes also allows for the story to be seen from five dissimilar perspectives which I thought was so clever of Deniz. Also, I dare you to watch the movie and not fall completely head-over-heels in love with little Lale. Go on, try to prove me wrong.

RAW

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  • DIRECTOR: Julia Ducournau
  • WRITER(S): Julia Ducournau
  • STARRING: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella
  • GENRE(S): Horror, Drama

“In Justine’s family everyone is a vet and a vegetarian. At 16, she’s a gifted teen ready to take on her first year in vet school, where her older sister also studies. There, she gets no time to settle: hazing starts right away. Justine is forced to eat raw meat for the first time in her life. Unexpected consequences emerge as her true self begins to form.”

Okay, my French film obsession is clearly getting out of hand, but c’mon, how could I possibly go through an entire recommendations list without mentioning one of my favorite directors, Julia Ducournau? Raw is yet another film that I never fail to recommend to everyone around me. It is a bit tricky because it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s so great, both narrative and directing wise, and I just feel like everyone should at least give it a try. This film’s so odd that I’m not quite sure what to even say about it except for, give it a chance! I promise it’s great! In all honesty though, I (clearly) love coming-of-age stories and the more unique, the better. What more unique than a disturbing, cringe-inducing tale of cannibalism? I guess I’ll leave it at that.

Okay, so there you have it! Now that you know some of my favorite Netflix films, let me know some of yours. Don’t leave me hanging!

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUN DOGS REVIEW | SPOILER FREE

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Sun Dogs caught me by surprise, in the most wonderful way. I knew the synopsis going into it, obviously, but in no way, shape, or form did I expect to love it as much as I did. At first, I was utterly confused because it’s always been labeled as a comedy – or a dramatic comedy, in this case – which, it is, but the way in which the film begins completely contradicts that genre’s barriers. In a way, that’s what makes the film so great. Throughout the entirety of the movie, the storyline dances on a very thin line between what would be considered comedy and what could potentially be taken as utterly offensive due to its mentions of some considerably serious topics. That constant push and pull between staying within the barriers of the comedy genre and often pushing past those barriers and diving deep into more complex ideas and issues truly gave Sun Dogs a subtle edge I have not witnessed a film having in quite some time.

The audience is first and foremost shown flashes from the September 11th catastrophe, along with clips from what seems like an intense war scene, both of which are not only, on their own, wholeheartedly sensitive subjects but ones that have the potential to cause the entire film to crumble, yet it did quite the opposite and I applaud it for doing that so effortlessly. The underlying themes that run throughout the length of the film are some that genuinely stick with you long after you finish watching it – transformation (both physically and mentally), innocence, sacrifice, selflessness, compassion, acceptance, courage, and that’s barely scratching the surface. The most prominent and definitely the most salient theme that is more and more noticeable the deeper into the story you get, is that, although you may not think so, the smallest of actions can have the biggest impacts on people’s lives and in the world. After finishing the movie, I was left with an overwhelmingly powerful urge to seek out what smaller gestures and actions I could potentially incorporate in my day-to-day life that could, somehow, benefit someone…anyone. And that’s exactly what a great film does. A great film does not just end and leave you entirely satisfied; a great film leaves you hungry for more, it leaves your mind breathless from basking in all of the minuscule details that caused the film to have such a meaningful impact in the first place and Sun Dogs accomplished that and so much more.

Now, here are my thoughts on the more technical aspects of the film, and brace yourselves because I have no official knowledge on the craft, just what has been self-taught, so this part of the review could potentially be disastrous. There is no denying that the cinematic techniques used made the film what it is. Jennifer Morrison’s directing was impeccable. From the seamlessly creative typewriter shots and sounds (my literature loving self completely fell in love with the use of the typewriter) to the use of Ned’s iconic and vibrant blue notecards, and everything in between, the directing style Morrison chose was what lead the film to be as impactful as it was. The music, written and composed by the greatly talented Mark Isham, flowed with the storyline impeccably – almost as if no other soundtrack could have worked for this specific story. Also, I cannot possibly get through this entire review without mentioning Julia Morrison Summers’ song during the ending credits, Not Alone, as it fit the mood so well that it is still hard for me to believe Summers wrote it by simply reading the script. How an artist is able to capture a film’s genuine essence and tone from merely reading a stack of papers either shows just how vivacious the script truly is or how talented the artist is. Or both. In this case, definitely both. The sequence of shots paired with the use of what I felt was a complimentary color scheme (mostly orange and teal tones) allowed the audience to feel connected with Ned’s internal conflict on a whole new level. The cinematography, in general, was stunning, and I am forever blown away by what a powerful duo Michael Lloyd and Jennifer Morrison proved to be. The fact that this 93 minute, cinematically gorgeous film was short in just about 18 days with only 9 days of prep is enough to keep my mind blown away for an entire eternity. Watching it, it is almost impossible to comprehend that they managed to fit in 30 different locations in that short amount of time. I totally and wholeheartedly applaud the team behind Sun Dogs for not only managing but succeeding at such a feat.

There are not enough words to describe just how talented the group of actors are and their chemistry is something you have to watch in order to fully appreciate. Let’s start with our very own Ned Chipley – probably one of the most lovable, unconventional heroes. I could not think of a better person to have portrayed the role of Ned than Michael Angarano. Going back to what I mentioned earlier about the storyline walking on a thin line between being light-hearted and being taken extremely seriously, Ned was the constant source of balance. There were times where a scene dealt with a serious topic, such as suicide or terrorism, and it was hard for me, as an audience member, to figure out what the appropriate reaction should be. But Ned’s always charming personality never failed to pull me back from spiraling too deep into said dire topic and it somehow always ended up with the entire theater laughing out loud at one of his profoundly serious, yet hilariously odd one-liners, such as, “Stay vigilant,” or another one of my favorites, “I have field preparedness.” Due to his mental condition caused during birth, Ned is as smart and alert as they come, but he is unable to comprehend abstract ideas, causing him to have a stern, yet childlike way of viewing the world around him.

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Ned Chipley is most definitely a relentless soul and that makes me love him all that much more. Allison Janney as Rose Chipley and Ed O’Neill as Bob Garrity could not have been any more perfect. Rose’s unconditional love and admiration for her son was something that, at times, almost even brought me to tears. Bob, although more exacting when it comes to Ned and his intellectual limitations, truly does love his step-son and at the end of the day, only wants what is best for him. Even though I thought his way of carrying himself around Ned was, at times, perhaps a bit too harsh, everything he did came from the heart and I think that was genuinely noticeable through Ed’s impeccable acting. Talking about Ed, him and Allison’s chemistry was so potent that it is hard for me to believe they have not actually been married 20+ years. Their scenes together  were pure magic and it was a joy watching their individual talents feed off of each other. Last but certainly not least, Melissa Benoist as Tally Peterson managed to crawl her way into a very special place in my heart. She’s just so good. Tally’s story broke my heart in inexplicable ways, but her excitement for life and adventure made up for it. Witnessing Ned and Tally’s relationship grow and blossom through the film made my heart so happy and I would be lying if I said their scenes together were not my favorite. Aside from just offering the audience a refreshing contrasting balance to offset Ned’s character, her storyline introduced the most prominent theme that eventually lead to the film’s pivotal ending and profound message of how every action, no matter how small, can have such sizable effects.

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Overall, Sun Dogs was a remarkably special film with so much heart and such an important message. After an extremely successful festival run, Sun Dogs is now streaming on Netflix and I highly encourage every single one of you to press play and join the Chipley family.

My rating?

4 star rating