Welcome to our feature, “Reviews of the Month,” where we share short but sweet reviews of what we’ve been watching and reading. This month we’re covering what we’re watching, so expect a roundup of short book reviews next time!
It’s been a few months since we last shared our reviews roundup, so we’ve got an eclectic (and vast) mix of some of the movies and TV shows we’ve been watching this year. From new period dramas to new movies, classic movies, fantasies, rom-coms, Hallmark Christmas movies, and so much more.
And while we didn’t have time to review everything we’ve seen, we’ve got a lot of great recommendations below. We also would love to hear what you’ve been watching lately with some of your recommendations in the comments!
So, let’s do this! Enjoy.
Check out our Rating System and Why We Rate by Genre for more on how we write reviews.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FULL MOVIE AND TV REVIEWS:
(These are the long reviews we’ve shared throughout the year, not included in the short and sweet reviews below. So, these articles open on a new page).
MINI MOVIE AND TV REVIEWS:
REVIEWS BY AMBER
(Jump to the reviews of interest, or scroll down and read them all!)
- Alaska Daily (Drama, Mystery)
- Andor (Action-Adventure, Fantasy, Drama)
- Bridgerton, Season 2 (Period Drama, Romance)
- A Christmas Spark (Romantic Comedy)
- Christmas With You (Romantic Comedy)
- The Courier (Historical Drama, Spy)
- Dalgliesh (Mystery, Period Drama)
- The Dig (Period Drama, Romance)
- Disenchanted (Fantasy, Musical, Romance)
- Elvis (Period Drama, Music, Biopic)
- The English (Western, Period Drama, Romance)
- The Fabelmans (Period Drama, Coming-of-Age, Biopic)
- Galavant (Fantasy, Musical, Comedy, Romance)
- A Holiday Spectacular (Period Drama, Romance)
- Hope Street (Cozy Mystery)
- Inventing the Christmas Prince (Romantic Comedy, Family)
- Jolly Good Christmas (Romantic Comedy)
- The King’s Daughter (Historical Fantasy, Romance)
- A League of Their Own (Period Drama, Comedy, Romance, Sports)
- The Lion Woman (Period Drama)
- Love & Gelato (Romantic Comedy)
- Love Story (Romantic Drama)
- The Lovely Bones (Historical Fantasy, Supernatural, Drama, Mystery)
- Love’s Portrait (Romantic Drama, Comedy)
- Magpie Murders (Cozy Mystery, Drama)
- The Mayor of Casterbridge (Period Drama, Romance)
- The Mirror Has Two Faces (Romantic Comedy, Drama)
- Mrs. Winterbourne (Romantic Comedy)
- My Southern Family Christmas (Romantic Comedy, Drama, Family)
- Pachinko (Period Drama, Saga)
- Radioactive (Historical Drama)
- A Royal Corgi Christmas (Romantic Comedy)
- Royal New Year’s Eve (Romantic Comedy)
- Santa Bootcamp (Romantic Comedy)
- She-Hulk: Attorney At Law (Comedy, Legal Drama, Fantasy, Superhero)
- Something From Tiffany’s (Romantic Comedy)
- Spencer (Historical Drama, Psychological Drama)
- Steppin’ Into the Holiday (Romantic Comedy)
- Three Wise Men and a Baby (Comedy, Drama, Family, Romance)
- Top Gun: Maverick (Action, Drama, Romance)
- The Volcano: Rescue From Whakaari (Documentary)
- Your Christmas Or Mine? (Romantic Comedy)
Alaska Daily TV Review
Genres: Drama, Mystery
What intrigued me about the new ABC drama series (and ultimately convinced me to watch) were three things: The Oscar-winning screenwriter Tom McCarthy, from Spotlight created the show; the Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank, stars; And the series aimed to put the spotlight on a more accurate portrayal of local newsrooms and Native women journalists.
The story follows a jaded New York journalist who moves to Alaska after some professional disappointments. There, she teams up with an Alaskan native to uncover the mystery behind missing Indigenous women.
Each episode brings you closer to the resolution and opens your eyes to this often-ignored important story (based on truth).
This is a compelling, poignant, well-acted new series with excellent writing (and the possibility of romance). It’s like Spotlight meets Mare of Easttown and Men in Trees but without the strong language like the first two and with less romance than Men in Trees.
Alaska Daily returns on February 23rd to continue its 10-episode run. You can stream the current episodes on Hulu.
Content Note: TV-PG for thematic elements and implied sensuality.
Andor TV Review
Genres: Action-Adventure, Fantasy, Drama
I was a huge fan of Rogue One (arguably the best of the new Star Wars films), so I was excited when the prequel series about Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) was released on Disney+.
In the new series, Cassian travels toward his destiny to become a Rebel Hero. With familiar characters like Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) reprising their roles and fabulous new characters like Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgard), Kino Loy (Andy Serkis), Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) and Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw) you know you’re in for a treat.
Andor is much less a typical action-adventure and more of a political, thought-provoking award-worthy show focused on brilliant dialogue, characterization, and performance. Tony Gilroy’s show plays out like a British period drama, with numerous British actors and talented British directors telling a story at a slower pace, building to a spectacular climax.
All in all, it may be the best TV show I’ve seen this year. Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, you won’t want to miss it.
Content Note: TV-14 for some violence, mild profanity, and mild suggestive content.
Bridgerton Season 2 TV Review
Genres: Regency Romance, Period Drama, Alternate History
I’m a huge fan of romantic period drama series, and the second season of Bridgerton is pure sensational entertainment. Based on the second book in the series by Julia Quinn, this round centers on Lord Anthony Bridgerton and his slow-build romance with the independent Kate Sharma. And wow, the chemistry between the actors (Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley) is electric!
Season 2 still gives plenty of time to the other Bridgerton siblings, Lady Whistledown, Queen Charlotte, and other fan favorites, but the central love story between Kate and Anthony is perfection. And overall, I enjoyed the second season more than the first.
The explicit content is much less, the dynamic between Anthony and Kate is captivating, and the cinematic universe of Bridgerton continues to grow and delight. Everything about the Netflix period drama series was aesthetically beautiful too.
If you didn’t watch the first season, you might be able to jump into the second – since it has a new love story with its own happy ending.
Content Note: TV-MA for a couple of explicit love scenes and nudity.
A Christmas Spark TV Movie Review
Genres: Christmas Movie, Romance, Comedy, Drama
Jane Seymour and Joe Lando from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, reunite for this romantic Lifetime Christmas movie. I grew up watching the series, influenced by the independent yet romantic Michaela Quinn, so I was excited for this one.
A Christmas Spark follows Molly, a widowed retiree, who visits her daughter and granddaughter for Christmas. There, she agrees to direct the Christmas recital – while also falling for Hank, the handsome journalist and reluctant star of the pageant.
Perhaps this is my bias for the actors showing, but it was one of my favorite romantic Christmas movies this year. I loved the themes about reigniting old dreams and living a new life after a heartbreak and the metaphors about finding your star and not letting your light dim. Sure, it’s a bit cheesy – but it hit all the right emotional beats for me.
It was all a bit swoony and happy – and the chemistry between Seymour and Lando was perfection. It seems they still have that onscreen spark we all love.
Content Note: TV-G
Christmas with You Netflix Movie Review
Genres: Christmas, Romantic Comedy, Family
Because of the massive amount of new Christmas movies over the last few years, I seek out the ones with actors, plot lines, or filmmakers I find the most appealing. And since I love Freddie Prinze Jr. and Aimee Garcia (from Lucifer), this cute rom-com was at the top of my list.
Thankfully, it was a sweet delight from start to finish.
When a famous pop star discovers her career and life are in a slump, she heads to the suburbs to surprise a fan – only to rediscover her own creativity while finding love along the way with a handsome music schoolteacher.
The Christmas movie has a nostalgic style with actual comedic elements (Aimee Garcia utilizes some physical comedy in the part) and lots of cute romantic moments and heartwarming family scenes.
The two characters write an original song together that could have been on a pop album from the late 90s/early 00s – making the movie even more fun. Just don’t expect anything groundbreaking here. It’s escapist Christmas romance fare done well.
Content Note: TV-PG
The Courier (2020) Movie Review
Genres: Historical Drama, Spy Drama, Thriller
Benedict Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Rachel Brosnahan, and Jessie Buckley star in this riveting historical drama based on the actual events of an ordinary businessman pulled into the Cold War to work as a spy in Russia and help stop a Nuclear War from happening.
While this period drama went under the radar, the performances from Cumberbatch and Ninidze are mesmerizing and emotional – all leading to a powerful climax.
If you’re in the mood for an exciting spy drama, look no further than this fast-paced, intense movie that will leave you on the edge of your seat with anxiety about the characters.
Content Note: PG-13 for mild violence, partial nudity, and brief strong language.
Dalgliesh (2021) TV Review
Genres: Crime Drama, Period Drama, Mystery
I stumbled upon this British crime series on Acorn TV and fell in love with the cerebral style of the period detective series based on PD James’ books.
Dalgliesh follows a widower and a Mr. Darcy-like poet detective, DCI Adam Dalgliesh, as he solves crimes in 1970s England. The fascinating, poetic performance from Bertie Carvel (The Crown) immediately drew me into the show. He’s simply magnetic onscreen.
If high-quality, intellectual mystery shows are of interest, don’t miss this! Season 2 should air sometime in 2023.
Content Note: TV-14/TV-MA for brief strong language, one explicit scene, and moderate violence.
The Dig (2021) Movie Review
Genres: Period Drama, Romance, Biopic
Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan, Lily James, Ben Chaplin, and Johnny Flynn star in this romantic period drama, so I was all in based on the cast alone.
