Shhhh… (Movie Thoughts: The Secret: Dare to Dream)

I tried to resist it. But you know what, I kind of low-key believe in visualizing what you want, so I succumbed and watched Andy Tennant’s ‘The Secret: Dare to Dream.’ I mean, what can you lose? The film, for what it is, is perfect weekday viewing after a tiring day and you just want to watch something you don’t have to comprehend much. And this has solid performances from Katie Holmes and Josh Lucas. Look, it’s not the most intricate story and I get serious eeks from the religious undertones, but for what it is, it’s ok.

Eighty Eight (Movie Thoughts: Lucky Grandma)

I expected a whole different film in ‘Lucky Grandma’ before seeing it, and I don’t know where I got the different idea from – its poster? its marketing? I thought i would be watching a quirky comedy, but Sasie Sealy’s film is something different – a thriller/action film with a very unlikely protagonist – a Chinese grandma who relied on old school fate only to be played by it. Tsai Chin, playing Grandma Wong, is a great actress, and she is everything you want the Granda Wong character to be, but I just did not enjoy this film. It felt very forced, and the story not believable that it trumped all the good effort by everyone trying to make the film good. It’s a slickly produced film, but for me it felt hollow – pretty to look at, and without enough distractions to mask its deficiencies.

Back To School (Movie Thoughts: I Used To Go Here)

I rally liked a lot of Kris Rey’s ‘I Used To Go Here,’ because I am always nostalgic about my time in school, especially high school, and as a matter of fact, most of my closest friends these days are my high school friends.  In the film, Kate (Gillian Jacobs) goes back to her college to speak. She has jst written and published a book, but its initial sales have been disappointing, and her publisher has published a book tour. But at her campus, she is a star – she is the one who made it as a writer. She ends up at the bed and breakfast across from the house where she used to live, and lives her old college life, if only for a couple of days. It is bittersweet, and I remember having that feeling of uncertainty, when you still have that idealistic attitide in your heart but it is slowly being crushed by reality. Jacobs is great, awkward funny but you know there is a lot of intelligence (and feelings) behind those eyes. She finds kinship with the college students instead of the adults, who are portrayed here as somewhat creepy. There’s a sequence in here that is a turn off, though where she and some of the kids go on some kind of adventure, and it felt juvenile compared to the rest of the film. Without that, the film would have been much better.

Moving On (Music Thoughts: Move On: A Sondheim Adventure, Cyrille Aimee)

For me, singers fall under two categories: either you can sing Sondheim or you can’t. And if you cannot, that does not make you a bad singer. His music is just so complex it is often married to an artist or not. If you don’t get his music, it’s not your problem.

So it is with trepidation that I will write about Cyrille Aimee’s Sondheim album, ‘Move On: A Sondheim Adventure.’ This came in last year to rave reviews. I have been listening to it for a while now – and I have to be honest – I don’t like the album. At all. I tried so many times to try to listen to it from different points of view – from a quirky artist covering this material, from someone who wants to interpret Sondheim’s songs differently. Someone even told me that I shoudl look at it from its concept – a story arc about a love affair, but still, nada. Is it because I am an old fogey, that I just want to hear these songs one way? I will not deny that there is a lot of musicality here – well thought out and well executed. In the end, I think that it is just not for me, and I should stop fighting to accept it.

Robin’s Nest (Music Thoughts: Alterations, Robin McKelle)

Robin McKelle is not a new name for me, as I think I have maybe one or two of her earlier efforts. But I was never a fan, as I remember most of her discs have her mostly original recordings, moist of which, well, let’s just say that they are just not for me. But she has amassed a following, so I take all of that as my problem, not hers. She has released her new album, ‘Alterations,’ which is a covers album, of songs from female artists, likes Joni Mitchell, Adele, and Amy Winehouse.

It’s a more ‘accessible’ effort, for sure. She definitely, for better or worse, puts her own spin on these songs. Her sound is not strictly jazz, there are country and soul influences in her arrangements. For me, not all of them work, while she gets the angst of Joplin in ‘Merceds Benz,’ I missed the airiness of Sade’s ‘No Ordinary Love.’ I do think that this is one of those albums that will grown on you as you listen to it more – these interpretations are very personal and there are subtleties here that aren ‘t easily visible on first listens. Again, it’s me.

