Category Archives: TWSM Entertainment Review

‘I Still Believe’ Is Worth Your Time

To be honest, I generally avoid Faith-based movies. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good inspirational film, but I’ve found many of the “church” movies to be cheesy and unrealistic. That being said, I was hesitant to watch “I Still Believe” when it came out in early March. I finally decided to give it a chance because I love the previous work of the two lead actors, KJ Apa (you might know him from the insane teen drama, “Riverdale”) and Britt Robertson (of “Tomorrowland” fame). Knowing that these actors would give stellar performances regardless of the story, I gave in and fired up the film the other day.

“I Still Believe” is the real-life love story of Christian singer Jeremy Camp (Apa) and his college sweetheart, Melissa (Robertson). When Camp sets out for college, he dreams of writing songs and playing guitar on stage. He meets a friend, Jean-Luc (Nathan Parsons), who is also a singer. At one of Jean-Luc’s shows, Jeremy spots Melissa in the crowd and is immediately taken with her. The pair begin to secretly date and a wonderful love story unfolds. However, the pair finds out that Melissa is severely ill. The latch on to their faith as they navigate the tough waters ahead.

“I Still Believe” managed to weave in faith, miracles, and Christianity without feeling phoned in or cheesy. Apa and Robertson are incredibly believable and share an easy yet intense chemistry. At the end of the film, the real-life Jeremy Camp enters, discussing Melissa’s story and her desire to change lives for the better, even if it is only one person that she impacts. After watching the film, it is safe to say that she succeeded.

You can stream “I Still Believe” on Hulu, or rent it on demand.

Happy Streaming!

~Katie

Netflix’s ‘Outer Banks’-The Summer Show You Need In Your Life

Have you ever wondered what might happen if you mixed “The Goonies” with “90210”? The answer is Netflix’s newest hit show, “Outer Banks” (affectionately known as OBX to the die-hard fans). The series follows the escapades of John B. (Chase Stokes) and his rowdy friends, JJ (Rudy Pankow), Kiara (Madison Bailey), and Pope (Jonathan Daviss). John B.’s father has been missing, and presumed dead, for nine months when the gang hears of another mysterious disappearance after a storm on the Outer Banks, the coastal island where they live. The island is gorgeous, but under its pristine, gleaming sunsets, nothing is as it seems.

As John B. and his friends investigate the disappearance of a man in their town, they start to find clues that the missing man may have been partnering with John B.’s dad on his life’s work: finding treasure in an old shipwreck. The trouble only escalades when rich girl Sarah Cameron (scene stealer Madelyn Cline) gets roped in as well. Thus ensues fights, boat chases, and even more shenanigans on the quest to find gold.

With only ten episodes in its first season, “Outer Banks” is a fast, riveting watch. Many people find themselves finishing the whole season in a matter of a few days. We finished it in two! Each episode leaves you with a cliffhanger, wondering what will happen next.

Even though the cast is made up of mostly newcomers, the performances are actually quite good. Sure, there’s a couple cheesy and unrealistic moments here and there, but that’s almost unavoidable in a teen series.

If you’re going to give “Outer Banks” a shot, give it at least two episodes. I guarantee the cliffhanger at the end of episode two will keep you coming back for more. And if you get sucked in to streaming this show, stay up way too late, and finish it in the early hours of the morning? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Happy Streaming!

Katie

Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’ a Triumphant Adaptation

“Little Women” is a widely-known story about the March sisters, Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen). The sisters are all very different from each other, each one of them having their own talents and flaws. The story centers around the sisters and their growing up. Director Greta Gerwig was not afraid to put her own vision on the famous story, jumping through time in a non-linear fashion, something the previous adaptations did not do. 

One day, the sisters meet Laurie (Timothee Chalamet), and an incredible friendship is born. Laurie is close with the whole March family but has a special bond with Jo. Chalamet’s performance in the scene where Laurie finally professes his love for Jo is breathtaking. 

The true shining star of this film, though, is Florence Pugh. Amy March is well-known for being the least endearing of the March sisters. She is blunt, rash, and selfish. However, Pugh’s performance somehow brings a different shade to Amy than what audiences have seen before. One spectacular moment is her monologue to Laurie concerning how marriage is not about love, but rather, and economic endeavor, really lets Pugh shine.