The Dig is an old-fashioned drama loosely based on the true story of the 1949 Sutton Hoo excavation. When an amateur excavator discovers an ancient wooden ship still intact on a woman’s estate, it leads to one of the most significant archaeological finds in history.
The movie puts a more romantic spin on the tale and is visually stunning with gorgeous cinematography and costumes.
All in all, The Dig is a classic example of a well-done period drama.
Content Note: PG-13 for sensuality.
Disenchanted Movie Review
Genres: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Romance, Family, Musical
If you loved Enchanted as much as we did, then no doubt you tuned into Disney+ to watch the sequel starring Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey. But did it live up to expectations and the long-awaited hype?
Disenchanted follows the characters about ten years after the happily ever after events of Enchanted with Giselle, Robert, and their two kids, moving to the suburbs. When Giselle finds herself struggling in a world without fairy tales, she wishes that she and her family were in a real fairy tale.
Unfortunately, this magical wish leads to disastrous results, with Giselle slowly turning into a wicked stepmother – putting everyone in danger. So, she must undo her wish before the clock strikes midnight, and she becomes wicked forever.
The fantasy movie is a fun sequel – although it doesn’t compare in quality to the original. The costumes and visual atmosphere are fantastic – and it’s entertaining with good performances (particularly from Adams), entertaining musical numbers, and a theatrical villain. But it lacks the magic and cinematic quality of the original – so it may feel like a bit of a letdown to some viewers.
It’s a bit like Once Upon a Time with musical numbers – so if you enjoyed that show, you should like Disenchanted.
Content Note: PG
Elvis Movie Review
Genres: Biopic, Period Drama, Music
Baz Luhrmann movies include some of my all-time favorites – so when I heard he was directing an Elvis biopic – I waited to see it as soon as it premiered in theaters! And it was even better than I imagined.
His new film follows the life and career of Elvis (played flawlessly by Austin Butler) as he struggles with fame and dealing with his relationships. The stylish musical film’s villain (and narrator) is Elvis’s complicated manager, Colonel Tom Parker (played by Tom Hanks).
If you loved Baz Luhrmann’s previous films, Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge, you should enjoy Elvis. It’s spectacular. This is Luhrmann back in top form.
Content Note: PG-13 for suggestive content, profanity, and substance abuse.
The English TV Review
Genres: Period Drama, Western, Romance
Gritty westerns aren’t my typical cup of tea, but after I heard about the powerful love story in this limited series, I knew I had to watch.
In The English, an upper-class Englishman, Lady Cornelia Locke, heads to the American West as she seeks revenge following her son’s passing. There, she crosses paths with Eli Whipp, a member of the Pawnee nation and a former cavalry scout, who helps her to survive in the violent, dangerous landscape she finds herself.
There is an immediate attraction between the two characters, but you know it likely can’t lead anywhere. However, the chemistry between Emily Blunt and Chaske Spencer is incredible – and the love story intense.
The miniseries lies between Realism and Romanticism (with a love of nature and the stars) and is a compelling period drama altogether. While the series was too violent for my taste, at least it was all tastefully done with an artistic flair.
Content Note: TV-MA for violence (including violence against animals), an attempted assault, and occasional profanity.
The Fabelmans Movie Review
Genres: Period Drama, Biopic, Coming-of-Age
The Fabelmans is a semi-autobiographical movie about Steven Spielberg’s childhood and formative years as a young aspiring filmmaker. If you’re passionate about film history like I am, then this is a movie you need to see.
The film follows Sammy Fabelman (based on a young Spielberg) as he discovers his love for filmmaking while handling complicated relationships within his family. When he finds a family secret, his entire life changes.
The Fabelmans is a moving account of Spielberg’s childhood, but with more nuance as an adult looking back to the past. The funny, heartbreaking, yet inspiring film is Spielberg in top form and as his most authentic self as a filmmaker.
Every scene is thoughtfully made – and every actor brings their best to the table – notably Michelle Williams as the mother, Mitzi Fabelman. I wouldn’t be surprised if she receives an Oscar nomination for her ethereal performance.
And while this is an emotional movie – it can also be quite funny. The layering of the main characters brings each person to life in a memorable way. If you love movies like Cinema Paradiso or Belfast, then definitely see The Fabelmans.
Content Note: PG-13 for some strong language, mild violence, brief drug use, a sensual dancing scene, and thematic elements.
Galavant (2015) TV Review
Genres: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Romance, Musical, Comedy, Adventure
Galavant has been on my Watchlist for years, but I put it off because I wasn’t sure how I felt about the pilot when it premiered. Well, on a whim, I decided to watch it finally, and I absolutely loved it.
The story follows a down-on-his-luck knight who sets out on a quest to save a kingdom, his supposed true love (who purposely abandoned him), all while dealing with a childish king in need of transformation.
The romantic musical comedy lasted for two seasons (thankfully, it does have a satisfying ending) and is pure satirical brilliance from hilarious musical numbers to brilliant cast members and guest stars.
Galavant includes original catchy songs from a talented team, including Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) that often are comical – including an original song with Downton Abbey’s Sophie McShera (playing a satirical version of Daisy) singing about what it’s like to be poor.
I’m glad I finally gave this show a chance, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Content Note: TV-PG (sometimes TV-14 would suit better) for suggestive content, implied sensuality, some profanity, and mild violence.
A Holiday Spectacular TV Movie Review
Genres: Romance, Period Drama, Christmas
A Holiday Spectacular brings back Hallmark Hall of Fame vibes with this romantic period drama starring Ann-Margaret (she narrates the story as the older version of the main character), Broadway star Ginna Claire Mason (Wicked), Derek Klena (another Broadway star from shows like Anastasia and Jagged Little Pill), Tiffany Denise Hobbs, Sara Gallo, Byron Jennings, the real Radio City Rockettes, and more.
Set in 1958, the excellent Hallmark movie follows Maggie, a young high-society woman with dreams of becoming a Rockette. When she auditions and is chosen to be in the Christmas Spectacular that year, she secretly moves to NYC – unbeknownst to her parents, who would likely disapprove.
There, she finds her passion for dancing, makes new friends, and falls in love.
While A Holiday Spectacular isn’t exactly historically accurate – it doesn’t really matter. This is a movie made for a modern audience, after all. And it is fantastic.
Seeing the Rockettes perform vintage routines for the movie is so much fun – and it’s nice that this Hallmark film was filmed in NYC – giving it a more authentic feel.
It has similar vibes as A League of Their Own (the movie) mixed with classic Hallmark Christmas fare. If this is the future direction of Hallmark Christmas movies, I’m all in!
Content Note: TV-G
Hope Street (2021) TV Review
Genres: Crime Drama, Cozy Mystery, Romance
If there is a British mystery show to be found, I’ll try it. This new Northern Irish Crime Drama has two seasons available on Britbox and was a lovely surprise.
The first season focuses on DC Leila Hussain (Amara Karan) as she temporarily moves to the Northern Irish seaside village while keeping secrets. A romance soon develops between her and the local Inspector, Finn O’Hare.
In the second season, a new DC comes to town with secrets, and he’s an old friend of Finn.
Hope Street is a nice escape if you enjoy cozy seaside mystery shows with intriguing characters and a beautiful setting. It’s just a pity actress Amara Karan didn’t stay for Season 2 – as I enjoyed the romance between her and Finn.
Content Note: TV-PG for implied sensuality, language, and violence.
Inventing the Christmas Prince TV Movie Review
Genres: Christmas, Romance, Drama, Family, Comedy
I grew up watching the Mowry twins (being a twin myself), so I usually check out their new romance movies. Inventing the Christmas Prince has a fun premise about Shelby, a widowed single Mom (and engineer) with a harsh, grumpy manager, Evan (played by Star Trek Discovery’s Ronnie Rowe Jr.).
She quits when her boss tries to force her to work on Christmas. But fate intervenes when her young daughter thinks her “mean” boss is the Christmas Prince – a fictional character Shelby made up to make Christmas more special.
With Evan’s job on the line (because no one wants to work for him), he agrees to pretend to be the Christmas Prince and give Shelby’s daughter the best Christmas ever if she returns to work. Only maybe Evan isn’t as stuffy and cold-hearted as he seems.
What I liked about this Hallmark Christmas movie is that Shelby is given a unique STEM job working on rockets – and the leading man is more of an awkward Spock-like character than the typical Mr. Darcy copy.
It’s not a perfect movie and has a little bit of the cheese factor, but it’s enjoyable and sweet with a fairy-tale ending.
Content Note: TV-G
Jolly Good Christmas TV Movie Review
Genres: Christmas, Romance, Romantic Comedy
Add this to the list of fun British Christmas movies to watch! The new Hallmark film stars Will Kemp and Reshma Shetty in a sweet Hallmark film with a Christmassy London setting.
This is the story of David, an American architect, trying to juggle a new relationship and job in London. With only a few days until Christmas, he’s struggling to find the perfect Christmas present for his girlfriend – who also happens to be his boss’s daughter.
Serendipitously, he meets Anji, a professional shopper, whom he eventually hires to help him in his quest. Soon, the two go on crazy adventures across London while also falling in love.
If you love British rom-coms or original Hallmark movies with good actors, give Jolly Good Christmas a try.
Content Note: TV-G
The King’s Daughter Movie Review
Genres: Fantasy, Period Drama, Romance, Action-Adventure, Family
Mermaids, an all-star cast, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and a promising romance – what could go wrong? Despite knowing the film took eight years to release, I still had hopes for an entertaining, good movie.
Sadly, it was not.