Boyle Boils (Series Thoughts: Gentefied, Netflix)

I was browsing through Netflix and it was one of those instances wherein I couldn’t pick out what to see and when I saw that each episode of their series Gentefied was less than thirty minutes, I just bit the bullet and clicked. Gentefied, is, as what you might have guessed, a show about a family whose existence gets caught in the midst of their neighborhood’s gentrification. It is quite similar to ‘Vida,’ so a lot of it felt very familiar – there is even a family member who is a lesbian.

It was ok. I don’t know really if I am enticed to come back, but on days when I don’t know what to watch, I could be lured by the ‘Continue Watching’ tile on Netflix.

Zac Saves The Earth (Series Thoughts: Down To Earth with Zac Efron S01, Netflix)

Yay for me but I finally finished the first season of Zac Efron’s ‘Down to Earth with Zac Efron,’ on Netflix. It wasn’t such a tough watch, to be honest. Most episodes are less than forty minutes, and Efron is delightful eye candy. But really, the episodes are a mixed bag. I mean, I get what he is trying to do – augment the traditional travelogue series with a message, and that is we should start caring for our planet, and in doing so we take better care of our bodies. In the show, he finds ways to get sustainable energy, and tips on eating better. But sometimes, episodes are so dry. I get it that Efron. can’t have too much fun all of the time, but as viewers, that’s what we want – in that sense a healthy balance would have been nice. But I do appreciate the exposure he is giving these platforms, whether it be acquiring the best drinking water, or making sure surfaces are green. I like him most when he gets to be himself, and is vulnerable – the episode in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria is a memorable one.

Sweet Sweet Summer (Perfume Thoughts: Viva La Juicy Pink Couture, Juicy Couture)

I know Juicy Couture’s Viva La Juicy Perfume is popular, but somehow I never sniffed it. I assume it is one of those ‘pink’ perfumes – fruity florals that are young-ish and generic. I have one last sample from my Macy’s (unsolicited) pile that they sent me, and it is a flanker of Viva La Juicy, called Pink Couture. I don’t know why I held it last, maybe because I wasn’t expecting much from it?

It’s actually not bad. It’s on the juvenile side – I can see a teenager wearing and loving it – but it is fun and harmless. I like it’s fruit heart – a mixture of strawberry and watermelon combo – framed by a watery jasmine. It’s fresh, and very fruity, and on a hot summer day, it can be the perfect concoction, like a frozen daiquiri. I’ll pair this with a pair of jeans and a graphic tee, and I will feel like I am twenty two years old.

Zac to Zac (Television Thoughts: Down To Earth with Zac Efron S01 E01 E02, Netflix)

Look, I am a Zac Efron fan, and I am probably one of those people who thinks he is a good actor, but he is probably somewhat troubled. he started acting quite young and shot to fame quickly. I am sure there is a part of him that wants to get out there and explore the world. Well, he gets to do it on his new Netflix series, ‘Down To Earth’ and sure, why not while he is at it, why not showcase sustainability issues while he roams the world?

It’s a tall order, the sustainability part, and I wish he didn’t saddle himself with that concept. I have only seen the first two episodes, where he goes to Iceland and France, and I have to admit the first was kind of boring. Iceland is picturesque, but their exploits seemed a little too ‘lecture’ than fun. When they got to France, I felt Efron relax a little bit, and I see a little bit more of himself in that episode. These travelogue type shows need vibrancy and personality in them, and it probably took a bit for Efron to relax. He has natural easy chemistry with Darin Olien, so I suspect the episodes will just get better as the series progresses.

Quietly (Music Thoughts: Living Room Sessions, Debora Hull)

I chanced upon Debora Hull’s album ‘Living Room Sessions’ on Spotify, and what a wonderful discovery. It is one of those intimate albums, a la Julie London, that is probably best listened to at home, by a fireplace, with a nice bottle of wine. And in these Covid pandemic times, it is the perfect soundtrack to staying home and relaxing. There’s not much on her website, only that she lives in the Netherlands, and loves her cat and husband, But there’s no need for more information, only to just sit and appreciate her take on songs like ‘Night and Day,’ and “The Man I Love,’ among others. Her relaxed nuanced style is appealing, one of those voices that gain depth as you listen to it more. There is an interesting track titled ‘Bengawan Solo,’ which is about an Indonesian river, and for me is the best track in the album.