The whole film feels like what growing up in the March home probably felt like: chaotic, dramatic, heart wrenching, yet warm and inviting at the same time. Gerwig’s adaptation manages to capture that feeling of sisterhood in a way that the previous adaptations had not. Gerwig also sprinkles in some modern touches, like more modern dance moves and a few slang terms here and there. 

Many people were probably expecting another stuffy movie about women pursuing marriage partners in the old days. What they get from Gerwig and company pushes beyond that into an enjoyable, heartbreaking, and fulfilling experience. Not to mention, Gerwig’s tweak on the story’s ending is a fabulous interpretation of the material that none of the previous adaptations proposed. 

You can find “Little Women” on streaming and rental services.

Happy Viewing!

-Katie

‘Songland’ & ‘The Voice’ Hit All the Right Notes on Musical Monday Lineup

If you’re a fan of music, look no further than NBC’s Monday night lineups. ‘The Voice’ is somehow still finding ways to keep the show fresh, even though it’s in its 16th season. The panel of judges this season is made up of mainstay Blake Shelton, John Legend, Kelly Clarkson, and newcomer Nick Jonas. The teams have just started the Knockout rounds, where each coach pairs up two singers on their team to battle it out for one roster spot. Each team has extremely talented vocalists. Every year, there seems to be a front runner in the competition, but one has yet to emerge this season. Keep your eye on Allegra, a singer with unique and gritty tone, and Thunderstorm, whose buttery voice melts over every note.

Immediately following “The Voice”, viewers get the opportunity to peek behind the curtain of how music is made on “Songland”. Each episode features a famous musician and the three producers, Ryan Tedder, Ester Dean, and Shane McAnally. The artist and producers watch as a group of up-and-coming songwriters pitch their song ideas to the artist, who then picks three songs to move on to the next round. Then, each producer is assigned to a song and its writer to tweak and improve the song, in hopes of being chosen by the artist. Then, the three songwriters perform the new versions of their song, and the artist chooses one to record for themselves. 

“Songland” is by far the most interesting competition show on television right now. It allows viewers to watch their favorite artists put creative spins on music. This week’s season premiere featured Lady Antebellum, and the song they chose to record will be stuck in fans’ heads for days on end. The upcoming artists this season include H.E.R., Martina McBride, Boyz II Men, Julia Michaels, and more.

You can catch “The Voice” and “Songland” on NBC on Monday nights or next-day streaming on Hulu. 

Happy Streaming!

~Katie

‘Spies in Disguise’ Will Surprise You – And Keep the Kids Entertained

Many of us are making the interesting transition to being home with our children 24/7 in light of the current stay-at-home orders. If you’re like me, this has drastically changed what type of content you’re consuming on the daily. I was less than thrilled when my little one saw the “Spies in Disguise” movie pop up on our Vudu platform, which he promptly insisted on watching. 

I agreed to watch the movie, “Spies In Disguise”, where one of the main characters gets transformed into a talking bird for half the film. Needless to say, I went in with very low expectations.

I have to say – I was pleasantly surprised.

“Spies in Disguise” is full of heart, humor, and good messages. Not only that, but it’s got a stacked cast. The movie centers on Walter (Tom Holland), an inventor working for a government agency where Lance Sterling (Will Smith) is the alpha superspy. Walter, an outcast, spends his days watching soap operas and making inventions that are rather…unorthodox. 

Lance goes on a secret mission, where a database with all of the spies’ locations and names is stolen by an evil villain, Killian (Ben Mendelsohn) with a robot hand. During the fight preceding the theft, Lance tries to use one of Walter’s inventions to ward off attackers. Lance throws the gadget into the air, only to find out it is a Kitty Glitter Bomb. When Lance returns from his mission, he promptly fires Walter, citing the fact that Walter’s “weird” invention could’ve gotten him killed. 