The King’s Daughter tells the story of King Louis XIV’s illegitimate daughter, who discovers her father’s trying to gain immortality by stealing the life essence of a mermaid. So, she sets out to save the mermaid’s life while also falling in love with a sea captain.
The movie has all the elements to make something great – but it’s more of a muddle with weak special effects, messy editing, and strange creative choices.
Still, moments of almost brilliance (particularly from William Hurt) reveal what could have been. Kids and tweens should still like the fantasy film – even if something caused the movie to “not quite” come together.
(Sanditon fans will appreciate seeing Ben Lloyd-Hughes and Crystal Clarke in significant supporting roles!)
Content Note: PG for mild suggestive content, thematic elements, and violence.
A League of Their Own TV Review
Genres: Period drama, Sports, Comedy, Drama, Romance
Like most viewers, I loved the 1992 A League of Their Own film, which became a cult classic and a fan favorite over the years. The TV show’s interpretation of the same historical events about the All-American professional women’s baseball league during WWII had impossible expectations to live up to.
Fair or not, comparisons between the two were inevitable. But it’s a good show – even if it’s had a polarizing reaction from the audience.
This period sports comedy-drama follows two characters with different experiences relating to baseball and their struggles with their identity. Set in 1943, Carson Shaw leaves her life behind to join the Rockford Peaches while her husband is away fighting in the war. There, she meets Greta, whom she develops a complicated romance with.
The other half of the story follows Maxine Chapman, a young black woman with dreams of playing professional baseball.
It’s an entertaining show highlighting an often-ignored part of history – and the characters are appealing. If you watch this as a separate entity from the movie, you might enjoy it.
Content Note: TV-MA for occasional profanity, sensuality, and suggestive dialogue.
The Lion Woman (2016) Movie Review
Genres: Period Drama, Foreign Films
I’d seen this movie on my Netflix queue (although it’s no longer available) and was intrigued by the premise. So, I decided to finally watch it.
This emotional period drama tells the story of a young girl born with hypertrichosis, a condition causing her to have fur. She grows up with her father, hidden from view but longing to live a more fulfilling life.
It’s a beautiful story with solid performances and heartbreaking moments. For anybody who loves unique emotional tales, this Norwegian period drama weaves together loss, love, and hope in a moving way.
Content Note: PG-13 for an implied assault on a child and bullying.
Love & Gelato Movie Review
Genres: Romantic Comedy, Drama, Teen
Love & Gelato is a new Netflix romance movie based on the 2016 YA book by Jenna Evans Welch and takes place in Rome. The gorgeous Italian setting drew me into giving this rom-com a chance.
The film follows the teenage Lina, an American girl traveling to Rome before starting her first year of college because of her mother’s dying wish. While there, she starts learning more about her mother’s past while developing romantic feelings for two boys.
The romance movie deviates from the book – but is still a light-hearted escape. It’s full of cliches, and sometimes the characters might frustrate you – but it’s a cute YA romance movie overall with a few funny and lovable moments surrounded by pretty scenery.
Content Note: TV-14 for language and suggestive dialogue.
Love Story (1970) Movie Review
Genres: Romance, Drama, Classic
Love Story is considered one of the greatest Hollywood romance films of all time – even ranked as number nine on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Passions list.
And while I’ve seen clips over the years, for some reason, I never got around to watching it all the way through. But I’m aiming to check off more noteworthy movies from film history from my list!
The story is simple but poignant: A young man and a young woman from different backgrounds in New England fall in love and build a life together – until Jenny develops a terminal disease – leading to tragedy.
Love Story is a significant, meaningful movie –an example of romance films doing well at the box office. The acting is good, the script strong, and the filmmaking style perfectly captures the time of 1970 – yet it has a timeless allure.
While tragic, it’s a beautiful movie to watch.
Content Note: PG for language and a love scene (would likely be PG-13 if rated by today’s standards).
The Lovely Bones (2009) Movie Review
Genres: Period Drama, Fantasy, Thriller, Supernatural, Romance
This was a rewatch for me! I wanted to add it to the period drama review archives. Peter Jackson’s adaptation starred Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci, Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon, Michael Imperioli, Reece Ritchie, and Rose McIver.
Based on the book by Alice Sebold, it’s an almost impossible story to adapt – but Peter Jackson (with a script by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens) was probably the best filmmaker to give it a go. And if you enjoy it as separate from the novel – it’s a darn good movie with gorgeous visuals and magnificent performances.
The supernatural thriller follows a young teenage girl who has been murdered. From purgatory, she watches her family, her murderer, and her crush, all while meeting other victims in the afterlife.
It’s an emotional film and visually breathtaking, with a beautiful ending.
Content Note: PG-13 for disturbing violence, thematic elements, and language.
Love’s Portrait TV Movie Review
Genres: Romance, Drama
The mystery behind a painting, a setting in Ireland, and a cute Irish guy as the romantic lead…yep, I was ready to watch this Hallmark movie.
This romance film follows Lily, a museum curator, who is mysteriously sent a painting of a woman identical to her. So, she sets out to Ireland, where it was sent from, to uncover the mystery.
There, she meets William, a post office worker (and aspiring artist) who helps her on her quest. They soon discover they might be soulmates.
If you don’t mind the heavy-handed soulmate angle, it’s an adorable romance movie with a gorgeous, idyllic setting.
Ultimately, it’s a charming romance and a sweet treat – just expect a lot of cheese and predictability.
Content Note: TV-G
Magpie Murders TV Review
Genres: Mystery, Drama, Thriller, Cozy, Period Drama
Anthony Horowitz (Foyle’s War) wrote the book and the scripts for this limited series adaptation starring the always fabulous Lesley Manville. It recently aired on Masterpiece Mystery – so expect quality entertainment.
This series follows indie publisher and editor Susan Ryeland as she’s drawn into a mystery behind the murder of her most famous author, Alan Conway (a writer of the Atticus Pünd mystery series inspired by Agatha Christie’s Poirot). He’s a cruel, nasty human being, so everyone in his life is a suspect.
Susan sets out to find the final chapter of his last book (based on real people from his life) for two reasons: to find clues and discover how the book ended so she can publish it.
Meanwhile, the story also follows the fictional private detective, Atticus Pünd, as we visually see the final book from Conway dramatized. So, the series plays out like a dual timeline story – one set in the modern day and the other in the 1950s. Both stories are compelling and connect in intriguing ways.
The series also has a unique touch of magical realism, with Susan and Atticus having imagined conversations with each other.
All in all, this was one of my favorites this year. I binged through the entire series in a few days – spellbound by Lesley Manville’s performance and Tim McMullan’s mesmerizing voice.
I also have to say the costume designer and wardrobe department did a fantastic job with Lesley Manville’s wardrobe. Every outfit she wears is fun, attractive, and stylish.
Magpie Murders is a cozy mystery done perfectly.
Content Note: TV-14 for brief strong language, mild violence, and thematic elements.
The Mayor of Casterbridge (2003) TV Review
Genre: Period Drama, Romance
The Mayor of Casterbridge is a BAFTA-nominated British miniseries with a fantastic cast, including Ciaran Hinds, Juliet Aubrey, Jodhi May, James Purefoy, Polly Walker, and David Bradley.
The period drama is based on the classic Thomas Hardy novel so expect some tragedy. This series follows Michael Henchard, a harsh drunkard who sells his wife, Susan, and his daughter, for five guineas.
When he later sobers up, he pledges to give up drinking – and eventually becomes a successful businessman and even a mayor. When his wife and daughter, Elizabeth Jane, show up years later, he’s forced to face the demons from his past.
Henchard is not an easy character to like or sympathize with – and yet Hardy, mixed with the filmmakers, does an excellent job of making him feel human – even after he continues to make the wrong choice after the wrong choice – ultimately leading to a sad ending.
Yet, there are happy moments in this period drama – particularly relating to the love story between Elizabeth Jane and Donald (played by Purefoy).
It’s a quality period drama with a realistic feel and strong performances from the entire cast.
Content Note: TV-14 for adult themes and mild violence.
The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) Movie Review
Genres: Romance, Comedy, Drama, Classic
This was another rewatch! It had been so long since I’d seen it – and I remember loving the romance movie – I decided it was time to see it again. Thankfully, it was just as good as I remember.
The story follows a shy, intelligent middle-aged professor who, tired of being alone and dealing with an overbearing mother, decides to enter a platonic marital relationship with a colleague.
Barbra Streisand both starred and directed this delightful romantic dramedy. It (unsurprisingly) has a good soundtrack, the performances are strong (Lauren Bacall received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress), and the romance is unique and memorable.
While Jeff Bridges’ character is frustrating, everything turns out how it should by the end!
Content Note: PG-13 for sensuality, language, and adult themes.
Mrs. Winterbourne (1996) Movie Review
Genres: Romantic Comedy, Classic
Mrs. Winterbourne is a classic rom-com that was butchered by the critics when it was released – but it’s much better than you think. I decided to give this one a rewatch on a whim. I found it a fun, enjoyable romance movie with familiar tropes of mistaken identity and royal romance movies (except in this, Fraser is simply rich instead of a prince).
This is a cute story of a young pregnant woman abandoned by her boyfriend. When she accidentally ends up on a train, she meets the kind but wealthy Hugh Winterbourne and his pregnant wife, Patricia. When the train has a tragic accident, she wakes up in the hospital with everyone believing she’s Patricia (who passed away along with Hugh).
With nowhere else to go, she pretends to be Patricia and moves in with Hugh’s mother and his twin brother, Bill. She soon falls in love with Bill. But what happens when they find out the truth?
If you do not expect a masterpiece and like escapist rom-coms and the cast (particularly Fraser, Shirley MacLaine, and Miguel Sandoval), you’ll probably like this one for its fun factor.
This was a sweet, quirky, adorable rom-com with Brendan Fraser delighting as the romantic leading man in all his goofy glory!
Content Note: PG-13 for language and thematic elements.
My Southern Family Christmas TV Movie Review
Genres: Romance, Comedy, Drama, Family, Christmas
My Southern Family Christmas was a new Hallmark Christmas movie with an intriguing cast of actors, so I decided to check it out.
The family movie follows the journalist, Campbell, as she travels to Louisiana to meet and write about her biological father for a Christmas article – the only thing is, he doesn’t know who she really is.
The strong performances from Bruce Campbell, Jaicy Elliot, and Moira Kelly made this Hallmark Christmas movie stand out. This movie’s more about the relationship between a father and daughter than romance. But the romance in My Southern Family Christmas is still expectedly cute.
The only issue I had with this one was that some of the lighting and makeup were off at times, giving a few actors an orange look.
Still, watch this one for an enjoyable spin on the Christmas movie genre. It’s heartwarming and charming, with good performances.
Pachinko TV Review
Genres: Period Drama, Multigenerational, Romance, Saga
Pachinko is an American and Korean period drama that aired its first season on Apple TV+ this year – and it is an artistic masterpiece.
The story is based on the New York Times bestseller about a Korean immigrant family and their lives and loves across four generations (from 1915 to 1989).
Every shot is beautiful, the costumes incredible, and the performances award-worthy – especially from the Oscar-winning actress Youn Yuh-jung. Her mesmerizing portrayal of Sunja will leave you with goosebumps.
Pachinko is a powerful, masterfully written series not to be missed. Even its opening theme song (with visuals) is art.
Content Note: TV-MA for moderate sensuality, adult themes, language, and an assault.
Radioactive (2019) Movie Review
Genres: Period Drama, Romance, Biopic
Radioactive is a historical drama by screenwriter Jack Thorne, starring Rosamund Pike, Anya Taylor- Joy, and Sam Riley.
The period biographical romance film follows the true story of Marie Curie and her life, love, and Nobel Prize-winning work with radioactivity.
Radioactive takes a unique (often gloomy) approach to the material, with darkly lit scenes focusing on tragic moments from Curie’s life.
But it’s also hopeful and romantic, with a surprisingly emotional ending that improves the overall movie. Rosamund Pike is in top form here – and the love story between her and her husband, Pierre, is intriguing – albeit sad.
While I would have preferred a different visual atmosphere – it’s still an excellent movie overall.
Content Note: PG-13 for sensuality, nudity, disturbing images, and thematic elements.
A Royal Corgi Christmas TV Movie Review
Genres: Romance, Comedy, Family, Royal Romance, Christmas
The royal romance genre is one of my favorite escapist genres, and I’ll happily watch them all – the good and the bad! Thankfully, A Royal Corgi Christmas is decent and fun – albeit entirely predictable.
This Hallmark movie follows Cecily, a professional dog trainer and author, hired by Prince Edmond to help train a new corgi rescue in time for Christmas – as a gift for the queen.
They bond over their love of the dog and develop a romance. A Royal Corgi Christmas will delight Hallmark fans looking for an adorable romance movie with heart. Prince Edmond is also played by a promising (and trained) young British American actor from the Doctor Who spinoff Class and The Spanish Princess – so that’s good too.
Content Note: TV-G
Royal New Year’s Eve (2017) TV Movie Review
Genres: Romance, Comedy, Royal Romance
I decided to finally watch this romantic Hallmark favorite to research my Princess movies list. And it was delightful!
Jessy Schram and Sam Page star in this story about an aspiring fashion designer whom a famous socialite hires to design a beautiful dress for an event – only she finds herself falling in love with her client’s boyfriend – Prince Jeffrey.
The movie has a Cinderella (Schram played her in Once Upon a Time) appeal to it with a touch of the fashion side of Ugly Betty (she’s dealing with her somewhat villainous boss, played by Cheryl Ladd, trying to sabotage her).
While Sam Page’s accent wasn’t perfect, I overlooked it for the overall entertainment factor of the movie. And Page and Schram have good chemistry. It’s a swoony TV rom-com brimming with heart and charm.
Content Note: TV-G
Santa Bootcamp TV Movie Review
Genres: Christmas, Romance, Comedy
After listening to the Rita Moreno interview on Melissa Joan Hart’s podcast, What Women Binge, I decided to try this new Christmas movie.
Melissa Joan Hart directed this TV movie about Emma, an event planner searching for the perfect Santa for a Christmas gala.
To find the ideal Santa, she attends Santa Bootcamp (where people train to play Christmas characters for holiday events). She begins a romance with the chef while also dealing with the tough but lovable owner of Santa’s Bootcamp – played by Moreno.
It’s an imperfect but cute movie that works – primarily due to Emily Kinney’s charm and Rita Moreno’s star power.
Content Note: TV-G
She-Hulk: Attorney At Law TV Review
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Superhero, Comedy, Sci-fi, Action-Adventure, Romance, Legal Drama, Satire
Superhero movies and TV shows have become oversaturated in the entertainment market – but I’ll still watch ones I find appealing. With Tatiana Maslany starring and Jessica Gao as the showrunner – I was open to giving it a chance.
This superhero show follows Jennifer Walters, lawyer, and cousin of The Hulk, who accidentally becomes a Hulk herself – occasionally turning into a green “monster” as she tries to navigate her dating life in her 30s while also handling superpowered clients.
While I felt underwhelmed by the first episode (it was good, not great), each episode following that became better and better – until I felt it became a hilarious and romantic (I’m thinking of the Daredevil guest episode with Charlie Cox) satire.
Sure, it’s not going to appeal to guys who hate female-driven entertainment – and indeed, some of the satire is quite biting against specific online communities- but I thought it was genius.
I laughed throughout the series and am hoping for a second season. In the future, the show needs to find Jennifer a main romantic interest and focus on what works – comedy and urban fantasy elements. Oh, and make Patty Guggenheim (Madisynn) a series regular.
She could be the Cordelia (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) of the show!
Content Note: TV-14 for sensuality, suggestive dialogue, language, and fantasy violence.
Something From Tiffany’s Movie Review
Genres: Romantic Comedy, Christmas, Family
Something From Tiffany’s is a new Amazon original rom-com Christmas movie with authentic New York City locations and a cute premise.
This movie follows Rachel Meyer (Zoey Deutch), a New York City restaurant owner, who accidentally ends up with an engagement ring from Tiffany’s from her boyfriend. The mix-up leads her to meet the person the ring was supposed to go to – an author and professor (Kendrick Sampson) planning to propose to his girlfriend.
But maybe they’re not dating who they should be with – as the two grow closer over the holiday season.
While nothing is new here, the storyline and the New York City setting are charming. There is something magical about NYC at Christmastime, and it’s fun to watch.
All in all, Something From Tiffany’s is a pleasant diversion with an appealing cast.
Content Note: PG for language and suggestive content.
Spencer (2021) Movie Review
Genres: Historical Drama, Biopic, Psychological Drama
Kristen Stewart stars in this buzzy biographical drama about Princess Diana.
The film follows Diana Spencer as she spends Christmas with the British royal family at Sandringham Estate while dealing with her mental health issues and her failing marriage to Prince Charles.
Now, Spencer is only a movie for some. It’s very arty, suspenseful, and, at times, disturbing. It’s more of an exploration of mental health and trauma than a factual look at Princess Diana’s life.
Kristen Stewart, however, gives her career-best performance in a brilliant, mesmerizing movie.
Content Note: Rated R for innuendo, occasional strong language, and a few intense scenes – including depictions of an eating disorder.
Steppin’ Into the Holiday TV Movie Review
Genres: Romance, Comedy, Family, Christmas
Lifetime has become quite competitive with Christmas movies in the last few years – and this year was no different. This new Lifetime Christmas movie stars Mario Lopez and Jane Kramer about a fired TV show host and former professional dancer, Billy Holiday (Lopez), who returns to his hometown for Christmas.
There, he meets Rae, the owner of a local dance studio putting on a Christmas dance recital. He offers to help her improve it, and sparks soon start to fly.
Lopez is as charming (and immortal) as ever in this funny and sweet Christmas movie. The excellent dance sequences didn’t hurt, either!
Overall, I appreciated the family angle and the chemistry between the leads.
Content Note: TV-PG
Three Wise Men and a Baby TV Movie Review
Genres: Romance, Comedy, Family, Christmas
Hallmark puts its spin on the Three Men and a Baby story with this new family Christmas movie. The story follows three brothers (all with issues relating to the trauma of abandonment in their past) forced to take care of a baby left at the fire station for Christmas.
The brothers begin to repair their relationships with each other and their mother, all while letting romance into their lives.
It’s a feel-good holiday film showing a realistic depiction of guys dealing with emotional issues and relationships – but told in a sweet, funny way.
While the romances are a tad underdeveloped, the love between the brothers and their mom makes this festive movie a delight. All in all, the cast does a fantastic job with this excellent Hallmark movie.
Top Gun: Maverick Movie Review
Genres: Action, Drama, Romance
Top Gun returned this year – bringing the magic of movies back with this near-perfect sequel. I say “near” because I was disappointed by the female treatment toward the original actresses. There wasn’t really an explanation for where Charlie was – and I felt they should have included Meg Ryan in the movie since it’s about her character’s son.
Rant aside, the movie is quality entertainment – just the type of excitement you want when paying to go to theaters.
The sequel continues Maverick’s story 30 years after the original film, with him leading Top Gun’s top graduates on a dangerous, almost impossible mission. Meanwhile, Maverick reconnects with Goose’s son and continues an old romance.