Lance is called in by his boss, Joyless (Reba McEntire) to meet with an Internal Affairs investigator, Marcy (Rashida Jones). Marcy has video surveillance that shows that Lance is the one who stole the database, not Killian. Thus begins Lance’s journey on the lam. A series of events brings Lance to enlist Walter’s help, which is where things go awry.

Walter turns Lance into a pigeon. 

Yeah, they almost lost me there. But, trust me, there are plenty of antics to keep you and your kids entertained. Lance and Walter make an unlikely team as they try to track down Killian and retrieve the stolen database, all while running from Marcy and Joyless. 

One of the best parts of this film is that it begins with Walter being shy and afraid of what others think. Throughout the film, though, he learns to embrace his uniqueness. He is sensitive. He loves hugs and glitter bombs. This is not the typical male character in a movie. It was refreshing to see a male character on the screen that teaches young boys that it is okay to like hugs and glitter, to be smart, and to embrace their weirdness. 

So that’s how a movie about a talking pigeon made me squeeze my boy a little tighter and hope that one day when this pandemic craziness is all over and he is a little older, we can sit down and watch this movie again, and he’ll see a little reinforcement that being unique is his superpower.

Happy Streaming!

Katie

‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Will Be Your New Obsession

Since everyone is stuck in their homes for the foreseeable future, Hulu decided to be the real MVPs, releasing the hotly anticipated limited series “Little Fires Everywhere” early. The limited series, based on the novel by Celeste Ng, follows the intertwined stories of two polar-opposite families in Shaker Heights. Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) lives a picture-perfect life. Her husband, Bill (Joshua Jackson) is a prominent lawyer. The couple lives in a large, picturesque home with their children, all four of whom look like they could be models. That is, before their youngest and most troublesome child, Izzy (Megan Stott) decides to set her hair on fire. Elena’s relationship with Izzy is her one wrinkle in an otherwise Stepford-like life. 

One day, Elena shows one of her family’s rental properties to Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) and her daughter, Pearl (Lexi Underwood). Elena, a rich white woman, sees Mia, a Black single mother, and takes pity on her, offering her the duplex for an extremely discounted rate. Elena tells Pearl all about Shaker Heights and remarks that her son, Moody (Gavin Lewis), is in the same grade as Pearl. Mia is a mystery to Elena – why would someone choose to live a nomadic, paycheck to paycheck life? 

As Pearl and Moody grow closer, their mothers grow wary of each other. The tension between them is palpable as they continue to show just how opposite they are. This is where Witherspoon and Washington shine – the silent, tense undertone of every meeting keeps viewers wondering just how long these two can interact with each other in this powder keg. 

Witherspoon and Washington are obviously two powerhouses, but the performances that were the most intriguing in the pilot episode were those of Stott and Underwood. Stott’s eyes pierce through the screen as Izzy seethes at her mother’s need for perfection, while Underwood’s emotion spills out during a fight between Pearl and Mia. 

The series may seem like a simple juxtaposition of the two opposite families from the pilot, but anyone who has read Ng’s smash hit novel knows that this is just the beginning…and things are about to get a lot more complicated. 

You can stream the first three episodes of ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ on Hulu. 

Happy Streaming (and social distancing)! Stay safe out there. 

-Katie

‘Set It Up’ is Netflix’s Best Kept Secret

Everyone loves a good romantic comedy, and for a while, it seemed like the industry had shied away from them. That is, until the last couple of years, where Netflix has been churning out some Original romantic comedies that have gained mainstream attention, like “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “Someone Great”. But, there’s a lesser-known Netflix rom-com that deserves your attention. “Set It Up” follows two New York-based assistants, Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell), as they try to set up their bosses in an effort to ease their workloads.

Harper works for Kirsten (Lucy Liu), a fiery ESPN reporter who is passionate and intimidating. Harper dreams to write sports articles, but with all the demands of being Kirsten’s assistant, she feels like she doesn’t have the time to write.

Charlie works for hotshot Rick (Taye Diggs), who treats Charlie (and everyone else) like garbage. He’s your typical rich guy – inconsiderate, demanding, and egotistical. He makes insane demands of Charlie and rarely treats him positively.