The film is electrifying and thrilling, with Tom Cruise proving he still has movie star appeal – something lacking in today’s cinematic world. It was also poignant seeing Val Kilmer return as Iceman in a heartbreaking but memorable sequence.
The storytelling and filmmaking quality is how movies should be, and this is one you can watch again and again.
Content Note: PG-13 for action, language, intense sequences, and mild sensuality.
The Volcano: Rescue From Whakaari Movie Review
I’m passionate about the ocean and the Earth – and taking care of both. So, I do enjoy watching documentaries about nature and survival.
I hadn’t heard of this new Netflix documentary until it recently appeared on my feed, so I decided to check it out while working out.
The documentary depicts the true (and tragic) events of a volcano disaster in 2019 in New Zealand. People on vacation (many from a Royal Caribbean cruise on an excursion) suddenly found themselves fighting to survive amid dangerous circumstances.
If you watch this, prepare to feel all the emotions. It’s heartbreaking to hear the true stories of the people who survived. Not to mention the brave men and women who fought hard to save as many people as possible.
This is a sad but powerful documentary that everyone should see. Just be prepared – it’s so realistic and relatable that it’s scary.
Content Note: PG-13 for brief strong language and frightening situations.
Your Christmas or Mine? Movie Review
Genres: Christmas, Romance, Comedy, Family
I watched another movie while researching for an article: this one for my list of British Christmas movies.
The new British romance film on Amazon Prime Video follows a young couple who secretly surprise each other for Christmas – only to end up stuck with each other’s families for Christmas due to stormy weather.
This holiday mix-up film uses familiar tropes from royal romance movies (Asa Butterfield’s character is technically a royal) and Christmas comedies.
The relationships and story are sweet and funny – and it has a brilliant British cast – each actor playing to type. I was especially fond of seeing Mark Heap from Lark Rise to Candleford playing an amusingly similar character and Alex Jennings playing the stuffy upper-class father.
It’s all lovely and funny, with comedic moments and a happy ending – just the type of escape one could want from a holiday film.
Content Note: 13+ for language and innuendo.
REVIEWS BY AUTUMN
(Jump to the reviews of interest, or scroll down and read them all!)
- Belfast (Historical Drama, Biopic)
- Catherine Called Birdy (Period Drama, Coming-of-Age, Comedy)
- The Chaperone (Period Drama)
- The Chosen (Historical Drama, Christian)
- Death on the Nile (Period Drama, Mystery)
- Falling For Christmas (Romantic Comedy)
- Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (Fantasy, Adventure)
- Ghosts (Comedy, Sitcom, Fantasy)
- Hocus Pocus 2 (Fantasy, Comedy, Family)
- The Invitation (Gothic, Horror, Supernatural)
- La Brea (Sci-Fi, Time Travel, Drama)
- The Larkins (Comedy, Period Drama)
- Lights, Camera, Christmas (Romantic Comedy)
- The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power (Fantasy, Adventure, Epic)
- Love in the Villa (Romantic Comedy)
- Merlin (Fantasy, Adventure, Comedy, Drama)
- Miss Scarlet and the Duke, Seasons 2 and 3 (Period Drama, Romance, Mystery)
- Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (Period Drama)
- The Noel Diary (Romantic Drama/Comedy)
- Obi-Wan Kenobi (Fantasy, Adventure)
- Operation Mincemeat (Historical Drama)
- Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997) (Fantasy, Musical, Romance, Family)
- The Royal Nanny (Romantic Comedy, Spy)
- Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Sci-Fi, Drama, Adventure)
- Thor: Love and Thunder (Fantasy, Superhero, Romance, Adventure)
- Ticket to Paradise (Romantic Comedy)
- Wednesday (Supernatural, Fantasy, Teen, Mystery, Comedy)
- West Side Story (Period Drama, Romance, Musical)
- Willow (Fantasy, Adventure)
- Willow TV Series (Fantasy, Adventure, Teen)
Belfast (2021) Movie Review
Genres: Period Drama, Biopic, Coming-of-Age
With 7 Academy Award nominations and the winner of Best Screenplay, Belfast is one of the few films in the last few years that reminds you what movie magic is all about.
Written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, he based this movie on his own childhood in Belfast. Starring Jamie Dornan, Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Morgan, and Jude Hill, the film also has a spectacular cast.
Moreover, Jude Hill, the young breakout child star, is not only adorable, but he carried the film as Buddy, the young (fictionalized) Branagh, with ease and went on to win the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Young Performer.
Set in Belfast during the 1969 riots, a group of loyalist Protestants ambushes the homes and businesses of Catholics, all on the same street Buddy lives. While Buddy’s family are Protestants, they are also friendly with Catholics, which is becoming unacceptable in Belfast.
With the ever-increasing danger, Buddy’s parents may have to move away from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and from the historical Troubles. But that means Buddy would have to leave his grandparents and the only home he’s ever known.
Overall, Belfast is a beautifully shot period piece with brilliant characterization, goosebumps-inducing dialogue, and a story that will stay with you long after the credits close. In short, a masterpiece.
Content Note: PG-13 for some violence and language.
Catherine Called Birdy Movie Review
Genres: Period Drama (Medieval), Comedy, Coming-of-age, Adventure
Catherine Called Birdy is the surprise film of the year for me. Based on the Newbery Honor book of the same name, the movie is about a 14-year-old girl in the 13th century.
Unfortunately for Catherine, the life of a teen girl during medieval times isn’t exactly great. And to add to Catherine’s worries, her father has incurred a ton of debt that can only be paid off by marrying his daughter to someone rich.
Sadly, for her father, Catherine will do anything, anything, to not get married. So, she sets off to scare off all her suitors (which doesn’t take much with her natural and unrefined wildness). Thanks to her hilarious antics, Catherine maintains her freedom for a while until her father forces an engagement to the absolutely disgusting, rich, and much older man she nicknames “Shaggy Beard.”
He’s repulsive and unswayed by her attempts to end the engagement. Catherine even oinks at him in one of the funniest scenes in the film.
Meanwhile, Catherine has other worries. Her favorite Uncle marries for convenience, and her mother is pregnant again with a high chance of bleeding out and losing the baby.
Overall, this medieval coming-of-age comedy from Lena Dunham is compelling and witty, with great performances from the supporting cast, including Billie Piper, Andrew Scott, David Bradley, and Sophie Okonedo.
But Bella Ramsey as the firecracker Catherine is the real standout. Ramsey has star power, and I can’t wait to see what she does next. In short, if you loved the book, you’ll love this charming movie, even with some changes.
Content Note: PG-13 for suggestive content and thematic elements.
The Chaperone (2018) Movie Review
Genre: Period Drama
With a screenplay from Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey) starring Elizabeth McGovern of Downton fame, what’s not to love in this beautiful period piece?
Based on Laura Moriarty’s best-selling novel, The Chaperone tells the fictional story of Norma Carlisle, a conventional society matron, who decides to do something impulsive for the first time in her life: leave Kansas for New York City as the chaperone of Louise Brooks, a wild teen dancer who breaks all the rules and who would one day become a Jazz Age movie star.
Why does Norma make this choice? And how does Louise become a 1920s silent screen star one day? As the two women spend a summer together, their worlds collide in a gripping character-centric drama.
Indeed, while this unusual pair is the story’s focus, Norma’s path to self-discovery stands out the most with a sensational performance from McGovern.
If you love quieter character-driven period dramas with good performances, check out The Chaperone.
Content Note: TV-14 for implied sensuality, mild language, and adult themes.
The Chosen Seasons 1 and 2 TV Review
Genres: Period Drama, History, Christian
Over the years, several filmmakers have told the story of Jesus: his birth, ministry, and resurrection. But what about the apostles and Jesus’ followers? What made them follow this mysterious Jesus of Nazareth?
In The Chosen, a fan-funded endeavor, filmmaker Dallas Jenkins looks at the more personal side of Jesus and his followers at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
Here, the characterization shines beautifully, but the portrayal of Jesus stands out the most. Jonathan Roumie, as Jesus, plays him to perfection. This is the Jesus I’ve always imagined but never seen on screen before. He’s so loving and warm, but you also believe him as the Messiah.
In essence, The Chosen is a TV series anyone can enjoy: From Christians of all religions or even to those who appreciate good period dramas and are open to stories outside of their own beliefs.
While imperfect (like some modern dialogue that occasionally feels out of place), the overall feel is beautiful and well-produced.
This series is rated over a nine on IMDb for a reason. If you’re looking for period dramas about Christianity with good production values, look no further than The Chosen. Season 3 has also started airing, so it’s an ideal time to catch up!
Content Note: TV-PG for some mild violence and thematic elements.
Death on the Nile Movie Review
Genres: Period Drama, Mystery, Crime
I love a good Poirot adaptation. However, while I mostly enjoyed the latest take on Agatha Christie’s famous mystery novel, not everything comes together in this one. I don’t love Armie Hammer in the role of Simon Doyle, and aspects of the film are darker than Christie’s novel in a way I don’t love.
Still, Death on the Nile is an entertaining period mystery with mostly a fantastic cast and a good story. Kenneth Branagh as Poirot is always good fun, even if rather serious in this interpretation.
The year is 1937 in Egypt, and Poirot is invited onto a river cruise. Here, a woman is slain, the same woman asking for Poirot’s protection. Who offed her and why?
You’ll enjoy unraveling the clues as the story unfolds. This suspenseful period drama is worth watching for the cast and the always intriguing Agatha Christie mystery.
Content Note: PG-13 for violence, sensuality, and suggestive content.
Falling For Christmas Movie Review
Genres: Christmas, Romantic Comedy
Falling for Christmas welcomes Lindsay Lohan back to romantic comedies, and I couldn’t be more thrilled! One thing Lohan excels at is physical comedy, and she does that wonderfully in this Netflix romantic comedy.
Is this a great film? No. Not everything works, but it’s at least entertaining with a fun plot.
In the story, Lindsay Lohan plays Sierra, a spoiled heiress who loses her memory after falling down a mountain in a hilariously lousy proposal scene. Her new fiance is…interesting, to say the least.
Thankfully, Sierra is found and taken in by Jake, a handsome owner of a bed and breakfast hotel. Here, Sierra rediscovers her true self, finds real love, and helps save a dying bed and breakfast.
In short, it’s sweet, fun, and romantic. Just what we need over the holidays.
Content Note: TV-PG
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Movie Review
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
In the third film of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, Dumbledore, Newt, Jacob, and others work together to defeat Grindelwald.
The charismatic Mads Mikkelsen now plays Grindelwald. Where Depp’s interpretation of the villain was more like an enigmatic cult leader, Mikkelsen is suave and more seductive. Despite these differences, The Secrets of Dumbledore successfully closes out this Harry Potter prequel story with style and whimsy.
More than in previous films, this is Dumbledore’s story, but it also focuses on the troubled romance between Queenie and the muggle (No-Maj) Jacob. These two represent the most memorable love story from the films, and it’s terrific to see them come back together with epic romantic scenes and comedic moments that will leave you laughing.
Overall, this fantastical period drama has wit, excellent visual effects, beautiful costumes, and several characters to fall in love with. Ultimately, the magic is infectious and entertaining.
Yes, it’s not Harry Potter, but I enjoy watching adult characters in this world. And I love seeing Jude Law play a young Dumbledore to perfection.
The franchise ends in a good place if there aren’t more films. And thanks to the books, you know where Grindelwald and the other characters end up.
Content Note: PG-13 for fantasy violence.
Ghosts TV Review
Genres: Comedy, Sitcom, Supernatural, Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Romance
A remake of the British hit series, Ghosts is one sitcom that improves week to week. In the story, a young couple (Samantha and Jay) inherit a rundown country estate and move out of the city to start a bed and breakfast.
Unfortunately, the estate is also haunted, full of all the ghosts that died there and never moved on. Then, after an accident, Samantha almost dies, and when she returns, she can now see all the ghosts in the manor. And they don’t want her around. That is until they all become friends in a sweet and heartwarming way.
Together, this strange group of ghosts and humans work to deal with unresolved issues and open a bed and breakfast. From a jazz singer and a Viking to a gay Revolutionary soldier who falls for the British soldier he accidentally shot, Ghosts has a surplus of hilarious and unusual characters.
It’s fresh, funny, strangely romantic in odd ways, and feel-good entertainment. Plus, several scene-stealers will make you smile and laugh. Ghosts is a new gem everyone should check out!
Content Note: TV-PG for suggestive dialogue.
Hocus Pocus 2 Movie Review
Genres: Fantasy, Comedy, Family
The witches are back in this fun sequel to the cult hit Hocus Pocus! What I loved about this movie is how much fun the three main actresses are having. It’s clear Bette Midler has a ton of love for Winifred Sanderson. She’s having a blast which makes watching the sequel a blast.
Almost 30 years later, two Salem teenagers accidentally resurrected the witches with a black flame candle. When they realize the witches are real, it’s up to these two friends and the mayor’s daughter to stop the sisters once and for all.
What follows are enjoyable comedic moments, epic musical numbers, and deeper characterization for the Sanderson sisters. The focus on sisterhood is a theme for the entire movie, with flashbacks to the witches’ past as young girls from long ago.
Is the film as good as the original? No. The plot isn’t all that amazing. However, the performances, the nostalgia, and the excellent comedic moments all make up for the imperfections.
There’s even a nod to Thackery Binx and the previous cast. Still, it is disappointing that the filmmakers didn’t bring back any original kids.
Nevertheless, they brought back Doug Jones as Billy, the zombie, and he’s always good fun. So, if you’re seeking a film to give you nostalgic feels, Hocus Pocus 2 should fit the bill.
Content Note: PG for action, language, and suggestive humor.
The Invitation Movie Review
Genres: Gothic, Thriller, Fantasy, Supernatural
I don’t remember why this new movie didn’t catch my attention earlier, but once I began watching The Invitation, I was immediately swept away by this surprisingly enjoyable gothic romance.
Full of Romanticism, The Invitation is inspired by Dracula (with several nods to the original book) but with a feminist twist and inspiration from the Brontë Sisters and Polidori’s The Vampyre.
The story revolves around the orphan and struggling artist Evie Jackson. Evie doesn’t have much going for her, so when she takes a DNA test and discovers a new cousin, she decides to meet him.
Everything is too good to be true when he invites her to a lavish wedding in England at the New Carfax Abbey, where her newfound family welcomes her with open arms.
Then there’s the handsome Lord of the Manor, Walter De Ville (Thomas Doherty is perfectly cast), whom Evie likes almost instantly. But can he be trusted? And who exactly are the bride and groom at the wedding?
Like all gothic stories, there are mysteries in the Abbey to unfold and even a few scares. While critics eviscerated this one, if you enjoy vampire stories, I highly recommend The Invitation for sheer escapism.
Just don’t go in expecting a love story or a horror film. Overall, I appreciated the script (surprisingly not terrible), the knowledgeable nods to vampiric literature, and the well-thought-out casting with a decent British cast. Nathalie Emmanuel is particularly likable in the lead role.
La Brea TV Review
Genres: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Time Travel, Romance, Fantasy
La Brea is all about the entertainment factor. Is it a great show? No. Does it fill the Lost void? Also, no. Nevertheless, if you’re a fan of shows like Lost, La Brea is addicting to watch on a binge.
The Sci-Fi show follows the Harris family as they get torn apart by time. When a colossal sinkhole opens in Los Angeles, hundreds of people are pulled into 10,000 B.C. While Eve Harris and her son Josh get pulled into the sinkhole, her estranged husband Gavin and daughter Izzy are left behind in the present day.
All seems hopeless except for Gavin’s strange visions of the past, visions that connect to his wife and son. Perhaps he can save them before it’s too late.
Too bad, the only other person to help is his ex-best friend, who is also in love with Eve and ends up back in 10,000 B.C. to win her heart. It’s a fun romantic triangle that feels a little like the Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere triangle, so it’s rather enjoyable.
Back in 10,000 B.C., are also mysteries connected to time travel. Sure, the consistencies aren’t always there, and certain revelations are ridiculous. But if you accept La Brea as sensationalist fun, you’ll have a good time.
Content Note: TV-14 for violence, frightening situations, drugs, and mild language.
The Larkins TV Review
Genres: Period Drama, Comedy
Are you looking for a warm-hearted period drama TV Series? Look no further than The Larkins. While fans of the original series may be hesitant to like this one, I encourage you to give it another chance. We rarely discover light-hearted period dramas that radiate joy and warmth.
Starring Bradley Walsh (Doctor Who) as “Pop” Larkin and Joanna Scanlan as “Ma” Larkin, the British TV series is all about the various Larkin family members in the small town they live in.
But everything changes when Cedric, a tax inspector, shows up at their door with questions about not paying their taxes. The Larkins try to keep him at bay, and soon, he can’t help falling in love with the daughter and the entire family.
Overall, I loved the show because it makes you smile. It’s all about fun. I also appreciated the inclusive casting. The series isn’t exactly going for realism, and I’m just fine with that! I recommend watching this sweet period drama with a cozy blanket and a warm cup of cocoa.
The Larkins isn’t perfect, but it’s a whole lot of quirky fun.
Content Note: TV-PG/TV-14 for suggestive dialogue.
Lights, Camera, Christmas TV Movie Review
Genres: Christmas, Romantic Comedy
Add this to my list of swoony Hallmark romances! Lights, Camera, Christmas is a Christmas movie about a Christmas movie. What could be more fun?
In the story, a film crew comes to Kerry’s small town to film a holiday rom-com about Santa. Everyone’s excited about Brad, the star of the movie and the King of Christmas movies, coming to their little town. But Kerry is more concerned about her boutique clothing shop shutting down. She’s running out of money.
But as this is a fairy tale, the film’s costume designer drops out, and they need their own miracle. So, naturally, the filmmakers discover Kerry’s costume design talent and hire her for the movie.
Soon, sparks begin to fly between this small-town girl and the movie star as the two rediscover old dreams. If you’re looking for a sweet romance with some laughs, and love the movie star theme, take a closer look at Lights, Camera, Christmas!
Content Note: TV-G
The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power TV Review
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Action, Drama, Romance
Based on The Lord of the Rings and its appendices, The Rings of Power is set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, thousands of years before the famous story.
It tells how Sauron will rise and forge the powerful Rings of Power, including the one ring to rule them all.
Sure, some Tolkien purists won’t love changes from The Silmarillion (the filmmakers do not have those rights). Still, the TV series is the most expensive show ever made, and the visuals are spectacular. Never has a show looked more beautiful.
The story itself follows a young Galadriel seeking revenge against Sauron for the loss of her brother. She believes Sauron is still alive and that evil is returning to Middle earth.
In the meantime, the series also focuses on the friendships between dwarves and elves and the ancestral descendants of the hobbits who have no land to call their own.
For fantasy fans, Rings of Power is well worth your time. While the beginning starts slow, the show builds beautifully into an epic climax with characters you can’t help but care about.