After a chance meeting in the lobby of their building, Charlie and Harper begin comparing their bosses and who has the worse assistant job. They joke together that if Rick and Kirsten were to get out of the office more, their lives would be much easier. The next day, Harper tracks Charlie down and suggests they play matchmaker – if Rick and Kirsten are preoccupied falling in love with each other, they won’t have as much time to make Harper and Charlie’s lives so hard.

Thus begins their mission – use their extensive knowledge of their bosses to manufacture a relationship between Rick and Kirsten. As Harper and Charlie work together to help their bosses find love, they discover that not everything works out as planned.

Deutch and Powell’s chemistry is palpable, and it feels as if the audience is just watching a pair of old friends throughout the movie. Their humor plays off of each other almost effortlessly.

“Set It Up” was written by Katie Silberman, who is also responsible for one of the best films of last year, “Booksmart”. From Harper to Amy and Molly in “Booksmart”, Silberman creates incredibly relatable female characters. “Set It Up” features not just one, but two females who have deep knowledge about and love for sports, which is a rare representation for us tomboys out there.

If you haven’t seen “Set It Up”, stream it on Netflix. Prepare to laugh, smile, and maybe even cry. I promise this movie is worth your time.

Happy streaming!

-Katie

‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Returns for Season 7

One of television’s best comedies returned for its seventh season last week. Brooklyn Nine-Nine burst back onto NBC’s Thursday Night slate with two classic episodes that managed to encapsulate what B99 is all about. The rag-tag group of detectives is back, still reeling from Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher) being demoted to a street cop in season six’s finale. In the first episode of the new season, Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) takes the lead on a manhunt after an assassination attempt, but he can’t seem to keep Holt in line as his subordinate. Meanwhile, Amy (Melissa Fumero) worries that she may be pregnant, and enlists Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) to help her acquire and take a pregnancy test in the midst of the manhunt. The episode brings back the laughs in all the right places, especially when fan-favorites Hitchcock (Dirk Blocker) and Scully (Joel McKinnon Miller) enter the case with a certain expertise that only they can offer. 

In the last few minutes of the episode, Amy lets Jake know that her pregnancy test was negative, which surprisingly disappoints both of them. This leads the couple to decide to start trying to have a baby! 

One of the best aspects of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is that the writers are not afraid to shake up their routine, evidenced by Holt’s demotion and Jake and Amy’s decision to try to have kids. Granted, the latter could have been more convenient since actress Melissa Fumero (who plays Amy) is currently expecting a child in real life, but alas. The show always finds ways to switch up the narrative and place its characters in new situations.

The second episode of the season seven debut builds off of just that – our beloved detectives tackling new situations and uncharted territory. The new captain of the 99, Captain Kim (Nicole Bilderback) has arrived on the scene. Jake is sure the new captain will be evil, but everyone else takes to Captain Kim very quickly. Jake is still suspicious, though, and lets that suspicion get the better of him when Captain Kim invites everyone over to her home for a party. The cherry on top of this episode, though, is Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio), who has decided to reinvent himself for the new Captain by becoming a more badass version of himself (thanks to a “magical” leather jacket Rosa loaned him). By the end of the episode, Jake uncovers the truth – that Captain Kim really was a good person after all, and wasn’t up to any evil at the 99. Unfortunately, Jake and Holt’s antics push Captain Kim to decide the 99 isn’t for her after all. 

So, after two episodes, the detectives are still without a Captain, Charles is back to his normal, nerdy self, and Jake and Amy have decided to have try for a baby. Whew. I can’t wait to see what season seven has in store for my favorite detectives. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is back, baby! 

Happy Viewing! 

-Katie

Bring Your Tissues To See ‘Just Mercy’

The new film Just Mercy chronicles the true story of lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) as he fights for wrongly convicted inmate Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) on death row. Jordan delivers a solid performance as Stevenson, who graduates from Harvard and immediately moves to Alabama to provide free legal assistance to death row inmates. When Stevenson meets McMillian and hears his story, Stevenson cannot forget about the case and knows that McMillian is innocent. Stevenson vows to free McMillian and begins the arduous journey of uncovering the truth (and gross corruption) about how McMillian got to death row. With help from his assistant Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), Stevenson fights to exonerate McMillian and others awaiting their fate. 