Plus, there’s a swoony romance between an immortal elf and a human. Is the show as good as the movies? No. But that doesn’t matter. The Rings of Power is a powerful fantasy series, and I can’t wait for the next season.
Content Note: TV-14 for fantasy violence.
Love in the Villa Movie Review
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Are you looking for an escapist romance? Consider Netflix’s Love in the Villa starring Kat Graham and Tom Hopper. Julie (Kat Graham) has always dreamed of traveling to Italy, where Romeo and Juliet was set. She has plans to travel to Verona with her boyfriend, but then he dumps her.
Unwilling to give up her dream vacation, she travels alone. Too bad her rented villa ends up double booked with an obnoxious British guy named Charlie (Tom Hopper).
The two then try to prank each other out of the villa, but naturally, sparks begin to fly, and they decide to share.
While Julie’s obsession with everything Romeo and Juliet related doesn’t work nearly as well as Jane’s obsession with Mr. Darcy in Austenland, the film is sweet and the romance enjoyable.
Overall, a nice love story when you’re looking for something carefree and lighthearted to watch.
Content Note: TV-14 for some language and suggestive content. It’s very mild.
Merlin (2008) TV Review
Genres: Adventure, Historical Fantasy, Drama, Romance
Recently, I rewatched the entire Merlin series and realized we don’t have a review on the site! The British fantasy series follows the Arthurian legends of King Arthur, Lancelot, Morgana, Guinevere, and Merlin – told similarly to Smallville.
Where Merlin succeeds is in comedy. Several episodes are laugh-out-loud funny (IE: the episode with King Uther – played by Anthony Head – spelled to fall in love with a troll). The heart of the show is also the bromance between Arthur and Merlin. It’s about their friendship, even though Merlin frustratingly keeps his magic secret from Arthur until the final episode.
What I also love about the show is the romance. The best love story is the love triangle between Lancelot, Arthur, and Gwen. And while Lancelot is only in a handful of episodes, he’s by far the best Lancelot of all time.
Santiago Cabrera epitomizes chivalrous romance and is swoon-worthy in the role. Seriously, I dare you not to fall in love with his character!
Overall, Merlin is a fun fantasy series with excellent mythology, a fabulous cast, memorable star-crossed love stories, and epic scenes of chivalry and adventure. It’s a tale of friendship and love.
But mostly, it’s a story about the fate of two literary legends. While not all episodes are great, and sometimes the female characters are pushed to the side, most are fun, comedic, romantic, or epic. In short, a great fantasy series for families to enjoy together.
Content Note: TV-PG for darker storylines, fantasy violence, suggestive content, and frightening sequences.
Miss Scarlet and the Duke, Season 2 and Season 3 TV Review
Genres: Period Drama, Crime, Mystery, Romance
Miss Scarlet and the Duke is back! And what a pleasant surprise to get season 3 on PBS Passport early. This is my favorite romantic period mystery series since Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. It’s just that good.
And the latest two seasons are even better than the first: more romance, adventure, and witty repartee between Eliza and William. Not to mention more mysteries to solve every week.
The series follows a female private detective in Victorian England and the simmering, slow-burn romance between Eliza (Miss Scarlet) and William, Detective Inspector William Wellington, a.k.a., The Duke. Their chemistry makes this one a standout.
Not to mention, William echoes Mr. Knightley and Mr. Darcy in his personality (which is a fabulous combo, by the way).
Throughout seasons 2 and 3, the sparks come out even more while also bringing in other fun new characters for the show to play with. If you love mysteries, swoony romance, and a Victorian England setting, Miss Scarlet and the Duke should be at the top of your list.
Content Note: Episodes range between TV-PG and TV-14 for mild violence, suspense, language, implied sensuality (entirely offscreen), and thematic elements. Nothing vulgar or explicit.
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris Movie Review
Genres: Period Drama, Comedy, Romance
Occasionally, a movie comes along that checks all the right boxes: romance, fashion, award-worthy performances, and an excellent screenplay. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris does all that and more. This 1950s-era period drama is a heartwarming movie that deserves more praise and attention.
A widowed cleaning lady, Mrs. Ada Harris (Lesley Manville), becomes enamored with her client’s Dior dress. With not a lot going on in her life and recent money from a war widow’s pension, Ada decides she wants a Dior gown of her own. It’s all about how the dress will make her feel.
So, she travels to Paris and enters the world of haute couture. Too bad the fashion world wants nothing to do with a cleaner. But since they are facing financial difficulties, Dior agrees to make her a dress for cash, and Mrs. Harris makes positive changes at Dior along the way.
Without giving anything away, I can tell you that this lovely period film has hints of romance and beautiful dresses, and Lesley Manville once again proves why she is a force to be reckoned with. I’ll root for her to win the Golden Globe for Best Actress. It’s well deserved.
Content Note: PG for suggestive material, smoking, and language.
The Noel Diary Movie Review
Genres: Romance, Drama, Comedy, Christmas
As a huge Justin Hartley fan, I had high hopes for The Noel Diary, one of Netflix’s latest Christmas movies. Sadly, this is one Christmas flick that didn’t quite click for me. While Hartley has his usual charm and likeability, the story and romance are underwhelming, if not a little dull.
That said, the movie is still mostly sweet and tells a good story. I also appreciated that the film delves into deeper themes like mental illness and abandonment.
The story follows Jacob Turner (Hartley), who returns home to deal with his deceased (and estranged) mother’s estate. He’s now a famous author who has never been able to commit thanks to abandonment issues.
Enter Rachel, who is looking for her birth mother, a woman that once worked for Turner’s family as his nanny. Together, they go on a quest to find her mother while Turner reconnects with his father, who abandoned him after his brother’s passing.
The most authentic emotion comes out in the father/son forgiveness sequences. Sadly, the romance falls flat with the infidelity plot line. Not to mention, the ending with her mother also feels incomplete. Still, The Noel Diary has some sweet moments despite its flaws.
Obi-Wan Kenobi TV Review
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Drama
Obi-Wan Kenobi is a TV Series all about nostalgia. Out of all the Star Wars shows, this one feels the most like classic Star Wars. It doesn’t hurt that Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen reprised their iconic roles as Obi-Wan and Anakin.
Set 10 years after Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan has disappeared from society and now goes by Ben. He stays nearby the Skywalkers to keep an eye on a young Luke. But when Princess Leia gets kidnapped by hired bounty hunters, Senator Organa pleads for Kenobi’s help to save his daughter.
Meanwhile, Darth Vader is obsessed with finding Obi-Wan and defeating his old master. And bounty hunters are on the hunt for all Jedi, creating great action scenes that echo back to the originals.
I loved the series because it wasn’t about Luke for once, and the young Leia is adorable. Plus, the showdown between Vader and Kenobi is epic and builds on the characterization of Anakin and his loss of humanity.
While not everything works, the series feels like Star Wars and captures the original essence. I also loved the addition of Indira Varma as Tala Durith, an unspoken love interest for Ben Kenobi, even though she’s not in the show enough.
Overall, an enjoyable Star Wars series if you love the original movies and the prequel films starring McGregor and Christensen.
Content Note: TV-14 for violence
Operation Mincemeat Movie Review
Genres: Historical Drama, War, Romance
Starring two Mr. Darcys (Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen), a Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn), and several other excellent actors, including Jason Isaacs, Kelly Macdonald, and Penelope Wilton, Operation Mincemeat has a high caliber of talent.
Also directed by the talented John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), Madden tells the strange but true WWII story about Operation Mincemeat, a substantial British deception created to disguise the Allied invasion of Sicily.
Three of the team members behind the deception: Montagu (Firth), Cholmondeley (Macfadyen), and Leslie (Macdonald), find themselves in a romantic triangle as they create this false identity. Jean Leslie is caught between two Mr. Darcys – an impossible dilemma, I know.
That said, it’s clear the real romantic feelings are between Montagu and Leslie, even though they can’t act on it because he’s married (albeit somewhat separated). It’s nice to see the chemistry between Firth and Macdonald again. They work together well.
This British War Drama is a beautifully acted and well-written film that tells a fictionalized version of a crazy part of history. Furthermore, the film has a classic feel to some of the dialogue that purposely echoes back to movies filmed during 1943.
While it’s not fast-paced, if you appreciate character-driven and dialogue-heavy films with excellent performances, Operation Mincemeat is well worth your time. If only for scenes between the two best-ever Mr. Darcys!
Content Note: PG-13 for war violence, suggestive content, language, and smoking.
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella (1997) TV Movie Review
Genres: Family, Fantasy, Musical, Romance, Fairy Tale
I loved this movie! A nostalgic favorite, the 1997 TV adaptation of Cinderella recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. After watching the TV reunion special, I knew it was time to travel back to the past and watch this one again.
Surprisingly, this fairy tale Cinderella is even better as an adult. I can appreciate more of the nuance, the wit, and the diverse casting.
While the film still follows the classic musical, Whitney Houston updated the story with several improvements (including far less misogyny). The 1997 Cinderella was also ahead of the times due to the diverse Broadway-like casting.
Never had we seen an Asian prince as the leading man. Not to mention Brandy in the leading role and a fun Houston as the fairy godmother. Everything about this movie (including all the hilarious side characters) works seamlessly.
It’s gorgeous and romantic, and the music is sensational. Even the bright visuals and costumes are a feast to behold. Cinderella is a sweet and funny musical with great numbers and several scene stealers like Whoopi Goldberg as the Queen to make Cinderella an entertaining spectacle in all the best ways possible.
The Royal Nanny TV Movie Review
Genres: Romantic Comedy, Christmas, Spy
This may be one of my favorite Hallmark Christmas romances this year! Spies AND a Christmas romance in England? Not to mention, it’s a royal story as well!