While Jordan and Foxx give fantastic performances, the true beauty comes from the performances of two supporting actors, Tim Blake Nelson, and Rob Morgan. Nelson’s work as the physically deformed, convicted felon Ralph Meyers was truly stunning, and will no doubt stick with viewers long after the credits roll. Nelson fully transforms as he twitches, stutters, and emotes his way through a challenging character. Somehow, he demands sympathy from the audience for a character who might not deserve it.

Morgan, on the other hand, turns in a breathtaking rendering of his character, Herbert Richardson, a PTSD-stricken war vet fighting for a stay of execution. His last scenes were the most gut-wrenching, yet fascinating, that I’ve seen in a while.

Just Mercy gives viewers a deeper look into how racism seeps into our justice system to this day. I had to remind myself multiple times that the film (and the case itself) didn’t take place in the 50s or during the Civil Rights Movement, but rather from 1987-1993, just two years before I was born. It is easy for some to believe that the days of racism and police corruption are just far-off stories in our history books, but learning about Walter McMillian’s story should remind audiences that the work is far from over. Bryan Stevenson has not forgotten, and he’s stayed hard at work fighting these injustices through his nonprofit organization, The Equal Justice Initiative (or EJI). For more information on EJI, visit https://eji.org/about/

Viewers may not leave Just Mercy feeling overwhelming happiness or joy. But, hopefully, they’ll leave having learned something. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll want to join the fight for a better tomorrow.

~Katie

Almost Family Leaves Us with Two Major Cliffhangers

If you haven’t been keeping up with FOX’s new series Almost Family, you should be. The show, adapted from an Australian version of the same moniker, follows Julia Bechley (Brittany Snow), a young woman who finds out her father, Dr. Leon Bechley (Timothy Hutton), went rogue at his Fertility clinic. For years, he used his own…specimen to impregnate his clients. The scenario is a bit far-fetched (and honestly, kind of creepy), but the show brings enough heart to overcome the unsavory plotline.

Soon after learning about her father’s choices, Julia starts the search for her siblings and bonds with her new sisters: childhood friend Edie (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and former Olympic gymnast, Roxy (Emily Osment). Throughout the last few episodes, each girl has been dealing with her own life chaos, until a midseason finale where some shocking twists were revealed. Spoiler alert: don’t keep reading if you want to start binging from the beginning (all episodes are available on Hulu!).

In the last few episodes, viewers were glad to see that Roxy entered rehab for her addiction to pills and came out with a newfound strength that propelled her to publicly accuse her past gymnastics coach, Nick (Jeff Hephner) of sexual assault. We’ve also seen Edie struggling with her decision to leave her husband, Tim (Mo McRae), for her rival lawyer, Amanda (Victoria Cartagena). But Julia takes the cake here, dealing with the newfound revelation that Leon is not her father. Whew.

The newest episode brought even more drama into the mix, leaving viewers with the Julia and Edie cliffhangers. Edie randomly hooks up with Tim again, which will no doubt have immense repercussions in her continuing to DTR with Amanda. Julia visits the dance studio her mom used to frequent and gets lost in the music. The episode ends with a shot of a man’s feet strolling into the studio watching Julia dance, but the audience does not get a clue as to who it may be.

Some viewers may think the mystery man is Donovan (Michael Stahl-David), who Julia had just amicably broken up with, but some are skeptical. The mystery man was wearing slacks and dress shoes, a look that Donovan never sported.

Although this show may seem like a soap-opera, with far-fetched storylines and high stakes, the performances are anything but cheesy. As someone who grew up watching Emily Osment and Brittany Snow, it’s nice to see them gracing the television screen once again. The writing of the show never seems too on the nose, and the show has pleasantly surprised viewers. If you’re looking for an easy watch, Almost Family provides the drama and just enough laughs to keep you hanging on for the next twist in the girls’ chaotic lives. At the forefront, the show is about family….however that may look. You can catch Almost Family on Wednesdays at 9/8c on FOX, or on next day streaming with Hulu.

~Katie