Seriously, this one checks off all the fairy tale elements in a good Hallmark Romance and then some: a handsome prince with an English accent, a little action with spy intrigue, and likable characters and actors in the leads. Plus, I really am a sucker for spy romantic comedies.
In The Royal Nanny, Claire is an MI5 agent who goes undercover as a nanny at the palace when she unravels a plot against the throne and the children. The children are naturally little prankster monsters, but nothing a spy can’t handle!
Then there’s Prince Colin, who doesn’t like Claire at all. That is until Claire and Colin get to know each other, and the prince realizes she only has the best intentions. Claire must also keep the children safe from kidnapping attempts and learn to be a nanny from the ultimate Nanny: Ms. Lansbury (can there be a better name?).
In short, this Hallmark Romance breaks from the typical small-town fare and gives us a fun spy royal romance in an alternate England. The Royal Nanny should be at the top of your list if you’re looking for pure escapist entertainment.
Content Note: TV-G
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds TV Review
Genres: Sci-Fi, Adventure, Action, Drama
Confession of a new Star Trek fan: I have only seen a few episodes of the original TV Series. I’ve recently discovered the new Star Trek shows and have loved them thus far.
In Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Anson Mount stars as the charismatic Christopher Pike in a fantastic prequel about the USS Enterprise a decade before Captain Kirk takes control of the ship.
Out of the three new Star Trek live-action series, this prequel is by far the best. This is Sci-Fi at its best, with three-dimensional characters, excellent mythology, fantastic actors (Bruce Horak as Hemmer is a particular standout), and coherent stories that keep you on the edge of your seat.
The romances are also intriguing, and the chemistry between Spock and Christine Chapel is particularly compelling.
However, Star Trek: Stange New Worlds casting doesn’t get everything right. I don’t love Paul Wesley as a young Captain Kirk (and this is coming from someone who loves The Vampire Diaries). Hopefully, the show stays focused on Captain Pike and his crew.
Nevertheless, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is a fantastic science fiction series that will hopefully stay around for ten years.
Content Note: TV-PG for language, suggestive dialogue, and violence.
Thor: Love and Thunder Movie Review
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Superhero, Romance, Comedy, Drama
I was excited to hear Jane was finally returning to the Thor movies. But the result was sadly a mixed bag. Written and directed by Taika Waititi, there’s an expected amount of quirkiness. Sometimes, this works. Other times, there was too much comedy at inappropriate times.
In Thor: Love and Thunder, Gorr (the phenomenal villain played by Christian Bale) and his daughter, Love, are the last of their race. He prays for her survival, but she dies anyway. This causes him to want vengeance against all uncaring gods.
Meanwhile, Dr. Jane Foster is dying from terminal cancer. Without hope, she travels to New Asgard. When she touches Thor’s broken hammer, it bonds with her, and she becomes strong and powerful.
She can be a hero like her old flame, Thor. However, wielding Mjolnir speeds up Jane’s illness. And when she and Thor reunite to fight Gorr, Jane’s time starts slipping away. It’s a conundrum that you hope the heroes can overcome.
Overall, what works here is the romance between Jane and Thor. You root for their love to survive despite the odds against them. At the same time, Gorr’s vendetta is complex, with a fantastic performance from Christian Bale.
It’s in these two tragedies that the film shines. But then there’s this dissonance and unfortunate jokiness that takes away from the emotion, like Russell Crowe entering the film as an absurd Zeus or throwing out cringy lines.
Is the film entertaining? Yes. And the fast-paced energy is certainly electrifying. But Jane Foster deserved more.
Content Note: PG-13 for fantasy violence, language, partial nudity, and suggestive content.
Ticket to Paradise Movie Review
Genre: Romantic Comedy
There haven’t been many “great” romantic comedies these past few years. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see the rom-com Queen Julia Roberts return for a fantastic new one.
Also starring George Clooney, I appreciated the natural chemistry and repartee between these two stars. Their film history creates an authentic relationship on screen. And, once again, Clooney and Roberts prove why they are two of the best.
In Ticket to Paradise, David and Georgia are a formerly married couple who despise one another. They can’t even stand to be in each other’s presence, so they avoid it at all costs, even though they have a daughter together.
But when their daughter decides to suddenly marry a Balinese seaweed farmer she met while on vacation and move to Bali permanently, the two decide to work together and end the engagement at all costs.
What follows is classic rom-com stuff with hijinks, romance, witty lines, and excellent physical comedy. Overall, an entertaining film that reminds us why we need better romantic comedies. This is one of my favorite films of 2022 because it made me laugh and swoon in the best ways possible.
Content Note: PG-13 for suggestive content and language.
Wednesday TV Review
Genres: Comedy, Mystery, Teen, Fantasy, Romance, Gothic, Supernatural
Thanks to the classic Tim Burton films I watched as a child, I’m a lifelong fan of anything Addams Family. So, when I heard about Wednesday, I was all in. Add in Tim Burton as director and Christina Ricci (who played Wednesday in the 90s films) as a mysterious character, and I was even more excited.
Thankfully, Wednesday is one series that lives up to all expectations. It’s just that good. Jenna Ortega is a revelation (mainly thanks to an epic dance scene).
Inspired by previous Addams Family movies and shows, Wednesday focuses on a teenage Wednesday Addams in a wildly hilarious supernatural comedy.
With shades of the Gothic meets Harry Potter meets The Vampire Diaries and Veronica Mars, teenage Wednesday is forced into a boarding school for supernaturals called the Nevermore Academy.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t want to socialize, and she doesn’t want to make friends. But there’s one thing she is interested in: playing detective to the unnatural fatalities in town.
Overall, some romances, witty lines, interesting characters, and an absorbing story will have you laughing and binge-watching through the night. While the mystery isn’t challenging, you’ll enjoy watching the journey. You’ll also fall in love with Thing and the other rag-tag characters!
Hopefully, Wednesday gets picked up for another season. We need some more time with this fabulous cast and crew!
Content Note: TV-14 for violence, suggestive content, and dialogue.
West Side Story Movie Review
Genres: Period Drama, Romance, Musical
Now, this was an EPIC movie experience. The latest West Side Story brought back classic movie musical feels with incredible music numbers, spectacular visuals, and memorable performances from the entire cast.
Rita Moreno from the original movie returned in a new role created just for the film! While I loved the Natalie Wood movie (which won 10 Academy Awards), I liked Spielberg’s take even more because of the diverse cast.
Award-winning playwright Tony Kushner also penned the screenplay with notable changes from the original, taking out uncomfortable Puerto Rican stereotypes.
That said, the famous musical numbers are still there, and this Romeo and Juliet romance is just as tragic and beautiful as the classic.
In this adaptation, Rachel Zegler as Maria and Ariana DeBose as Anita are phenomenal. So, if you’re looking for a magical movie experience like the classic movies from the past, look no further than West Side Story.
Content Note: PG-13 for suggestive content, language, violence, and thematic material.
Willow (1988) Movie Review
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Action, Romance
Willow, a high fantasy film, is a 1980s cult classic. Directed by Ron Howard with a story from George Lucas, the film stars Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley, Warwick Davis, and Jean Marsh.
Warwick Davis plays Willow, the protagonist who gets thrown into a quest after finding a baby that Bavmorda, the black sorceress Queen of Nockmaar, is trying to kidnap and sacrifice.
Willow joins up with a selfish rogue named Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), who falls in love with Sorsha, Bavmorda’s daughter. Together, they must defeat evil and bring peace back to the lands.
Where the film excels is the epic music by James Horner and the likable cast. In the meantime, the romance is fun between Sorsha and Madmartigan, even if the female characterization is a little thin.
Nevertheless, if you embrace the silliness of the movie and enjoy Willow for all its imperfect charms, you’ll love it. It’s a family classic for a reason.
Now is the perfect time to return to this entertaining movie, thanks to the new TV series. At the very least, it’s worth watching for Jean Marsh’s over-the-top but fabulous portrayal of Bavmorda.
Content Note: PG for violence.
Willow TV Review
Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Action, Romance, Teen
I never thought there would ever be a sequel to Willow. But here we are! Evil returns twenty years after the original movie (although it should have been thirty). Madmartigan disappeared long ago, and Willow (a real sorcerer now) and Sorsha have had a falling out over how to raise Elora, the baby from the original movie.
Meanwhile, Sorsha and Madmartigan’s twin teenagers have their own futures to plan for. While Princess Kit loves her best friend Jade, a female knight in training, she’s being forced to marry a prince. At the same time, her twin brother Prince Airk is a womanizer like his dad and has seemingly fallen for Dove, a kitchen maid.
But then the unthinkable happens when dark magic returns, and Prince Airk is kidnapped by monsters. Sorsha has but one choice: ask Willow for help. With his help, a group of heroes set off on a quest to save him.
While Willow is a love letter to the fans of the original, the TV Series also has pacing issues as well as questionable and underwhelming reveals. I find it head-scratching that the showrunner decided to take a high fantasy family film with adult characters and turn the show into a mediocre YA fantasy with main teenage leads that are grating, particularly Princess Kit.
Nevertheless, Willow is still entertaining with nostalgic moments. Overall, an enjoyable, if imperfect, series so far.
What have you been watching lately? Let us know some of your recommendations in the comments below!
Featured image photo: The English (BBC/Amazon Studios), A Holiday Spectacular (©2022 Hallmark Media/Photographer: David Scott Holloway), The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power (Amazon Studios/New Line Cinema), Wednesday (MGM Television/Tim Burton Productions/Netflix), Pachinko (Apple TV+), Andor (Lucasfilm/Disney), Catherine Called Birdy (Amazon Studios).